Taking part into the Bohemian Sofia Tour you will see many buildings and landmarks that were and still are important for our city since the years of the Monarchy. However, we have numerous suggestions and tips for you how to continue your walk in the streets of Sofia and discover more places of interest. One of these places could be the National Palace of Culture – a favorite site of ours. For some of you it might be enough to walk around the palace and the park in front, while others might be interested in the history of the building and its purpose nowadays. Although it is relatively new, the landmark has become one of the symbols of Sofia.
Back in time, in 1975 members of the Bulgarian Communist Party from Sofia came up with the idea for the creation of a cultural complex. The area in the center of the city seemed appropriate, despite being in poor condition after the bombings from the Second World War. Some military quarters were situated exactly where the building is nowadays. The initial plan was for building just an opera house but later architects and politicians agreed on creating a multi-functional cultural complex that would be hosting meetings, concerts, etc. The park and the area around the building were of great importance, as well.
The building process began in the spring of 1978 and in 1981 the prime minister Todor Zhivkov inaugurated the new palace of culture which had remarkable size, design and construction. Have in mind that the steel used for the building is similar in amount to the steel that the Eiffel Tower has!
Till 1989 it was named after Zhivkov’s daughter – National Palace of Culture “Lyudmila Zhivkova”. She gave the idea for the place and the way it looks today. She was a member of the Communist party and a Minister of the Culture during the period of construction of the Palace.
Some people from Sofia still remember and can tell you the story about the building process of the Palace. Many of them actually donated money or worked voluntarily to help finalizing the project. Moreover, all the citizens of Sofia worked without being paid for one day which guaranteed another BGN 30mln for the initiative. But why was the project so important and exciting for everybody? Why did they invested so much time and effort to build it? In addition to being the biggest palace of its type in Eastern Europe, the grand opening of the National Palace of Culture marked a great anniversary – 1300 years since the establishment of Bulgaria!
Due to the enormous space it offers, the Palace has been hosting thousands of concerts, operas, theatres and congress meetings since its foundation. And in 2018 another major event is coming. In the period January-June the National Palace of Culture is the host of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Because of this the building and the surrounding area went through a process of thorough renovation and modernization.
Now it is even more pleasant to walk in the park with the fountains in front of the building with a nice scene of Vitosha mountain. There is another thing you might want to see while being there. In 2006 the mayor of Berlin agreed to send a segment from the Berlin Wall which was placed in the park in front of the Palace of Culture. A funny fact is that in 2015 a worker who was taking care of the park maintenance noticed the graffiti on the segment and tried to clean it and paint it. Fortunately, people noticed that and the monument was restored the way it had looked like.
My advice is also to check out the “Lovers Bridge” which is very close to the Palace. You will have a nice view of the buildings and parks around you. The name of the bridge probably comes from the fact that many couples are used to meeting and walking there.
If you are not exhausted yet, you should know that one of the alleys of the park will get you straight at the beginning of one of the busiest commercial streets in Sofia – Vitosha Street. What you will find there is mostly a place to have a meal or a drink and crowds of people.
How to get to the National Palace of Culture?
Many routes from the public transport pass by the Palace. In order not to get you confused I recommend using the Subway Line 2 (the blue line) to the station called “National Palace of Culture”. An interesting fact is that this station was built together with the Palace and was sealed for almost 30 years. Even in 1980 they knew that one day a subway line will be serving this major landmark in the center of the city. In the process of building Line 2 from the Sofia Subway (opened in 2012) builders only had to install the railway and the necessary equipment and to decorate the platform and the station.