Cities
Sofia
Bulgaria


Location: Sofia is the capital city of Bulgaria, positioned in the Plain of Sofia and it stands 550 m above the sea level. The city is 56 km away from the border with Serbia, 150 km away from the second largest town in the country - Plovdiv, 450 km from Varna and 400 km from Burgas.

Population: Officially there are 1 200 000 people living in the capital, but in reality that number goes above 2 000 000 people.

History: Sofia is a city with 7000 years of history and it is unique for Europe, being one of the most ancient settlements. The population of the region is predetermined by the presence of warm mineral springs. Remnants from the stone and bronze era can be discovered in the city even nowadays. More...

Landmarks:

  • St. Sophia Church was built on the foundations of older churches from the time of the Roman city of Serdica. The legends about the construction of the first St Sophia church (V century) are related to the legend about Princess Sofia, a relative of Constantine the Great, who cured herself in Serdica and built the church as a sign of gratefulness. It was the main church of Serdica necropolis. Part of its mosaic floor has been preserved, while the altar mosaic, which represents the Eden, is presently stored in the National archaeological museum. The current church was built by the Byzantium Emperor Justinian during the VI century. During the period of the Second Bulgarian Empire (XII-XIV century) it gained the statute of a metropolitan church and gave its name to the city Sofia, which means "Holy Wisdom". During the Ottoman rule, it was reconstructed in a mosque and the mural paintings from the XII century were destroyed and minarets were made. During the XIX century there were two earthquakes that destroyed it. After the Liberation, the temple was restored as a Christian church without leaving any elements from the Muslim architecture. The church has one nave, a dome with a cross and three altars. It is one of the most valuable monuments of Christian architecture on the Balkans. It is believed that the power of St. Sophia protected the temple during the centuries and it protected it against invasions and natural disasters, which preserved the church till present times.

  • St. George Rotunda is considered the oldest preserved building in the city, built during the time of Emperor Constantine the Great. The church is part of a larger archaeological complex, which includes part of a former Roman street (with preserved sewage), the foundations of a large basilica with three naves, probably a public building, as well as smaller buildings, one of which has the Roman heating system "hypocaust". The specialists define it as one of the most beautiful buildings in the so-called "Constantine's quarter" of Serdica-Sredets, where the palace was located, in which Emperor Constantine the Great resided. It is believed that it was built as a tomb for him, but consequently was used for some of the important meetings of the Ecumenical Council of Serdica. During the V century it was destroyed by the Huns and later it was re-erected as an orthodox church. In the XIV century, during the Ottoman rule, the temple was transformed into a mosque. The rotunda was opened in 1953 during the construction of the building of the Council of Ministers.

  • Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the most significant cultural landmarks of Sofia. It was built in the honour of the Russian Tsar Alexander II, also called the "Tsar Liberator", because his army liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule in 1878. The foundations of the church were laid in 1882 and the construction was completed in 1912. The design was made by the Russian architect Pomarentsev, in neo-Byzantine style, characteristic for the middle of XIX century in Russia. The temple can hold 5000 people and it constitutes an impressive construction with five naves with cross-domes. The temple is painted by well-known Bulgarian and Russian artists. The icons, mural paintings and the magnificent chandeliers, manufactured in Munich, are very valuable. The bell tower is 53 m high and it has 12 bells, moulded and brought from Moscow. The church was proclaimed as a cultural monument in 1924. Some of the most beautiful Bulgarian icons, fragments from mural paintings, stamps and church plates, which date back to the IX-XIX century are exhibited in its crypt at the underground floor.

  • Russian Church St. Nicholas It was sanctified in 1914. Till 1917 it used to be an official church of the Russian diplomatic mission in Bulgaria. Even nowadays it is a centre of spiritual life of the Russian emigrants, but is often visited by Bugarians as well. The church is a remarkable epitome of Russian architecture. It was built according to the design of the architect Preobrazhenski, author of the orthodox churches in Tallinn and Florence.

  • St. Nedelya Cathedral it is located on the square of the same name in the city centre of the capital. It is dedicated to the Great Martyr St. Nedelya (or Kyriaki in Greek). It is believed that on that place there was shrine as far back as X th century. During the XIX century, due to the selection of Sofia as a capital, the cathedral was completely renovated. In 1925 the cathedral was partly destroyed in one of the greatest terrorist acts in Bulgaria (bombing organized by comunist perpetrators during Easter Mass), which necessitated its reconstruction. In 1933 what was sanctified was an almost new, huge central-dome church, with height of the dome of 31 m. The mural paintings have been made in the beginning of the 70s.

  • Ivan Vazov National Theatre is more than 100 years old. It was named after one of the greatest Bulgarian writers. It has established itself as the main theatre scene in Bulgaria, an actively developing and lively working theatre. Its building, realized in Neo-baroque style from the Viennese architects Helmer and Fellner, who are also authors of the Zagreb opera house (Croatia), the national theatre in Bratislava (Slovakia) and the opera house in Odessa (Ukraine), is impressive and is well known with its brilliant acoustics.

  • National Museum of History was founded to commemorate 1300 years since the establishment of Bulgarian state (681). From the year 2000 onward, it is housed in ex-government residence from totalitarian times at the foot of Vitosha mountain. It is one of the richest museums on the Balkan peninsula, with more than 650 thousand cultural monuments and huge historical and archaeological materials that are kept here. Museum's collection has exibits from different time periods - from prehistoric times up to date. Here a visitor will be able to see the most impressive Thracian treasures, found on the territory of modern day Bulgaria: the Panagyurishte and Rogosen gold treasures, the treasures from Borovo, Kralevo, Letnica, as well as multiple gold burial artefacts, found in different Thracian burial complexes, most famous of which are those found in the Mogilan burial chamber near Vratsa. Here a visitor can also see finest gold objects found in the Neolithic necropolis of Varna (around the 4 th millenium B.C.). That exhibition shows the greatest moments In Bulgarian history. A visit in the National Historical Museum will be very useful for those who would like to get acquainted with the history of that ancient country, but it is also artistic pleasure, derived from the fact that all the exhibits have extremely high art value.

  • National Archaeological Museum with its scientific and museum potential, it is the largest scientific and research institution for archaeology in South-eastern Europe. It is located in the building of Buyuk mosque. It was officially opened for the public in 1905 and it has been functioning in its current state since 1949. It includes five chronological and thematically arranged sections for pre-history, Thracian archaeology, antique archaeology, medieval archaeology, numismatics and epigraphy. It is the only centre for conservation and restoration in our country and it plays a crucial role for the field archaeological studies. Among its most interesting exhibits is the Thracian gold treasure from Valchitran (the biggest treasure found on Bulgarian territory, consisting of 13 objects with total weight of 12,5 kg., dated from the period 15 - 12 century B.C.); Teres' mask - unique golden mask, found in antique burial chamber near the town of Shipka; bronze head of the Thracian ruler Sevt the Third.

  • National Art Gallery That museum is situated in the building of the ex-palace of the Tzar. More than 3000 thosand work of art pieces are on display here - paintings, scluptures and black and white drawings - all of which follow the progress of Bulgarian fine arts from the liberation of Ottoman rule until the end of 20th century. The museum has magnificent and extremely complete collection of works from Bulgarian authors starting with Zahary Stoyanov, Yaroslav Veshin, Vladimir Dimitrov-the Master, Zlatio Boyadzhiev, Dechko Uzunov, Nenko Balkanski, Vera Nedkova, Ivan Nenov, Bencho Obreshkov, Vasil Zahariev, George Papazov, Svetlin Rusev and many more.

  • National Gallery for Foreign Art is on a walking distance from the cathedral "Alexander Nevski", that museum was established in 1985 with the sole purpose of showing all collections of the foundation "Sts Cyril and Methodius" and is unique for the Balkan peninsula. Here a visitor can see art-works from India, Africa and Japan, as well as one extremely interesting although a little incoherent collection of European art, including names like Rembrandt, Jan Van Goyen, Van Dyck, Goya, Salvador Dali, Picasso, Renoir, Henri Manguin, Maurice Asselin, Henry Moret, Marcel Gromaire, Auguste Herbin, André Lanskoy, Bernard Buffet, and the two bulgarians Jules Pasquin and Georges Papazoff (Georgi Papazov).

  • Boyana Church is a medieval Bulgarian church in Boyana quarter in Sofia, located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain. It is one of the cultural symbols of Bulgaria, proof for the contribution of Bulgarian medieval art to the European artistic tradition. The wall paintings in the church, dating from 1259 are considered to be predecessors of the Renaissance, because of the extreme psychological analysis and realism of the images and scenes. In 1979 it was included as a cultural monument in the List of world cultural and natural heritage of UNESCO. More...