Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria and the 15th largest city in the European Union with a population of 1.27 million people. It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of Mount Vitosha and approximately at the centre of the Balkan Peninsula.
Founded seven thousand years ago, Sofia is the second oldest city in Europe. It has been given several names in the course of history and the remnants of the old cities can still be seen today.
Serdika was the name of the central dwelling of the ancient Thracian tribe known as “Serdi”. It bore that name when it became part of the Bulgarian state at the beginning of the ninth century and was soon recognised as one of the most important feudal towns, acquiring the Slavic name Sredets.
The decline of Sofia during the Ottoman Empire was followed by the rejuvenation after the liberation in 1879, when Sofia was chosen as the capital of Bulgaria at the First National Constituent Assembly.
|St George Rotunda|
Sofia is a city that grows but never ages. Bulgaria’s modern capital testifies to the country’s eternal bond between past and present. Monuments to its rich Thracian, Roman, Bulgar and Ottoman history rub shoulders with modem-day edifices of cosmopolitan city life. Over 250 historic landmarks and architectural monuments blend in with the city’s modern skyline. Despite the presence of numerous ruins from various epochs, which attest to its long and colorful history, much of Sofia’s historic grandeur has been lost.
Going by the Archeological Museum – one of the most interesting collections of Thracian, Greek and Roman monuments and gold, the former Communist Party House and the National Bank, it takes to the former Royal Palace, now the National Art Gallery and the really unique National Ethnological Museum. On the other side of the street is the classical Bulgaria Grand Hotel with its Vienese style cafe. One of the main sights is the Russian church – a magnificent example of a Byzantine style cathedral, surrounded by picturesque garden. Then the yellow pavement goes by the Millitary club (Voenen Klub) with some of the most famous bars and restaurants in the city with an ancient tomb in the backyard garden. On the same side of the street you see the beautiful neoclassical buildings of the Italian and Austrian embassy and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
|Petko and Pencho Slaveykov|
After 1944, all traffic around the square was gradually limited and it turned into a pedestrian area making it a perfect stopping off spot for coffee and people watching.
If ski-ing is your thing, at 800m above sea level, Mount Vitosha is only 10 km far from Sofia, This is the highest ski resort in Bulgaria.The ski runs of Vitosha are various and are suitable for skiers and boarders of any level. Vitosha offers six ski runs with various difficulty and length - the green ski run being the easiest and the Vitoshko Lale the most difficult. The mountain is good for skiing in the winter and trekking in the summer. It is easily accessible both in the winter and in the summer but its weather is very changeable.
|Alexander Nevski Cathedral|
- Alexander Nevski Cathedral. Built in Neo-Byzantine style, it serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria and is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world, as well as one of Sofia's symbols and primary tourist attractions. The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia occupies an area of 3,170 square metres (34,100 sq ft) and can hold 10,000 people inside. The construction of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral started in 1882 (having been planned since 19 February, 1879), when the foundation stone was laid, but most of it was built between 1904 and 1912. Saint Alexander Nevsky was a Russian prince. The cathedral was created in honour to the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule.
- The St. Sofia Church. After which the city is named. It is a typical basilica surrounded by a garden with 2 monuments – the St. George monument and the national poet Ivan Vazov monument, made of a Vitosha mountain rock. At the back of the church is the Sofia Municipality building and Moscovska Street with some of the most beautiful art deco houses of the Bulgarian elite before WWII some of the now working as cafes and restaurants.
- St George Rotunda. The Church of St George or“ Rotonda "Sveti Georgi" is an Early Christian red brick rotunda that is considered the oldest building in Sofia, It is situated behind the Sheraton Hotel, amid remains of the ancient town of Serdica. Built by the Romans in the 4th century, it is mainly famous for the 12th-14th century frescoes inside the central dome. Three layers of frescoes have been discovered, the earliest dating back to the 10th century. Magnificent frescoes of 22 prophets over 2 metres tall crown the dome. Painted over during the Ottoman period, when the building was used as a mosque, these frescoes were only uncovered in the 20th century.
- The Amphitheatre of Serdica. Was an amphitheatre in the Ancient Roman city of Ulpia Serdica. Discovered in 2004 and the subject of excavations in 2005 and 2006, the ruins of the amphitheatre lie on two adjacent sites in the centre of modern Sofia. The amphitheatre was built in the 3rd–4th century AD on top of a 2nd–3rd century theatre which had been ravaged by the Goths. However, the amphitheatre remained in use for less than a century and was abandoned by the 5th century. With an arena only around 10 m (33 ft) smaller than the Colosseum, the Amphitheatre of Serdica was among the biggest in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and the largest in what is today Bulgaria. The amphitheatre itself was accidentally discovered in 2004, during the early constructions of what came to be known as the Arena di Serdica Hotel. The east gate and the section of the amphitheatre within the hotel lot, which is about 1/6th of the entire building, was preserved and incorporated into the hotel's ground floor. It is freely accessible for tourists during the day
- The National Palace of Culture (NDK). The largest multifunctional congress, conference, convention and exhibition centre in Southeastern Europe. It was opened in 1981. The idea for the construction of this true contemporary castle comes from the former Bulgarian first-lady Lyudmila Zhivkova (daughter of the communist politician and leader of the former People's Republic of Bulgaria Todor Zhivkov). The project was worked out by a team of Bulgarian and foreign architects, lead by Alexander Barov. The landscaping of Bulgaria Square in front of the National Palace of Culture was made by another team of architects and landscape engineers, lead by Atanas Agura.
In July 2005, the National Palace of Culture was proclaimed the best congress centre in the world for the year by the International Organization of Congress Centres.