Although not fully exploited, Sofia has a vast wealth of mineral springs, which can be found even in the city centre, close to some of the most iconic buildings.
One of these buildings is the Central Bath, which today houses the Sofia History Museum. The construction of the Bath began in 1889 under the direction of Austrian architect Emil von Foerster, who won an international competition for a mineral bath with a hotel. Due to a lack of funds, the process was stopped, but the venture was lucky, and the small bath opened in 1908, thanks to architects Petko Momchilov and Friedrich Grünanger. The big bath – with two swimming pools, family baths, and Roman baths was opened on 13 May 1913. Soon, a water cure institute was opened in the north wing with water supply facilities, which were fed with water from the mineral springs flowing under the building.
When Sofia was bombed in 1944, the small bath was demolished, and parts of the large bath were seriously damaged. After the Second World War, the large bath was rebuilt and declared a monument of culture of local importance. Due to depreciation, the building was closed to visitors in 1986 and completely abandoned after 1989. After restoration in 2015, its right part began to house the Museum of the History of Sofia.
The museum’s permanent exhibition is presented in eight halls and includes exhibits spanning a period of more than eight thousand years – from the Neolithic period to the 1940s. They are grouped by themes – “The Heritage of Antiquity”, “The Power of the Spirit”, “The Dynastic Connection with Western Europe”, “Palace Cabinet”, “Sofia Street”, “State and Municipal Institutions”, “The Home and Clothing of the Sofia People”, “Cultural Life and Entertainment”. The emphasis falls on some of the most important moments in the city’s history – its election as capital in 1879 and the decades leading up to the wars of 1912-1918. This was the time during which Sofia was transformed from a small oriental town to a modern European capital.
To this day, the Central Bath building is a crossroads for different cultures and social phenomena, so it is worth a visit. Be sure to pour yourself some hot mineral water from the fountains in the square before entering the Sofia History Museum for a close-up look at the cardinal historical moments that took place in Bulgaria’s attractive capital.
#soSofia tip: If you want to feel the atmosphere of the former Bath, which revived this beautiful building, you can still try the hot mineral water, to the right of the square in front of it.