Bulgaria’s capital, the city of Sofia, is the biggest settlement in the country. Sofia is located in the western part of Bulgaria, in the vicinities of the picturesque Vitosha Mountain.
The location makes climate in Sofia slightly harsher than in the rest of the country. Summer heat is moderately intense but winters usually turn to be cold and snowy.
Sofia has rich history dating back in time. The settlement appeared in the 7th century BC. Thracians founded the town close to mineral springs. They named the town Serdika.
Once it became part of the Roman empire, many soldiers settled there and the city started changing its appearance. Following the Roman style it got a new fortress wall, the streets were paved, Serdika got a sewerage system, which provided residents with clean water from the nearby mountain.
In the end of the 3rd century BC, Serdika became a main city of a Roman province. It got even more municipal buildings and a villa zone.
Roman emperor Constantine used the city as a vacation place. A new district was built to accommodate the emperor’s residence. Once Christianity was accepted, Serdika got many churches and turned into a religious center.
The warriors of Bulgarian khan Kroum conquered Serdika in the 9th century AD. During the conquest, the city kept its fortress wall. Slavs settled there and changed the town’s name to Sredets.
Until the end of the 14th century, the city grew inside its fortress wall. Its name changed once again in the end of the century. The new name was Sofia after one of the city’s symbols, the church St. Sofia.
In 1382, after a siege, Ottomans conquered Sofia and destroyed the city walls. Many churches were destroyed or turned into mosques. Over the coming centuries, Sofia turned in a typical oriental city with its more than 150 mosques. Its strategic location turned Sofia into an attractive settlement for many ethnic groups. Jews, Armenians and Venetian merchants settled there and created their own districts.
After Bulgaria’s liberation, in April 1879, Sofia was named capital of the freed Bulgaria. Sofia lost its oriental appearance and turned into one modern European city. The city got new buildings among which the national assembly, national bank, tsar’s palace, the Sofia University and Alexander Nevski cathedral. Electricity and tram transportation also appeared.
Today the city is quite different. It houses nearly two million residents. In the coming three years, its population is expected to reach three million people. New residential complexes and buildings appear all the time. Sofia is growing constantly, in the process merging with the nearby villages.
Sofia has numerous historic, cultural, religious and architectural landmarks.
Alexander Nevski cathedral is one of Sofia’s symbols. It is located on a square by the same name in the center of the city. The cathedral was constructed in 1912, making use of the project of the Russian architect Pomerantsev. Its area is 3170 sq m and the bell tower is 50-m high. Alexander Nevski’s crypt protects a major icon collection.
The unknown soldier monument and its eternal fire can be seen on the same square.
St. Sofia church gave the city its name. It is one more city landmark located on Alexander Nevski square. In the end of the 16th century, the church was turned into a mosque and restored after the liberation. Today, St. Sofia is restored and open for visitors. The church has its treasure, a lock of hair of the Bulgarian revolutionary Vassil Levski. The grave of Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov is located behind the church.
The national foreign arts gallery is situated close to St. Sofia. Its rich collection includes works of art from various parts of the world.
Sofia’s art academy is situated nearby. It offers various majors among which, art, icon painting, restoration of works of art and fine arts.
Sofia University’s journalism faculty building is near the art academy and Alexander Nevski cathedral. This was the first Sofia university building. Before it turned into an education place, the edifice functioned as an Ottoman municipal building.
Vassil Levski’s monument was set up exactly at the location, where Levski was hanged.
The National Assembly building is another Sofia symbol. It was constructed in three phases in 1884, 1890 and 1928. The words ‘union turns into power’ have been carved on the façade.
Ivan Vazov National Theater is one of Sofia’s most beautiful buildings. It was constructed in the beginning of the 20th century, following German classic style. The theater’s interior changed twice, after a fire in 1923 and in the 70s of the 20th century.
St. Nikolai (the Russian church), located close to Rakovski Street and Alexander Nevski square. It was constructed between 1912 and 1914. Russian emigrants provided the funds needed for the construction.
The National Museum of Natural Science is also situated nearby. It has a rich collection, telling a lot about the animal world.
The former tsar’s palace, constructed in 1873, houses the national art gallery and ethnographic museum today. The gallery has more than 12000 paintings and works of art. The ethnographic museum describes Bulgarian living throughout the centuries.
Bulgarian National Bank is situated near the former palace. The archaeological museum is in adjacency.
The yard located between the presidency and Sheraton hotel is the spot where an ancient Roman rotunda was discovered. It was later turned into St. George church.
Sofia’s covered marked was renovated recently. Today, the market is a nice place to shop or just look around.
A mosque, bath, Roman ruins and other landmarks are situated in the same central region.
St. Petka Samardzhiiska church is situated in the subway below the central city store. The church is almost entirely dug into the ground. According to a hypothesis, Vassil Levski has been buried there.
Sofia has many monuments, each one commemorating historic events. Take a look at the variety and explore some of the more outstanding marks like the Russian monument, the doctor’s monument and the monument honoring the Russian tsar.
Some magnificent bridges can be seen in the city. The lion’s and the eagle’s bridge are worth taking a look at. The second one features four eagles, looking in the four directions.
Slaveikov square is situated on the crossing of Graf Ignatiev and Rakovski streets. It hosts an open-air book market.
Vitosha boulevard is in the central part of Sofia. A number of expensive brand shops offer their goods there. Following the boulevard, you will reach the National Palace of Culture.
The national history museum is located in Sofia’s outskirts, namely Boyana district.
Sofia’s zoo is the home of many exotic species and happens to be a nice place for a walk.
- Kempinski Hotel Zografski
- Hilton Sofia
- Holiday Inn