Bulgaria – Fly to Sofia


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From top left: Tsarigrad Road, National Assembly Square, Sofia University rectorate, National Palace of Culture detail, Mall of Sofia, Ivan Vazov National Theatre, Hagia Sophia Church, Eagles’ Bridge detail


Coat of arms
Motto: Расте, но не старее
(Grows but Does not Age)
Coordinates: 42°42′N 23°20′ECoordinates: 42°42′N 23°20′E
Country  Bulgaria
Province Sofia-Capital
Settled by Thracians as Serdica 7th century BC
 - Mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova
 - City 492 km2 (190 sq mi)
Elevation 550 m (1,804 ft)
Population (Census 2011 (City and Urban),[2]
Forecast 2011 (Metro)[3])
 - City 1 232 088
 - Density 944/km2 (2,444.9/sq mi)
 - Urban 1,291,591
 - Metro 1,370,000 (Metro area)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 1000
Area code(s) (+359) 02
Website www.Sofia.bg

Sofia (Bulgarian: София, Sofiyapronounced [ˈsɔfijɐ] ( listen)) is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria and the 12th largest city in the European Union with a population of 1.27 million people. It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of Mount Vitosha and is ranked as a Beta- world city.

Prehistoric settlements were excavated in the center of the present city, near the royal palace, as well as in outer districts such as Slatina and Obelya. 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. Its ancient name, Serdica, derives from the local Celtic tribe of the serdi who inhabited the region since the 1st century BC.

Many of the major universities, institutions, and businesses of Bulgaria are concentrated in Sofia. It is also a center of media, cultural events, modern theaters, it is a home of research institutes, sporting events, orchestras, and museums. IT industry sector is gradually growing in Sofia, together with the increasing number of events in contemporary arts, festivals, etc.


Sofia was first mentioned in the sources as Serdica in relation to Marcus Licinius Crassus’ campaigns in 59 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 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 SofiaВЪ САРДАКІИ. Another of Sofia’s names, Triaditsa (Τριάδιτζα), was mentioned in Greek medieval sources. The Bulgarian name Sredets (СРѢДЄЦЪ), which is related to среда sreda (middle), 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. During the Ottoman rule it was called Sofya by the Turkish conquerors of Bulgaria.

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 in the country with territory of 1,186 square kilometers (458 sq mi) and average altitude of 550 meters (1,800 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.

It is located 130 kilometers (81 mi) northwest of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, 340 kilometers (210 mi) west of Burgas and 380 kilometers (240 mi) west of Varna, Bulgaria’s major port-cities on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. The city is situated at less than 200 kilometers (120 mi) from the borders with three countries: 55 kilometers (34 mi) from Kalotina on the Serbian border, 113 kilometers (70 mi) from Gyueshevo on the frontier with the Republic of Macedonia and 183 kilometers (114 mi) from the Greek border at Kulata.


Sofia has a humid continental climate with high temperature amplitudes, and it’s one of the coldest cities in Bulgaria, with an annual temperature of 10.5 °C (50.9 °F). Winters are very cold, and summers are warm. The coldest month is January, when the temperature can drop down to −22 °C (−8 °F) in some places. The temperature can even reach 35 °C (95 °F), but Sofia generally remains cooler than other parts of Bulgaria, due to the high altitude of the valley in which it is situated. Thunderstorms often occur during the summer season. The city receives around 650 millimeters (26 in) annual precipitation with summer maximum and winter minimum.

Climate Data for Sofia, Bulgaria
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 17.9
Average high °C (°F) 2.2
Daily mean °C (°F) −2
Average low °C (°F) −4.9
Record low °C (°F) −31.2
Rainfall mm (inches) 42
% humidity 84 78 72 66 68 67 62 61 68 75 83 85 72.41
Avg. snowy days 9 10 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 10 44
Sunshine hours 62.15 81.92 118.65 166.67 206.22 248.6 285.32 268.37 194.25 135.6 79.1 48.02 1,894.87
Source no. 1: My Forecast[11]
Source no. 2: Meteo.BG[12]

History and Antiquity

Remains of the ancient fortress of Serdica

Sofia was originally a Thracian settlement called Serdica, or Sardica, possibly named after the Celtic tribe Serdi. 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 center 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.

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

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 center, 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 AD, 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 urban planning and architecture, with abundant amusements and an active social life.

The city was destroyed in the 447 invasion of the Huns. It was rebuilt by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and for a while called Triaditsa or Sredetsby the slavonic tribes. During the reign of Justinian it flourished, being surrounded with great fortress walls whose remnants can still be seen today.

Middle Ages

Sofia first became part of the First Bulgarian Empire during the reign of Khan Krum in 809, after a long siege. Afterward, it was known by the Bulgarian name “Sredets” and grew into an important fortress and administrative center. 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 center of trade and crafts. It is possible that it had 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.

Sofia in mid 19th century, when Bulgarians were at Ottoman Rule and the city was in the territories of the Ottoman empire

Ottoman Rule

After the campaign of Władysław III of Poland in 1443 towards Sofia, the city’s Christian elite was annihilated and the city 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.

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


The Parliament in 1942

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. For a few decades after the liberation the city experienced large population growth mainly from other regions of the country.

During World War II, Sofia was bombed by Allied aircraft – British and USA 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 rapidly due to migration from the country. Whole new residential areas were built in the outskirts of the city, like Druzhba, Mladost and Lyulin.


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. Each of them has its own district mayor 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

# Name Idle Popul. Type
1 Bankya 10.4 9,186 Town
2 Vitosha 3.5 42,953 Suburb
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 Suburb
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 Suburb
19 Poduene 4.5 85,996 Urban
20 Serdika 3.6 52,918 Urban
21 Slatina 4.1 65,772 Urban
22 Studentski 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
Source: NSI

Main Tourist Attractions

Sofia offers its visitors a variety of attractions – medieval churches, archeological sites, tombs, monuments, parks, and museums, to name a few. Among Sofia’s highlights is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It occupies an area of 3,170 square meters (34,100 sq ft) and can hold 10,000 people inside. The city is also known for the Boyana Church, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. The Sts. Cyril and Methodius National Library houses the largest national book collection and is Bulgaria’s oldest cultural institute.


  • Statue of St Sofia.

  • The Largo

  • SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library

  • Ivan Vazov National Theatre

  • National Palace of Culture

  • Lake Ariana

  • The royal palace at Battenberg Square houses the National Art Gallery

  • Central Military Club

  • TZUM department store

  • Sofia Public Mineral Baths



Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

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.

Music and Nightlife

Sofia at night

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 Elton John, Madonna, George Michael, Tiesto, Lenny Kravitz, Kiss, Kylie Minogue,Depeche Mode, Rammstein, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Judas Priest, Rihanna, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Marillion, Scorpions, Duran Duran, Simply Red, Enrique Iglesias, Roxette, Kelly Rowland, Sting and many more.

Other Places of Interest

The city houses many cultural institutes such as 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, British Council, Instituto Cervantes, and the Open Society Institute.

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.


Historical populations
Year Pop. ±%
1870 19,000
1880 20,501 +7.9%
1887 30,456 +48.6%
1892 46,628 +53.1%
1900 67,953 +45.7%
1905 82,621 +21.6%
1910 102,812 +24.4%
1920 154,025 +49.8%
1926 213,002 +38.3%
1934 287,095 +34.8%
1946 530,168 +84.7%
1956 725,838 +36.9%
1965 894,604 +23.3%
1975 1,066,299 +19.2%
1985 1,201,719 +12.7%
1992 1,190,126 −1.0%
2001 1,170,842 −1.6%
2011 1,291,591 +10.3%

The rapid expansion of the population after 2000 largely contributed to a construction boom, which lasted until 2009 and saw the creation of many new apartment buildings, such as this one in Borovo.

According to 2010 data, the whole Capital Municipality, with a population of 1,376,467 and had a population density of 926.5.

The ratio of women per 1,000 men was 1,102. The birth rate per 1000 people was 12.3 per mill and steadily increasing in the last 5 years, the death rate reaching 12.1 per mill and decreasing. The natural growth rate during 2009 was 0.2 per mill, the first positive growth rate in nearly 20 years. The considerable immigration to the capital from poorer regions of the country, as well as urbanisation, are among the other reasons for the increase in Sofia’s population. 4.8 people of every one thousand were wedded in 2009 (only heterosexual marriage is possible in Bulgaria) and the infant mortality rate was 5.6 per 1,000, 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, 6,000 as Turkish, 3,000 as Russian, 1,700 as Armenian, and 1,200 as Greek.

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 1 July 2007. 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.


Sofia is the economic heart of Bulgaria and home to most major Bulgarian and international companies operating in the country. After World War II and the era of industrialization under socialism, the city and its surrounding areas expanded rapidly and became the most heavily industrialized region of the country. The influx of workers from other parts of the country became so intense that a restriction policy was imposed, and residing in the capital was only possible after obtaining Sofiote citizenship.[22]

Today Sofia is the country’s financial hub, home to the Bulgarian National Bank, the Bulgarian Stock Exchange, as well as the headquarters of all commercial banks active in the country. Construction, trade and transport are other important sectors of the local economy. It produces nearly half of the country’s GDP, and the PPS GDP per capita of the city and its surrounding Yugozapaden NUTS II planning region is $25,130. Increasingly, Sofia is becoming an outsourcing destination for multinational companies, among them IBM, Hewlett-Packard, SAP, Siemens,Software AG. Bulgaria Air, the national airline of Bulgaria, has its head office on the grounds of Sofia Airport.

Up until 2007 Sofia experienced rapid economic growth. In 2008, apartment prices increased dramatically, with a growth rate of 30%. In 2009, prices fell by 26%.

Transportation and Infrastructure

Musagenitsa Metro Station

A vintage 1960s Czech Tatra T4D tram.

Road, Railroad, and Air Traffic Infrastructure

With its developing infrastructure and strategic location, Sofia is an important center 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, 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. 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,  handled some 2.7 million passengers in 2007.

Public Transport

Public transport is well-developed with bus, tram (153,6 km network) and trolleybus (97 km network) lines running in all areas of the city, although some vehicles are in a poor condition. The Sofia Metro became operational in 1998, and it now has one line and 14 stations. As of 2011, the system has 18 kilometers of track. Six new stations opened in 2009. Construction on the extension of the first line is ongoing; two new stations are expected to be completed in 2012. A second line with 11 stations is under construction with a targeted completion date in 2012. A third line is currently under consideration.  The master plan for the Sofia Metro includes three lines with a total of 47 stations. 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. There are some 6,000 licensed taxi cabs operating in the city and another 2,000 operating somewhat illegally.  Low fares in comparison with other European countries, make taxis affordable and popular among a big part of the city population.

City Traffic

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 some streets are in a poor condition. There are different boulevards and streets in the city with a higher volume of traffic than others. Such examples are boulevard Cherni Vrah, Boulevard Bulgaria, and Boulevard Todor Alexandrov, where long chains of cars are formed at peek hours. 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.

Heating Infrastructure

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. However, some buildings have their own power sources such as geothermal and wind power.


Late 19th century architecture in the Oborishte district.

Former headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party, an example of Stalinist architecture.

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 of the Saddlers located in the very center 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.

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.

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.Later, many foreign-educated Bulgarian architects also contributed.

Business Park Sofia.

The architecture of Sofia’s center 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 theNational 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. Capital Fort Business Center will be the first skyscraper in Bulgaria with its 126 m and 36 floors.


Students practicing with electronic devices at the Technical University of Sofia.

There are 16 universities in Sofia. The Saint Clement of Ohrid University of Sofia is often regarded as the most prestigious university of Bulgaria, founded in 1888 The University enrolls 14,000 students annually. Other important universities include the National Academy of Arts, theTechnical 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, the State University of Library Studies and Information Technologies and New Bulgarian University.

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.

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


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. The capital’s dominance in the sport is reflected in the fact that Sofia-based teams, including dissolved clubs like A.S. 23, 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 regular CEV Champions League participant VC CSKA Sofia), 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 anolympic sport.

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

One individual sport growing rapidly throughout Europe is Snooker. Sofia plays host to the EBSA European Snooker Championship for amateur Ladies, Masters & Men from 7 to 17 June 2011, the venue for the Championships is the Dedeman Princess Sofia Hotel.

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 newly built Armeets Arena, where many indoor events are held. It can hold from 12,410 to 19,000 spectators depending on its use. There are two ice skatingcomplexes — the Winter Palace of Sports (capacity 4,000) and the Slavia Winter Stadium (capacity 2,000), both containing two rinks each.

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


View of Borisova gradina.

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 theNational 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. 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).

Lake Pancharevo

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 SouthernWestern andNorthern and several other smaller parks, most notable of which are the City Garden and the Doctor Garden. The Vitosha Nature Park (the oldestnational park in the Balkans ), 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. 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.

The Pancharevo lake area is a popular destination due to its scenery, historical heritage (Urvich fortress and Pancharevo monastery), as well as Bulgaria’s largest rowing base – “Sredets”.

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 include24 chasaTrudKapital and others. Popular radio-stations with Sofia residents include Darik Radio, Jazz FM, Star FM, Magic FM, Radio Z-Rock, and many others, which also broadcast in Sofia and elsewhere.

Notable Residents

See also: Category:People from Sofia

Irina Bokova,UNESCO director-general

Matey Kaziyski, volleyball player

Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, last tsar of Bulgaria

Notable people born in Sofia:

  • Georgi Asparuhov (1943–1971), football player
  • Michael Bar-Zohar (b. 1938), historian, former Knesset member
  • Irina Bokova (b. 1952), politician, current director-general of UNESCO
  • Boris III (1894–1943), Tsar of Bulgaria
  • Laura Chukanov (b. 1986), model, Miss Utah USA 2009, Miss USA 2009 (3rd runner-up)
  • Cyril (1901–1971), Patriarch of Bulgaria
  • Albena Denkova (b. 1974), ice dancer, World Championship gold, silver, bronze
  • Nina Dobrev, (b. 1989), actress
  • Itzhak Fintzi (b. 1933), actor
  • Kristalina Georgieva (b. 1953), politician, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response in the second college of theBarroso Commission.
  • Maria Gigova (b. 1947), three times rhythmic gymnastics World champion
  • Assen Jordanoff (1896–1967), Bulgarian-American aviation pioneer
  • Matey Kaziyski (b. 1984), volleyball player
  • Plamen Konstantinov (b. 1973), volleyball player
  • Ivan Kostov (b. 1953), politician
  • Nikola Kotkov (1938–1971), football player
  • Ivet Lalova (b. 1983), athlete, fastest female white sprinter in the world
  • Lydia Lazarov (b. 1946), Israeli former yachting world champion
  • Borislav Mikhailov (b. 1963), football player and Bulgarian Soccer Union president, member of the executive committee of UEFA
  • Moni Moshonov (b. 1951), Israeli actor, comedian and theater director.
  • Stoyanka Mutafova (b. 1922), actress
  • Valeri Petrov (b. 1920), writer
  • Evgenia Radanova (b. 1977), ice skater
  • Anna-Maria Ravnopolska-Dean (b. 1960), harpist
  • Simeon II (b. 1937), former Tsar of Bulgaria and former Prime Minister of Bulgaria
  • Maxim Staviski (b. 1977), Russian-born Bulgarian, ice dancer, World Championship gold, silver, bronze[50]
  • Antoaneta Stefanova (b. 1979), chess player and Women’s World Chess Champion
  • Tzvetan Todorov (b. 1939), philosopher and writer
  • Alexis Weissenberg (b. 1929), pianist
  • Andrey Zhekov (b. 1980), volleyball player
  • Lyudmila Zhivkova (1942-1981), art historian and politician

Twin Towns — Sister Cities

Sofia is twinned with:

  • Algeria Algiers, Algeria
  • Turkey Ankara, Turkey (since 1992)
  • Germany Berlin, Germany
  • Slovakia Bratislava, Slovakia (since 2008)[citation needed]
  • Belgium Brussels, Belgium
  • Romania Bucharest, Romania
  • Hungary Budapest, Hungary
  • Turkey Bursa, Turkey (since 1998)
  • Finland Helsinki, Finland
  • Ukraine Kiev, Ukraine (since 1997)
  • United Kingdom London, United Kingdom
  • Spain Madrid, Spain
  • Italy Milan, Italy
  • France Paris, France (since 1998)
  • United States Pittsburgh, United States
  • Czech Republic Prague, Czech Republic
  • Russia Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • Turkey Maraş, Turkey
  • Israel Tel Aviv, Israel (since 1992)
  • Albania Tirana, Albania (since 2008)[51][52]
  • Armenia Yerevan, Armenia (since 2008)
  • Poland Warsaw, Poland
  • Oman Salalah, Oman,(since 4 August 2011)


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

Images of old Sofia


  • The former buildings of Agricultural Bank and the National Library in 1910. The latter being destroyed during theAllied air raids of 1943–1944.

  • The former building of theBulgarian National Bank in 1910.

  • The rectorate of Sofia Universityin 1935.

  • The Yablanski house.

  • St Nikola Sofiyski church in early 20th century.

  • The former “Targovska” street in 1914.

  • Ivan Vazov National Theatre in 1910.

  • The Banya Bashi mosque in 1900.

  • The Russian Church in 1916.

  • Ivan Vazov National Theatre in 1910.

  • The Central Military Club.

  • The Central Military Club.

  • Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard in 1916.

  • The old Central Railway Station(demolished in 1972).

  • St Nedelya Church in 1922, before the 1925 bombing


[edit]21st century Sofia


  • Moderna sgrada v Sofia.JPG
  • Mall of Sofia

  • City Center Sofia

  • Office buildings on Bulgaria blvd.

  • Euro building

  • Fibank

  • Georgi Rakovski Street

  • Office buildings on Bulgaria blvd.

  • Office buildings on Bulgaria blvd.

  • Borova Sofia 20090405 005.JPG
  • Building in Iztok - Sofia.jpg
  • Business Park Sofia

  • Business Park Sofia E4.jpg
  • Business Park Sofia

  • “Bellissimo” business center


Also See

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  • Bulgaria
  • Europe
  • List of malls in Sofia
  • List of tallest buildings in Sofia
  • List of villages in Sofia City
  • Tourist attractions in Sofia
  • Plovdiv