Sofia is the capital of the Balkan nation of Bulgaria. It’s in the west of the country, below Vitosha Mountain.
Bulgaria is a Balkan nation with diverse terrain encompassing Black Sea coastline, a mountainous interior and rivers, including the Danube. A cultural melting pot with Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian influences, it has a rich heritage of traditional dance, music, costumes, and crafts. At the foot of domed Vitosha mountain is its capital city, Sofia, dating to the 5th century B.C. In Sofia, the National Museum of History displays gold artifacts excavated from the Valley of the Thracian Rulers, a well-known collection of tombs near the town of Kazanlak. Medieval churches at Ivanovo are cut from solid rock. The fortresslike Rila Monastery, built in Bulgarian Renaissance style, is set in the Rila Mountains. Archaeological sites include Nessebar, the 3,000-year-old ruins of a Greek colony, on the Black Sea. Up the coast, Varna is known for beach resorts, while southwestern Bansko is a ski destination. There are hundreds of mineral springs country
11:00am-2:00pm : Borovets Ski Resort
Ski, snowboard, and night-ski in a former hunting ground of Bulgarian kings at Borovets Ski Resort. Nestled in pine woods 1,390 m (4,560 ft) above sea level, the facility was established as a winter resort in 1896. It now features hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, and a network of ski runs and lifts. The total length of the 24 pistes is 58 km (36 mi), and the highest ones are at 2,600 m (8,530 ft) above sea level. Watch local ski instructors put on a ski-jumping show. The resort also offers biathlon facilities for training. Winters here are mild, but the snow is plentiful.
3:30pm-4:30pm : St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral
See what may be the largest collection of Orthodox icons in Europe at St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral, as well as a piece of St. Alexander Nevski's rib. The second biggest Orthodox cathedral in the Balkans, this church can hold 10,000 people, and its golden, neo-Byzantine domes can be seen from miles away. The cathedral's luxurious interior is decorated with Italian marble, Brazilian onyx, and alabaster. See murals, marble iconostasis, pulpit, and patriarchal throne. The temple was built in honor of the Russian Tsar Alexander II, whose army liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. The various icons are inside the crypt.
5:00pm-5:30pm : Temple Sveti Nikolay
At the crypt of , a box with handwritten messages stands next to the tomb of the former Bishop Seraphim. Locals consider him a miracle worker and believe that he answers prayers and makes wishes come true. The church's white-and-green tiled exterior is topped with five small, golden domes. Inside, you'll find four icons on the iconostasis, modeled after the icons from Kiev's St. Vladimir cathedral. The builders and the artists who painted the interior walls also worked on the Alexander Nevski Cathedral. Built on the Russian Embassy's initiative between 1907 and 1914, the church served as Ð° center for numerous Russian emigrants in Bulgaria. Note that information at the site is available only in Russian and Bulgarian.
10:00am-11:30am : Vitosha Boulevard
Window-shop in the posh outlets of many high-end fashion labels at Vitosha Boulevard, where you'll find Versace, Escada, Bvlgari, D&G, Gianfranco Ferré, Emporio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Boss, and more. Named after the nearby mountain, this semi-pedestrian street cuts through the center of Sofia. Shoppers often meet at a pharmacy at the corner of Vitosha and Patriarch Eftimii boulevards. From there, you can walk along the boulevard and see some of the city's notable buildings, such as the National Palace of Culture, the Palace of the Courts, and St. Nedelya Orthodox Church. Take a break at one of the many restaurants Ð°nd bars.
1:30pm-4:30pm : Rila Monastery
Visit Rila Monastery, the oldest religious center in the Slavic world, to appreciate the harmony between architecture and painting. The students of St. Ivan of Rila built the monastery in the 10th century near the hermit ascetic's cave and tomb. This World Heritage site is a cultural and spiritual center of Bulgarian national consciousness. The main church features beautiful frescoes and a gold-plated iconostasis, famous for its wood carvings. Don't miss Rafail's Cross in the monastery museum, which depicts 104 religious scenes and includes 650 miniature figures. At the end of the 18th century, a monk named Rafail used magnifying lenses to whittle the wooden cross. It took him 12 years to complete the cross, and the work cost him his sight.
11:00am-5:00pm : Rila National Park
10:00am-2:00pm : Boyana Church
See one of the most complete and perfectly preserved monuments of eastern European medieval art at Boyana Church. Featuring an important collection of medieval Byzantine frescoes, this site was added to the World Heritage list in 1979. The walls of the narthex are adorned with 18 scenes from the life of St. Nicholas, incorporating aspects of contemporary life. In “The Miracle at Sea,” the ship and the sailors' hats recall the Venetian fleet. The portraits of Bulgarian Tsar Constantine Tikh and Tsaritsa Irina on the north wall are among the most impressive and lifelike frescoes in the church.
2:30pm-4:00pm : National Museum of Military History
At National Museum of Military History, learn about the victories, the glory, and the heroism of the Bulgarian military. Over nearly 100 years, the museum has collected almost a million items related to Bulgarian and European military history. Browse through weaponry, rebel flags, uniforms, insignia, medals of honor, and an impressive collection of Soviet-made military hardware. See dioramas of Bulgarian military participation in the two World Wars and in other military campaigns up to the present day. Keep an eye out for weapons from the imperial collections of Prince Alexander I of Battenberg, Tsar Ferdinand, and Tsar Boris III. The facility includes a library and a computer center.
4:30pm-6:00pm : Sofia University Saint Kliment Ohridski
Explore Bulgarian cultural and educational traditions at Sofia University Saint Kliment Ohridski, the oldest higher-education institution in the country. In front of the main entrance, you can see the bronze sculptures of the brothers Georgiev, the university's first and biggest benefactors. Stroll through the university's long hallways, and check out its old-fashioned desks, painted glass windows, mosaics, and chandeliers. Exit through the back entrance into a small garden that's hidden from the street. The university features a university library, university press, computer center, and sports center. The surrounding neighborhood offers restaurants, bars, and art shops.
9:30am-10:30am : Church of St Petka of the Saddlers
The miniature Orthodox church Church of St Petka of the Saddlers reflects a humble style due to the Ottoman rule that there could be no churches taller than houses. The largely ruined structure lies at an important public square among large modern buildings and roads. Its walls are crumbling, and the frescoes on the interior have faded a great deal. The size of the entire object is about 70 sq m (750 sq ft). Observe its old terra cotta roof tiles, reminiscent of typical village houses. Snap photos of this small religious object from the early Ottoman era surreally juxtaposed against the urban surroundings.
11:00am-3:30pm : Room Escape Games
4:00pm-5:30pm : National Museum of Natural History
Reputed to be the largest of its kind in the Balkans, National Museum of Natural History holds a substantial collection of preserved animals, minerals, and scientific information. The collection consists of over 400 mammals, 1,200 bird species, and hundreds of thousands of invertebrates. In addition, it preserves samples of nearly one-quarter of all known mineral species. Here you can see a bear standing on two legs and a tiger roaring. Observe numerous fossils and read information about each specimen. Walk around 15 halls spread throughout four floors, and explore nature up close. To avoid heavy traffic in the area, use public transportation to get here.
10:00am-12:30am : Church St. George Rotunda
Hear priests chant in the old Slavic language and sing Byzantine music while performing the daily liturgy at Church St. George Rotunda. The Romans built the red-brick rotunda--the oldest building in Sofia--in the fourth century CE, presumably on the site of a pagan temple. A modern hotel was built around the church in the 1950s, and in the courtyard you can see the contrast between the opulence of the huge hotel and the humility of the small church. The church is famous for its 12th- to 14th-century frescoes. Twenty-two large figures of prophets crown the central dome around the image of Christ. As you exit the church, wander around the neighboring ruins of the ancient town of Serdika.
1:30am4:30pm : Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church
The Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church is a Bulgarian Orthodox church in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It was created between 1901 and 1902 through the conversion of an abandoned Ottoman mosque, and was inaugurated on 27 July 1903. The church is named after Cyril and Methodius and their five disciples, known in the Orthodox Church collectively as the Sedmochislenitsi.The so-called Black Mosque was built in 1528 on the order of Suleiman the Magnificent with the intention to be more impressive and beautiful than the Christian churches in the city. The mosque is popularly attributed to the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, although this is uncertain. It was constructed at the place of a former nunnery of the Rila Monastery and an Early Christian temple from the 4th-5th century, the ruins of which were excavated in 1901. An even older construction, a pagan temple of Asclepius from Roman Serdica, was also discovered in the mosque's foundations.The 25 m-long mosque had a square shape and a large lead-covered dome. The mosque was initially known as the Koca Mehmed Pasha Mosque after Mehmed-paša SokoloviÄ‡. Another name was the Ä°maret Mosque after the imaret, a kitchen for the poor located in the vicinity, the ruins of which were found in 1912. A madrasah, a Muslim religious school, was located in what is now the small garden between the modern church and the Count Ignatiev School. The madrasah was later used as a prison after the Liberation of Bulgaria. Other Ottoman constructions nearby included a caravanserai and a hammam.
10:30pm-4:30pm : Yanakiev Ski and Snowboard School