Black and white photo of two women with umbrellas tinted pink
Architecture,  Bulgaria,  Monday walks,  Street photography,  Sunday Stills

Sofia, city of contrasts and a work in progress

Bulgaria’s capital city intrigues and charms me. It seems to be in a state of constant flux, built on layers of history. One minute you are walking on a Roman road, the next staring up at 1950s Stalinist monoliths. Gold-domed cathedrals and churches dominate the vistas along wide boulevards while in side streets elegant villas sit side-by-side with their crumbling, neglected cousins.

Large worn stone paving in a subway
Part of the Roman road through Serdika

Over the next few weeks I plan to share some of the highlights of my latest trip there in a series of posts. You will see some great architectural details, some imposing communist-era monuments and some lively street art. I’ll also take you to a couple of fascinating museums.

For this week’s Monday Walk let me simply take you on a wander through the fascinating city of Sofia. It’s not in truth an actual walk I took there, but rather a blend of several days spent exploring last week. I’ll save some of the main sights for those future posts, while others I have already covered previously following my 2019 visit.

So the focus on today’s ‘walk’ will be life on the streets and in its parks, plus a handful of the architectural highlights.

Vitosha Boulevard

We’ll start with the view along one of the city’s main thoroughfares for pedestrians, Vitosha Boulevard. It takes its name from the mountain that can be clearly seen to the south.

Street with pedestrians and view of mountains
Vitosha Boulevard

City Garden

Let’s walk through my favourite people-watching spot, the City Garden.

The very grand National Theatre is on one side of this small park.

Fountains in front of red stone building
The National Theatre
Roof with statue of a figure blowing a trumpet
Roof detail, National Theatre
White stone carved figure with gold headdress and lyre
Detail of the pediment of the National Theatre building

We can grab some street photos elsewhere too.

Woman passing a large poster of a chimpanzee
Outside the Natural History Museum
Woman on a bench outside a shop displaying clothes
Outside a boutique off Vitosha Boulevard

St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker

One of my favourite buildings in the city is the church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker.

Church with green roof and gold onion domes
St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker
Detail of gold onion dome and green roof
St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker
Mosaic of a saint holding a book
The Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker

Former Communist Party HQ

The former Communist Party headquarters building offers a complete contrast. It used to be topped with a red star (now on display in the Socialist Art Museum) but today flies the Bulgarian flag and is used as government offices.

Flag flying on top of a tall building
The former Communist Party headquarters building
Large five-pointed red star on a concrete plinth
Red star from the former Communist Party headquarters building on display at the Socialist Art Museum

Wandering through the side streets we can find all sorts of opportunities for photography, from flea market stalls to kittens, old cars to shiny Harley Davidson motorbikes.

A work in progress?

In places it seems Sofia is still a work in progress, with buildings on many streets in various states of disrepair. These only serve to draw attention to how far it has come and what great architectural gems await future restoration perhaps. Although to be frank, a few of these examples are almost certainly slated for demolition rather than restoration. I’m including a selection of these in part because Terri has offered me the perfect opportunity to do so, linking to her Sunday Stills theme of ‘Dilapidated’.

Sofia at night

Let’s finish our walk with a few night shots.

Wide cobbled street with passing cars and city buildings at night
Bul. Tsar Osvoboditel at night
Fountains in front of red stone building at night
The National Theatre and fountains, City Gardens
Large cathedral lit up at night
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

I last visited Sofia in September 2022; most of these photos are from that visit but a couple are from my earlier 2019 trip


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