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EVER GROWING, NEVER AGING - the motto inscribed on the coat-of-arms of the city of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.

With its 7,000 years of history Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe.

Sofia coat-of-arms

Sofia city panorama

Town history

Sofia, meaning wisdom in Greek, is the 5th name of the town – following Serdica, Ulpia Serdica, Sredetz and Triaditza.

Located in the fertile Sofia plain, at the very heart of the Balkan peninsula, on the strategic crossroads between East and West, the town was a much attractive center for many tribes and nations, travellers and conquerors. This was why it repeatedly experienced periods of upheaval and decay, but always managed to revive anew, even more magnificent and powerful.

The history of Sofia started with the founding of the Thracian town of Sardonopolis. Serdica (the emphasis being on the first syllable) is the oldest name of the town we know. The name originates from Serdae – one of the 22 Thracian tribes forming the numerous Thracian people.

In the 1st century it was conquered by the Romans and was named Ulpia Serdica in honour of the emperor Mark Ulpi Thrayanus. The town became the center of the Inner Dacis province.

Serdica reached its peak under emperor Constantine the Great (306 – 337 AD). The ancient town fortified walls with the two gates, public buildings, churches and the necropolis have been uncovered.

Remnants of Serdica's fortress wall

Here people venerated especially strongly god Asclepius (or Aesculapius) since on the territory of Serdica there were numerous warm mineral water sources called thermae.

In 6th and 7th centuries Slavonic tribes started settling on the Balkan peninsula and in the Sofia plain. In 809 AD khan Krum besieged and overtook Serdica. Ever since the town linked its fate for good with the Bulgarian state.

In late 9th century under the reign of tsar Boris the town assumed the Slavonic name of Sredetz - meaning in the middle of the Balkan peninsula.

In 1194 AD the town of Sredetz joined the confines of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. There followed a period of long-lasting peace and upheaval of the material and spiritual culture.

In mediaeval Sredetz a literary school was set up with St Sofia church, while in 1259 AD the greatest work of the Bulgarian Middle Ages came to life - the Boyana church murals.

At the end of 14th century the town of Sredetz assumed the name Sofia. First mentioned in a charter by tsar Ivan Shishman (1371 - 1393 AD), the name was linked with the biggest for that time and most beautiful St Sofia church.

Sofia, St Sofia church

During the Ottoman rule Sofia has been the capital of a region, encompassing almost all the territory of the Balkan peninsula. Preserved from that age now are St Petka Samardjiiska church (in the subway next to Sheraton hotel Balkan) and St Spas (The Holy Ascension) church (within the architectural ensemble of Bulbank).

An important fact of Sofia’s history was its proclamation for capital of Bulgaria after the liberation from Ottoman domination, with a Decree by the first Bulgarian prince Alexander Battenberg on April 3, 1879.

Sofia, The National Theatre (1907)

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In late 19th century Sofia totaled only 12,000 residents. Over the past 100 years the population multiplied 100 times to some 1,200,000 residents (14% of the country’s population).

In the modern look of the town are incorporated hundreds of archaeological, historical and cultural monuments created through the ages by Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs, Bulgarians and Turks.

Situated in the courtyard of the Sheraton hotel is the oldest cultural monument of the city - St George Rotunda (4th century).

Neigboring are the remnants of a Roman street with public buildings.

Sofia, St George Rotunda (4th century)

Sofia is a city that Nature has endowed with a very favorable geographic location. Vitosha mountain is on the south part of the town. Few European capital cities can boast the proximity of a high mountain.

Sofia, St Alexander Nevski cathedral (1912)

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Among the must-see attractions of the city are Boyana church (13th century, UNESCO site), St Alexander Nevski cathedral (1912), St Nicholas church (1914), the National Theatre (1907).

Other places to visit are the National History museum, the Archaeological museum, the Museum of Natural Science & History, the Earth & Men museum, the National Gallery, and more...

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Sofia, St Nedelya church

Sofia, St Alexander Nevski cathedral (1912) Sofia, St Sofia church Boyana church (13th century, UNESCO site)
Sofia, National Palace of Culture Sofia, Foreign Art Gallery Sofia, the National Gallery
Sofia, the Archaeological museum Sofia, St Nicholas church (1914) Sofia, St Nedelya church
Sofia, St George Rotunda (4th century) Sofia, St Petka Samardjiyska church Sofia, the National Theatre (1907)

Hover your mouse over the landmarks' thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.

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