By Stephanie Craig
Ah, you’ve finished the Free Walking Tour in Sofia. Congratulations! You may be asking yourself, what should I do now?
You’re in luck! Here are seven things you can do next, depending on your travel style.
Go Inside the Cathedral “St. Alexander Nevski”
This one is the most obvious. You’re standing outside the most famous building in Sofia! You must go in and check it out.
Walk through the main floor, taking in the gorgeous frescoes and enjoying the religious reverence of the other patrons. If you practice the Orthodox faith, you may buy prayer candles near the front to light. Unlike some Orthodox churches, women do not need to cover their hair when going inside. Gentlemen, please take off any hats or baseball caps out of respect.
While there, make sure to observe the gorgeous doors on your way in and leave time to wander to the sides and check out the beautiful stained glass windows.
Visit the Icon Museum in Alexander Nevsky’s Crypt
If you arrive before 6pm, you can check out the Icon Museum in the cathedral’s crypt. The museum claims this is the largest collection of Orthodox icons in Europe, covering all periods of Bulgarian iconography. Plus, you get to say that you visited a crypt, which always sounds cool, right?
Find an Icon of Your Own
Religious travelers, rejoice! There are many places to buy beautiful painted icons to take home with you. Besides souvenir shops, there are art galleries which sell icons hand-painted by local Sofians. In the area around Alexander Nevsky there are several of these galleries. If you head over to Dondukov you can see both a gallery of hand painted icons and stroll by the National Sofia Opera and Ballet.
Explore Bulgaria’s Secular Art History
If you love art, but you’ve had your fill of religious works, go to Square 500 National Gallery, located in the beautiful white building behind the cathedral. This is Sofia’s main international art museum, but it also has a great collection of Bulgarian artworks from the 18th-20th centuries.
Photograph the Cathedral from Above
There are several rooftops and taller buildings around the city that make great places to photograph the cathedral from. Find one of the local rooftop bars for a drink and get an unobstructed shot while you’re there.
Celebrate the Cyrillic Alphabet
By now, I’m sure you know that the Cyrillic alphabet was based on the earlier Glagolitic alphabet, which was created by Bulgaria’s own Saints Cyril and Methodius. The St. Cyril and Methodius National Library is located on Vasil Levski, about two blocks from the end of the tour. Statues of the two historic figures stand proudly outside.
Eat Something Delicious!
There are good cafes and restaurants within a block or two of Alexander Nevsky. If you want a quick snack, try one of the cafes or bars, many of which have great outdoor seating. If you want to sit down and enjoy a meal, you can try Izbata Tavern, Bistro Liubimoto, or Djepeto Pizza and Grill.
If you’re still looking for additional ideas, head back to one of the churches or buildings that sparked your interest on the tour, and go inside! Or do what any Sofian might do, and head over to Vitosha Boulevard for a drink. You’ve earned it.
About the author: Stephanie Craig is an amateur historian and travel blogger. An American currently based in Sofia, she writes about history and travel at historyfangirl.com.
Photo source: Stephanie’s Instagram