There’s a high chance that the first place you’ll see when you arrive in Sofia will be St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The magnificent symbol of Bulgaria stands proud in the center of the big square with the same name. A visit inside the cathedral is a must do, but what should you do when your visit is over? I’ll give you a few ideas for cool hidden places to check out that many people miss.
The monument of Paisiy Hilendarsky
Paisiy Hilendarski’s “Istoriya Slavyanobolgarska” (Slavonic-Bulgarian History), written in 1762, is considered to be the book that inspired the Bulgarian revival of the 19th century. That is the same book that Paisiy’s holding in his hand. Originally the monument was located on the southern side of St. Sofia church, but the Bulgarian communist leader Todor Zhivkov didn’t like it there. That’s why he removed the statue in the late 1960’s. Years later it was put back on the square but on its current location.
The grave of Ivan Vazov
Seen as one of the greatest Bulgarian artists, for most locals Ivan Vazov is a synonym to the word “literature”. He was one of the biggest celebrities in his time, so when he died in 1921 he was buried in the area between two churches in the heart of Sofia. The rock on top of his grave was brought here from Vitosha mountain for the fifth anniversary since his death (1926).
The memorial to the Bulgarian Jews
A few years ago this monument was erected in front of Sofia Municipality as a sign of gratitude to the Bulgarian people who supported the rescue of all nearly 50,000 Jewish people during WW II. The initiative behind the monument was by the Bulgarian Jewish community. You can often see little stones on top of the memorial, as this is the Jewish tradition to commemorate their dead. For more information about this interesting tradition click here.
The Portuguese poem on the City Hall
A poem, written by the Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa, was put on one of the walls of the City Hall located on 33, Moskovska str. It is a part of a project called “Wall-to-Wall Poetry”. You can see many poems written in different European languages all over the city. This is just one of them. The “Wall-to-Wall Poetry” project was launched by the Dutch Embassy in 2004.
The bell of St. Sofia
When the Liberation of Sofia came on the 3rd of April 1878, the locals wanted to commemorate this huge event with a big celebration. St. Sofia was built in the 6th century and as the other churches from that period it didn’t have a bell tower. That’s why the people decided to take a bell and put it on a tree in front of it and to ring it for days to celebrate the Liberation.
The water fountain with St. George
In 2005 the original statue of St. George (1935) was stolen. It was made by one of the most successful Bulgarian sculptors Mina Ivanov. He’s a brother of Ivan Ivanov, known as the “uncrowned king of Sofia” and the best mayor in the city’s history. Thankfully in 2010 another statue was put where it belongs – on top of the water fountain. The fun fact here is that they used the same mold used to create the original sculpture 84 years ago. I don’t recommend drinking from the fountain because many pigeons wash themselves there.
The monument of the “Opalchenets” (military volunteer)
During the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878, among the troops who took part in it, there were a lot of Bulgarian volunteers. They supported the Russian soldiers and fought in many key battles. A few years back a group of war veterans decided to create a monument in Sofia to commemorate all of these brave men who played such an important role for our Liberation. The soldier depicted on the monument is Nikola Korchev from the painting “Samarskoto zname” (The flag of Samara) by Jaroslav Věšín.
Remains from Turkish barracks
This structure is one of the few remaining ones from Ottoman times. It is believed to be a holding cell for criminals, where they were held before their execution. Some believe that even Vasil Levski himself was held in a similar cell not far from here. It’s creepy to see the inside of it nowadays because someone decided to put a wooden cross in the end of the structure.
Art 4 Diplomacy
If you take a walk on Shipka str. you’ll see not only one of the best backyards in Sofia (the one of the Austrian embassy) but also 2 paintings on the back of the Italian embassy, part of an art project called Art 4 Diplomacy. There are 2 people behind it, and a fun fact is that one of them, Stavros Avgustidis, had organized a few art exhibitions while being the ambassador of Cyprus in Bulgaria.
The monument of Boris Hristov
One of the names that you might want to remember during your stay in Bulgaria is Boris Hristov. He was an opera singer and became one of the most respected figures in the field in the 20th century. He’s considered by many as one of the greatest bass opera singer of all time. The reason why his monument is here is because he’s one of the 3 people whose funeral ceremonies were held inside St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (together with Tsar Boris III in 1943 and Patriarch Kiril in 1971).
My favorite bench in Sofia
This is just my personal touch in the article. The view from it is AMAZING. Next time when you go to see St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral take a look at the bench in front of the monument of Boris Hristov. You may see me there.
See you soon (maybe on the bench)! Thank you for the support!