Sofia in Bulgaria is one of my favourite European cities. It is accessible (Easyjet flights direct to Sofia), affordable (see How cheap is Sofia?) and home to one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Churches in the world – St Alexander Nevski Cathedral.
The Architecture of St Alexander Nevski Cathedral Sofia
I sat and admired the architecture of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral at ‘La Catthedral‘ whilst sipping a hot chocolate. I thought that drinks here might be extortionately priced, but it was very reasonable by Western standards, particularly considering the phenomenal view.
Most Bulgarian Orthodox Churches have a plain exterior, and so the glistening gold and green domes are evidence of a Russian influence. The large gold plated dome is an astonishing 45m high. You won’t be able to see it very easily, but this main dome actually has the Lord’s Prayer inscribed (http://www.sofia-guide.com)
The architectural style of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral is Neo-Byzantine (architectural revival movement of the 1840’s). The Cathedral is named after Alexander Nevski himself – a Russian Tsar who defended Russia against invading Swedish troops in 1240.
Interestingly, the Alexander Nevski Cathedral is not the most important Cathedral in Sofia – that would be the Sofia Church directly opposite, which gave the city it’s name.
Oh, and there’s also an Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia – don’t get the two mixed up!
Top Tips – Visiting St Alexander Nevski Cathedral Sofia
- Get there early in high season to get the best photographs. Also, respect particular Orthodox holy festival times.
- You do not need to pay to visit Alexander Nevski Cathedral, but you may choose to make a donation for the upkeep of the building.
- Remember not to photograph people during worship and respect their worship time with silence.
- In the underground crypt, there is an art exhibition/museum that chronologically demonstrates approximately 300 Orthodox exhibits (mainly icons and wall paintings) from around Bulgaria, dating from the 13th to the 19th Century. I highly recommend it. You pay to get in, but it’s hardly even a couple of pounds (GBP) as far as I can remember.
- I highly recommend the FREE Sofia walking tour, which starts at the Palace on Vitosha and ends up at the Cathedral.
Religion and Denomination
Christian – Bulgarian Orthodox
How to Get There
It’s easy to find the Cathedral – simply take the Metro to Sofiiski Universitet. Tickets are extremely cheap (about 30p!)
Also, most of Sofia is extremely walkable, and subways have slopes for disabled access.
Where to Stay in Sofia
I highly recommend the Art Hostel for backpackers on a budget. They have a sociable bar with a table that hangs from the ceiling! It’s a really cool place where you will meet other travellers.
If you have a higher budget, I recommend the Radisson Blu Sofia.
If you love Cathedrals, you should also read about La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.