Sofia – the Capital of Bulgaria
Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia is often overlooked by tourists heading straight to the coast or the ski resorts. But they’re missing something special. Founded thousands of years ago, today the country’s largest city continues to develop as the cultural and economic center.
The city is located at a strategic crossroad. The route from Western Europe to Istanbul passes through Sofia via Belgrade and Skopje, then through Plovdiv to Turkey and the Middle East.
History of Sofia
Sofia is an established settlement for many millennia. Thracian tribes settled here in the 8th century BC because of the favorable nature. They gave the city its first name – Serdika. In the 1st century BC, the Romans, tempted by the multiple hot springs, conquered Serdika and transformed it into a Roman city. It was the favorite city of Constantine the Great. “Serdika is my Rome” is a famous quote of his. At the beginning of the 9th century, the Bulgarian Han Krum invaded the city and it became an inseparable part of The First Bulgarian Kingdom. At this time the city was renamed Sredets (The Center), because of its central strategic location.
Sredets was under Byzantine rule from 1018 until 1194. It has still remained an important strategic, economic, and cultural center. During the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom it became a large Medieval city with narrow, crowded streets and more churches. The monasteries built in the neighbouring region later formed the so-called Sofia’s Holy Mountain. The city gained its present name at the end of the 14th century, in honor of the city’s major symbol, The Saint Sofia Basilica.
In 1382, the city fell under the Ottomans. It was liberated five centuries later, in 1878. On April 3, 1879 it was declared the capital of the newly-liberated Bulgarian nation. The city’s holiday is celebrated annually on September 17 in honor of the Мartyrs Saint Sofia and her three daughters Vyara (Faith), Nadezhda (Hope), and Lyubov (Love).
Today Sofia has preserved many valuable monuments from its long and rich past telling the story to the ones who want to listen.
The capital is a preferred destination for international congresses. The National Palace of Culture is one of the city’s most popular venues for business forums and trade fairs.
Sofia is also home to Bulgaria’s most prestigious and largest educational institutions. Universities, colleges and secondary schools offer solid up-to-date education.
So many monasteries have been founded over the centuries in the mountains near the city – Vitosha, Lozen, and Stara Planina (Central Balkan), that they came to be known as Sofia’s Holy Mountains. They can be considered as a single complex, and have played an important role in preserving the Bulgarian spiritual heritage during the centuries of the Ottoman rule.
Opportunities for sport and recreation in the capital are many and varied. Outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, modern gymnasiums and sports halls. The city’s stadiums draw thousands of fans to matches between major football teams.
Vast parks and beautiful gardens offer relaxation away from the busy city streets. The ski slopes and hiking trails of mighty Mount Vitosha are just a short bus ride from the city center.
One of Sofia’s favorite sites for both visitors and residents is the Vitosha Boulevard. Here you can find both charming cafes and shops of world-famous brands. Since it is a pedestrian zone, it is a very pleasant place for strolls and relaxation.
Home to many of Bulgaria’s finest museums, galleries, restaurants and entertainment venues, Sofia may tempt you to stick around and explore further.