What to See in Sofia (Bulgaria)
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria. The city is located in the Sophia basin and is surrounded on all sides by mountains: in the north, these are the spurs of the Stara Planina, in the southeast – the low Lozensky mountains, Mount Vitosha rises from the south, from the southwest – the gentle Lozensky mountains. Not far from the capital are Pancharevskoye Lake and the Iskar reservoir. At the very outskirts of Sofia, the river Iskar flows, and through the city there are several small rivers, the most famous of which are Vladaiska and Perlovska.
According to ITYPEJOB, Sofia is one of the youngest capitals in Europe. It became the main city of the country only in 1879. However, archaeological excavations have shown that two thousand years ago, on the site of modern Sofia there was a Thracian settlement, and seven thousand years ago Neolithic people lived here. It is believed that the reason for the settlement of these places in ancient times were hot mineral springs, which abound in the Sofia basin. There are especially many of them in the current center – near the old bathhouse with mineral water and the Presidency building, in the quarters of Lozenets, Gorna-Banya and Knyazhevo. The water temperature of the springs varies from 21 to 42 degrees, it contains many salts with healing properties.
In 29 AD the city, then called Serdica, was conquered by the Romans and during the reign of Emperor Trajan became the center of the administrative region. Towers, fortress walls, baths, administrative and religious buildings, a civil basilica and a bouleuterion (large amphitheater) were built. By the 3rd century Serdica grew considerably, so that Emperor Constantine the Great called it “my Rome”. The city was small in scale, but magnificent in its urban planning and architecture, it was distinguished by a wealth of entertainment and a vibrant life. Until the beginning of the ninth century it was part of the Eastern Roman Empire. After the creation of Danube Bulgaria in 681, many Bulgarian rulers showed interest in Serdika. In 809, Kan Krum managed to include it within Bulgaria.. The city began to be called Sredets. Having been after that in the hands of Byzantium, he was again included in its borders under a new name – Sophia. Sofia developed rapidly and became a center of crafts and trade. New buildings and many churches were erected. During the period of Ottoman domination, Sofia acquired even greater economic and political importance.
In 1877, the Russian-Turkish war was declared, which became a liberation war for Bulgaria. The first battles were fought far from Sofia. The Turkish pasha gave the order to burn the city when Russian troops approached it. Having crossed the mountain range of the Balkans in incredibly difficult winter conditions, the Russian army in the battles near the villages of Gorni-Bogorov and Sarantsy defeated the Turkish army twice the number and on January 4, 1878 entered Sofia. The population greeted the liberators with rejoicing. Thus, Sofia, after almost five centuries of yoke, again became free. And although it lost its former brilliance and fell into complete decline economically, in 1879 the Constituent People’s Assembly in Veliko Tarnovo declared it the capital of independent Bulgaria.
A convenient starting point for a tour of Sofia is the Banya-Bashi Mosque. The pointed minaret of the mosque and its huge dome are visible from afar. The mosque, built in 1576, got its name from the name of the Turkish baths. The mosque, where Muslims pray today, is one of the few surviving monuments of the Ottoman era. Access to it, especially during the prayers of believers, is strictly prohibited. Not far from the mosque is the Central Synagogue, built in pseudo-Moorish style in 1910 by the Viennese architect Friedrich Grünanger. This synagogue is one of the largest in the Balkans.
The hallmark of Sofia is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It was built as a token of gratitude of the Bulgarian people to two hundred thousand Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War. The cathedral was founded in 1882, and its construction lasted from 1904 to 1912. This majestic building is a five-nave basilica with elements of Byzantine and Oriental styles. The square surrounding the temple is also beautiful, where the tomb of the Unknown Soldier with eternal fire and the open-air bazaar are located. Adjacent to the square is the Church of Hagia Sophia , which gave the city its name. The building, which is a cruciform basilica with three altars, was built during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, between 527 and 565. A lock of hair of the Apostle of Freedom Vasyl Levski is kept in the church. There is a grave behind the church .Patriarch of Bulgarian literature Ivan Vazov, and in front of the church at the beginning of the square there is a monument to the poet.
The second symbol of the capital is the Ivan Vazov National Theatre. The theater was founded in 1904, and the construction of the building was completed in 1907. The building in the style of German classicism contains elements of the Secession style that was fashionable in those years. The interior was renovated twice: after the fire of the theater in 1923 and in 1970-1976. The auditorium with two tiers has 850 seats.
The building of the People’s Assembly is the third contender for the right to be considered a symbol of the city. On its pediment is the motto: “Connection is a guarantee of strength”, which forms the key element of the national coat of arms of the Republic of Bulgaria. Opposite the assembly building a monument to the Russian Tsar Alexander II, erected in 1905. To the west of the parliament building is the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and not far from the academy is St. Kliment Ohridsky Sofia University. This is the oldest institution of higher education in Bulgaria, established in 1888. The university building itself was built in 1925 at the expense of the brothers Evlogi and Hristo Georgiev, whose statues are installed on the sides of the main entrance. Not far from the university is the Mausoleum of Prince Batenberg.
In the very center of the city, in the courtyard of the Sheraton Hotel, there is an old and well-preserved historical monument – the rotunda of Sveti Georgi. This rotunda is only part of a large archaeological complex. It is assumed that the building was built in the II-III centuries. AD and its original purpose is a mausoleum or religious building. Over the centuries, this building was destroyed more than once and now it exists in the form in which it was in the 5th century, when it was used as a temple. The interior murals date back to different centuries: the restorers have cleared numerous layers of paint one on top of the other. The oldest frescoes date back to the 10th century.
Sofia is known for its museums, including the National Art Gallery (Bulgarian, Western European and Russian Art), the National Archaeological Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the Museum of the History of Sofia, Central Museum of the city, houses-museums of D. Blagoev, I. Vazov, V. Kolarov, A. Stamboliisky, N. Vaptsarov.
The busiest thoroughfare in the capital is Vitosha Boulevard. This is the largest shopping street, most of which has been turned into a pedestrian zone. There are countless shops, banks, cafes and bars here.
After exploring the sights of Sofia, you can climb Mount Cherni Vrah (2290 m), which is the highest point of the Vitosha mountain range . Cherni Vrah is located 20 km north of Sofia. In summer, the mountain is popular as a place for picnics and walks, and in winter it is a ski resort. The height of the trails here is from 1500 to 2280 m, the total length of the marked trails is 29 km, the longest trail is 5 km.
Interesting objects in the foothills of Vitosha are the Boyana Church, the construction of which was carried out in three stages (in the 11th, 13th and 19th centuries), and the Dragalev Monastery. These two objects are called the harbingers of the Renaissance in Europe. Of particular value are the paintings of 1259, preserved on the walls of the Boyana Church. The church is included in the List of cultural heritage monuments under the protection of UNESCO.
The low Lyulin Mountains are located three kilometers from the ring road, in the southwest of Sofia and are actually part of the city. This is a great place for outdoor recreation. The most visited area here is Bonsovite meadows, overgrown with trees and deciduous shrubs, among which there are picturesque glades. At the foot of Lyulin is one of the summer cottages in Sofia – Bankya resort. This is a balneological center for the treatment of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. There are many wonderful places for walks and excursions in Bankya. The town has several galleries, many restaurants and cafes, small clubs and even a hippodrome.
The Plana Mountains are located 10 km south of the capital and also offer excellent places for outdoor recreation. You can get there by regular city bus or by car on the road leading to Samokov.
The most visited cultural site in the vicinity of Sofia is the Kokalyan Monastery. The temple with wonderful frescoes and icons was created on the model of Russian temples. Nearby, south of the monastery, there is a small beautiful waterfall. Another attractive place is the glade with the Asparukh cana oak, the tree is named so because of its advanced age – this oak is at least 14 centuries old. He witnessed the birth of the state of Bulgaria.
Lake Pancharevo is located 12 km from the capital near the village of the same name Pancharevo. It is 5 km long and about 1 km wide. On the lake you can swim, sunbathe, go fishing, rowing, surfing.
Iskar reservoir – the second large body of water, which is located 25 km from the capital. Nearby is the tourist complex Shtyrkelovo nest.
30 km from Sofia, on the southern slopes of the foothills of Stara Planina, is the Kremikovskiy Monastery. Of great value are his wall paintings, which demonstrate a new look at icon painting in that distant era. The church of the monastery is miniature, it is well preserved. Tourists rarely come here.
In the area of the Iskar Gorge, 18 km from Sofia, there is another remarkable monastery – the Kurilovsky Monastery. The church was built and painted in the 11th century. The Monastery of the Seven Thrones is located in the gorge itself.. Monastery icons and wall paintings were created in several stages.