Sofia is a city melted together from a tumultuous past. Occupations over multiple centuries have shaped the city, in more ways than one, into the modern European capital it now is.
The last of these occupations, the Soviet post-war period, provided the city with affordable socialist era apartment blocks. These have inadvertently provided the cities 21st century street artists with a range of ideal surfaces for large scale mural art.
The last decade has seen the Urban Creatures Street Art Festival organise excellent international and local artists to visit and decorate some of these post-war apartment blocks with incredible large scale artwork, ultimately making Sofia a must-see city for street art aficionados.
They’re a helpful bunch at Urban Creatures, having also documented and mapped out most of these to allow the street art traveler with limited time to cut straight through the city to find the best pieces with minimal fuss.
I’ve strung these together a manageable walk, including a highly recommended food and rakia stop at Raketa (pictured), that incorporates some of my favourite pieces.
I tend to walk any city that I visit. I prefer this over using a metro system as you can get a feel for the changing neighbourhoods. Sofia is a city that is very walkable – so I’d recommend exploring by foot.
This route is aimed at those attempting to travel in this way, but public transport is available to get you from Serdika out to Poduyane and Hadzhi Dimitar where most of these murals can be found.
Bulevard Knyaginya Maria Luiza 19
First stop – slap bang in the centre of Sofia.
If you’re staying in central Sofia this shouldn’t be too much of a walk, but if you’re a little further out, hop onto the Metro and get off at the Serdika station.
Exit on the north side by the Saint Sofia monument and keep walking north for no longer than a minute and on your left hand side sat back from the road you’ll find the amazing and surreal creation from local artist, Bozko. His work features heavily in this tour alongside Nasimo.
This mural, created in conjunction with Urban Creatures and the Antrakt Gallery sits at the bottom of an ageing Chupa Chups marketing mural, presumably a product of post Soviet era free market access.
The enigmatic Bulgarian gives very few interviews, however, from what is available I know that he’s a damn fine illustrator, and super talented street artist and muralist. His otherworldly characters are the focus of his work and have a kind of hallucinogenic or unreal quality about them and when produced in huge sizes (as he has done across Sofia) they are even more striking.
Some other pieces covered the adjacent wall as well – a much more transient spot so I haven’t gone into too much detail here, but definitely keep an eye out when you visit.
пл. Чавдар, 1510 Kv. Poduyane
It’s your choice whether to hop on a bus or not, but if the weather is favourable, take a walk to another Bozko creation via the Alexandar Nevski Cathedral – the impressive gold-domed cathedral on every postcard.
Take the footpath on the bridge over the motorway and cut down the first set of stairs on the right hand side, before looping back under the birdge. Tucked away on the gable end of a row of houses you’ll recognise his unmistakable character sitting and smoking in among the shrubs. This one is titled Nineties.
These intense flashes of colour, particularly during the winter time when the city is covered in a blanket of snow are really spectacular. Standing out even more because of the huge contrast with the local environment.
ul. “Macgahan”, 1510 Hadzhi Dimitar
This is the first work from Bulgarian artist Nasimo, more from him soon. His paintings are largely figurative, and have more recently been drawing influence from classical art – although mostly through his indoor work.
This mural is really interesting, combining an area of partly sketched out figures with a band of colour stretching across the characters, filling in the details missing elsewhere.
The title of this work is “Memorial”, perhaps the painting is a tribute to a family of the past, a family that lived on this spot at one point, or maybe it’s capturing a more current moment in time…
Find out a little more about Nasimo in this great interview from Streetart360.
ul. “Filip Totyu” 57, 1510 Hadzhi Dimitar
Bozko’ back with possibly my favourite piece in Sofia.
His surreal characters this time are draped from the top to the ground floor of one of Sofia’s typical apartment blocks.
The right half of the painting painted in such a way that it either feels as though you’re staring through a crumbling building, or that the painting itself is crumbling from the facade.
Either way, spectacular stuff, even more so in this white-out scene.
ul. “Ostrovo” 10-12, 1510 Hadzhi Dimitar
A return from Nasimo this time – another of his pieces focusing on the people of Sofia, this time with a holy, almost angelic figure, clutching a candle while doves flutter across both sides of the building.
The figure is Grandpa Dobri – a Bulgarian ascetic who walked over 12 miles each day to sit in front of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral to collect money for charitable causes. Sadly, he passed away earlier this year aged 103 – this was painted a few years before, while he was still alive.
The block this is painted on is very similar to the previous Bozko piece, both artists making full use of the space available to them.
ul. “Spas Ginev”, 1510 Hadzhi Dimitar
Next up, the Polish dream team of Bezt and Sainer, known when painting together as the Etam Cru.
Delightful twisted realism from the pair, with hints of Bozko and Smug in these. The characters always sort of reminded me of the work of Elph too, perhaps because of the Japanese culture link, and the 2000s graffiti video game Jet Set Radio.
A real mix of things that I love, basically.
This one titled “Surprise” shows a young girl with a Nintendo style “?” box with a mushroom rising out – the mushroom is a possible reference to the ones eaten by Mario to double in size and gain extra power in the original Nintendo video games.
ul. “Macgahan” 42, 1510 Hadzhi Dimitar
Another nostalgia tinged wall from Nasimo, this one painted the year before “Memorial”.
Nasimo’s focus on people is again very obvious here – this mural portrays a girl closing her eyes and day-dreaming, perhaps of her family, which is drawn in a childlike style on the wall behind her.
The colour palette again standing out on the canvas, giving the impression a sort of unreal or dreamlike vision.
ul. “Filip Totyu” 118
The final stop on this tour, and another stunning Bozko piece to gaze up at.
I felt like this piece had a kind of self-portrait feel to it. The character sits atop an angry bull, with a paint brush and paint cans slung over the back of the beast.
The character also has a shield over his shoulder, already used to fend off several attacks. Could this be a comment on the life of this street artist in particular, or of mural art and the reaction of the public more generally?
Whatever the message in this one, Bozko’s style produced at this size is something really incredible to witness.
And that’s us!
Sofia’s a super interesting city, and one that you can explore on a tight budget quite easily. The Urban Creatures festival has brought some really interesting artwork into the public eye, and the areas where you can explore these are likely finding the benefits of increased tourist traffic out this direction.
So sort out your flights and explore Bulgaria’s exciting capital now!