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Sofia - “Ever Growing, Never Ageing”

Sofia, Sofia region

The city

The Bulgarian capital Sofia (population: 1 182 698 inhabitants) is located in the Sofiisko pole, 550 m above the sea level and occupies a territory of 1, 311 sq. km. Sofia lies at the distance of 55 km. from the Serbian border at Kalotino checkpoint, at 113 km from the Gyushevo checkpoint with Macedonia, at 183 km. from the Greek border at Kaulata, at 315 km. from the Turkish border at Kapitan Andeevo and at 324km. from Rousse. In close proximity of the capital lie the Pancharevo lake and the Iskar dam. The Iskar river flows by east of Sofia.
The capital Sofia is linked by international routes with the capitals of Europe, and via Istanbul and Ankara, with the Middle East.

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Landmarks in Sofia

Several buildings and places vie for Sofia’s emblem. The most frequent image is the impressive edifice of the Cathedral and Memorial church of "St.Alexandar Nevski". The temple is the central patriarch’s cathedral of the autonomous Bulgarian Orthodox Church. A remarkable sight is also the place surrounding the cathedral, where a Monument of the unknown soldier with eternal burning flame is located. Part of the same square is occupied by the church of St.Sofia, dating from the 4 th – 6 th century AD. In the early 19 th century it was briefly transformed into a mosque and flanked by a minaret, but soon after the Liberation it was again sanctified as an orthodox church. Behind the Monumental Cathedral rises the building of the “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, which houses the National Gallery of Foreign Arts. It contains unique exhibits of art from Africa, Asia and Europe, Spanish baroque paintings and tableaux by the modern painter Nikolai Roerich.

Another landmark in the capital is the “Ivan Vazov” National Theatre. The theatre was founded in 1904, and its building was completed in 1907. The edifice of the National Assembly was built in 1884. and it is the third rightful candidate for the city’s emblem. A motto inscribed on its main façade reads “Union makes strength”. To the west of the Parliament building is the Bulgarian Academy of Science created in 1869, and to the east across a small garden rises the St.Kliment Ohridski university, founded in 1888, and built in 1920 with personal donations by the brothers Evlogy and Hristo Georgievi. You also can visit the National Art Gallery which contains a collection of over 12 000 works of art, the oldest of which dating to the 18 th century. The National Ethnographic museum exhibits a wealth of collections of national costumes, hand – made works of art from Bulgarian people’s daily life, tools of labour dating from three of four centuries ago, jewelry, tissues, embroideries and other objects of typical national folk art. In the inner courtyard of the Presidency and hotel “Sheraton” rises the famous Roman Rotunda transformed into the church of St.George, dating to the 4 th century AD. Recently restored, it is stunning for its simple and exquisite architecture. The Russian Monument is an obelisk rising west of the city center. It bears a written dedication of the Russian Tsar and the Russian warriors who fell in the war for Bulgaria’s liberation.
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The Russian Monument is an obelisk rising west of the city center. It bears a written dedication of the Russian Tsar and the Russian warriors who fell in the war for Bulgaria’s liberation.
The Monument to the Saint Brothers Cyril and Methodius who devised the Bulgarian alphabet rises in front of the National Library, north of the Sofia University building. Beyond the “Dundukov” Blvd. is located the National Opera - a building which also houses the National Ballet. The Opera house building is in neo – classical style, and in front of it rises a monument to Alexandar Stamboliiski, one time prime – minister of Bulgaria.
The Russian Church "St Nikolai" was built in 1912-1914. The interior of the church contains wonderful majolica ornaments, Russian-style icons among which stands out the icon of St.Nikolai the Wonderworker from the Kiev-Pechora Laura.
Another remarkable mixture of cultures is the square in front of the Central Halls covered market (1911), where are the Banya Bashi Mosque (1576), the public baths (1913), the Roman ruins with the corner tower of the fortress of Serdica, the Jewish synagogue(1909) and the almost underground church "St Petka Samardjiiska".

Social life in Sofia

There are numerous theatres, art galleries, monuments, business and trade centers, parks, restaurants offering food from all over the world, nightclubs and casinos that enhance the city's diversity and meet the expectations of every kind of visitors of Sofia.

Sofia's parks

The main park in Sofia is the Vitosha park, which covers a large part of the mountain. The central park of Sofia is the Borissova gradina (The Garden of Boris). At the very beginning of the park is the Ariana lake, where water wheels are available from spring to late autumn. Further inside the park are numerous tennis courts, a cycle–racing track, the “Bulgarian Army” soccer stadium and the “Vasil Levski” National stadium. The Municipal City Garden is situated in the capital’s ideal center opposite to the Sofia Municipal Gallery. In front of the National Theatre there are fountains with a sculpture of a female dancer. Yuzhen park (the Southern park) is the second largest park after the Borissova garden. It extends from the “Ivan Vazov” quarter to the “Hladilnika” quarter. Numerous children’s playgrounds are included in its territory. The “Spartak” swimming and sports center is an attractive place for open–air celebrations organized by the Sofia Municipality. Zapaden park (the Western park) is close to the “Zaharna Fabrica” quarter and the beginning of the “Lyulin” residential area. Several catering and sport establishments are available in it and there is enough space for walks and games.

Surrounding Areas of Sofia

Most conspicuous to the visitors of Sofia are the mountains, which encircle the Sofia plain - the Vitosha, the Lyulin and the Plana mountains. The Lyulin mountain is situated south – west of the capital, 3 km. from the ring road. Now virtually a part of the city, it is a good place for outgoings, picnics and walks. Bosnovy poliani (Bons glades) are the most frequented place in the mountain. The Plana mountain also offers interesting sights for tourists. It is situated at about 10 km to south of the capital and can be reached by municipal bus transport or by car along the road to Samokov. Most frequently visited is the Kokalyane monastery, built in the 10 th century by tsar Samuil. Beautiful frescoes and murals decorate the church built after Russian patterns. The Pancharevo lake is about 15 km. from the capital and is situated next to the Pancharevo village. When it is full the lake is about 5 km long and 1 km wide. It is suitable for recreation, sunbathing, fishing, water sports and swimming. Rowing and water-ski competitions are frequently organized here. The Iskar dam is another large artificial water reservoir near Sofia. It lies 25 km south of the city. Within the Vitosha's limits the most interesting landmarks are the Boyana church and the Dragalevski Monastery. They were built in the 13th and the 14th century respectively and are considered the forerunners of the European Renaissance. The Vranya Residence and its small lake are situated along the very ring road. The place used to be a residence of the late tsar Boris III. Today the place is used only in the summer. Bankya is 22 km. from the capital. The town is a balneological center for cardiovascular and pulmonary ailments. It can be reached by bus or by a regular railway line. Wonderful place for picnic and tourist outgoings surrounds it.
The Kremikovski Monastery is located 30 km north of Sofia. The Kourilo Monastery stand at the mouth of the Iskar Gorge near the Kourilo village, 18 km from the capital. It can be reached by the road to Mezdra or by passenger train on the line connecting Sofia with Northern Bulgaria. The church was built and painted in the 15th century.

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Other places of interest in/near Sofia

Monastery, Sofia region

The Rila monastery was founded by John of Rila in the 10th century, as a colony for hermits. Later it became one of early mediaeval culture. It declined during the 11th century, but with the foundation of the Second Bulgarian State great care was ...
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Natural phenomenon, Sofia region

Located about 15km south of Sofia on the way to Borovets resort in Rila mountain. Pancharevo Lake is perfect place for outgoings. The lake is 5km long and it is suitable for different water sports: rowing, surfing, water skiing. Paddle boats can be hired. Around the lake there are hiking trails, several grassy park areas with cafes ...
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Church, Sofia region

St. Alexander Nevski” cathedral is one of the most significant monuments of culture in Sofia. It was built between 1882 and 1912, in honour of the Russian king Alexander II, called “Tsar Osvoboditel” (“The King Liberator”), because his army helped liberate Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878. The cathedral bears his name. The magnificent ...
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Church, Sofia region

If St.George is the oldest church then St.Sofia is the oldest Eastern Orthodox church in Sofia with a long and fascinating history. It is a recently restored Byzantine church. It was built on the site of several earlier churches and places of worship dating back to the days when it was the necropolis of the Roman town Serdica (named ...
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Gallery, Sofia region

The National Gallery for Foreign Art opened doors on 5 November 1985 as an art gallery of the present St. St. Cyril and Methodius International Foundation. It came into life after a decade of collecting and organizational activities. To the works that would comprise the Main body of the future gallery there was also added the foreign ...
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Monument, Sofia region

The building where the 39th National Assembly sits is of historic significance and it is a monument of culture. It was built in 1884-1886 by the design of architect Constantin Yovanovic, who studied in Vienna and Switzerland and authored the design of the Serbian Assembly (1891-1892) as well. The style of the building is neo-Renaissance. ...
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Gallery, Sofia region

The idea of collecting works and creating an art gallery of the capital occupied the keen councillors at the Municipality even before World War I. Their desire was to collect in one place works by our well-known masters connected mainly with the life, history and beautiful sights of our principal city. That was a period when the ...
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Museum, Sofia region

The National ethnographic museum was found in 1892 as a part of the National museum. In 1906 the museum became independent museum with a collection from the Bulgarian traditional crafts, suits, woven, decorations, musician instruments.
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Church, Sofia region

The rotunda is under the protection of UNESCO. It is located behind the Presidency. It was built when Sofia was under the name of Serdica. It was then destroyed by the Huns, rebuilt and turned into a mosque by the Ottomans. Restoration work has revealed three layers of medieval frescoes, which had been hidden by plaster since the ...
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Church, Sofia region

The Russian church “St. Nikolai” was built in 1913 in the style of the churches in Moscow from the 17c. Its project belongs to the Russian architect M. Preobravenski. The temple was decorated under the guidance of A. Smirnov, who took part in the building of the monumental temple St.Alexander Nevski. The murals are also in the traditional ...
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Gallery, Sofia region

A walk through the park away from Boulevard Tsar Osvoboditel will take you to the impossible-to-miss red and white Ivan Vazov National Theater, where the National Theater Company performs Bulgarian as well as international plays. The theater was built in 1906-07 in Baroque style and is brimmed with Greek mythological figures. The ...
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Church, Sofia region

The “St. Nedelya” Church is in the Sofia’s ideal center on the “St. Nedelya” square, dividing the main city traffic artery of two streets: the “Vitosha blvd. and the “Knyaginya Maria Louisa” blvd. It was established in Medieval times onto relics of the ancient Roman town of Serdica. Later in the period 1856 – 1863 with a permit from ...
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Church, Sofia region

The “St. Petka Samardjiiska” (St. Petka of the Saddlers) is one of the few mediaeval churches to have survived in Sofia. It is situated in the subway before the Central Department Store, in the geometrical center of the town plan of the old settlement Serdika and the nowadays capital. It was built on the foundations of an old Roman ...
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Monument, Sofia region

The earliest information from 1515 connects the Kafene bashi (nowadays “Slaveikov” square) with the torment of St. George from Kratovo. There is a legend according to which in the celebrate day in his memory there was a blood at the Kafene bashi square.
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Mountain, Sofia region

The territory of Vitosha nature park has been changed many times and today is 26 606 hectares, which is over 90% of the total mountain. There are two reserves within the park’s territory – Bistrishko branishte and Torfeno branishte. They have been established to preserve in their original state the coniferous forests, the alpine ...
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Church, Sofia region

It is one of the most important and valuable antiquities of exceptional historical and artistic significance. It is situated at the foot of the mountain of Vitosha.
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