IN TURNS A ROMAN CAPITAL, OTTOMAN OUTPOST, AND SOVIET METROPOLIS, SOFIA WEARS ITS HISTORY ON ITS SLEEVE.

Sage green domes atop Sofia’s cathedral hint at the city’s Ottoman past. Sober Soviet blocks set the scene for a festive, open-air antiques market. Alternately opulent and severe, the Bulgarian capital tells its dramatic history in its architecture, museums, restaurants, and theater.

Euro
Bulgarian
Vrazhdebna Airport (SOF)

Discoveries

ALEXANDER NEVSKY FLEA MARKET
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Walk along the tree-lined avenue around Sofia’s iconic St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and haggle for Soviet-era trinkets, military memorabilia, amateur art, vintage lace, and so much more at the Alexander Nevsky Flea Market. Don’t miss the cathedral itself, either, the largest in the Balkans and home to an impressive art collection.

BANYA BASHI MOSQUE
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An icon of Ottoman architecture in the heart of Sofia, Banya Bashi Mosque was designed in the 16th century by Mimar Sinan, the chief architect for Suleiman the Magnificent, who also designed Selim Mosque in Edirne and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Sofia’s only working mosque, this ornate landmark tells stories of just one of the city’s many historic incarnations.

MOUNT VITOSHA
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Towering over the city, Mount Vitosha is one of Sofia’s most recognizable symbols – and a popular spot for outdoor excursions. In winter, ski and snowboard on its slopes; in summer, hike and mountain bike up dirt tracks. No matter the season, the mountain guarantees panoramic views of the city below.

MUSEUM OF SOCIALIST ART
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Amidst all the Brutalist Soviet architecture, it’s hard to miss Sofia’s Communist past, but the relatively new Museum of Socialist Art offers an opportunity to delve further into the artistic culture of the period. In addition to displaying Bulgarian art made between the years of 1944 and 1989, the museum includes a sculpture garden filled with the likenesses of Soviet leaders.

RED HOUSE CENTER FOR CULTURE & DEBATE
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Once the home of Bulgarian sculptor Andrey Nikolov, this 1920s Italianate mansion now hosts theater and dance performances, film screenings, art exhibitions, and compelling symposiums on contemporary politics. Small galleries with crimson walls and blond wood floors are named for Nikolov, and display a collection of the celebrated artist’s marble busts and limestone statues.

ROTUNDA OF ST. GEORGE
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Literally in the hotel’s backyard, so that some rooms even look out on it, this fourth-century Roman Church is the oldest building in Sofia. Surrounded by an important archaeological site that includes remnants of both a Roman palace and the early Thracian settlement known as Serdica, the simple clay-and-brick church is filled with impressive medieval frescoes.

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