The Ivan Vazov National Theatre is Bulgaria’s national theatre, as well as the oldest and most authoritative theatre in the country. The theatre’s Neoclassicalbuilding, designed by famous Viennese theatre architects Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner, was finished in 1906 and opened on 3 January 1907.
The National Assembly’s main building has been proclaimed a monument of culture for its historic significance. Situated in downtown Sofia, it was designed in Neo-Renaissance style by Konstantin Jovanović, a Serbian-Bulgarian architect who received his education in Vienna and Switzerland. It was constructed between 1884 and 1886 by Friederich Wilhelm Gustav Liebe, a young builder from Saxony who was only 22 years old when construction began.
The SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library is the national library of Bulgaria, the oldest cultural center and the largest library in the country.
The royal palace on Battenberg Square houses the National Art Gallery and the National Archaeological Museum.
The Amphitheatre of Serdica was an amphitheatre in the Ancient Roman city of Ulpia Serdica. Discovered in 2004 and the subject of excavations in 2005 and 2006, the ruins of the amphitheatre lie on two adjacent sites in the center of modern Sofia. The amphitheatre was built in the 3rd–4th century AD on top of a 2nd–3rd century theatre which had been ravaged by the Goths. However, the amphitheatre remained in use for less than a century and was abandoned by the 5th century. With an arena only around 10 m (33 ft) smaller than the Colosseum, the Amphitheatre of Serdica was among the biggest in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and the largest today in Bulgaria. It lay outside the city walls of Serdica and hosted fights between gladiators and wild beasts, which were advertised at the entrance of the city.
The royal palace was constructed in two stages, the first lasting between 1880 and 1882 during the rule of Knyaz Alexander Battenberg, when Austro-Hungarian architect Viktor Rumpelmayer worked on the building. It was inaugurated on 26 December 1882 and constituted the representative part of the palace, encompassing the administrative ground floor, the ballrooms above and the service third floor. The second stage, during Knyaz (later Tsar) Ferdinand, saw the construction of the palace’s east wing by Viennese architect Friedrich Grünanger, who incorporated elements of Viennese Neo-Baroque. The east wing was where the apartments of the royal family were located, but some service premises (including a lift) were also located there.
The Military Club was designed by Czech architect Antonín Kolář in the Neo-Renaissance style and finished by Bulgarian architect Nikola Lazarov in 1907. The foundation stone of the edifice was laid in 1895, а stone from the victorious battlefield at Slivnitsa from the Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885-1886) was laid in the foundations. The building has three stories and features a coffeehouse, an art gallery, a number of refined halls varying in size, as well as an imposing concert hall with 450 seats. Due to all this, the Central Military Club has always been an important cultural centre of the capital, once exhibiting works by Ivan Mrkvička, Vladimir Dimitrov, Jaroslav Věšín and providing these noted artists with studios. The concert hall has also seen performances by actors and opera singers like Krastyu Sarafov, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Feodor Chaliapin, Boris Christoff etc.
The Sofia Public Mineral Baths is a landmark in the centre of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, a city known for the mineral springs in the area. It was built in the early 20th century near the former Turkish bath (then destroyed) and was used as the city’s public baths until 1986. Public baths have existed in Sofia at least as early as the 16th century. The current Sofia Public Mineral Baths building was designed in the Vienna Secession style, but integrating typically Bulgarian, Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox ornamental elements, by the architects Petko Momchilov and Friedrich Grünanger in 1904–1906, the mineral baths were opened on 13 May 1913, but the building being completely finished after two more years and a garden being arranged in front of the baths. Artists Haralampi Tachev and St. Dimitrov designed the building’s ceramic majolica decoration. The north wing was damaged during the bombing of Sofia in World War II, but was restored several years later.
Churches in Sofia
The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral in Sofia. Built in Neo-Byzantine style, it serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria and is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world, as well as one of Sofia’s symbols and primary tourist attractions. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a cross-domed basilica featuring an emphasized central dome. The cathedral’s gold-plated dome is 45 m high (148 ft), with the bell tower reaching 53 metres (174 ft). The temple has 12 bells. The interior is decorated with Italian marble in various colours, Brazilian onyx, alabaster, and other luxurious materials. The construction of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral started in 1882, but most of it was built between 1904 and 1912. Saint Alexander Nevsky was a Russian prince. The cathedral was created in honour to the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule.
The Boyana Church is a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church situated on the outskirts of Sofia, in the Boyana quarter. The east wing of the two-storey church was originally constructed in the late 10th or early 11th century, then the central wing was added in the 13th century under the Second Bulgarian Empire, the whole building being finished with a further expansion to the west in the middle of the 19th century. The church owes its world fame mainly to its frescoes from 1259. The monument was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.
The Church of St George is an Early Christian red brick rotunda that is considered the oldest building in Sofia. It is situated behind the Sheraton Hotel, amid remains of the ancient town of Serdica. Built by the Romans in the 4th century, it is mainly famous for the 12th-14th century frescoes inside the central dome. Three layers of frescoes have been discovered, the earliest dating back to the 10th century. Magnificent frescoes of 22 prophets over 2 metres tall crown the dome. Painted over during the Ottoman period, when the building was used as a mosque, these frescoes were only uncovered in the 20th century.
Holy Sunday Church ( Sveta Nedelya) is an Eastern Orthodox church in Sofia, a cathedral of the Sofia bishopric of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. Sveta Nedelya is a medieval church that has suffered destruction through the ages and has been reconstructed many times. The present building of the temple is among the landmarks of Sofia. It was designed by the famous Bulgarian architectural team Vasilyov-Tsolov.
The Russian Church, officially known as the Church of St Nicholas the Miracle-Maker, is a Russian Orthodox church in central Sofia, situated on Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard.
The Church of St Paraskeva is a Bulgarian Orthodox church, dedicated to Saint Paraskeva, located on 58 Georgi Rakovski Street in the centre of the city. It is the third-largest church in Sofia. Plans to build a church at the site date to 1910, when Stuttgart-educated Bulgarian architect Anton Tornyov (1868–1942) won a competition for the church’s design. Due to the Balkan Wars and World War I, however, the construction was postponed. In 1922, the church board of trustees announced another competition, which was again won by Tornyov. The construction of the Church of St Paraskeva was complete by 1930, but the finishing works on the porticos did not cease until 1940.
The Church of St Petka of the Saddlers is a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church in Sofia. It is a small one-naved building partially dug into the ground located in the very centre of both the modern and the antique city, in the TZUM subway. The church features a semi-cylindrical vault, a hemispherical apse, and a crypt discovered during excavations after the Second World War. The walls are 1 m thick and made from brick and stone. The church was first mentioned in the 16th century and was constructed at the place of a former Roman religious building. It is today a monument of culture known for its mural paintings from the 14th, 15th, 17th and 19th century depicting biblical scenes. The church is dedicated to St Petka, an 11th century Bulgarian saint. The Church of Saint Petka acquired its present name due to it being a patron of the saddlers in the Middle Ages, who performed their rituals in the church.
Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church is a Bulgarian Orthodox church. 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 Hagia Sophia Church is the second oldest church in Sofia, dating to the 6th century. In the 14th century, the church gave its name to the city, previously known as Sredets. The church was built on the site of several earlier churches and places of worship dating back to the days when it was the necropolis of the Roman town of Serdica. In the 2nd century, it was the location of a Roman theatre. Over the next few centuries, several other churches were constructed, only to be destroyed by invading forces such as the Goths and the Huns. The basic cross design of the present basilica, with its two east towers and one tower-cupola, is believed to be the fifth structure to be constructed on the site and was built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the middle of the 6th century (527-565). It is thus a contemporary of the better-known Hagia Sophia church in Constantinople. The Hagia Sophia Church is now one of the most valuable pieces of Early architecture in Southeastern Europe. The present building is a cross basilica with three altars. The floor of the church is covered with complex Early Christian ornamental or flora and fauna-themed mosaics. The Hagia Sophia Church stands in the middle of an ancient necropolis and many tombs have been unearthed both under and near the church. Some of the tombs even feature frescoes.
Universities in Sofia
The St. Clement of Ohrid University of Sofia or Sofia University is the oldest higher education institution in Bulgaria, founded on 1 October 1888. The university’s edifice was constructed between 1924 and 1934 with the financial support of the brothers Evlogi Georgiev and Hristo Georgiev, whose sculptures are now featured on its façade, and has an area of 18,624 m² and a total of 324 premises, with 22000 students.
New Bulgarian University combines today the needs of education, the development of scientific researches and business’s interests – mission targeted to forward prosperity of the Bulgarian economy, guarantee for the improvement of the culture’s state and bulgarian society’s standard. Spacious and functional buildings offer the most modern facilities for student’s training – in undergraduate and postgraduate programs, and center distatsionno and e-learning.