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10 places in Sofia you probably don’t know about




by Aurora Brink

Maybe you have already hung around the city center of Sofia. But have you revealed all the secrets and stories of the Bulgarian capital? We collected several interesting places in the centre of Sofia recommended by locals – some of them recent, some a bit forgotten even by the locals. From cozy reading places, through the Museum of wine and a bench that tells stories…

Here they are: 

The Tomb of Honorius

Who was Honorius and where is his tomb? This is one of the relatively new sights of interest in Sofia, situated opposite the Saint Sofia Basilica entrance. For now this is the only late-antiquity tomb, discovered in Bulgaria with the buried person’s name on it. It is quite well-preserved, there aren’t many places in Bulgaria, where you can see such treasures underneath a modern glass cover. Get your ticket from the ticket office of the Basilica.

2, Paris Str.

The garden in front of the National Theatre

…is in fact officially called the City Garden,and it’s the oldest public garden in the capital. It is where young people gather for a beer in summer and old men are playing chess. It existed even before the Liberation of Bulgaria, on a smaller area, planted with fruit trees. In 1878 the first civil governor of Sofia – Alabin, offered the garden to be reconstructed and expanded. A low wooden fence was built around the garden. A rockery, a small water corner, a musicians’ pavilion and a sun clock for measuring the time were also built. On 4th April 1878 it was named “Alexandrovska”, in honour of the Russian emperor Alexander II.

Chitalnyata (The Reading Room)

If you like to read and a glass pavilion in the City Garden sounds like the perfect place to do it, the new literary point in the very heart of the capital is called Chitalnyata (The Reading Room) and is exactly for you. The only way to get a library card is to donate at least one book. In addition to books, tourist information about Sofia is also offered here.

Opposite to the National Theatre

The Clay Suns in Chayka Garden

Although they have been there since 2012, the clay suns in Chayka Garden (where Ivan Vazov Street and Rakovska Street cross) often remain unnoticed. Even by the locals, who sit in the shades of the garden all summer long. In fact, the kerbs were decorated by volunteers with patterns from Bulgarian embroidery. Next time look closer.

The crossroads of Ivan Vazov Street and Rakovska Street

Sofia Synagogue

Have you heard of the Quadrangle of Tolerance – the Catholic church, St Nedelya Orthodox Church, Banya Bashi Mosque and the Synagogue, situated a street or two away from each other in the heart of Sofia? But have you gone inside the Synagogue? It is modeled after the synagogue in Vienna and has incredible Venetian mosaic on the floor, the second floor hosts the Jewish Museum of History, which tells the story of the Jews in Bulgaria.

18, Exarch Joseph Str

Johnny's Bench on Angel Kanchev Street

You can find it on Angel Kanchev Street in Sofia – in front of a small gift and souvenir shop. Small, elegant, exquisite – it invites you to sit down. Johnny’s bench. Johnny is Tanya’s husband, the lady from the shop. He passed away a few months ago. He had been sick for years but went to the shop till his last days. Everybody on the street knows him. His wife Tanya – gives meaning and colour to the world with her presence and with what she does. She has transformed grief into something small and endlessly valuable, which brings silent joy.

The Museum of History of Sofia

If you want to learn something about the history of Sofia, this museum offers a modern walk through the past of the city. While having a ride on retro tram you will see a movie about the history of trams. It features interactive boards and lots of old photographs to look at. Plus the golden chariot of Ferdinand, a golden desk, thrones and a Mercedes from 1905.

1, Banski Square, www.sofiahistorymuseum.bg

The Market Hall

After taking the decision to build a covered market in Sofia for meat and dairy products, poultry, fish and vegetables, the place for the big wooden building of the Market Hall in the centre of the city was chosen. It was where theatrical performances and circus shows were held. It took 2 years to build the Market Hall (it was finished in 1911) in a Renaissance style with elements of the Byzantine construction art.

25, Knyaginya Maria Luiza Str.

Travellers Club

Visit the most travelful place in Sofia - 19 Serdika Str., behind the Cinema House (Dom na kinoto). Every Wednesday in the club you can see first-person narratives of interesting travellers. You can also find useful information for your upcoming trip or meet other travellers.

19, Serdika Str, travellers-bg.com

The Museum of Dolls

In the very heart of the city you can visit the biggest collection of dolls in Bulgaria – more than 3 000 dolls in all sizes and at all ages expect you in Art House The Dolls, where the museum exposition devoted to the favourite toy is also held. In addition to looking at dolls, here you can also make one yourself.

34, Tsar Samuil Str.

And two more, a little away of the centre…

Polytechnic Museum

How does a solar-panel bicycle, patented by a Bulgarian, look like? How about a manual ice-cream machine from the beginning of 20th century? And space food? And Petar Beron’s original telescope, which appears on the back of the Bulgarian 10-lev banknote? All the answers are in the Polytechnic Museum in Sofia, where you can not only touch many of the exhibits, but also do experiments yourself.  

56 Opalchenska Str, www.polytechnicmuseum.org

The Museum of Wine

The first and only Museum of Wine in Sofia is close to the centre and is worth visiting. In the cellar of the Wine Industry Institute, 10 to 70-year-old bottles of wine are kept. You can also see bizarre instruments, used in the past for producing wine. Walking around the underground corridors, you will see how technologies in the wine industry developed throughout the years, you will learn the Bulgarian wine grape varieties, simple diagrams explain how white, red and champagne wine is made. In the Museum of Wine in Sofia you can see and taste more than 150 types of wine and alcohol drinks, as well as sign up for a tasting course. 134, Tsar Boris III Blvd, the entrance is through the gate of the tobacco factory.

Reservation required at office at wineinbg dot org