We all love a local experience. Nothing makes us feel better than finding a small street away from the busy boulevards. As every other great city, Sofia has a few secret paths that show its authentic side, the one that locals love. I’ve chosen 5 hidden streets to help you fall in love with my city.
1. Moskovska str.
It was named after the capital city of Russia because the Russian soldiers entered Sofia in 1878 from that street. Along it are located some of the most iconic buildings for Sofia – the Faculty of Journalism, which is the first building of Sofia University, Kvadrat 500 – the biggest art gallery in the city, St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the church of St. Sofia, it crosses a square named after one of the greatest Bulgarian opera singers Nikolay Gyaurov, the building of the first Bulgarian radio, the former Royal Palace and many others. This is the one of the few streets that keeps its original look from the first years after the Liberation.
2. Malko Tarnovo str.
Located between two of the busiest boulevards in the city (Tsar Osvoboditel and Dondukov), this alley might be the best kept secret by the locals. It used to be called “The street with the clock” because in Ottoman times there was a clock tower on today’s corner of Moskovska str. and Malko Tarnovo str. From the same corner another street started – Targovska (Shopping) str. After the Liberation (1878) many shops opened there, including some that sold watches. But they had one big problem – no one was buying their watches because everyone used the clock tower instead. They complained to the City Hall and in 1882 the tower was destroyed.
The street was also very “popular” in communist times because of a the metal door in the middle of the street that lead to the basement of the building of the National Archive (a police station at the time). In this basement many people were beaten and embarrassed for hours by the police for listening to rock music, having long hair or for wearing pants that were too tight for communist standards.
3. Budapeshta str.
Together with Malko Tarnovo str., Budapeshta is one of the few streets with stairs in Sofia, To see the best part of it turn right from Moskovska str. (more about it below) From here you’ll get a great view at the lower town and the beautiful house with the “crown”. This slope existed thousands of years ago. This slope existed thousands of years ago. We know this because remains of the amphitheater of Sofia have been discovered under the hotel “Arena di Serdica” and we can see that the slope was used as a natural supporting wall. Some say that the amphitheater was just a little bit smaller that the Collosseum. You can visit it for free every day.
4. Saborna str.
Fun fact – this is the first straight street in Sofia after the Liberation. Before that the city was called “the Venice of Bulgaria” because of its curvy and muddy streets. The word “sabor” means a gathering for a celebration, and the name “saborna” is derived from that. Sveta Nedelya cathedral was used by the Christians during the 19th century for their religious holidays so they called it “Saborna” church. Therefore the street leading to it was named this way. Saborna str. is divided in two – on your left hand side if you’re walking from the church towards the National Theater you’ll see many expensive shops and the church of St. George. On your right hand side there are cheap cafes, a local bar and a restaurant known only by the people working in the area. Once you reach the Archaeological Museum keep walking and to the right you’ll see the Ministry of Tourism. That’s where the American embassy used to be in Communist times. Many remember how whenever there was a big event in the USA, the embassy was guarded by the police and people were not allowed to get near and read about it.
5. Samuil str.
This is one of the longest streets in the city, but one specific part of it attracts the art lovers. In a matter of 100 meters between Solunska str. and Denkoglu str. there are a dozen of art galleries and hand-made shops. If you get inspired, just meters away, on the streets nearby, there are many places where you can see some of the best pieces by Bulgarian artists Some of the galleries are “Absenth”, “Contrast” and “Kuklite” (the only dolls museum in Sofia). See the full list here. While you’re there don’t forget to check out the house of Boris Hristov where you can listen to some live music.
This is my list for 5 cool hidden streets in Sofia. I hope you like it! See you soon!