Sofia is the capital and largest city in Bulgaria. The city is at the foot of Vitosha mountain in the western part of the country. Being in the centre of the Balkans, it is midway between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea, and closest to the Aegean Sea.
The history of the city could be traced back to 2,400 years ago according to the historical layers found in the archaeological excavations. Its ancient name Serdica derives from the local Celtic tribe of the serdi who established the town in the 5th century BC. Sofia was part of different entities – the Roman, the Byzantium and the Ottoman Empires and remains from all these periods could be seen throughout the city. It remained a relatively small settlement until 1879, when it was declared a capital of Bulgaria and experienced infrastructural, economic and population growth. Nowadays Sofia is the 15th largest city in the European Union with a population of around 1.3 million people. Many of the major universities, cultural institutions, and business of Bulgaria are concentrated in Sofia.
The city has an extensive green belt. Some of the neighbourhoods constructed after 2000 are densely built up and lack green spaces. There are four principal parks – Borisova gradina in the city centre and the Southern, Western and Northern parks. Several smaller parks, among which the Zaimov Park, City Garden and the Doctors’ Garden, are located in central Sofia. The Vitosha Nature Park includes most of Vitosha mountain with roughly half of it lying within the municipality of Sofia.
Sofia is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Bulgaria alongside coastal and mountain resorts. Among its highlights is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the symbols of Bulgaria, constructed in the late 19th century. It occupies an area of 3,170 square metres (34,122 square feet) and can hold 10,000 people.
Vitosha Boulevard, also called Vitoshka, is a pedestrian zone with numerous cafés, restaurants, fashion boutiques, and luxury goods stores. Sofia’s geographic location, in the foothills of the weekend retreat Vitosha mountain, further adds to the city’s specific atmosphere.
Sofia has a humid continental climate with an average annual temperature of 10.4 °C (50.7 °F). Winters are relatively cold and snowy. In the coldest days temperatures can drop below −15 °C (5 °F), most notably in January. Fog is not unusual, especially in the beginning of the season. Summers are quite warm and sunny. In summer, the city generally remains slightly cooler than other parts of Bulgaria, due to its higher altitude. However, the city is also subjected to heat waves with high temperatures reaching or exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) in the hottest days, particularly in July and August. Springs and autumns in Sofia are usually short with variable and dynamic weather.
PLACES TO VISIT IN SOFIA
- National History Museum
- National Archaeology Institute with Museum
- Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum
- National Art Gallery
- National Museum of Military History
- The National Museum “Earth and Man”
- National Gallery of Foreign Art
- National Museum of Natural History
PLACES TO WORSHIP
- Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
- Church of St. George
- Church of St. Sophia
- Boyana Church
- St. Sedmochislenitsi Church
- Church of St. Paraskeva
- St. Nedelya Church
- Church of St Petka
- Russian Church
- Banya Bashi Mosque
- Sofia Synagogue
- The Cathedral of St. Joseph
PLACES OF CULTURE
- Ivan Vazov National Theatre
- Central Military Club
- National Opera and Ballet
- SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library
- Slaveykov Square
- National Palace of Culture