Sofia - Bulgaria
Sofia, sometimes wrongly dismissed as a “Stag Weekend” city, is fast becoming known as one of Europe’s top destinations for a romantic weekend or cultural break. The Bulgarian capital has an atmosphere all of its own and can be enjoyed all year round.
Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria and is home to over 1.4 million people.
Sofia is among the oldest cities in Europe, with a history that can be traced back for over 7000 years, to when the Thracians established their city next to a key mineral spring, which is still a popular tourist destination today.
Bulgaria, and Sofia in particular, has gained a lot from its central position in the Balkans. Situated at the foot of Mount Vitosha in the Sofia Valley, a quick trip out of town leads to some stunning landscapes. The Sofia valley (surrounded on all sides by mountains) is the largest valley in Bulgaria, measuring over 1,186 km squared. The three mountain passes that lead to the city have been key passages since antiquity, connecting the Adriatic Sea with the Aegean and Black Seas.
The most prominent rivers that run through Sofia are the Vladaiska and the Perlovska. Sofia is well known for its numerous mineral and thermal springs, which are a big tourist draw and famed for their restorative properties.
Geographically, Sofia is located 130 km north west of Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second largest city and less than 200 km from the borders with three countries: 55 km from Kalotina on the Serbian border, 113 km from Gyueshevo on the Macedonian border and 183 km from the border with Greece.
The National Historical Museum. Founded in 1973, this contains more than 650,000 exhibits and is one of the largest history museums in the Balkans.
The Bulgarian Natural History Museum. Founded in 1889 and opened to visitors in 1907, the museum has three major sections: Geology, Zoology and Botany.
The Museum of Earth and Men. Founded in 1985, the museum is situated in a reconstructed historic building constructed at the end of the 19th century.
The National Archaeological Museum. Founded in 1892, this is the oldest museum in Bulgaria, and is home to over 55,000 monuments and 1.3 million coins.
Places of Interest
The Sts. Cyril and Methodius National Library (Bulgaria's oldest cultural institute) is popular with students, scholars and tourists alike.
Consisting of three buildings, the Boyana Church is a UNESCO world heritage site. The eastern church was built in the 10th century and expanded in the 13th century by Sebastocrator Kaloyan. The frescoes in the second church, painted in 1259, make it one of Europe’s key collections of medieval paintings. A third church, built at the beginning of the 19th century, completes the Boyana Church.
A number of Byzantine and Roman buildings have been maintained in and around Sofia.
The Church of St. Petka located in the centre of Sofia and provides a striking contrast to the three neighbouring Socialist Classicism buildings: the former Party House, TZUM, and Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan.