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View over Orlov Most, downtown Sofia


Coat of arms
Motto: Расте, но не старее
(It Grows but Does not Age)[1]
Position of Sofia in Bulgaria
Coordinates: 42°42′N 23°20′E / 42.7°N 23.333°E / 42.7; 23.333Coordinates: 42°42′N 23°20′E / 42.7°N 23.333°E / 42.7; 23.333
Country BulgariaBulgaria
Province Sofia-City
Settled by Celts as Serdica 4th century BC
 - Mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova
 - City 1,310 km2 (505.8 sq mi)
Elevation 550 m (1,804 ft)
Population (2010.01.15)
 - City 1,402,471
 Density 1,040/km2 (2,693.6/sq mi)
 Metro 1,449,277
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
The National Assembly Square

Sofia (Bulgarian: София, pronounced [ˈsɔfija]  ( listen)) is the capital and largest city[2] of Bulgaria and the 12th largest city by population in the European Union, with 1.4 million people living in the Capital Municipality.[3] It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of Mount Vitosha, and is the administrative, cultural, economic, and educational centre of the country.

Prehistoric settlements were excavated in the centre of the present city, near the royal palace, as well as in outer districts such as Slatina and Obelya.[citation needed] The well preserved town walls (especially their substructures) from antiquity date back before the 7th century BC, when Thracians established their city next to the most important and highly respected mineral spring, still functioning today. Sofia has had several names in the different periods of its existence, and remnants from the city's past can still be seen today alongside modern landmarks.



Sofia was first mentioned in the sources as Serdica in relation to Marcus Licinius Crassus' campaigns in 29 BC. The name Serdica or Sardica (Σερδική, Σαρδική) was popular in Latin, Ancient Greek and Byzantine Greek sources from Antiquity and the Middle Ages; it was related to the local Celtic[4] tribe of the Serdi. The name was last used in the 19th century in a Bulgarian text, Service and hagiography of Saint George the New of Sofia: ВЪ САРДАКІИ. Another of Sofia's names, Triaditsa (Τριάδιτζα), was mentioned in Greek medieval sources. The Bulgarian name Sredets (СРѢДЄЦЪ), an adaptation of Serdica, first appeared in the 11th-century Vision of Daniel and was widely used in the Middle Ages. The current name Sofia was first used in the 14th-century Vitosha Charter of Bulgarian tsar Ivan Shishman or in a Ragusan merchant's notes of 1376; it refers to the famous Hagia Sophia Church, an ancient church in the city named after the Christian concept of the Holy Wisdom. Although Sredets remained in use until the late 18th century, Sofia gradually overcame the Slavic name in popularity.[5] During the Ottoman rule it was called Sofya by the Turkish population.

The city's name is pronounced by Bulgarians with a stress on the 'o', in contrast with the tendency of foreigners to place the stress on 'i'. Interestingly, the female given name "Sofia" is pronounced by Bulgarians with a stress on the 'i'.


Sofia's development as a significant settlement owes much to its central position in the Balkans. It is situated in western Bulgaria, at the northern foot of the Vitosha mountain, in the Sofia Valley that is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The valley is the largest one in the country with territory of 1,186 square kilometres (457.9 sq mi) and average altitude of 550 metres (1,804 ft). Three mountain passes lead to the city, which have been key roads since antiquity, connecting the Adriatic Sea and Central Europe with the Black and Aegean Seas.

A number of low rivers cross the city, including the Vladaiska and the Perlovska. The Iskar River in its upper course flows near eastern Sofia. The city is known for its numerous mineral and thermal springs. Artificial and dam lakes were built in the last century.

Thunder storms occur often in Sofia during the summer season

It is located 130 kilometres (81 mi) northwest of Plovdiv, [6] Bulgaria's second largest city, 340 kilometres (211 mi) west of Burgas[6]380 kilometres (236 mi) west of Varna,[6] Bulgaria's major port-cities on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. The city is situated at less than 200 kilometres (124 mi) from the borders with three countries: 55 kilometres (34 mi) from Kalotina on the Serbian border, 113 kilometres (70 mi) from Gyueshevo on the frontier with the Republic of Macedonia and 183 kilometres (114 mi) from the Greek border at Kulata.


Sofia has an oceanic climate (Koppen Cfb)[7] with high temperature amplitudes. The hottest month is July while January is the coldest. Up to 1936 the average annual temperature was 10.0 °C (50 °F) and since then it has risen by 0.5 °C (0.9 °F).[8] The city receives around 650 millimetres (25.6 in) annual precipitation with summer maximum and winter minimum. The temperatures in Sofia generally remain cooler than other parts of Bulgaria in summer, due to the high altitude of the valley in which it is situated. However temperatures can still reach up to 40 °C (104 °F) on occasions.

Climate data for Sofia
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 2.2
Average low °C (°F) -4.9
Precipitation mm (inches) 27.9
Source: [9]



The Church of St. George, dating back to 4th century
The ancient fortress of Serdica

Sofia was originally a Thracian settlement called Serdica, or Sardica, possibly named after the Celtic tribe Serdi.[4] For a short period during the 4th century BC, the city was ruled by Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great.

Around BC 29, Serdica was conquered by the Romans. It became a municipium, or centre of an administrative region, during the reign of Emperor Trajan (98-117) and was renamed Ulpia Serdica.

It seems that the first written mention of Serdica was made by Ptolemy (around 100 AD).

Serdica (Sardica) expanded, as turrets, protective walls, public baths, administrative and cult buildings, a civic basilica, an amphitheatre - the City Council (Boulé), a large Forum, a big Circus (Theatre), etc. were built. When Emperor Diocletian divided the province of Dacia into Dacia Ripensis (at the banks of the Danube) and Dacia Mediterranea, Serdica became the capital of Dacia Mediterranea. The city subsequently expanded for a century and a half, it became a significant political and economical centre, moreso — it became one of the first roman cities where Christianity was recognized as an official religion (Еmperor Galerius). So it was only very natural that Constantine the Great called Serdica (Sardica) "My Rome". In 343 A.D. , the Council of Sardica was held in the city, in a church located where the current 6th century Church of Saint Sofia was later built. Serdica was of moderate size, but magnificent as an urban concept of planning and architecture, with abundant amusements and an active social life. It flourished during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, when it was surrounded with great fortress walls whose remnants can still be seen today.

The city was destroyed by the Huns in 447 but was rebuilt by Justinian and for a while called Triaditsa or Sredets by the slavonic tribes.

Middle Ages

Sofia first became part of the First Bulgarian Empire during the reign of Khan Krum in 809 after a long siege.[10] Afterwards, it was known by the Bulgarian name Sredets and grew into an important fortress and administrative centre. After the fall of North-eastern Bulgaria under John I Tzimiskes' armies in 971, the Bulgarian Patriarch Damyan chose Sofia for his seat in the next year. After a number of unsuccessful sieges, the city fell to the Byzantine Empire in 1018, but once again was incorporated into the restored Bulgarian Empire at the time of Tsar Ivan Asen I.

From the 12th to the 14th century, Sofia was a thriving centre of trade and crafts. It is possible that it has been called by the common population Sofia (meaning "wisdom" in Ancient Greek) about 1376 after the Church of St. Sofia. However, in different testimonies it was called both "Sofia" and "Sredets" until the end of the 19th century. In 1382 Sofia (Turkish: Sofya) was seized by the Ottoman Empire in the course of the Bulgarian-Ottoman Wars - after a long siege the city was captured with treason. The new name — Sofia, replaced the old one — Sredets, after the liberation of the city from Turkish rule in 1878. Quite some time after 1878 there was a strong will, expressed by Bulgarian committees, to keep the name Sredets, but the Russian administration accepted Sofia.

Ottoman rule

After the campaign of Władysław III of Poland in 1443 towards Sofia, the city's Christian elite was annihilated and became the capital of the Ottoman province (beylerbeylik) of Rumelia for more than 4 centuries, which encouraged many Turks to settle there. In the 16th century Sofia's urban layout and appearance began to exhibit a clear Ottoman style, with many mosques, fountains and hamams (bathhouses). During that time the town had a population of around 7,000 which rose to 55,000 by the mid 17th century.

The town was seized for several weeks by Bulgarian haiduks in 1599. In 1610 the Vatican established the See of Sofia for Catholics of Rumelia, which existed until 1715 when most Catholics had emigrated.[11] In the 16th century there were 126 Jewish households, and there has been a synagogue in Sofia since 967. She was the center of Sofya Eyalet (1826–1864).

Sofia, 1934

End of Ottoman Rule

Sofia was taken by Russian forces on January 4, 1878, during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, and became the capital of the autonomous Principality of Bulgaria in 1879, which became the Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1908. It was proposed as a capital by Marin Drinov and was accepted as such on 3 April 1879. By the time of its liberation the population of the city was 11,649.[12] For a few decades after the liberation the city experienced large population growth mainly from other regions of the country.

In 1925 the St Nedelya Church assault was carried out by the Bulgarian Communist Party which claimed the lives of 170 people and injured another 500.

During World War II, Sofia was bombed by Allied aircraft in late 1943 and early 1944. As a consequence of the invasion of the Soviet Red Army, Bulgaria's government, which was allied with Germany, was overthrown.

Republic of Bulgaria

The transformations of Bulgaria into a People's Republic in 1946 and Republic of Bulgaria marked significant changes in the city's appearance. The population of Sofia expanded at high rates due to migration from province.


The city of Sofia is one of 28 Provinces of Bulgaria (not to be confused with Sofia Province, which surrounds but does not include the city). Besides the city of Sofia, the capital province encompasses three other cities and 34 villages, being split into a total of 24 districts.[13] Each of them has its own district mayor[13] who is elected in a popular election. The head of the Sofia Municipality is its mayor. The assembly members are chosen every four years. The current mayor of Sofia is Yordanka Fandakova.

Districts of Sofia City:

The districts of Sofia
Rank Name Unemployment (2004, %) Population Type
1 Bankya 10.4 9,186 Town
2 Vitosha 3.5 42,953 Suburban
3 Vrabnitsa 4.6 47,417 Urban
4 Vazrazhdane 5.3 47,794 Urban
5 Izgrev 3.1 33,611 Urban
6 Ilinden 4.5 37,256 Urban
7 Iskar 3.9 69,896 Urban
8 Krasna polyana 9.2 65,442 Urban
9 Krasno selo 3.7 72,302 Urban
10 Kremikovtsi 5.8 23,599 Suburban
11 Lozenets 3.3 45,630 Urban
12 Lyulin 5.4 120,897 Urban
13 Mladost 4.2 110,852 Urban
14 Nadezhda 3.8 77,000 Urban
15 Novi Iskar 4.5 26,544 Town
16 Ovcha kupel 3.8 47,380 Urban
17 Oborishte 2.8 36,000 Urban
18 Pancharevo 5.3 24,342 Suburban
19 Poduyane 4.5 85,996 Urban
20 Serdika 3.6 52,918 Urban
21 Slatina 4.1 65,772 Urban
22 Studentski grad 2.9 50,368 Urban
23 Sredets 4.0 41,000 Urban
24 Triaditsa 3.7 65,000 Urban
TOTAL 4.5 1,299,155

Sources:[14][15] (Population)


Historical populations
Year Pop.  %±
1887 20,856
1892 30,928 48.3%
1900 46,593 50.6%
1920 154,025 230.6%
1946 530,168 244.2%
2001 1,177,577 122.1%
2006 1,253,680 6.5%
2008 1,394,214 11.2%
2020exp 1,900,000 36.3%
A view over Sofia at night

According to 1999 data,[16] the whole Capital Municipality, with a population of 1,246,651,[3] had a population density of 917.8.

The ratio of women per 1,000 men was 1,114 and the rate of population ageing was 100.3. The birth rate per 1000 people was 7.9 and steadily declining in the last 15 years, the death rate reaching 12.2 and growing. The population was declining by 4.3 percent. However, considerable immigration to the capital from poorer regions of the country, as well as urbanisation, are the reasons Sofia's population is in practice increasing. 5.7 people of every one thousand were married (only heterosexual marriage is possible in Bulgaria) and the infant mortality rate was 11 dead babies per 1,000 born alive, down from 18.9 in 1980.

According to the 2001 census, Sofia's population is made up of 96% ethnic Bulgarians; among minority communities, nearly 18,000 (1.5%) officially identified themselves as Roma,[17] 6,000 as Turkish, 3,000 as Russian, 1,700 as Armenian, and 1,200 as Greek.[18]

The unemployment is lower than in other parts of the country — 2.45% of the active population in 1999 and declining, compared to 7.25% for the whole of Bulgaria as of July 1, 2007 (also on the decrease).[19] The large share of unemployed people with higher education, 27% as compared to 7% for the whole country, is a characteristic feature of the capital.

Sofia was declared capital in 1879. One year later, in 1880, it was the fifth-largest city in the country after Plovdiv, Varna, Ruse and Shumen. Plovdiv remained the most populous Bulgarian town until 1892 when Sofia took the lead.


Music and nightlife

Sofia has an extensive nightlife scene with many night clubs, live venues, pubs, mehani (Bulgarian traditional taverns), and restaurants. The city has played host to many world-famous musical acts including Madonna, George Michael, Lenny Kravitz, Kiss, Kylie Minogue, Depeche Mode, Metallica and Rihanna.


Sofia houses numerous museums, notably the National Historical Museum, the Bulgarian Natural History Museum, the Museum of Earth and Men, the Ethnographic Museum, the National Museum of Military History, the National Polytechnical Museum and the National Archaeological Museum. In addition, there are the Sofia City Art Gallery, the Bulgarian National Gallery of Arts, the Bulgarian National Gallery for Foreign Art as well as numerous private art galleries.

Places of special interest

The city also offers many places of special interest such as the Sts. Cyril and Methodius National Library (which houses the largest national book collection and is Bulgaria's oldest cultural institute), the Sofia State Library, the British Council, the Russian Cultural Institute, the Polish Cultural Institute, the Hungarian Institute, the Czech and the Slovak Cultural Institutes, the Italian Cultural Institute, the French Cultural Institute, Goethe Institut, Instituto Cervantes, and the Open Society Institute. The city is also known for the Boyana Church, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. In addition, Sofia houses the Sofia Zoological Garden, which was founded in 1888.

Several international film productions were made here. Vitosha Boulevard, also called Vitoshka — ranked as the world's 22nd most expensive commercial street — represents numerous fashion boutiques and luxury goods stores and features exhibitions by world fashion designers. Sofia's geographic location, situated in the foothills of the weekend retreat Vitosha mountain, further adds to the city's specific atmosphere.


A new office building on Bulgaria Blvd., an example of one of the many new buildings that spurred in the city in recent years.

Sofia is the major economic centre of Bulgaria and home to most major Bulgarian and international companies operating in Bulgaria. Sofia is also the country's financial hub, home to the Bulgarian National Bank, the Bulgarian Stock Exchange, the Financial Supervision Commission as well as the headquarters of all commercial banks operating in the country. Construction, trade and transport are other important sectors of the local economy. Increasingly, Sofia is becoming an outsourcing destination for multinational companies, among them IBM, Hewlett-Packard, SAP, Software AG and Sony.[citation needed]

Up until 2007 Sofia experienced rapid economic growth. Apartment prices increased dramatically, with a growth rate of 30% in 2008.[20] In 2009, prices fell by 26% [21]

Transport and infrastructure

With its developing infrastructure and strategic location, Sofia is an important centre for international railway and automobile routes. Three Trans-European Transport Corridors cross the city: 4, 8 and 10. All major types of transport (except water transport) are represented in the city. It is home to eight railway stations,[22] the biggest of which is the Central Railway Station. Just next to it is the new Central Bus Station, the biggest and most modern of its kind in the country.[23] A number of other Bus Stations allow interurban and international trips from different parts of the city. The Sofia Airport with its new second terminal, finished in 2006, [24] handled some 2.7 million passengers in 2007. [25]

An old-style tram

Public transport is well-developed with bus, tram (153,6 km network[22]) and trolleybus (97 km network[22]) lines running in all areas of the city.[26] [27] The Sofia underground became operational from 1998 and is yet largely underdeveloped with one line and only 14 stations.[28] Several new stations have been opened in 2009. Another, second line is being built with a targeted completion date in 2012. [28] The masterplan for the Sofia underground includes three lines with a total of 47 stations.[28] In recent years the marshrutka, a private passenger van, began serving fixed routes and proved an efficient and popular means of transport by being faster than public transport but cheaper than taxis. As of 2005 these vans numbered 368 and serviced 48 lines around the city and suburbs.[22] There are some 6,000 licensed taxi cabs operating in the city and another 2,000 operating somewhat illegally. [29] Low fares in comparison with other European countries, make taxis affordable and popular among a big part of the city population.

Private automobile ownership has grown rapidly in the 1990s; more than 1,000,000 cars were registered in Sofia in the last five years. The Sofia municipality is known for minor and cosmetic repairs and most streets are in a poor condition.[30] Consequently traffic and air pollution problems have become more severe and receive regular criticism in local media. The extension of the underground system is hoped to alleviate the city's immense traffic problems.

Sofia has a unique, very large combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Virtually the entire city (900,000 households and 5,900 companies) is centrally heated, using residual heat from electricity generation (3,000 MW) and gas- and oil-fired heating furnaces; total heat capacity is 4,640 MW. The heat distribution piping network is 900 km long and comprises 14,000 substations and 10,000 heated buildings.


Historical landmarks

Late 19th century houses
Former headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party

A number of ancient Roman, Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian buildings have been preserved in the city and its outskirts. Most notably, the 10th century Boyana Church (one of the UNESCO World Heritage protected sites), the Church of St. George, considered the oldest building in Sofia, and the early Byzantine Church of St Sophia.

A medieval monument of significant interest is The Church of St. Petka located in the very centre of the city providing a sharp contrast to the surrounding three Socialist Classicism edifices of the former Party House, TZUM, and Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan.

Post-liberation and Communism

After the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878 and the establishment of an autonomous Bulgarian monarchy with its capital in Sofia, Knyaz Alexander Battenberg invited architects from Austria-Hungary to shape the new capital's architectural appearance.[31]

Panelki in Lyulin

Among the architects invited to work in Bulgaria were Friedrich Grünanger, Adolf Václav Kolář, Viktor Rumpelmayer and others, who designed the most important public buildings needed by the newly-reestablished Bulgarian government, as well as numerous houses for the country's elite.[31] Later, many foreign-educated Bulgarian architects also contributed.

The architecture of Sofia's centre is thus a combination of Neo-Baroque, Neo-Rococo, Neo-Renaissance and Neoclassicism, with the Vienna Secession also later playing an important part, but it is mostly typically Central European.

Among the most important buildings constructed in Sofia in the period are the former royal palace, today housing the National Art Gallery and the National Ethnographic Museum (1882); the Ivan Vazov National Theatre (1907); the former royal printing office, today the National Gallery for Foreign Art; the National Assembly of Bulgaria (1886), the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (1893), etc.

After the Second World War and the establishment of a Communist government in Bulgaria in 1944, the architectural line was substantially altered. Socialist Classicism public buildings emerged in the centre, but as the city grew outwards, the new neighbourhoods were dominated by many concrete tower blocks, prefabricated panel apartment buildings (panelki) and examples of Brutalist architecture.

After the abolishment of Communism in 1989, Sofia has witnessed the construction of whole business districts and neighbourhoods, as well as modern skryscraper-like glass-fronted office buildings, but also top-class residential neighbourhoods.


There are 16 universities in Sofia. The Saint Clement of Ohrid University of Sofia is often regarded as the most prestigious university of Bulgaria, being founded in 1888[32] and having an incoming class of 14,000 students each year. Other important universities include the National Academy of Arts, the Technical University of Sofia, the University for National and World Economics, Sofia Medical University, the Krastyo Sarafov National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts, the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy, the University of Forestry and New Bulgarian University.

Furthermore, institutions of national significance, such as the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library are located in Sofia. The American College of Sofia, founded in 1860 and often regarded as the oldest American academic institution outside the United States[33] provides secondary education to some of Bulgaria's brightest students.

The St. Clement of Ohrid University of Sofia is the oldest higher education institution in Bulgaria, founded on 1 October 1888. The university's edifice was constructed between 1924 and 1934 with the financial support of the brothers Evlogi Georgiev and Hristo Georgiev.[34]


Being the country's capital, Sofia is also the centre of Bulgaria's sporting activities, with a large number of sports clubs based in the city. These include most of Bulgaria's primary football teams, such as CSKA, Levski, Lokomotiv Sofia and Slavia, as well as formerly great clubs like Akademik, Spartak Sofia and Septemvri. [35] The capital's dominance in the sport is reflected in the fact that Sofia-based teams, including dissolved clubs like A.S. 23, [36] have been Bulgarian football champions on all but thirteen occasions since the national league was formed in 1923.

Although football is popular, sports such as basketball and volleyball have strong traditions. A notable basketball team in the capital is Lukoil Academic, who were twice European Champions Cup finalists.

While no major volleyball teams exist at club level (excluding multiple times champion and Volleyball Champions League participant Levski Sikonko), Bulgaria has always been among the world's top nations at the sport. The Bulgarian Volleyball Federation is the world's second-oldest, and it was an exhibition tournament organised by them in Sofia that in 1957 convinced the IOC to include volleyball as an olympic sport.[37]

Tennis is increasingly popular in Sofia. Currently there are some ten[38] tennis court complexes within the city including the one founded by former WTA top-ten athlete Magdalena Maleeva.[39]

While rugby is a minor sport in Bulgaria, and certainly not a spectator sport, there are several rugby clubs in Sofia for aficionados of the game.

Most other sports, especially individual sports such as boxing, wrestling, and archery can be practiced at the sports complex of the NSA or at that of any of the sports clubs mentioned above. This is because, during the communist era, all sports clubs concentrated on all-round sporting development.

Sofia applied to host the Winter Olympic Games in 1992 and in 1994, coming 2nd and 3rd respectively. The city was also an applicant for the 2014 Winter Olympics, but was not selected as candidate. In addition, Sofia hosted Eurobasket 1957 and the 1961 and 1977 Summer Universiades, as well as the 1983 and 1989 winter editions.


The capital is home to a large number of sports venues, including the 43,000-seat Vasil Levski National Stadium which hosts most major outdoor events in Bulgaria, Levski Sofia's Georgi Asparuhov Stadium, CSKA Sofia's Balgarska Armiya Stadium, Slavia Sofia's Ovcha Kupel Stadium, and Lokomotiv Stadium stadium, which has hosted many major music concerts in recent years.

An important sports facility is the 3,000-capacity Universiade Hall, where in turn many indoor events are held, including Akademik's European basketball games. There are two ice skating complexes — the Winter Palace of Sports (capacity 4,000) and the Slavia Winter Stadium (capacity 2,000), both containing two rinks each.[40]

There is a velodrome with 5,000 seats in the city's central park. It is currently disused but undergoing renovation.[41]


Most football stadiums have tennis courts, astroturf pitches and other sports facilities joined to them, and there are other such facilities scattered throughout the city, mainly in the parks.

There are also various other all-round sports complexes in the city which belong to institutions other than the football clubs, such as those of the National Sports Academy, of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, or those of the capital's various universities.

There are more than fifteen swimming complexes in the city, most of them outdoor.[42] Nearly all of these were constructed as competition venues and therefore have seating facilities for several hundred people.

There are two golf courses just to the east of Sofia — in Elin Pelin (St Sofia club) and in Ihtiman (Air Sofia club), and a horseriding club (St George club).

The capital's main attraction is probably the ample opportunity provided to Sofianites for making use of the city's sprawling parklands, many of which are densely forested. There are four such major parks - Tsar Boris's Garden in the city centre, as well as the Southern, Western and Northern and several other smaller parks, most notable of which is the City Garden. The Vitosha Nature Park (the oldest national park in the Balkans [43]), which includes a big part of the Vitosha mountain to the south of Sofia, covers an area of almost 270 km² and lies entirely within the city limits.[44] Many Sofianites take weekly hikes up the mountain, and most do so at least a couple of times a year. There are bungalows as well as several ski slopes on Vitosha, allowing locals to take full advantage of the countryside and of the mountains without having to leave the city.

Mass media

Some of the biggest and most popular telecommunications companies, TV and radio stations, cable television companies, newspapers, magazines, and web portals are based in Sofia. Some television companies and channels include Bulgarian National Television (featuring BNT Channel 1 and TV Bulgaria), bTV and Nova Television among others. Top-circulation newspapers include 24 chasa, Trud, Kapital and others.

Notable people

See also: Category:People from Sofia

People that were born in Sofia:

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Sofia is twinned with:

City Country Date
Algeria Algiers Algeria -
Turkey Ankara Turkey 1992
Germany Berlin Germany -
Slovakia Bratislava Slovakia[citation needed] 2008
Belgium Brussels Belgium -
Romania Bucharest Romania -
Hungary Budapest Hungary -
Turkey Bursa Turkey 1998
Finland Helsinki Finland -
Ukraine Kiev Ukraine 1997
United Kingdom London UK -
Spain Madrid Spain -
Italy Milan Italy -
France Paris France 1998
United States Pittsburgh USA -
Czech Republic Prague Czech Republic -
Russia Saint Petersburg Russia -
Republic of Macedonia Skopje Macedonia 2006
Israel Tel Aviv Israel 1992
Albania Tirana Albania.[45][46] 2008
Poland Warsaw Poland -


Serdica Peak on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Serdica.

See also



  1. ^ "Sofia Trough Centuries". Sofia Municipality. Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  2. ^ "Таблица на населението по постоянен и настоящ адрес". ГД "Гражданска Регистрация и Административно Обслужване". Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  3. ^ a b "Population table by permanent and present address" (in Bulgarian). Head Direction of Residential Registration and Administrative Service. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  4. ^ a b The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 3, Part 2: The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires and Other States of the Near East, from the Eighth to the Sixth Centuries BC by John Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, E. Sollberger, and N. G. L. Hammond, ISBN 0521227178, 1992, page 600: "In the place of the vanished Treres and Tilataei we find the Serdi for whom there is no evidence before the first century bc.It has for long being supposed on convincing linguistic and archeological grounds that this tribe was of Celtic origin"
  5. ^ Чолева-Димитрова, Анна М. (2002) (in Bulgarian). Селищни имена от Югозападна България: Изследване. Речник. София: Пенсофт. pp. 169–170. ISBN 9546421685. OCLC 57603720. 
  6. ^ a b c "BG Guide — Distances between cities in Bulgaria". Retrieved 2008-05-25. 
  7. ^ World Map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification updated. Meteorologische Zeitschrift, Vol. 15, No. 3, 259-263 (June 2006) © Gebrüder Borntraeger 2006. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  9. ^ "". 
  10. ^ Theophanes Confessor. Chronographia, p.485
  11. ^ s:Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Sardica
  12. ^ Кираджиев, Светлин (2006). „София. 125 години столица. 1879-2004 година“. ИК „Гутенберг“. ISBN 978-954-617-011-8
  13. ^ a b "District Mayors". Sofia Municipality. Retrieved 2009-12-26. 
  14. ^ София в числа, НСИ, 2003
  15. ^ "Район "Подуяне"". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  16. ^ "Demographic record" (in Bulgarian). Sofia municipality website. Retrieved 2006-06-15. 
  17. ^ This statistic should not necessarily be taken at face value due to conflicting data – such as for the predominanly Roma neighbourhood of Fakulteta, which alone has a population of 45,000. [1]
  18. ^ 2001 Census (Bulgarian) (English - less detailed) - recovered 26-06-2008. All other ethnic groups numbered less than one thousand; nearly 15,000 people said "other" or did not give an ethnicity.
  19. ^ "Най-ниската безработица от 16 години насам е отчетена през юли". 2006-08-14. Retrieved 2006-10-15. 
  20. ^ "Bulgaria Housing Market Favors Buyers but Far Away from Collapse". Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  21. ^ "Bulgaria Residential Property Prices Down by 26% in Q4 y/y". Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
  22. ^ a b c d Sofia infrastructure from the official website of the Municipality (Bulgarian)
  23. ^ "Central Bus Station — official website (Bulgarian)". Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  24. ^ "Sofia Airport — History". Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  25. ^ "Sofia Airport — News". Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  26. ^ "Public transport Sofia — official website (Bulgarian)". Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  27. ^ "Transport Company Bulgaria— official website (Bulgarian)". Retrieved 2009-08-21. 
  28. ^ a b c "Metropolitan Sofia Web Place". Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  29. ^ "National Federation of the Taxi Drivers in Bulgaria. Regional Member Sofia". Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  30. ^ "Fines for bad repair work - 'Dnevnik' newspaper". Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  31. ^ a b Collective (1980). Encyclopedia of Figurative Arts in Bulgaria, volume 1. Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. pp. 209–210. 
  32. ^ "Official website of the Sofia university — History". Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  33. ^ This title is also claimed by Robert College, founded in 1863, due to the name and constitutional changes in the American College of Sofia's history.
  34. ^ "American College of Sofia". Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  35. ^ "See the article on the Bulgarian Wikipedia (Bulgarian)". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  36. ^ "Article about the club on the Bulgarian wikipedia (Bulgarian)". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  37. ^ "BVA-News". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  38. ^ "Sofia municipality — Tennis courts". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  39. ^ "Тенис Клуб Малееви". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  40. ^ " Skate rinks in Sofia". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  41. ^ " — History of the Sofia velodrome". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  42. ^ "Swimming pools in Sofia (including Spa centers)". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  43. ^ "National parks in the world (Bulgarian)". Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  44. ^ "Vitosha Mountain". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  45. ^ "Twinning Cities: International Relations" (PDF). Municipality of Tirana. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  46. ^ Twinning Cities: International Relations. Municipality of Tirana. Retrieved on 2008-01-25.

Further reading

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Balkans : Bulgaria : Sofia
Alexander Nevski cathedral
Alexander Nevski cathedral

Sofia (София) is the capital of Bulgaria. It is also the biggest city in the country with about 1.4 mln citizens (including suburbs). Today, Sofia is a dynamic Eastern European capital, distinguished by its unique combination of European and Communist-style architecture as well as many beautiful orthodox churches. Furthermore, it claims to be one of the few European capitals with beautiful scenery and a developed ski-resort so close to it - the Vitosha mountain.



Sofia was founded around 7000 years ago. Over the centuries, it has been given several names and the remnants of the old cities can still be viewed today.

Near Sofia lies Boyana church, which is one of the most valuable memorials of Bulgarian and European culture. The church has frescoes, acclaimed by specialists as “the best examples of eastern medieval art during its twelve century history”.

The decline of Sofia during the Turkish Ottoman Empire was followed by the rejuvenation after the Russian liberation in 1878, when Sofia was chosen as the capital of Bulgaria at the First National Constituent Assembly, and followed by a brisk and straight-forward period of construction.

Get in

By plane

Sofia Airport [1] (IATA: SOF) (ICAO: LBSF) is the busiest airport in Bulgaria and it was built around 1930. It is located only 10km from the city center, in the eastern parts of Sofia.

Over 25 airlines fly in and out of Sofia Airport with daily flights linking Sofia with Athens, Paris, Vienna, London, Rome and other European cities. Some of the traditional airlines with flights to/from Sofia are Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Czech Airlines, LOT, Lufthansa, Malev, Olympic Airways, Tarom and Turkish Airlines. Also, low-cost carriers traveling to Bulgaria are Aer Lingus [2] (to/from Dublin), EasyJet [3] (to/from London-Gatwick, Madrid, Manchester, Milan-Malpensa), Germanwings [4] (to/from Cologne-Bonn, Berlin-Schönefeld, Milan-Bergamo,Wizz Air [5] (to/from Barcelona, Brussels-Charleroi, Dortmund, London-Luton, Milan-Bergamo, Rome-Fiumicino, Valencia and Varna.).

Bulgaria Air, [6], the national carrier flies to Alicante, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Beirut, Berlin - Tegel, Brussels, Bucharest - Otopeni, Frankfurt, Istanbul - Atatürk, Kiev - Boryspil, Larnaca, London - Gatwick, London - Heathrow, Madrid, Málaga, Manchester, Moscow - Sheremetyevo, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Paris - Charles de Gaulle, Rome - Fiumicino, Skopje, Tel Aviv, Tirana, Tripoli, Valencia, Vienna, Zürich. Bulgaria Air`s operates domestic flights to Burgas and Varna.

There are a few domestic flights, from Sofia to Varna and Burgas, including some charter flights.

Airlines and terminals

Make sure you check the terminal that you are arriving at or departing from carefully.

Terminal 1 (T1) is used by budget airlines like EasyJet, Germanwings and Wizz Air; and by charter flight operators.

Terminal 2 (T2) handles all 'traditional' carriers, and serves as a hub to Bulgaria Air, the national carrier.


Terminal 1 (T1) has postal and banking services, a news stand, two coffee shops and one duty-free shop.

Terminal 2 (T2) is larger and has more duty-free shops, three coffee shops with some food offers. Before passport control there is only one coffee shop and a news stand.

Transfer between terminals

There is a white shuttle bus running every 30 minutes between the two terminals, you should ask at the information about it. There are a few kilometers between the two terminals and they are not in a walking distance. Be aware that even if you decide to walk, you may get lost as the path is not marked and it could take you 20-30 minutes.

Between the airport and the city

  • By bus: From terminal 1 pickup bus #84 and from terminal 2 - bus #284 and they will transport you to the city center. Please make sure you punch your ticket after you board. You will need an additional ticket for any large piece of luggage.
  • By shuttle: Various companies run shuttle services to the hotel and back. These can be found at the airport arrival halls.
  • By taxi: Taxis in the airport are "regulated" and the only company that is allowed to service the airport "OK Taxi." The fare to the city center should be about 10 leva (depending on traffic, could be 12 leva). Unfortunately there are many "touts" that will try to ask you if you need a taxi as you exit the departures area. These guys will seriously overcharge you. When you exit the customs/declarations door, turn to your right and exit the terminal (do not go straight, out the exit in front of you!). There you'll see a big queue of "OK" taxi's lined up with "O.K. (973 2121)" written on them in blue writing with the two dots in red. However, if you go straight out to the roadway rather than right, there are unregulated taxi's. You should be careful, because there are taxis, which imitate the logo of the O.K. and the phone number. Before hiring a taxi look at the right-front-door window - there should be a tariff. The normal tariffs are: initial fee (about 0.60 lv), daily price per km (about 0.60 lv), night price per km (about 0.70 lv), price per minute of stay (about 0.20 lv), price for ordering a taxi via phone (about 0.50 lv). Please, check these figures and if you see ANY figure greater than 1.00 lv, do not take this taxi!

By bus

The Central Bus Station (Centralna Avtogara/Централна автогара) [7] is located near the city center. The website gives a listing of all domestic and international departure & arrival times and costs. Bear in mind that there are three other bus stations for minor destinations.

  • Many Bulgarian and International bus operators maintain scheduled lines covering all major domestic and European cities, like many cities in Greece and Macedonia, Istanbul, Basra, Vienna, and several times a week to different cities in Western Europe all the way to Portugal.

By train

International trains provide a large number of routes to Sofia, arriving from such places as Kiev, Istanbul, Vienna, Athens, Thessaloniki and other common cities.

The primary trains from Bucharest to Sofia, and back, run twice daily through the border city of Ruse. For example, recent trains are scheduled from Bucharest to Sofia in the daytime departing 12:16/arriving 21:33 and a night train departing 20:04/arriving 06:00. From Sofia to Bucharest there are also two trains: a) Sofia 07:45 - Bucharest 17:19 and b) Sofia 19:30 - Bucharest 05:44. One way ticket is around €30. Passport control and customs takes place in Ruse, approximately mid-trip. Check local train stations for more up to date information.

To İstanbul the train costs 70 leva (a bus-tıcket is just 40 leva), the train departs at around 18:30 (there are 5 buses a day) and arrives at 9:00.

All services are operated by the Bulgarian State Railways [8], whose schedules are available on the internet in English.

The main railway station (Tsentralna Gara) can be somewhat confusing. Tickets for Lom, Vidin, Ruse, Varna and international cities are sold on the main floor, but for the rest you have to go to the basement. Platforms can be accessed from the main floor down the escalators at the far left corner. Platform numbering is somewhat confusing: Roman numerals indicate the platform number (I to VI), and Arabic numerals (1 to 12) indicate the actual track. Each platform is divided into East and West. Departures and arrivals are indicated on reliable electronic panels, but, beware, they indicate the track number, not the platform! In any case, leaving by train is mostly recommended if you want to travel overnight to destinations on the Black Sea, since trains for Varna and Burgas will leave late in the evening and get you there in the early morning (a couchette to Varna is 16 leva).

By car

All highways in Bulgaria are often under construction.

Access to Bulgaria's Capital is via several entry points:

1. From the North & South via E79/A6

2. From the East - via Trace Highway E80/A1-A3 or from the old road paralelling the E80 Highway - Zlatitza - Pirdop - Pazardzhik route.

3. From the West - via A1/E80 Liking the city and the Bulgarian-Serbian Border point of Kalotina.

  • A1 is planned to be from Sofia to Burgas, but ends at the outskirts of Stara Zagora.
  • A2 is planned to be from Sofia to Varna, but ends around Pravets and continues from Shumen to Varna.
  • A3 is planned to be from Varna to Burgas, but currently has only a few kilometers built.

Otherwise coming from Greece the road E79/A6 is in very good shape, so the 300 km from Thessaloniki are done fairly fast if you don't happen to fall into big waiting-lines at the border.

Coming from the Republic of Macedonia, via Kiustendil the roads are relatively good but driving within speed limits would avoid you much hassle caused either by traffic police, or road conditions. From Central Europe you can drive almost the whole length on highways (via Slovenia-Croatia-Serbia or Hungary-Serbia), with only the last 100 km between Nis in Southern Serbia and Sofia being heavily trafficked mountain roads around the Nishava ravine in not the best shape.

Get around

By public transport

Sofia has a well-developed and efficient public transport system ([9]) that consists of buses, trolleys, trams, subway line. The public transport operates from 5AM to about 12AM. Taxis are the only transport option in the night.

The price of a single ticket is 1.00 lev (~ 0.50€) only paid in the local currency. There are also 5 (4.25lv) or 10 (7.50lv) tickets for one passenger, combined ticket for subway and ground transport (1.40 lv), daily cards (4lv), valid for all lines, and 5-day cards (15lv). Tickets, daily and 5-day cards can be bought at most newspaper stands especially ones adjacent to public transport stops. If you can't find any, you can also buy tickets from the driver if he has any available, though this is not guaranteed. Punch a ticket immediately after you enter the vehicle. The inspectors rarely understand English and you might have problems with the security if you travel without a ticket or even with an unpunched one. Inspectors ambush and board buses and trams in groups, sometimes accompanied by police, and make no exceptions. The fine is 10 lv.

There are 15 tram lines, 9 trolley lines, 93 bus lines and one metro line. Some of the buses cover the area outside the city center including neighboring villages. Useful routes are bus #284 (terminal 2) or #84 (terminal 1) from the airport to the center; from the train/bus station to Orlov most - bus #305, #213 or #214 or tram #1, #7 to Sveta Nedelya square, #1, #6, #7 to the National Palace of Culture, #9 to Slaveykov square or #6 to Macedonia square.

The subway in Sofia is still under construction and a few more lines will be available in the next years. Currently there is only one line that crosses from the western edge of town (Lulin, Obelya) through the city center to the southeast (Mladost r.d.), where it will eventually connect to the airport.

On foot

Streets have adequate tiled pavements, especially in the city centre. However, they are frequently uneven and potholed, and walking is further made difficult by parked cars, street vendors and cafes. Except for areas in the very centre, pavements rarely have slopes for wheelchair access or designated lanes for bicycle riders. Pedestrian crossings are numerous and are relatively respected by drivers. Use pedestrian underpasses to cross large intersections, though avoid ones in the suburbs as these are usually derelict.

By mini-bus

Mini-buses (marshrutki) stop if you just wave a hand and usually are fast way to go somewhere without need to change the car. You pay to the driver when you get on the car. Prices are 1,50 leva (about 0,75 euro). You need to tell the driver if and when you want to get off.

By taxi

Taxis in Sofia are yellow. Taxis can be caught on the streets or can be ordered by phone, they arrive fast and are reliable. A drive inside Sofia will rarely exceed 10lv. There are many companies offering taxi services, some of them are OK Supertrans taxi (973 2121), €1 Taxi, "962-22-26", Yellow Taxi (91119) and Radio CV Taxi (91263) with fares around 0,70 leva (0,35€) per kilometer. Please check the phone number and the prices before you board, because there are some taxis trying to imitate the most popular ones, but having outrageous prices (up to 5,90 leva (3,00€) per kilometer) on them and usually hang around hotels and tourist spots picking on unsuspecting customers, its the top line for the per km fares and bottom line for time you need to look at. The general rule is that if a taxi driver comes to you and offers you a drive, never accept it because they will try to rip you off.


Renting a car is possible, but not necessarily a good idea if you are not used to driving here. Be prepared for traffic jams and disorganized traffic. Parking is a major problem. To park you can use tickets for parking in the so-called Blue Zone (sinya zona/синя зона). These tickets can be purchased from the people wearing bright green jackets, hanging around the parking lots. The tickets should be clearly marked with pen and placed on the dashboard so they are clearly visible.


Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe with ruins spread across the city center. It was founded because of the quality of its mineral waters. In the city alone there are 7 independent mineral water springs. One of the springs is in the central area of the city and is accessible for everybody - cross the square behind the mosque, next to TSUM (the intersection of Iskar and Ekzarh Yosif streets).

In the administrative center of Sofia the streets are covered with a specific yellow pavement. It was laid in the beginning of the 20th century and were a present to the Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand for his wedding from the Austria-Hungarian royal family.

  • Sofia University, 15 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd., +359 2 9308 (fax: +359 2 946 02 55), [11].  edit
  • Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1 15 November Str., +359 2 979 53 33 (fax: +359 2 981 72 62), [12].  edit
  • SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library, 88 Vasil Levski Str., + 359 2 988 28 11 (fax: + 359 2 843 54 95), [14]. 08:30 to 20:30.  edit
  • National Palace of Culture, 1 Bulgaria Sq., +359 2 916 63 00 (fax: +359 2 865 70 53), [15]. The biggest congress center in the Balkans (a massive monolithic communist-style building). If asking for directions, ask for NDK (en-de-ka), as most Bulgarians refer to it by this acronym.  edit
  • Central Military Club. It`s a multi-purpose monument of culture building in the city center.  edit
  • National Museum of Military History, 92 Cherkovna Str., +359 2 946 18 05 (, fax: + 359 2 946 18 06), [16]. 10.00 to 18.00.  edit
  • Ethnographic Institute with Museum, 6A Moskovska Str., +359 2 988 41 91 (, fax: +359 2 980 11 62), [17]. Has a permanent collection of traditional Bulgarian costumes as well as a changing exhibition.  edit
  • Earth and Man National Museum, 4 Cherni Vruh Blvd., +359 2 865 66 39 (, fax: +359 2 866 14 57), [18]. 10.00 to 18.00. 2 leva.  edit
  • National Museum of History, 16 Vitoshko lale str. (Take trolley #2 southwest from the corner of Praga Blvd. and Patriarch Eftimi Blvd. Get off at the roundabout at the end of the bus line. Cross the busy Okolovrustino Shosse (ring road) and walk through the trees. The museum is not visible from the road, nor are there any signs.), +359 2 955 42 80; (, fax: +359 2 955 76 02), [19]. The National Museum of History in Sofia contains more than 650,000 exhibits and is one of the largest history museums on the Balkans. The aim of the museum is to provide a comprehensive view on Bulgarian history from the prehistory to present, in as broad an European context as possible. Be prepared to spend several hours as the museum is quite large. About half of the exhibits have English captions. 4 leva.  edit
  • National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, 2 Saborna Str., +359 2 988 24 06 (, fax: +359 2 988 24 05), [20]. 10:00 to 18:00.   edit
  • National Polytechnic Museum, 66 Opalchenska Str., +359 2 831 30 04 (, fax: +359 2 931 40 46), [21]. 09.00 to 17.00.  edit
  • National Museum of Natural History, 1, Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd., + 359 2 987 41 95 (fax: + 359 2 988 28 94), [22]. 10.00 to 18.00. Has four floors of everything from rocks and minerals to insects and stuffed bison. It is a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon.  edit
  • House-Museum of Ivan Vazov, (On the corner of the streets G. Rakovski and Ivan Vazov.).  edit
  • Museum of Sport, 1A Bulgaria Blvd. (National Stadium Vasil Levski), +359 2 930 07 61. 09:00 to 17:00.  edit
  • Museum of Paleontology and historical geology, 15 Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd. (Inside Sofia University.), +359 2 930 82 00.   edit
  • National Literature Museum, 138 G. S. Rakovski Str., floor 2, +359 2 988 24 93.  edit
  • National Agricultural Museum, 30 Suhodolska Str., +359 2 929 67 53.  edit
  • National Ecclesiastical History-Archeological Museum, 19 Sveta Nedelya Sq., +359 2 988 13 43. 09:00 to 17:00.   edit
  • National Gallery for Foreign Art, 1 St. Aleksander Nevsky Square, +359 2 988 49 22 (), [23]. 11:00 to 18:00. 4 leva.  edit
  • National Art Gallery, 1 Batenberg Sq., +359 2 980 00 93. 10:30 to 18:00. Has old Bulgarian art, icons, etc. 4 leva.  edit
  • Sofia Art Gallery, 1, Gen. Gurko Str. (The entrance is from Kniaz Al. Batenberg Str.), +359 2 987 21 81, [24]. 10:00 to 19:00. free.  edit
  • Sofia City Art Gallery (Софийска градска художествена галерия), 1 General Gurko St. (ул. Ген. Гурко 1), tel: +359 2 987 2181, [25].
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
  • St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. One of the largest orthodox churches worldwide.  edit
  • Boyana Church, 1-3 Boyansko Ezero Str. (Getting here is quite difficult. Take tram #9 or #10 from the stop underneath NDK (National Palace of Culture) to Hladilnika neighborhood (the last stop). Then catch bus #64. The bus stop is just 50 meters away but you better ask someone for directions because there are several different stops in the vicinity. The stop for the church is a small plaza with a few shops near the end of the #64 bus line. Ask the driver or the other passangers where to get off and then walk uphill and turn left.), +359 2 959 09 39 (, fax: +359 2 959 29 66), [26]. 09:00 to 17:00. This small 14th-century church and garden is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church contains some very well preserved Christian murals. It is located at the foot of Vitosha mountain and is a good starting point for day trips in the mountain.  edit
  • Church of St. George, (It`s situated behind the Sheraton Hotel.).  edit
  • Church of St. Petka of the Saddlers.  edit
  • Church of St. Nedelya.  edit
  • Hagia Sophia Church, 2 Paris str.. It is located just across the square and to the right from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It was built in the 6th century over an even older church. It is a witness of the whole Bulgarian history and is a valued cultural monument. In the 14th century it gave its name to the city of Sofia. It was destroyed several times and during the Ottoman rule it was used as a mosque.  edit
  • Russian Church.  edit
  • Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church.  edit
  • Catholic cathedral St. Joseph.  edit
  • Banya Bashi Mosque.  edit
  • Sofia Synagogue. 09:00 to 16:30. One of the largest in Europe.  edit
  • Amphitheatre of Serdica, (Located in the geographical center of the city under the flags of the EU.).  edit
  • Battenberg Mausoleum. The mausoleum and final resting place of Prince Alexander I of Bulgaria (1857–1893), the first Head of State of modern Bulgaria.  edit
  • Monument to Vasil Levski. It commemorates the hanging of Bulgarian national hero and major revolutionary figure Vasil Levski in the city on 18 February 1873.  edit
  • Monument to the Tsar Liberator. Representing the power of freedom and across from it are the National Assembly and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.  edit
  • Monument to the Unknown Soldier. Across from Alexander Nevsky cathedral; on the side of Hagia Sofia's Church.  edit
  • Knyaz Battenberg's Palace, (Right in front of the city garden.).  edit
  • Sofia Public Mineral Baths. It is an old building of interest, although it is in process of renovation at the moment.  edit
  • Borisova gradina. It`s the "lungs" of the city, with the Ariana Lake  edit
  • City Garden. It`s the oldest and most central public garden, in existence since 1872.  edit
  • Orlov Most. It`s a bridge over the Perlovska River in the centre of Sofia  edit
  • Prince Alexander of Battenberg Square.  edit
  • Slaveykov Square. It`s an open-air book market.  edit
  • Patriarch Evtimiy Square.  edit
  • Sofia Zoo, 1 Sreburna Str., [27]. 09:00 to 17:00.  edit
  • South Park. Yes, and it's not the cartoon series. A nice park in the south-east part of the city, although a bit to crowded on weekends.  edit
  • Cafes and restaurants. Sofia is full of trendy cafes with outdoor seating in the summer and good-quality restaurants.  edit
  • National Opera and Ballet, [28].  edit
  • Arena Cinema, [29]. It`s one of the biggest Bulgarian cinema multiplex. Cinemas in Sofia play all films except children's films in their original language with Bulgarian subtitles.  edit


The currency in Bulgaria is the Lev, plural Leva. You will also see the abbreviation lv. (лв.) or the ISO code - BGN. The currency exchange rate is fixed at 1 EUR = 1.95586 BGN. Exchange rate to USD is not fixed directly, but published by the Bulgarian National Bank [30] and is used for a benchmark in the exchange offices and banks.

Currency exchange offices and most banks offer a buy rate of 1.95 BGN and a sell rate of 1.96 BGN to 1 EUR. However, at the airport and train station the rates may differ substantially. During business days, it is strongly advisable to use banks for exchanging money. ATMs on all major credit car issuers (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Diner's, etc.) are widely available, although you have to watch for your daily withdrawal limit imposed by your card-issuing bank. Credit cards are widely accepted, only not in small souvenir stores or restaurants; you will definitely need to carry some cash.

Souvenirs can be bought many small shops in the subways in front of the old Party House and in the metro station at the Largo. The Ethnographic Museum has a small shop tightly crammed with souvenirs of all kinds from all over Bulgaria (on the right, just as you enter the main entrance). Antiques and souvenirs can also be found in Alexander Nevski square, in stalls just opposite the church.

  • Vitosha Boulevard. It`s the main commercial street in the centre of Sofia. It is known as the most expensive street in Sofia.  edit
  • Central Sofia Market Hall, Marie Louise Boulevard (Opposite the Banya Bashi mosque.). Has many stalls selling all kinds of food, drink and cosmetics. The second floor has various fast-food cafés.  edit
  • TZUM, 2, Knyaginya Maria Luiza Blvd., +359 2 926 07 00 (), [31]. 10:00 to 21:00.  edit
  • Mall of Sofia, 101, Alexander Stamboliiski blvd., +359 2 929 33 77 (fax: +359 2 929 33 00), [32].  edit
  • SkyCity Mall, 52 Kosta Loulchev Str. (You can get there by tram No 20, bus No 9, and Route Taxi No 1, 19 and 21.), +359 2 971 02 13 (, fax: +359 2 971 01 89), [34]. 10:00 to 22:00. Also has an entertainment center.  edit


Fast food

You can easily find take away food in Sofia. For less than 2 leva you can get a slice of pizza, a hot-dog or a sandwich. You can get more traditional Bulgarian food in bakeries, offering banitsa and other kinds of pastry. This food is often consumed with ayran or boza . Another possibility is to get a katma, which is a big pancake filled with cheese, ham, jelly or chocolate.


Pizzeria-type restaurants and snack bars can be found all over Sofia. Although many are very uninteresting for the traveler looking for a meal with a local flavor, some include excellent Bulgarian dishes.

  • Mr.Pizza, 44 Neofit Rilsky Str., +359 2 988 82 58, [35]. Popular in Sofia, get there early or reserve if you want a table in their courtyard. 10 to 15 leva per person..  edit
  • Baаlbek, (Near Slaveykov Square.). This is great Arab food. Downstairs is take-away kebabs and falafels, and upstairs a small eat-in. Excellent hummus and salads, etc., and cold beer.  edit
  • Trops House, [36]. It`s a fast-food type of place, offering traditional Bulgarian meals and drinks. It can be found in several locations throughout the city center.  edit
  • Happy's Bar and Grill, (Just across the street from the Sveta Nedelya church.), [37]. Happy's is the Bulgarian equivalent of an American diner, and the Sofia representative of a nationwide chain. There are English-language menus, and the staff (all microskirted young girls, who apparently have to be smiling when they serve you) all seem to have at least some English as well. Portions are generally huge and represent a sort of "watered down" version of their traditional Bulgarian equivalents, although more Western fare is also available.  edit
  • Pizza Victoria, [38]. One of the best Bulgarian pizzas.  edit
  • Pod Lipite, [39]. Very good traditional food. Reservation is required.  edit
  • Motto, 18 Aksakov str. (Motto is on the street right behind the Radisson hotel, and then two blocks East (turn to the right on the first small street behind the Radisson if you are walking from the big horse statue) - it's kind of hard to find as the sign is a small black sign with white lettering.), +359 2 987 27 23, [40]. This place is always fairly busy with a trendy crowd. The decor is modern and cool, and the people typically good looking. The service here is usually pretty nice, and many of the wait-staff speak English. The food is consistent and enjoyable. 5 to 15 leva per dish..  edit
  • Carrera, 4 Golo Bardo Str., +359 2 960 28 66 (). A fairly modern restaurant over in the Lozenetz area. The decor is well done, the service good, and the food very good. Prices are in line with the quality and style of the place. The wine selection is excellent. They also have a nice summer/winter garden area.  edit
  • Maison Godet – French Wine & Dinner, 17 Al. Stamboliyski Blvd. (Just 100 m west from the Sveta Nedelya church.), +359 2 980 74 77, [41]. French gourmet cuisine with excellent French wines, own production of the house. Modern and cosy atmosphere with a nice ancient Roman wall inside the restaurant. Reservations are recommended. About 12 lev average per dish.  edit
  • Starbucks, Corner of Vassil Levski Blvd & Gurko Blvd, [42].  edit
  • Nedelya Sweet Shop, +359 88 560 08 30, [45].  edit

Probably the worst meal I have ever had. They do speak english however and do not take credit cards. Great place to waste your time and money.

  • Apartment. Popular among locals as well as foreigners is the "apartamenta", some sort of private club in the second floor of a turn of the 19th century mansion: There you find a series of rooms, all in different styles and wall-drawings, colourful tapestries, etc. Go to the right, get a drink in the kitchen (everything non-alcoholic is 4 lv), and just pick and choose a room which looks cozy enough (shouldn't be too hard to find one with all the couches lying around). If you love the music, there are Mac computers in most of the rooms where you can pick something else out of the playlist. Have a game of chess. There is also a Cinema room, if there is nothing running just go in, pick a movie out of the list and start the projection. There is also home- made chocolate and cream and all different kind of organic drinks like Himalayan tea, Kiwi nectar and much more...  edit
  • Lodkite, [47]. In the huge "Borisova gradina" park near the stadion (just ask you way around) you'll find this open-air place, located in an old leisure-park parcour (you know, that type of small water-channels where kid can drive around in little gondolas). The boats have gone and the channels serve as improvised sitting places (basic tables made out of wood planks put between the two sides of the channel). There are also some tables on the court and lights decorating the trees luminate the scene. The public sound system has experimental electronic music, ambiance, progressive rock, or whatever the DJs feel like. The later it gets, the more you'll find people sitting everywhere on the floor on the trees. On warm summer nights, this place is a must-be.  edit

The largest discos in Sofia are concentrated in Students' town (Studentski grad). The latter is situated in the southern part of the city and can be reached by buses #94 (from Sofia university and Culture palace), #280 (From Sofia University, Orlov most) and #102. The last bus to Studentski grad departs from the city center at about 11.30 PM (from Sofia University and Culture Palace). The entrance fee for most discos is between 1 and 5 leva (0.5 - 2.5 euro). Discos that can be visited there include: Avenue, Tantra, Orient 33, Jeam Beam, Maskata, Stroezha etc.

  • Le Freak Deluxe [51] Sofia's cheapest and possibly friendliest long-stay vegetarian non-profit hostel. Easy access to the center of Sofia within a twenty minute tram ride and with the bus stopping directly outside of the front gates. Le Freak Deluxe has a unique double mountain view with south facing Vitosha (the pet mountain of Sofia city) and the view of the Balkans (Stara planina), to the north at the rear of the building - this sunny animal friendly hostel makes it a truly unique place to be. Running on a donation basis with 300лв (approx. €153, £122 or $244) being the minimun donation which entitles you to a stay of up to one month. Le Freak Deluxe as a seasonal alternative also provides camping facilities for 200лв per month - please see website for details.
  • Maxim Hotel This was a very nice hotel just 5 min walking from the train/bus station and 5 min away in the opposite direction from downtown Sofia. It is a cute hotel with a nice bedroom and also a living/TV room, large private bathroom and includes breakfast buffet in the morning. Only negative is they do not have an elevator. Cost in slow season was €60 for 2 people, €50 for one person.
  • Art Hostel [52] provides cheap accommodation and a friendly atmosphere where tourists and locals mingle in the small basement bar. €9 (18 leva) a night, "The Guardian" says: "Probably the coolest youth-hostel in Europe"
  • Holiday Village Diplomat [53] is near Vitosha mountain and 20 min away from the city centre. Spacious rooms, large park area and friendly staff.
  • Hotel Renaissance is situated in downtown Sofia, very close to the administrative and commercial center of the city. Double rooms start at €79.
  • Hostel Mostel [54] - easily Sofia's best hostel! One of a kind huge lounge to chill out, watch DVD from their collection, browse the net on modern computers or just to hang out. All en-suite dorm rooms - so no queues in the mornings! Trips to Rila Monastery are run daily.
  • Hotel Lozenetz, 23 Naum Str [55] is a modern boutique style hotel within easy walking distance of the city centre.
  • Internet Hostel Sofia,[56].50A Alabin Str/Vitosha Blvd Offers excellent service and rooms for every taste at top city location.
  • Kervan Hostel [57]
  • Orient Express Hostel - Sofa [58] 8A "Christo Belchev" Str - This charming decorated small hostel offers a variety of room options, check it!
  • Red House B&B [59] - a charming B&B located in the Red House cultural centre.
  • Red Star Hostel [60]. In the city center between main street Vitosha Blvd. and City Garden with National Theatre, and offers cheap and clean accommodation in a variety of private rooms and dorms.
  • Maria Luisa Hotel occupies an exquisite building dating back to the turn of 20th century and listed as one of Bulgaria's cultural monuments of national significance. Maria Luisa Hotel offers a combination of the standards and services found in a luxury hotel plus the privacy and independence of one's own home.
  • Scotty's Boutique Hotel is centrally located near the Zhenski Pazar and moderately priced, and looks to be very nice.
  • Sofia Guesthouse, [61]. offers clean accommodation at the exact city center for EUR9 inc. breakfast.
  • Dunav Apartment House Situated in the heart of the city this has one of the best locations in Sofia. Its central position allows immediate access to the center, 10 minutes from the cathedral Al. Nevski, the Bulgarian Parliament and the National Opera.
  • Sofia Backpacker's Inn, [62]. A cozy hostel located 5 minutes from the central train and bus stations and 5 minutes from the center of Sofia.
  • Holiday Inn Sofia, 111 Alexandar Malinov Blvd, 1766 Sofia, +359 2 8070707. Modern five star hotel in Sofia [63] offering luxury accommodation for leisure and business travel, weekend breaks, conference facilities and spa centre. Rooms from € 68.  edit
  • Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan, [64].  edit
  • Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan (Sheraton Sofia), 5, Sveta Nedelya Sq. (Opposite the statue of Sofia and Sveta Nedelya Church), (359)(2) 9816541, [65]. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 12.00. Sheraton Sofia is in very heart of Bulgaria capital, within walking distance from the business, administrative and commercial areas. Impressive 5-storey hotel, in classical design, houses 184 rooms, including 19 suites. All rooms are soundproof, with air condition control, direct dial phone, message alert, TV with satellite program, radio, mini bar. Recognized as one of the city’s grandest hotels and architectural landmarks, the Sheraton Sofia offers guests an exceptional experience of Bulgaria’s finest culture and service.  edit

Stay safe

If you travel by car make sure that you park in a toll parking. This is the best solution against auto theft. Parking in the center of Sofia is difficult. Although it is not hard to find a free parking place, Bulgarian police tend to behave harshly towards non-Bulgarian license plates. You might see a long row under the non-parking sign, despite that it is for your own good not to park such areas.

Also, if traveling by car, be ware to purchase a vignette (винетка) straight on entry in Bulgaria. You need this on every high-way out in the country, and the customs officers on the border will not be nice enough to tell you about it. The price (2008) is 10 leva for one week - this is the shortest period available, also one-month and year vignettes are available. You need to place it on the front window, in the bottom right corner. If you rent a car and plan to go out of the city area, you will need a vignette as well. You can purchase from any petrol station. The fine, if you forget the vignette, is about 200 leva.

Car lights are also compulsory in the light part of the day from November 1st until March 1st.

Pedestrians should be careful since Bulgarian drivers do not yield right of way to those on foot.

Generally, you should avoid by night the area around the Central Bus and Train Station, Maria Luiza Blvd and don't hang around the Lions' Bridge (Lavov Most)area at night. This is especially true for single women and girls. Junkies get high on glue there, prostitutes (both female and transsexual) might offer you their "services", ignore them, some people might want to tempt you with a " good bargain" on a stolen product or try to mug you, if your hotel is in the area you'll be alright, just don't hang around it unnecessarily, unless you are familiar with the area and you look and act like a local. As long as you avoid the poorly lit areas, the centre is generally safe, stick to the well-lit areas such as Vitoshka, the Largo, Sheraton hotel, the Ivan Vazov theater and the military club (Voennia klub). It is generally safer to choose a hotel/hostel in a better location, such as the ones listed above if you want to experience safely the night life. Do not get into conflict with locals especially if they seem aggressive or drunk. Also, it is better to avoid the green areas of the city by night (the park around the National Palace of Culture and Borisova gradina), because junkies, homeless and drunk people usually frequent these places at that time. Avoid football fan groups, they tend to be drunk and aggressive.Avoid wearing football shirts or scarves of the Sofia-based football teams,especially on match days. Be careful with the cabs, make sure you check the prices first before you get in (the fare is per kilometer and it should be something like 0.59 during the day and 0.70 during the night, avoid cabs that display their fare as above 1.00), also make sure the cab has the driver's card on the front with his name.

Also, be wary of money exchange shops. Some of them exchange money for generally lower rates than displayed on the exchange rate panel. Go to banks, you can easily become a victim and if you want your money back the security guard might intimidate you and physically abuse you. One such change shop is on Maria Louisa as you walk towards the Lion's bridge (Лъвов мост) just after Halite (Халите) and Ekzarh Yosif street (you'll recognise it by the misspelling of currency, spelled 'currensy').


Sofia has a large number of mostly free wireless hotspots in bars, restaurants, and cafés. You may find also in hotels and public areas, like "Park Zaimov".

  • Vitosha is a magnificent landmark mountain just rises south of the capital. It is easily accessible by public transportation or by car and day trips in Vitosha in a sunny day are highly recommended. In the winter it is well suited for skiing and its proximity allows one day ski-trips.
  • Rila Monastery is the most famous monastery in Bulgaria, situated in the huge Rila Massive. It`s just one hour and a half drive away from Sofia.
  • Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria. It`s just one hour drive on a good highway away from Sofia. Plovdiv lies around three hills in the otherwise totally flat Thracian plane. It's historical center, Roman remnants & relaxed feeling make it a great day-trip.
  • Veliko Turnovo a beautiful city along a winding river, the former capital of Bulgaria in the middle ages. The original city castle and walls are reconstructed. Be sure also to visit nearby Arbanassi.
  • There are also many monasteries around Sofia.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SOFIA (Bulgarian Sredetz, the middle town, a name now little used), the capital of Bulgaria, situated almost in the centre of an upland plain, about 1700 ft. above sea-level, between the Western Balkans on the N. and Mt Vitosh on the S. Pop. (1907) 82,187. Two small tributaries of the river Isker, the Perlovetz and the Eleshnitza or Boyana, flow respectively on the east and west sides of the town. Since 1880 the city has been almost entirely renovated in the " European " style; the narrow tortuous lanes and mean houses of the Turkish epoch have almost disappeared, and a new town with straight parallel streets has been constructed in the eastern suburb. The oldest building in Sofia is the little round chapel of St George in the Jewish quarter - originally, it is said, a Roman temple; then a church, then a mosque, and now a church once more. Of the principal mosques the large Buyuk Djamia, with nine metal cupolas, has become the National Museum; the Tcherna Djamia or Black Mosque, latterly used as a prison, has been transformed into a handsome church; the Banyabashi Djamia, with its picturesque minaret, is still used by Moslem worshippers. Close to the last-named in the centre of the town, are the public baths with hot springs (temperature 117° F). In the cathedral or church of Sveti Kral (the Saint King), a modern building, are preserved the remains of the Servian king Stefan Urosh II. A large new cathedral dedicated to St Alexander Nevski was in course of construction in 1907; the foundation stone was taken from the church of St Sophia. The palace of the prince, occupying the site of the Turkish konak was built by Prince Alexander in 1880-1882; it has been greatly enlarged by King Ferdinand. In front of the palace is the public garden or Alexander Park. The theatre, the largest in South-eastern Europe, was completed in 1906. Other important buildings are the Sobranye, or parliament house, the palace of the synod, the ministries of war and commerce, the university with the national printing press, the national library, the officers' club and several large military structures. A small -mausoleum contains the remains of Prince Alexander; there are monuments to the tsar Alexander II., to Russia, to the medical officers who fell in the war of 1877 and to the patriot Levsky. A public park has been laid out in the eastern suburbs. The city is well drained and possesses a good water supply; it is lighted by electricity and has an electric car system. It contains breweries, tanneries, sugar, tobacco, cloth, and silk factories, and exports skins, cloth, cocoons, cereals, attar of roses, "dried fruit, &c. Sofia forms the centre of a railway system radiating to Constantinople (300 m.), Belgrade (206 m.) and central Europe, Varna, Rustchuk and the Danube, and Kiustendil near the Macedonian frontier. The climate is healthy; owing to the elevated situation it is somewhat cold, and is liable to sudden diurnal and seasonal changes; the temperature in January sometimes falls to 4° F. below zero and in August rises to loo°. The population, of which more than twothirds are Bulgarians, and about one-sixth Spanish Jews, was 20,501 in 1881, 30,428 in 1888, 46,593 in 1893 and 82,187 in 1907.


The colony of Serdica, founded here by the emperor Trajan, became a Roman provincial town of considerable importance in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., and was a favourite residence of Constantine the Great. Serdica was burnt by the Huns in A.D. 447; few traces remain of the Roman city, but more than one hundred types of its coins attest its importance. The town was taken by the Bulgarians under Krum in A.D. 809; the name Serdica was converted into Sredetz by the Slays, who associated it with sreda (middle), and the Slavonic form subsequently became the Byzantine Triaditza. The name Sofia, which came into use towards the end of the 14th century is derived from the early medieval church of St Sophia, the massive ruins of which stand on an eminence to the east of the town. The church, which was converted into a mosque by the Turks, was partly destroyed by earthquakes in 1818 and 1858. The town successfully resisted the attacks of the emperor Basil II. in 987; between 1018 and 1186, under Byzantine rule, it served as a frontier fortress. During this period a number of prisoners of the Petcheneg tribe were settled in the neighbourhood, in all probability the ancestors of the Shop tribe which now inhabits the surrounding districts. In 1382 Sofia was captured by the Turks; in 1443 it was for a brief time occupied by the Hungarians under John Hunyady. Under Turkish rule the city was for nearly four centuries the residence of the beylerbey or governor-general of the whole Balkan Peninsula except Bosnia and the Morea. During this period the population increased and became mainly Turkish; in 1553 the town possessed eleven large and one hundred small mosques. In the latter half of the 15th century Sofia, owing to its situation at the junction of several trade routes, became an important centre of Ragusan commerce. During the Turco-Russian campaign of 1829 it was the headquarters of Mustafa Pasha of Skodra, and was occupied by the Russians for a few days. On the 4th of January 1878 a Russian army again entered Sofia after the passage of the Balkans by Gourko; the bulk of the Turkish population had previously taken flight. Though less central than Philippopolis and less renowned in Bulgarian history than Trnovo, Sofia a s selected as the capital of the newly-created Bulgarian state in view of its strategical position, which commands the routes to Constantinople, Belgrade, Macedonia and the Danube. (J. D. B.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:


See also Sofía




Etymology 1

See Sophia

Proper noun




  1. A female given name, a less common spelling of Sophia.

Etymology 2

Bulgarian София (Sophie, Sophia), named after the Church of St. Sofia.

Proper noun




  1. The capital city of Bulgaria
Derived terms


Proper noun


  1. Sofia.
  2. A female given name,cognate to Sophia, variant of Sofie.


Proper noun


  1. Sofia.


Proper noun

Sofia (stem Sofi-*)

  1. Sofia.
  2. A female given name, cognate to Sophia.

Related terms


Proper noun


  1. Sofia.


Proper noun


  1. Sofia.
  2. A female given name, a less common spelling of Sophia.


Etymology 1

See Sophia


  • IPA: /soˈfia/

Proper noun

Sofia (f)

  1. A female given name, cognate to Sophia.

Etymology 2

Bulgarian София (Sophie, Sophia), named after the Church of St. Sofia.


  • IPA: /ˈsɔfja/

Proper noun

Sofia (f)

  1. Sofia.


  • Anagrams of afios
  • afosi


Proper noun


  1. Sofia.
  2. A female given name, cognate to Sophia, variant of Sofie.



Proper noun

Sofia f.

  1. Sofia (city)


Singular only
Nominative Sofia
Genitive Sofii
Dative Sofii
Accusative Sofię
Instrumental Sofią
Locative Sofii
Vocative Sofio

Derived terms

  • sofijczyk m., sofijka f.
  • adjective: sofijski


Proper noun


  1. Sofia.
  2. A female given name, cognate to Sophia.

Related terms

Simple English

File:BG Sofia
File:BG Sofia
Motto: Raste, no ne staree (Growing, but not growing old)
Position of Sofia in Bulgaria
Coordinates: 42°42′N 23°20′E / 42.7°N 23.333°E / 42.7; 23.333
Country Bulgaria
Province Sofia-City
 - Mayor Boyko Borisov
Population (2006-06-15)
 - City 1,346,791[needs proof]
 Metro 1,608,406[needs proof]
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)

Sofia is the capital and the largest city of Republic of Bulgaria. It has a population of 1,246,791 and is the 15th largest city of European Union.[1] Sofia is located on the west of Bulgaria.

Sofia is one of the oldest capital cities in Europe; the history of Sofia dates back to the 8th century BC.


  1. "Population table by permanent and present address as of 12 June 2006" (in Bulgarian). Head Direction of Residential Registration and Administrative Service. Retrieved 2006-06-15. 

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