Sofia- capital of Bulgaria

Sofia is the capital of Republic of Bulgaria. It is situated in the Western part of Bulgaria, at height of 550 meters above sea level. Its official population is 1,249,798.

Nowadays Sofia is modern business city with a dynamic life, but it also is an ancient town with lots of historical sights.

History of Sofia

Sofia was originally a Thracian settlement called Serdica, named after the Celtic tribe Serdi that had populated it. Around BC 29, Sofia was conquered by the Romans and renamed Ulpia Serdica. Serdica was of moderate size, but magnificent as an urban concept of planning and architecture, with abundant amusements and an active social life. It flourished during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, when it was surrounded with great fortress walls whose remnants can still be seen today.

The city was destroyed by the Huns in 447 but was rebuilt by Byzantine Emperor Justinian and renamed Triaditsa. Although also often destroyed by the Slavs, the town remained under Byzantine dominion until 809.

Sofia became part of the First Bulgarian Empire during the reign of Khan Krum in 809. Afterwards, it was known by the Slavic name Sredets and grew into an important fortress and administrative centre.

The city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Murad I in 1382.

Sofia was liberated by Russian forces in 1878, during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, and became the capital of the autonomous Principality of Bulgaria in 1879, which became the Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1908.

Map of Sofia

Sofia Map
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Sightseeing tour of Sofia

"Alexander Nevski" Cathedral

The Alexander Nevski Cathedral was built 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. 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. There are lots of interesting facts about Alexander Nevski Cathedral- its gold-plated dome is 45 m high, with the bell tower reaching 50.52 m. The temple has 12 bells with total weight of 23 tons, the heaviest weighing 12 tons and the lightest 10 kg. The interior is decorated with Italian marble in various colours, Brazilian onyx, alabaster, and other luxurious materials. The central dome has the Lord's Prayer inscribed around it with thin gold letters. The marble parts and the lighting fixtures were created in Munich, the metal elements for the gates in Berlin, while the gates themselves were manufactured in Karl Bamberg's factory in Wien, and the mosaics were shipped from Venice. Down, in the church’s crypt there is an amazing collection of Bulgarian icons. Outside the church one can find a pedestrian street with lots of stalls and people selling all kinds of antiques

Boyana church

Boyana Church is included in the UNESCO’s list of World heritage.

Boyana Church is located at the suburbs of Sofia, at the foot of Vitosha Mountain. It was built in three stages: in the late 10th and early 11th, the mid-13th, and the mid-19th centuries. The first layer of frescoes, which originally covered the entire eastern church, dates from the 11th-12th-century. Fragments of those frescoes have been preserved in the lower parts of the apse and the north wall, and in the upper part of the west wall and the south vault. The frescoes from the second layer were painted over the earlier layer by a team of unknown artists, who also decorated the two floors of the building commissioned by Sebastocrator Kaloyan. The Boyana Church owes its world fame above all to the frescoes from 1259, which demonstrate the exceptional achievements of mediaeval Bulgarian culture. The majority of the more than 240 figures depicted here display individuality, remarkable psychological insight and vitality.

The third layer of later frescoes include a scene of the Presentation of the Virgin from the 14th century, a portrait of St. Nicholas from the 16th-17th century, and representations of the two patron saints of the Boyana Church - St. Nicholas and St. Panteleimon - from 1882.

National Museum of History

The National Museum of History was established on 5 May 1973 by Decree No. 90 of the Council of Ministers. On 2 March 1984, the new representative exhibition was opened in the building of the Court of Justice on the occasion of the 1300-th anniversary of the Bulgarian state.

In 2000, the museum shifted to a new location – Home 1 in the former Boyana residence, where on 10, November, 1989 the last communist leader was removed from power.

Its current exhibitions are:

- An exhibition of over 500 unique costumes, weapons, props and photographs from Bulgarian movies. It was opened on October 27th, 2009.

- The Unexposed treasures of the National musum of history- it presents some of the most significant archaeological objects in the collections of the Museum that were not included in its permanent exposition so far.

- Sun of embroidery exhibition- whole women dresses are presented;

- Permanent exhibition "Costumes and fashion from the past";

- Permanent exhibition "Cultural valuables from custom agencies houses". It includes priceless objects in gold, silver, bronze and marble from the 4th century BC to the 19th century.

The Russian Church “St. Nicholas the Miracle- maker”

The church was built after the liberation of Bulgaria by Russia from the Ottoman Empire. It was built as the official church of the Russian Embassy, which was located next door, and of the Russian community in Sofia, and was named, as was the tradition for diplomatic churches, for the patron saint of the Emperor who ruled Russia at the time, Nicholas II of Russia. The construction was supervised by the architect A. Smirnov, who was building the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia nearby. The five domes are coated with gold. The bells were donated by Emperor Nicholas II.

National theatre “Ivan Vazov”

The National Theatre is the oldest and most authoritative theatre in the country and one of the important landmarks of Sofia. It is located in the centre of the city, with the facade facing the City Garden.

Founded in 1904, it was initially called simply the National Theatre. The theatre's Neoclassical building, designed by famous Viennese theatre architects Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner, was finished in 1906 and opened on 3 January 1907. The bombing of Sofia in World War II caused considerable damage to the building, but it was reconstructed in 1945. A100,000 euro restoration project was implemented in 2006.

The Ivan Vazov National Theatre has a well-equipped main stage with 750 seats, a smaller 120-seat stage and an additional 70-seat one on the fourth floor.

“St. George” Rotunda

The Church of St George 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 CE, 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.

Cultural agenda of Sofia

Once you are in Sofia, you may choose between visiting the opera, go to ballets or theatres, watch movies or attend at popular exhibitions in galleries.

The National opera and ballet date back since 1890. Use our link to check its monthly program.

There are many theatres in Sofia, these are just some of them- National theatre “Ivan Vazov”, New Drama theatre “Salza i smyah”, Sofia drama theatre, Theatre 199, Little city theatre “Zad kanala”, Theatre “Vazrazhdane”, Central puppet theatre, etc. You could view their agenda online and choose the play you mostly like. Please have in mind that the performances are usually in Bulgarian.

If you feel like going to the cinema, you’ll be happy to find out that the era of 3D- movies has come to Bulgaria too. The most popular cinemas are “Arena”, I-max, Cineplex and few little cinemas. There are cinemas in every Mall, and you can combine shopping and movie watching.

Here we shall mention just some of the galleries in Sofia- National art gallery, Sofia city art gallery, National gallery of foreign art and many more private galleries.

Sofia shopping

Sofia offers great shopping for everyone. For the last couple of years many enormous shopping centers were built, the biggest ones are “Mall of Sofia”, “Sofia City Centre”, “Serdika Mall”, “The Mall”, “Sofia Outlet Centre”. In all the Malls you could find the world- famous trade marks. Main shopping streets in Sofia are "Vitosha", "Graf Ignatiev", "Pirotska", etc.

Nevertheless, there are still many old- fashioned little shops in the city centre where you could find antiques, local produce like clothes, shoes, leather goods, Bulgarian wines, souvenirs, etc.

Night life in Sofia

If we start talking about Sofia’s night life in details, we shall need much more space than this article. So, just in two words- absolutely great! We really have it all in Sofia- you can be sure you will find exactly what you're looking for.

If you are hungry, you could choose between the pizzerias /and trust me, I’ve been to Italy, local pizzas are much, much better/, small restaurants offering Bulgarian cuisine, big sophisticated restaurants with all kinds of European dishes, sushi bars, Chinese restaurants, fast food of all kinds- McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, and last but not least these chains of restaurants where you could find it all, like “Don Domat”, “Happy”, “Divaka”, “O, Shipka”, etc. What you will really love about local wine & dine places, are the prices, and this is not my opinion- all my foreign friends say so. While you are in Bulgaria do not miss to try the Shopska salad, Fried peppers “burek” style, Snezhanka salad and Kavarma. Bulgarian wines used to be quite popular in Europe and a bottle of good dry red wine costs about 10 leva in store.

I believe discos are the face of Sofia you will never forget- they are open daily and the party never stops! We shall mention some here- “Chervilo”, “Club Gramophone”, Dance club “Sin city”, “Chillout caf?” and so many, many more. There are lots of clubs offering live rock music, played by Bulgarian famous singers, like “Swinging Hall”, “Back stage”, “Rock club Angel heart”.

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