Sofia is the most visited, the most populated, and the largest Bulgarian city. It is the capital of Bulgaria that is continuously growing in population as more and more professionals from the other Bulgarian cities tend to live there. It provides favorable conditions for living, business, education, etc. There are many cultural events that are conducted here and are visited not only by Bulgarians, but also by people from all over the world. Today, the population of Sofia City is more than 1,250,000 people.
Sofia has a great location nestled among mountains in the western part of the country. The city is located in the largest Bulgarian lowland and at the foot of the Vitosha mountain. The climate here is mild and favorable all year round with cooler summers and cold and snowy winters, when the average temperature is about -1 °C.
Nature and Nature Sites
The vicinity of Sofia is surrounded by three mountains – Vitosha, Lozenska Mountain, and Stara Planina (Balkan). Near the city, Sofia Holy Forest is located. Its name comes from the multiple monasteries erected here over the centuries that would be of interest to the foreign tourists. Many of these monasteries have played a huge role in the past of the country, especially during the Ottoman rule. These include Lozen Monastery, Dragalevski Monastery, Kremikovski Monastery, Osenovlask Monastery, Cherepish Monastery, German Monastery, etc.
The favorite places for relaxation and sport are the Sofia parks. Among the most popular parks here are Borisova Garden, located at the very center of the city, as well as the South Park that can be found close to the National Palace of Culture.
Sofia is a great place to visit during the winter because of the wonderful skiing and snowboarding conditions at the Vitosha Mountain. There are two well-maintained ski centers that are appropriate for both beginners and advanced skiers.
- Aleko with its northern runs is located at 1800 m above the sea level. The runs are equipped even for night skiing.
- Konynarnika is located a bit lower – at 1507 m above sea level, but provides an impressive number of mountain runs, which total length is 29 km. The longest one is 5 km.
During the summer, the mountain is a popular place for hiking and picnics. There are many rare plants that could be seen here, as the plant world of the Vitosha Natural Park is diverse and rich. The highest peak of the mountain is Cherni Vrah with an altitude of 2290 m, but there are 9 more peaks here with an altitude of over 2000 m.
The largest in the country zoo is also located in Sofia, in its southern part. No matter of the visitors’ age, both young and old find this zoo very attractive for spending a few hours close to the wild animals.
History and Cultural Heritage Sites
Sofia is an ancient settlement that has been inhabited thousands of years ago. the Thracian tribe of Serdi has been attracted here by its wonderful location, fruitful land and warm thermal springs. It is considered that the first settlement here has been formed in the 8th century BC. The Serdi tribe named the city after themselves calling it Serdika or Serdonpolis.
During the 1st century BC, the Roman Empire conquered Serdika and turned it into the thriving and prosperous Roman city of Ulpia Serdica. Emperor Constantine the Great considered this city his favorite one, saying that Serdica is his Rome.
During the 2nd century AC a strong fortress wall has been built here along with four observation towers to help the city fight with the enemies. There was one more outer fortress wall built in 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinian the Great.
The Bulgaria history connected with this city began in 9th century when Bulgarian Khan Krum successfully conquered Serdica and made it a part of the First Bulgarian Kingdom changing its name to Sredetz. During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, the city of Sredetz became a large medieval city with multiple small churches and monasteries, narrow streets and it quickly developed into an important strategic, economic and cultural center. It got its current name in the end of the 14th century, when its main temple was the St. Sofia Basilica.
Culture, Entertainment and Night Life
St. George Rotunda is the oldest temple in Sofia that is a must-see sight. It is believed that the church has been built during the reign of Constantine the Great in 4th century. St. Petka Samardjiyska from the 11th century is also located nearby, as well as St. Joseph Catholic Cathedral located in the same area.
Another landmark nearby is the mosque of Banya Bashi built in 16th century. The Jewish Synagogue that hosts a museum is also not too far away in this concentrated with diverse landmarks city.
In Sofia people can see the peaceful co-existence of Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish and Muslims. The remnants from ancient times testify about the historical past of the city.
There are many museums in the city, but probably the most famous of them is the National Archaeological Museum, where religious sights and the most valuable Bulgarian treasures can be seen.
On the other hand, the National Historical Museum located in Boyana district at the foot of Vitosha Mountain preserves historical monuments from pre-history throughout the centuries up to the present day. These include over 700,000 cultural monuments. Boyana Church located beside the museum is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There are so many attractions to be seen in the capital of Bulgaria that the tourists will hardly find time to visit them all during a single stay.
The city is visited by multiple foreigners each year as it is among the preferred destinations for congress tourism and exhibitions. The SPA tourism is also well developed because of the mineral springs located nearby that promote treatment, recreation, and wellness.
Sofia is constantly hosting multiple musical, cultural, sporting and other festivals and events with world famous performers and groups. One of these world popular music festivals is Sofia Music Weeks Classical Music Festival, which is conducted on May and June in the National Palace of Culture.