FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Socialist Sofia: The Largo

Posted in Bulgaria, Sofia by folkestonejack on May 21, 2016

The Largo was the heart of Socialist Sofia, a square bounded on three sides by neoclassical buildings with the figure of Lenin facing the centrepiece – the Party House. The symbols of that era have long since been replaced but there is no disguising the origins of these buildings. It can’t be any coincidence that you feel completely dwarfed by these buildings as you stand before them.

The former Party House

The former Party House

The construction of the Party House began on 16th March 1949, following the designs of Petso Zlatev and his team. Work was completed in 1954. The result is a giant, with a vast 40,000 square metre interior lurking behind its neo-classical colonnade. It remained the headquarters of the communist party until 1992, though the red star was taken down by helicopter in August 1990 after protests.

Today, the Party House provides office space for members of the National Assembly of Bulgaria, whilst the neighbouring buildings accomodate the TZUM department store, the Council of Ministers and the administration of the President’s Office. The entrance to the last of these is a particularly strong tourist draw with the spectacle of the hourly changing of the guard.

A few years ago there was talk of opening up the complex to tours under the auspices of the ATRIUM project, a programme funded by the European Union to explore the cultural potential of the architectural traces of totalitarian regimes. The interior looks fascinating, as blogger Agnė Drumelyte discovered in a pilot tour (see her post: My life in Sofia: Party House, NOT a nightclub) and as you can see in a short youtube video Largo of Sofia. Sadly, I could find no evidence of these tours running today.

The Party House at sunset

The Party House at sunset

Practical information. The area offers much to the tourist, with sights such as the Rotunda of Sveti George and the Archaeological Museum located just off the Largo and the new attraction of Roman Serdica under the square (illuminated by a glass roof). If you are staying out of the city centre it is easy to reach all of this by taking a metro to Serdica or one of the trams that stop in the neighbouring streets, otherwise it’s a short walk from most central hotels.

The star that used to sit atop the party house and the statue of Lenin can now be found in the grounds of the Museum of Socialist Art. There is an interesting story to the star (or rather stars) at The red star revisited as well as some fascinating pictures of the Largo under construction in the 1950s.

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