Sofia is the capital city of Bulgaria and is home to a plethora of interesting, intriguing and unmissable museums. The history of Sofia starts in antiquity, and as one of the largest cities in the Balkans it has long been a focus for cultural and artistic movements in the region – so it’s no surprise that you can tour every aspect of Bulgarian heritage in its many museums and galleries. Everything from military and Soviet era propaganda to contemporary art is on display.
1.The Museum of Socialist Art
As the Culture Minister at the time of opening Vezhdi Rashidov said, “It was high time to put that era where it belongs – in a museum”. And you can now see all of the fascinating Soviet-era bronze sculptures, paintings and stone carvings that once adorned public squares throughout Bulgaria in the Museum Of Socialist Art. Many of these items were destroyed in 1989 when Zhivkov was ousted, but it’s worth remembering that despite their political significance many of these pieces were crafted by some of the country’s most talented artists. You’ll find the museum at 7 Luchezar Stanchev Street – just look for the huge statues of Lenin.
2.National Museum of Military History
With 40 acres of outdoor space and 5,000 meters of indoor space, the epic National Museum of Military History documents every aspect of Bulgaria’s long military history. Whether you love a bit of battle lore, or would rather give peace a chance, don’t pass up the chance to investigate this fascinating slice of another era. The big draw is the impressive collection of military vehicles, including planes, tanks, cannon, helicopters and anti-aircraft guns. You’ll need at least three hours to tour the museum, and hiring a guide to take you right to the best bits is money well spent. The museum is on Cherkovna Street and is open Wednesday to Sundays from 10am till 6pm.
3.National Museum of Natural history
The Radisson Blu Grand Hotel, Sofia is a short five-minute walk from the National Museum of Natural History. If you are interested in the natural world and want to spend a few quiet hours pondering lions and tigers and bears, this is the place for you. It’s an old-fashioned museum where glass cases prevail rather than touch-screen displays, but for some this just adds to the charm. The exhibits are open Monday to Sunday from 10am till 6pm.
4.National Art Gallery
With over 5,000 pieces of Bulgarian art at the heart of its collection, the National Art Gallery is one of the most imposing buildings in central Sofia. The gallery is housed in the former Royal Palace of Bulgaria, where it moved after the abolition of the monarchy in 1946. Thankfully the collection survived bombing raids and the communist government to become the extensive record of Bulgarian life it is today.
5.Ethnographic Institute and Museum
Also housed in the former royal palace is the Ethnographic Institute and Museum. This museum is a wonderful place to spend a few idle hours viewing the many hundreds of items that represent the traditional Bulgarian way of life. There are wood carvings, traditional costumes and musical instruments. There is also lots of interesting information on the beliefs and customs of the Bulgarian people, such as fire dancing and the significance of saints’ name days.