Sofia (bulgarian word is : София) Surrounded by sprawling parkland, Sofia, the capital and largest city of the Republic of Bulgaria, lies at the foot of popular ski mountain, Vitosha.
With a history that stretches over seven millennia, ruin-rich Sofia is one of Europe’s oldest cities. The National Historical Museum is one of Eastern Europe’s most extensive. Wide, cobblestone boulevards, charming boutiques and truly electrifying nightlife star in this city of 1.3 million. Trolleys, trams and buses traverse the dynamic city.
The city is located at a strategic crossroads. The route from Western Europe to Istanbul passes through Sofia via Beograd and Skopje, then through Plovdiv to Turkey. Sofia also connects The Near East and The Middle East, lying between the banks of The Danube and the shores of The White Sea on the one hand, and between The Black Sea and The Adriatic on the other.
Sofia has been settled for many millennia. In honor of its hot springs, in the 8th century BCE the Thracian tribes settled here gave the city its first name – Serdika or Serdonpolis.In the 1st century BCE, Serdika was captured by the Romans, who transformed it into a Roman city. During the reign of Emperor Marcus Ulpius Trajan (reign 98-117 CE), the city took his name, Ulpia Serdika, and became the administrative center of the region. Serdika was the favorite city of Constantine the Great (reign 306-337), who said “Serdika is my Rome.” In roughly 175, massive fortified walls, with four watchtowers were built to protect the city , and a second outer fortified wall was added during the 5th-6th centuries. The city’s flourished for a second time under Justinian the Great (reign 527-565). At the beginning of the 9th century, the Bulgarian Han Krum (reign 803-814) invaded Serdika. The city became an inseparable part of The First Bulgarian Empire (7th-9th centuries) under Han Omurtag (reign 814-831). At this time the city was renamed Sredets (The Center), because of its central strategic location. From 1018-1094, Sredets was under Byzantine rule, but still remained an important strategic, economic, and cultural center. During the time of The Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1393), Sredets took on the appearance of a large Medieval city…
1- Departure from the Radisson Hotel in the city center. Observe in front the building of the National Assembly.
2- Pass in front of the imposing building of St Kliment Ohridsky University and next to it, the National Library.
3- Discover and visit the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It was built in a neo-Byzantine style between 1882 and 1912 in tribute to the 200,000 Russian soldiers who died for the independence of Bulgaria, during the Russo-Turkish war in 1877-1878.
Facing the cathedral, there is a restaurant: “The cathedral”. You eat very well for a reasonable price (on average 15 leva, or € 7. We rarely have more than 20 leva, having fun). We order without hesitation a shopzka salad, traditional in the country.
4- Go around the cathedral and enter the St. Sophia basilica before heading to the National Opera.
5- Join the Russian Sveti-Nikolai Church, built at the beginning of the 20th century, passing through the icon market. Enter to visit. It is one of the most photographed monuments.
6- Continue to the National Theater and enjoy the atmosphere with the fountain and the traveling ice cream vendors.
7- Pass the Presidency and wait Xh55 to see the changing of the guard. In the meantime, watch the yellow cobblestones of Tsar Snoboditel Boulevard. Enter then under the arch of the building of the presidency to discover the rotunda Sveti-Georgi which dates from the IVth century and which is perfectly preserved in spite of the damages caused by the invaders. Roman ruins surround the building.
8- Walk along the arcades of the old Serdika complex which housed the old state-owned shops in Soviet times. Today, it is a commercial center (empty of customers) in which it is necessary to enter as it is splendid. Go to the bathroom to discover the wealth of the place, and also a superb view of the baths.
9- When you leave, you can enter the mosque dating from the 16th century, and not far from there, the synagogue and the Catholic cathedral.
10- Then go towards Vitosha Boulevard. Pass the Sofia Hotel Balkan, former Soviet grand hotel and in front of the court of justice. Finish the tour with a little shopping on Vitosha boulevard, and a glass of limonata on the terrace!