Sofia has a history that goes back thousands of years. Through the centuries, many different tribes and people have inhabited it, contributing to its rich and diverse history. Numerous Neolithic villages have been discovered in the area, actually recently an pre-historical settlement has been recently discovered in the very centre of modern Sofia. The Thracian Serdi tribe settled here in the 7th century BC and gave the first recorded name of Sofia - Serdica. The Byzantines called it Triaditsa and the Slavs - Sredets. The modern city of Sofia was named in the 14th century after the basilica St. Sofia. In Greek, word sofia means wisdom. In the 3rd century AD, the town was a very important transport centre within the powerful Roman Empire. The Romans built strong walls around Serdica, their capital of Inner Dacia and an important stopping point on the major trade route from Naisus (present Nish, Yugoslavia) to Constantinople.
Today many streets, buildings, parks, and even whole neighbourhoods preserve the architectural style from the turn of the century. Between 1879 and 1939, the population of Sofia grew from 20 000 to 300 000, while today 1 350 000 people live in Sofia. Since ancient times the city itself was famous for the abundance of cold and thermal mineral water springs, as well as its surroundings. The water is still available today and is praised for its numerous qualities. Springs may be found in the city centre, as well as in the neighbourhoods: Kniazevo, Gorna Bania, Bankia, Ovcha Kupel and Ivaniane.
Sofia is an excellent destination for cultural and conference tourism, as well as for shopping. Three big malls were opened in less than two years, there you can spend hours and hours in the worldwide famous boutique shops, with the best brands on the market or just get some quality food in one of the many restaurants and bars. There are also a lot of entertainment facilities (movie theatres), beauty shops and saloons. Many other retail areas are situated in the very centre of the city and are worth to be visited as well.
The Vitosha mountain is just minutes away, since the cityâ€™s outskirts and most expensive areas are literally hidden in its forests. In the wintertime Vitosha offers excellent ski and accommodation conditions and facilities. New ski and half-pipe tracks (you can do night snowboarding, since there is a modern state-of-the-art light installation) were recently finished, there are also three lifts operational all year round. The ski season starts really early since the city and the mountain itself are at pretty significant altitude â€“ at the end of October, or the beginning of November you can already enjoy the ski tracks. The season is really long- sometimes people go skiing until the middle of April, the beginning of May. The mountain is really attractive for weekend escapees. It is perfect for mountain-biking, hiking, fishing, rowing, etc.
The city is growing fast, there are a lot of foreign business investments, and already 3 business districts have been formed. This is where major local and international corporations have established their branches.
The night and cultural life (theatre, opera, etc.) are just amazing. You can go out any day of the week and spend quality time with your family and friends. There is a lot for everyone.
Things to do
There are lots of things to do and see in Sofia here is just a few:
- The National History Museum in Sofia was established in 1973. It was moved a few years ago from its previous buildings in the city centre and is now located in the outskirts of Vitosha Mountain, on 16 Vitoshko Lale Street. Its collection includes more than 650,000 exhibits, which makes it one of the largest natural history museums in the Balkans.
-The old Royal Palace which is located on 1 Alexander Battenberg Square houses two museums worth visiting â€“ the National Gallery and the National Ethnographic Museum. In spring 2005, after many years of renovation, the National Art Gallery finally presented its permanent exhibition.
-'Earth and Men' Museum - this museum is situated right behind the Palace of Culture and is within walking distance from the other main attractions and shopping streets. 'Earth and Men' is a wonderful place for those interested in gems and minerals.
-The vaulted crypt in the basement of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral houses one of the biggest collections of religious art. This museum is a branch of the National Gallery and displays some iconic masterpieces. The oldest of the exhibits dates back to the 9th.
-Sofia Zoo - The zoo was founded in 1888, which makes it the first in the Balkan Peninsula and one of the oldest in Europe. The idea to collect exotic animal species belonged to Tsar Ferdinand, an eager naturalist.
-Sofia Land Amusement Park -Sofia Land is a newly acquired attraction in Sofia, situated in close proximity to the Sofia Zoo and the Boris Gardens.
-Marketplaces Bulgarians prefer to buy their fruit and vegetables at the open markets. You can find many of those around the city, offering their colourful, fresh produce together with plenty of noise and bustle.