I’m just at the tail end of a brief visit in Sofia, one of the few European capitals I haven’t seen before (one of my fave travel reasons). Sofia – apart from having such a lovely name – has been a pleasant surprise: wide open boulevards, varied and interesting architecture, nice cafes, and just a very convivial city to wander around. Not sure why I haven’t been here before, actually. Here’s a wee glimpse of the Bulgarian capital, seen through the lense of my iPhone: Sofia by Instagram.
Like Kyiv, Sofia also shows off gorgeous golden domes.
The imposing Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
While we’re on the subject of houses of worship, I feel it’s only fair to include the Banya Bashi Mosque as well, a remnant of Ottoman rule in Bulgaria: built by Minar Sinan in 1576.
The Banya Bashi Mosque
Of course, there’s more than just religious architecture in Sofia. This building is an excellent example of Socialist Classicism, isn’t it? Built in the early 1950s along with two other (equally imposing) buildings, together they’re called the Largo. It was once the headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Today, it houses National Assembly offices. Reminds me a bit of the Palace of Culture in Warsaw.
National Assembly office building
I love this little glimpse into the life of Sofians on their way home from work this evening.
Tram no. 22
Art in Sofia takes many forms. Here’s a somewhat disconcerting example of the city’s street art:
Sofia street art
… and finally, my favourite (of course): high on a pedestal, in the very centre of the city, watching over it, is the golden goddess Sofia. The statue replaced one of Lenin – and quite rightly, too.
The Holy Sofia
Sofia almost haunts us. We were supposed to stop there on our jaunt through Eastern Europe back to Istanbul a few years ago. We were so tired on the bus – and we met a Sofia local who told us not to bother – that we decided to book a bus straight to Istanbul from Sofia bus station…so we’ve been through Bulgaria only in transit. We need to put that right because Sofia looks like just our sort of city. We live and learn. 😉
So true, Julia 🙂
I have to admit I never made to Sofia or Bulgaria for that matter. You’ve brought back beautiful pictures.
My tip for visiting a lesser known European city would be Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. I was equally surprised as you about Sofia. It’s a vibrant city and great architectural buildings and noble houses along cobbled streets. And I loved the cafes 🙂
I really like Vilnius, too 🙂
Really cool photos! The domes look impressive, and interesting shot of people in the tram. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks, Mary 🙂
…To answer your question (even though I haven’t been there, yet), Riga looks captivating to me!!…It’s a place that’s not really on most people’s must-see lists, yet!!…
Riga is a very interesting capital, too. In fact, ll the Baltic ones are.
We had a lovely young woman from there as an exchange student many years ago. I have lost contact with her…I know she is married and has children. Would love to know how they are.
I do hope you find her. I was an exchange student myself, a million years ago, in the USA. Still keep in touch with my one of my host families, but have lost touch with the other one, sadly.
Lovely photos, Sophie! I know nothing of Sofia and your description of the city and your photos are not at all what I would have imagined. I think I had something much more “Soviet” or austere in mind. I would love to know just how many Alexander Nevsky Cathedrals there are though – every city in the former Soviet bloc seems to have one!
I’m more familiar with the better-known European capitals but if any of the Scandinavian capitals count as lesser-known then that’s what I would pick.
Love the Scandinavian capitals, of course 🙂
I know so little of places like Bulgaria, so posts like this are always a treat to read. Whets my appetite for when I’ll eventually get to Eastern Europe next year!
I think you’ll like Eastern Europe, James. 🙂
I completely agree about the lovely name — Sofia! I’d really like to visit sometime. Bratislava is coming to mind as a European capital that not as popular as others. I only spent a short time there and it was very foggy — I liked the mysterious ambiance. I’d like to see it in the sunshine — I hear that it is quite lovely.
Luckily, Bratislava is easily accessible – both from Vienna and Budapest.