As the capital and largest city in Bulgaria, Sofia is a popular destination attracting tourists, business travellers and jet-setters from every corner of the globe.
Sofia was originally a Thracian settlement called Serdica said to have been named after the Celtic tribe Serdi then was ruled for a short period in the 4th century by Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. The settlement was conquered by the Romans in 29 BC and was renamed Ulpia Serdica under Emperor Trajan. The settlement expanded with the construction of turrets, protective walls, public baths and significant buildings. In 809 the city became part of the First Bulgarian Empire and consequently grew into an important fortress under the Bulgarian name Sredets. During the Second Bulgarian Empire, between the 12th and 14th centuries the city was a centre for arts and crafts and was renamed Sofia after the city’s beautiful Church of St Sofia. The city became the capital of the Ottoman province of Rumelia for more than four centuries before being taken by Russian forces during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 before becoming the capital of the Principality of Bulgaria in 1879. Following the transformation of Bulgaria into a People’s Republic in 1946, Sofia expanded cementing it, as it still remains today, the capital and largest city in Bulgaria.
Getting In & Getting Around
Sofia Airport is the busiest in Bulgaria serving a number of European destinations. Located some 10 km (6.2 miles) from the city centre the airport is linked by buses, shuttle buses and taxis. Tsentralna Gara is the main train station in Sofia with services arriving and departing from a number of European destinations including Kiev, Istanbul, Vienna and Athens. Within the city itself there are a number of transport options available including metro, tram, trolley bus and bus services.
Culture, Sights & Attractions
With a fascinating history and vibrant culture, Sofia offers much to see and do. Hram-pametnik Aleksander Nevski (St Alexander Nevski Memorial Church), as Sofia’s most iconic landmark is a great place to start. This magnificent neo-Byzantine church with its copper and gold domes is truly magical. Standing next to St Alexander Nevski you will find the equally impressive Tsurkva Sveta Sofia (Church of St Sofia) – a 5h century early Byzantine brick church from which the city was named after. To get a real feel for the city’s history explore the Roman ruins of Sveti Georgi Rotunda (St George Rotunda) – the oldest preserved building in Sofia. There are a number of museums and galleries in the city with the National Museum of History and the National Archaeological Museum being some of the better known.
From fast food restaurants, pizzerias and snack bars to gourmet restaurants, trendy restaurants and everything in between the choice of dining options is excellent in Sofia with something on offer to cater every taste and budget.
Outside The City
If you have come spare time on your hands, Sofia is a great location for seeing some other parts of Bulgaria. The nearby Mount Vitosha is an incredibly popular destination for day trips with Sofians and tourists alike. Easily reached by car or public transport this magnificent destination is perfect for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria is just an hour’s drive away. Set around three hills this attractive city offers a relaxed atmosphere, Roman ruins and plenty to explore. Veliko Turnovo is a pretty city set along a meandering river. As a former capital of Bulgaria there is plenty to see and do including a castle, castle walls and the historic village of Arbanassi.
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