Sofia (/ˈsoʊfiə, ˈsɒf-, soʊˈfiːə/ SOH-fee-ə, SOF-,
soh-FEE-ə; Bulgarian: Со́фия, tr. Sofiya,
pronounced [ˈsɔfijə] ( listen)) is the capital and
largest city of Bulgaria. 1.3 million people live in the city and 1.7
million people live in its metropolitan area. The city is at the
Vitosha Mountain in the western part of the country. Being in
the centre of the Balkan peninsula, it is midway between the Black Sea
and the Adriatic Sea, and closest to the Aegean Sea.
Sofia has been an area of human habitation since at least 7000 BC.
Being Bulgaria's primate city,
Sofia is a hometown of many of the
major local universities, cultural institutions and commercial
Sofia is one of the top 10 best places for start-up
business in the world, especially in information technologies.
Sofia was Europe's most affordable capital to visit in 2013.
3.1 Prehistory and antiquity
3.2 Middle Ages
3.3 Early modern history
3.4 Modern and contemporary history
4.1 Green areas
5 Government and law
6.1 Arts and entertainment
10 Transport and infrastructure
12 International relations
12.1 Twin and sister cities
12.2 Cooperation agreements
15 See also
17 Further reading
18 External links
The first seal of the city from 1878 which calls it Sredets
For the longest time the city possessed a Thracian name, derived
from the tribe Serdi, who were either of Thracian, Celtic,
or mixed Thracian-Celtic origin. The
Serdi and the name of
emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus (53 – 117 AD) prompted the Romans to
give the city the combinative name of Ulpia Serdica; Ulpia is
derived from an Umbrian cognate of the
Latin word lupus, meaning
"wolf." It seems that the first written mention of Serdica was
made during his reign and the last mention was in the 19th century in
a Bulgarian text (Сардакіи, Sardaki). During the Romans
civitas Serdenisium was mentioned the "brightest city of the Serdi" in
official inscriptions. The city was major throughout the past ever
since Antiquity, when Roman emperor Constantine the
Great referred to it as "my Rome", and it nearly became his
Other names given to Sofia, such as Serdonpolis (Σερδών
City of the Serdi" in Greek) and Triaditza
(Τριάδιτζα, "Trinity" in Greek), were mentioned by Byzantine
Greek sources or coins. The Slavic name
which is related to "middle" (среда, "sreda") and to the city's
earliest name, first appeared on paper in an 11th-century text. The
city was called Atralissa by the Arab traveller Idrisi and Strelisa,
Stralitsa or Stralitsion by the Crusaders.
Sofia comes from the Saint
Sofia Church, as opposed to
the prevailing Slavic etymology among Bulgarian cities and towns. It
is ultimately derived from the Egyptian Kemetic word sbÅ
(𓋴𓃀𓄿𓇼𓇳), meaning "star, door, teaching and wisdom" and
attested first in the 20th century BC in the tomb of Intef I.
 This was a tradition of collection of wise literature,
shared between Mediterranean cultures, which was called sophia
(σοφία) in Greek. The earliest works where this latest name
is registered are the duplicate of the Gospel of Serdica, in a
dialogue between two salesmen from
Dubrovnik around 1359, in the
Vitosha Charter of Bulgarian tsar Ivan Shishman and in a
Ragusan merchant's notes of 1376. In these documents the city is
called Sofia, but at the same time the region and the city's
inhabitants are still called Sredecheski (срѣдечьскои, "of
Sredets"), which continued until the 20th century. The city became
somehow popular to the Ottomans by the name Sofya (صوفيه). In
1879 there was a dispute about what the name of the new Bulgarian
capital should be, when the citizens created a committee of famous
people, insisting for the Slavic name. Gradually, a compromise arose,
Sofia for the nationwide institutions, while
legitimating the title
Sredets for the administrative and church
institutions, before the latter was abandoned through the years.
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'. The female given name "Sofia" is pronounced by
Bulgarians with a
stress on the 'i'.
The skyline of Sofia, Bulgaria, with the
Vitosha mountain in the
background during winter
City Province has an area of 1344 km2. 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 the
Balkan mountains to the north. The valley has an
average altitude of 550 metres (1,800 ft). Unlike most European
Sofia does not have any large rivers or bridges, but is
surrounded by comparatively high mountains on all sides. Three
mountain passes lead to the city, which have been key roads since
Vitosha being the watershed between Black and Aegean Seas.
A number of low rivers cross the city, including the Vladayska and the
Perlovska. The Iskar River in its upper course flows near eastern
Sofia. The city is known for its 49 mineral and thermal springs.
Artificial and dam lakes were built in the twentieth century. While
the 1818 and 1858 earthquakes were intense and destructive, the 2012
Pernik earthquake occurred west of
Sofia with a moment magnitude of
5.6 and a much lower Mercalli intensity of VI (Strong). The 2014
Aegean Sea earthquake was also noticed in the city.
Air pollution is a problem in
Sofia due to its location in the Sofia
valley, which is surrounded by mountains that reduce the ability of
the air to self-clean. The air is polluted mostly by particulate
matters and nitrogen oxides.
Sofia has the most polluted air of
any capital in the EU.
Sofia has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification
Dfb) with an average annual temperature of 10.6 °C
Winters are relatively cold and snowy. In the coldest days
temperatures can drop below −15 °C (5 °F), most notably
in January. The lowest recorded temperature is −28.3 °C
(−19 °F) (24 January 1942). Fog is not unusual, especially
in the beginning of the season. On average,
Sofia receives a total
snowfall of 98 cm (38.6 in) and 58 days with snow
cover. The snowiest recorded winter was 1995/1996 with a total
snowfall of 171 cm (67.3 in). The record snow depth is
57 cm (22.4 in) (25 December 2001).
Summers are very warm and sunny. In summer, the city generally remains
slightly cooler than other parts of Bulgaria, due to its higher
altitude. However, the city is also subjected to heat waves with high
temperatures reaching or exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) in the
hottest days, particularly in July and August. The highest recorded
temperature is 41 °C (106 °F) (5 July 2000 and 24 July
2007). The hottest recorded summer was in 2012 with a daily
average July temperature of 24.8 °C (76.6 °F).
Springs and autumns in
Sofia are usually short with variable and
The city receives an average precipitation of 581.8 mm
(22.91 in) a year, reaching its peak in late spring and early
summer when thunderstorms are common. The wettest recorded year was
2014 with a total precipitation of 1,066.6 mm
Climate data for
Sofia (NIMH−BAS) 1981–2010 normals, extremes
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average snowfall cm (inches)
Average precipitation days
Average snowy days
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source #1: 
Source #2: precipitation days and extremes
Climate data for
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Main article: History of Sofia
See also: Timeline of Sofia
Prehistory and antiquity
O: head of river-god Strymon R: trident
This coin imitates Macedonian issue from 187–168 BC. It was struck
Serdi tribe as their own currency.
A restored city plan of Roman Serdica under Marcus Aurelius
Sofia has been an area of continuous human habitation since at least
the 8th millennium BC, but others have inhabited the area 30,000
years ago. The city has a history of nearly 7000 years and it is
the second oldest city in
Europe according to the city's official
website and other sources, though the meaning of the claim is unclear
as in the world there were hardly any cities at the time. In the
context, certainly the neolithic village in Slatina, dating to the
5th–6th millennium BC, is described.
However, the motto of the city is "grows, but does not age". Remains
from another neolithic settlement around the National Art Gallery are
traced to the 3rd–4th millennium BC, which has been the traditional
centre of the city ever since and is not changed today. The
earliest tribes who settled were the Thracians. In 1400 – 1300 BC.
Sofia's area was populated by the Thracian tribe of Tilataei. After
the Celtic invasion in 3rd century BC
Tilataei were conquered by the
Celtic tribe of Serdi. The
Celts were assimilated by the local
Thracian population during the late
Hellenistic period in 2nd – 1st
century BC. According to some sources, it got first an official
mention in the 7th/8th century BC when the
Serdi (Sardi) as a Thracian
tribe established a settlement. Other sources suppose that
the Serdi's Celtic origin is convincingly evidenced through linguistic
and archaeological clues but that their presence is not evidenced
before the 1st century BC, whereas others assume their mixed
Thracian-Celtic origin or relation to the Sards. The earliest evidence
of Celtic presence in the
Sofia area (Pernik) can be from the 3rd
century BC. Some clues lead to the conclusion that the area of the
settlement was between TZUM,
Sheraton Hotel and the
Presidency. In the 500s BC, the area became part of a Thracian
state union, called the Odrysian kingdom, when another Thracian tribe
appeared in the town, the Odrysses. For a short period the Thracian
rule was possibly interrupted by the Achaemenid Empire. In 339 BC
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon destroyed and ravaged the town which was its
Around BC 29, Serdica was conquered by the Romans, gradually becoming
the most important Roman city of the region. It became a
municipium during the reign of Emperor
Trajan (98–117). Serdica
expanded, as turrets, protective walls, public baths, administrative
and cult buildings, a civic basilica, an amphitheatre, a circus, the
City Council (Boulé), a large forum, a big circus (theatre), etc.
were built. Serdica was a significant midway city on the Roman road
Via Militaris, connecting
Singidunum and Byzantium. In the 3rd
century, it became the capital of Dacia Aureliana, and when
Diocletian divided the province of
Dacia Aureliana into Dacia
Ripensis (at the banks of the Danube) and Dacia Mediterranea, Serdica
became the capital of the latter. Serdica's citizens of Thracian
descent were referred to as Illyrians probably because it was at
some time the capital of Eastern Illyria (Second Illyria). For
future emperors Serdica was their residence form where they ruled
The fortification of Serdica
Aurelian (215–275) and
were from Serdica. The city subsequently expanded for a century and a
half, it became a significant political and economical centre, more
so — it became one of the first Roman cities where Christianity
was recognised as an official religion (under Galerius). The Edict of
Galerius was issued in 311 in Serdica by the Roman
emperor Galerius, officially ending the Diocletianic persecution of
Christianity. The Edict implicitly granted Christianity the status of
"religio licita", a worship recognised and accepted by the Roman
Empire. It was the first edict legalising Christianity, preceding the
Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan by two years. For
Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great it was 'Sardica
mea Roma est' (Serdica is my Rome). He considered making Serdica the
capital of the
Byzantine Empire instead of Constantinople. which
was already not dissimilar to a tetrarchic capital of the Roman
Empire. In 343 AD, the
Council of Sardica was held in the city, in
a church located where the current 6th century Church of Saint Sophia
was later built.
The city was destroyed in the 447 invasion of the
Huns and the city
laid in ruins for a century It was rebuilt by Byzantine Emperor
Justinian I. During the reign of Justinian it flourished, being
surrounded with great fortress walls whose remnants can still be seen
The city first became part of the
First Bulgarian Empire
First Bulgarian Empire during the
reign of Khan
Krum in 809, after a long siege. Afterwаrds, it
grew into an important fortress and administrative centre when Khan
Omurtag made it a centre of
Sredets province (Sredetski komitat,
Средецки комитат). After the conquest of the Bulgarian
Sviatoslav I of Kiev
Sviatoslav I of Kiev and John I Tzimiskes' armies
in 970–971, the Bulgarian Patriarch Damyan chose
Sofia for his seat
in the next year and the capital of
Bulgaria was first moved to
Sredets. In the second half of 10th century the city was ruled by
Komit Nikola and his sons, popular as "Komitopuli". One of them is
Samuil, who became an Emperor of
Bulgaria in 997. 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.
Early modern history
Sofia was seized by the
Ottoman Empire in the course of
the Bulgarian-Ottoman Wars. Around 1393 it became the seat of newly
established Sanjak of Sofia.
The city was occupied by Hungarian forces for a short time in 1443.
After the failed crusade of
Władysław III of Poland
Władysław III of Poland in 1443 towards
Sofia, the city's Christian faced persecution and the city became the
capital of the Ottoman province (beylerbeylik) of
Rumelia for more
than four centuries. During that time
Sofia was the largest
import-export-base in modern-day
Bulgaria for the caravan trade with
the Republic of Ragusa. In the 15th and 16th century,
expanded by Ottoman building activity. Public investments in
infrastructure, education and local economy brought greater diversity
to the city. Amongst others, the population consisted of Muslims,
Bulgarian and Greek speaking Orthodox Christians, Armenians,
Georgians, Catholic Ragusans, Jews (Romaniote, Ashkenazi and
Sephardi), and Romani people.
Sofia in mid-19th-century
When it comes to the cityscape, 16th century sources mention eight
Friday Mosques, three public libraries, numerous schools, 12 churches,
three synagogues, and the largest bedesten (market) of the
Balkans. Additionally, there were fountains and hammams
(bathhouses). Some prominent churches such as Saint
Sofia had been
converted into mosques. In total there were 11 big and over 100 small
mosques by the 17th century, of which only the
Banya Bashi remains
as a mosque today.
The town was seized for several weeks by Bulgarian hajduks in
1599. In 1610 the Vatican established the See of
Sofia for Catholics of Rumelia, which existed until 1715 when most
Catholics had emigrated. The town was the centre of
Nedelya Petkova created the first Bulgarian school for
women in the city. In 1873 the Ottomans hanged in
Sofia the Bulgarian
revolutionary Vasil Levski.
Modern and contemporary history
The allied bombing of
Sofia in World War II in 1944
During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, Suleiman Pasha threatened
to burn the city in defence, but the foreign diplomats Leandre Legay,
Vito Positano, Rabbi Gabriel Almosnino and Josef Valdhart refused to
leave the city thus saving it. Many Bulgarian residents of
themselves and sided with the Russian forces.
Sofia was relieved
(see Battle of Sofia) from Ottoman rule by Russian forces under Gen.
Iosif Gurko on 4 January 1878. 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.
Most mosques in
Sofia were destroyed in that war, seven of them
destroyed in one night in December 1878 when a thunderstorm masked the
noise of the explosions arranged by Russian military
engineers. Following the war, the great majority of the Muslim
population left Sofia.
For a few decades after the liberation,
Sofia experienced large
population growth, mainly by migration from other regions of the
Principality (Kingdom since 1908) of Bulgaria, and from the still
Ottoman Macedonia and Thrace.
In 1900 the first electric lightbulb in the city was turned on.
In the Second Balkan War,
Bulgaria was fighting alone practically all
of its neighbouring countries. When the
Romanian Army entered
Vrazhdebna in 1913, then a village seven miles (11 kilometres) from
Sofia, now a suburb, this prompted the Tsardom of
In 1925 a terrorist act of ultra-leftists failed their attempted
assassination of the king but resulted in the destruction of the Saint
Nedelya Church and many victims.
During the Second World War,
Bulgaria declared war on the US and UK on
13 December 1941 and in late 1943 and early 1944 the US and UK Air
forces conducted bombings over Sofia. As a consequence of the bombings
around 2000 people were killed and thousands of buildings were
destroyed or damaged including the Capital Library and thousands of
books. In 1944
Sofia and the rest of
Bulgaria was occupied by the
Red Army and within days of the Soviet invasion Bulgaria
declared war on Nazi Germany.
In 1945 the communist Fatherland Front took power and executed several
thousand people. The transformations of
Bulgaria into the People's
Bulgaria in 1946 and into the Republic of
Bulgaria in 1990
marked significant changes in the city's appearance. The population of
Sofia expanded rapidly due to migration from rural regions. New
residential areas were built in the outskirts of the city, like
Druzhba, Mladost and Lyulin.
During the Communist Party rule a number of the city's most emblematic
streets and squares were renamed for ideological reasons, with the
original names restored after 1989.
Georgi Dimitrov Mausoleum, where Dimitrov's body had been
preserved in a similar way to the Lenin mausoleum, was demolished in
Diurnal view, including the Largo, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the
Sofia University, the building of BNT, Lake Ariana
and Borisova gradina.
Nocturnal view of the city.
Sofia there are 607,473 dwellings and 101,696 buildings. According
to modern records 39,551 dwellings were constructed until 1949,
119,943 between 1950 and 1969, 287,191 between 1970 and 1989, 57,916
in the 90s and 102,623 between 2000 and 2011. Until 1949, 13,114
buildings were constructed and between 10,000–20,000 in each
following decade. Sofia's architecture combines a wide range of
architectural styles, some of which are aesthetically incompatible.
These vary from Christian Roman architecture and medieval Bulgar
Neoclassicism and prefabricated Socialist-era apartment
blocks. A number of ancient Roman, Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian
buildings are preserved in the centre of the city. These include the
4th century Rotunda of St. George, the walls of the Serdica fortress
and the partially preserved
Amphitheatre of Serdica.
After the Liberation War, knyaz Alexander Battenberg invited
Austria–Hungary to shape the new capital's
Among the architects invited to work in
Bulgaria were Friedrich
Grünanger, Adolf Václav Kolář, and Viktor Rumpelmayer, who
designed the most important public buildings needed by the newly
re-established Bulgarian government, as well as numerous houses for
the country's elite. Later, many foreign-educated Bulgarian
architects also contributed. The architecture of Sofia's centre is
thus a combination of Neo-Baroque, Neo-Rococo, Neo-
Neoclassicism, with the
Vienna Secession also later playing an
important part, but it is most typically Central European.
After World War II and the establishment of a Communist government in
Bulgaria in 1944, the architectural style was substantially altered.
Stalinist Gothic public buildings emerged in the centre, notably the
spacious government complex around The Largo,
Vasil Levski Stadium,
the Cyril and Methodius National Library and others. As the city grew
outwards, the then-new neighbourhoods were dominated by many concrete
tower blocks, prefabricated panel apartment buildings and examples of
Brutalist architecture. They still make Sofia's housing very high
compared to post-Western block countries,
After the abolition of
Communism in 1989,
Sofia 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. The 126-metre (413 ft)
Capital Fort Business Center will be the first skyscraper in Bulgaria,
with 36 floors. However, the end of the old administration and
centrally planned system also paved the way for chaotic and
unrestrained construction, which continues today.
Architectural styles in Sofia
The 4th century St. George Rotunda (the oldest building) behind some
remains of Serdica
Socialist-era housing in Mladost
Interior of the ancient Saint
Sofia Market Hall
Hotel Rodina, an example of Brutalist architecture
Business Park Sofia
Neo-Gothic architecture in Sofia
Baroque Revival architecture
Baroque Revival architecture in Sofia
The National gallery - SQUARE 500
Russian Church, Sofia
Russian Church, Sofia view of the front from the street
The city has an extensive green belt. Some of the neighbourhoods
constructed after 2000 are densely built up and lack green spaces.
There are four principal parks –
Borisova gradina in the city centre
and the Southern, Western and Northern parks. Several smaller parks,
among which the Zaimov Park,
City Garden and the Doctors' Garden, are
located in central Sofia. The
Vitosha Nature Park (the oldest national
park in the Balkans) includes most of
Vitosha mountain and covers
an area of 266 square kilometres (103 sq mi), with
roughly half of it lying within the municipality of Sofia. Vitosha
Mountain is a popular hiking destination due to its proximity and ease
of access via car and public transport. Two functioning cable cars
provide year long access from the outskirts of the city. The mountain
offers favourable skiing conditions during the winter and during the
70s and the 80s multiple ski slopes of various difficulty were made
available. Skiing equipment can be rented and skiing lessons are
available. However, due to the bad communication between the private
offshore company that runs the resort and
Sofia municipality, most of
the ski area has been left to decay in the last 10 years so that
currently there is only one chairlift and one slope working.
Government and law
Composition of the
GERB (160 816✘ ≈ 42.9%)
RB (61 500✘ ≈ 16.4%)
Bulgaria (37 100✘ ≈ 9.9%)
IMRO (17 900✘ ≈ 4.8%)
Serdika (13 600✘ ≈ 3.6%)
Attack (11 400✘ ≈ 3.1%)
Vox populi (11 400✘ ≈ 3.1%)
Movement 21 (8 000✘ ≈ 2.1%)
The Greens (7 700✘ ≈ 2.1%)
Total votes: 375 010
Sofia as a capital is the location of all Bulgarian state authorities
– executive, legislative, judiciary, the headquarters of all parties
and the delegation of the European Commission. This includes the
Parliament, the Presidency, the Council of Ministers and all the
ministries, supreme courts and the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria.
Sofia Municipality is identical to
City Province, which is
Sofia Province, which surrounds but does not include the
capital itself. Besides the city proper, the 24 districts of Sofia
Municipality encompass three other towns and 34 villages.
Districts and settlements have their own governor who is elected in a
popular election. The assembly members are chosen every four years.
The common head of
Sofia Municipality and all the 38 settlements is
the mayor of Sofia. The current mayor
Yordanka Fandakova is
serving a third consecutive term, having won the 2015 election at
first round with 238,500 votes, or 60.2% of the vote, when
Reformist Bloc opponent Vili Lilkov was second with 9.6%; the turnout
was 41.25%. Some party leaders claimed that ballots were falsified
and called for annulment of the election. A precedent happened,
due to the suspicion, as a preventative action between 300 and 5000
people and counters had been locked inside
Arena Armeets against their
will for two days, following which the director of the Electoral
Sofia resigned at the request of Prime Minister Boyko
The number one problem that mayor
Yordanka Fandakova acknowledges and
is working on is the street dogs in Sofia. Although according to
Sofia hosts 6600 street dogs currently, unofficially there
at between 35,000 and 70,000 stray dogs. They have become part of
urban life in Sofia, but the problem spotted into light after a pack
mauled a prominent
Columbia University professor to death in 2012, who
was the president of the
Wall Street Investment Bank and worked for
the US Department of State, the
United Nations and the World
A police box in Sofia
With a murder rate of 1.8/per 100.000 people (as of 2009[update])
Sofia is a quite safe capital city. Nevertheless, in the 21st
century, crimes, including
Bulgarian mafia killings, caused problems
in the city, where authorities had difficulties convicting the
actors, which had caused the
European Commission to warn the
Bulgarian government that the country would not be able to join the EU
unless it curbed crime (
Bulgaria eventually joined in 2007).
Many of the most severe crimes are contract killings connected to the
organised crime, but these had dropped in recent years after several
arrests of gang members. Corruption in
Bulgaria also affects
Sofia's authorities. According to the director of
Police Directorate the largest share of the crimes are thefts, making
up 62.4% of all crimes in the capital city. Increasing are frauds,
drug-related crimes, petty theft and vandalism. According to a
survey, almost a third of Sofia's residents say that they never feel
safe in the Bulgarian capital, while 20% always feel safe. As of
2015[update] the consumer-reported perceived crime risk on the Numbeo
database was "high" for theft and vandalism and "low" for violent
crimes; safety while walking during daylight was rated "very high",
and "moderate" during the night. With 1,600 prisoners the
incarceration rate is above 0.1%; however, roughly 70% of all
prisoners are part of the Romani minority.
Tourist attractions in Sofia
Tourist attractions in Sofia and List of churches in Sofia
Arts and entertainment
The Ivan Vazov National Theatre
Sofia concentrates the majority of Bulgaria's leading performing arts
troupes. Theatre is by far the most popular form of performing art,
and theatrical venues are among the most visited, second only to
cinemas. The oldest such institution is the Ivan Vazov National
Theatre, which performs mainly classical plays and is situated in the
very centre of the city.
Bulgaria is a combined opera and
ballet collective, established in 1891. However, it did not begin
performances on a regular basis until 1909. Some of Bulgaria's most
famous operatic singers, such as
Nicolai Ghiaurov and Ghena Dimitrova,
have made their first appearances on the stage of the National Opera
and Ballet. The
National Palace of Culture
National Palace of Culture regularly hold classical
concerts. Bulgaria's largest art museums are located in the central
areas of the city. Two emblematic galleries in
Sofia – the National
Art Gallery and the
National Gallery for Foreign Art
National Gallery for Foreign Art united their
collections in a new structure. Seven Ministers of Culture have worked
on this project over the years. The project gathered under one roof a
host of Bulgarian, European, American, Asian and African works of art.
Nearly two thousand works created by artists from
Bulgaria and abroad
are on display in twenty eight exhibition halls. Following a special
competition, the art collection was named National Gallery Square 500
(source). Its collections encompass diverse cultural items such as
Ashanti Empire sculptures, Buddhist art,
Dutch Golden Age
Dutch Golden Age painting,
works by Albrecht Dürer,
Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Auguste Rodin,
among others. The crypt of the Alexander Nevsky cathedral holds a
Eastern Orthodox icons from the 9th to the 19th century.
Other museums are the National Historical Museum with a collection of
more than 600,000 items; the
National Polytechnical Museum
National Polytechnical Museum with more
than 1,000 technological items on display; the National Archaeological
Museum and the Museum of Natural History. The SS. Cyril and Methodius
National Library houses the largest national collection of books and
documents (1,714,211 books and some 6 million other documents)
and is Bulgaria's oldest cultural institute. The
Boyana Church, a
UNESCO World Heritage site, contains realistic frescoes, depicting
more than 240 human images and a total 89 scenes, were painted. With
their vital, humanistic realism they are a
Renaissance phenomenon at
its culmination phase in the context of the common-European art.
Muzeiko is a new museum opened in 2015. It is a space with over 130
interactive games created for children and curious adults. The entire
content of the museum is designed to inspire children to learn,
discover and explore the sciences, while helping children, their
families and educators spend time together actively and
An important facette of cultural life in
Sofia are its contemporary
art practices and venues. Regular exhibitions in Bulgarian and
European contemporary visual and installation art are being held in
City Art Gallery and the
Sofia Arsenal - Museum for
Contemporary Art. As contemporary performative arts are beginning to
thrive in the last decades, an independent performative art scene has
evolved. An important civic structure for its development is the Act
Association for Independent Theatre, and two of the institutions where
such events take place are The Red House Centre for Culture and Debate
"Andrey Nikolov" and DNK - Space for Contemporary Dance and
Vitosha Boulevard, the main shopping street in the city.
Cinema is the most popular form of entertainment. In recent years,
cinematic venues have been concentrated in trade centres and malls,
and independent halls have been closed.
Mall of Sofia
Mall of Sofia holds one of the
IMAX cinemas in Europe. Most films are American productions,
although European and domestic films are increasingly shown. Odeon
(not part of the
Odeon Cinemas chain) shows exclusively European and
independent American films, as well as 20th century classics.
Bulgaria's once thriving film industry, concentrated in the Boyana
Film studios, has suffered a period of decline since 1990. A relative
revival of the industry began after 2001. After the acquisition of
Boyana Film by Nu Image, several moderately successful productions
have been shot in and around Sofia, such as The Contract, The Black
Dahlia, Hitman and Conan the Barbarian and Spartacus. The Nu Boyana
Film studios have also hosted some of the scenes for The Expendables
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, which
regularly organise temporary expositions of visual, sound and literary
works by artists from their respective countries.
Some of the biggest telecommunications companies, TV and radio
stations, newspapers, magazines, and web portals are based in Sofia,
including the Bulgarian National Television, bTV and Nova TV.
Top-circulation newspapers include
24 Chasa and Trud.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox
cathedrals in the world.
Sofia is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Bulgaria
alongside coastal and mountain resorts. Among its highlights is the
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the symbols of Bulgaria,
constructed in the late 19th century. It occupies an area of 3,170
square metres (34,122 square feet) and can hold 10,000 people.
Sofia holds Bulgaria's largest museum collections, which attract
tourists and students for practical studies. The National Historical
Boyana district has a vast collection of more than 650,000
historical items dating from Prehistory to the modern era, although
only 10,000 of them are permanently displayed due to the lack of
space. Smaller collections of items related mostly to the history
Sofia are in the National Archaeological Museum, a former mosque
located between the edifices of the National Bank and the Presidency.
Two natural sciences museums — the Natural History Museum and the
Earth and Man — display minerals, animal species (alive and
taxidermic) and rare materials. The Ethnographic Museum and the
National Museum of Military History are other places of interest,
holding large collections of Bulgarian folk costumes and armaments,
Vitosha Boulevard, also called Vitoshka, is a pedestrian zone with
numerous cafés, restaurants, fashion boutiques, and luxury goods
stores. Sofia's geographic location, in the foothills of the weekend
Vitosha mountain, further adds to the city's specific
The interior of Arena Armeets, a multi-purpose indoor arena.
A large number of sports clubs are based in the city. During the
Communist era most sports clubs concentrated on all-round sporting
development, therefore CSKA, Levski, Lokomotiv and Slavia are dominant
not only in football, but in many other team sports as well.
Basketball and volleyball also have strong traditions in Sofia. A
notable local basketball team is twice European Champions Cup finalist
Lukoil Akademik. The
Bulgarian Volleyball Federation
Bulgarian Volleyball Federation is the world's
second-oldest, and it was an exhibition tournament organised by the
Sofia that convinced the
International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee to
include volleyball as an olympic sport in 1957. Tennis is
increasingly popular in the city. Currently there are some ten
tennis court complexes within the city including the one founded by
former WTA top-ten athlete Magdalena Maleeva.
Sofia applied to host the
Winter Olympic Games
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
Sofia hosted Eurobasket 1957 and the 1961 and 1977 Summer
Universiades, as well as the 1983 and 1989 winter editions. In 2012,
it hosted the
FIVB World League
FIVB World League finals.
The city is home to a number of large sports venues, including the
Vasil Levski National Stadium which hosts international
football matches, as well as the
Georgi Asparuhov Stadium
Georgi Asparuhov Stadium and
Lokomotiv Stadium, the main venues for outdoor musical concerts.
Armeets Arena holds many indoor events and has a capacity of up to
19,000 people depending on its use. The venue was inaugurated on 30
July 2011, and the first event it hosted was a friendly volleyball
Bulgaria and Serbia. There are two ice skating
complexes — the
Winter Sports Palace
Winter Sports Palace with a capacity of 4,600
and the Slavia Winter Stadium with a capacity of 2,000, both
containing two rinks each. A velodrome with 5,000 seats in the
city's central park is currently undergoing renovation. There are
also various other sports complexes in the city which belong to
institutions other than football clubs, such as those of the National
Sports Academy, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, or those of
different 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
Sofia club) and in
Sofia club), and a
horseriding club (St George club).
Sofia was designated as European
Capital of Sport in 2018. The decision was announced in November 2014
by the Evaluation Committee of ACES Europe, on the grounds that “the
city is a good example of sport for all, as means to improve healthy
lifestyle, integration and education, which are the basis of the
Population growth over the years (in thousands):
Students of the
National Academy of Arts
National Academy of Arts (circa 1952–53). People
aged 20–25 years have been the most numerous group in the city since
the process of Bulgarian urbanisation.
According to 2016 data, the city has a population of 1,304,772 and the
Sofia Capital Municipality of 1,441,918. The first census
carried out in February 1878 by the Russian Army recorded a population
of 11,694 inhabitants including 6,560 Bulgarians, 3,538 Jews, 839
Turks and 737 Romani.
The ratio of women per 1,000 men was 1,102. The birth rate per 1000
people was 12.3 per mille and steadily increasing in the last 5 years,
the death rate reaching 12.1 per mille and decreasing. The natural
growth rate during 2009 was 0.2 per mille, 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. The infant
mortality rate was 5.6 per 1,000, down from 18.9 in 1980. According to
the 2011 census, people aged 20–24 years are the most numerous
group, numbering 133,170 individuals and accounting for 11% of the
total 1,202,761 people. The median age is 38 though. According to the
census, 1,056,738 citizens (87.9%) are recorded as ethnic Bulgarians,
17,550 (1.5%) as Romani, 6,149 (0.5%) as Turks, 9,569 (0.8%) belonged
to other ethnic groups, 6,993 (0.6%) do not self-identify and 105,762
(8.8%) remained with undeclared affiliation. This statistic
should not necessarily be taken at face value due to conflicting
data – such as for the predominantly Roma neighbourhood of
Fakulteta, which alone may have a population of 45,000.
According to the 2011 census, throughout the whole municipality some
892,511 people (69.1%) are recorded as
Eastern Orthodox Christians,
10,256 (0.8%) as Protestant, 6,767 (0.5%) as Muslim, 5,572 (0.4%) as
Roman Catholic, 4,010 (0.3%) belonged to other faith and 372,475
(28.8%) declared themselves irreligious or did not mention any faith.
The data says that roughly a third of the total population have
already earned a university degree. Of the population aged 15–64 –
265,248 people within the municipality (28.5%) are not economically
active, the unemployed being another group of 55,553 people (6%), a
large share of whom have completed higher education. The largest group
are occupied in trading, followed by those in manufacturing industry.
Within the municipality, three quarters, or 965,328 people are
recorded as having access to television at home and 836,435 (64.8%) as
having internet. Out of 464,865 homes – 432,847 have connection to
the communal sanitary sewer, while 2,732 do not have any. Of these 864
do not have any water supply and 688 have other than communal. Over
99.6% of males and females aged over 9 are recorded as literate. The
largest group of the population aged over 20 are recorded to live
within marriage (46.3%), another 43.8% are recorded as single and
another 9.9% as having other type of coexistence/partnership, whereas
not married in total are a majority and among people aged up to 40 and
over 70. The people with juridical status divorced or widowed are
either part of the factual singles or those having another type of
partnership, each of the two constitutes by around 10% of the
population aged over 20. Only over 1% of the juridically married do
not de facto live within marriage. The families that consist of two
people are 46.8%, another 34.2% of the families are made up by three
people, whereas most of the households (36.5%) consist of only one
Sofia was declared the national 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. The city is the hot spot of
internal migration, the capital population is increasing and is around
17% of the national, thus a small number of people with local
roots remain today, they dominate the surrounding rural suburbs and
are called Shopi.
Shopi speak one of the transitional South Slavic
dialects, along with Torlakian, sharing features with both eastern
(Bulgarian and Macedonian) and western (Serbo-Croatian) branches,
although they are given non-Slavic origin through the ancient Thracian
Serdi, the founders of the city.
Capital Fort, the 126-meter skyscraper near Tsarigradsko shose.
Sofia is the economic heart of
Bulgaria and home to most major
Bulgarian and international companies operating in the country, as
well as the
Bulgarian National Bank
Bulgarian National Bank and the Bulgarian Stock Exchange.
The city's GDP PPS per capita at current market prices stood at
€26,700 ($35,500) in 2013, which was 100% of the then EU
average, according to Eurostat data – well above the same year's
national average of 47%. The city and its surrounding
II planning region had a per capita PPS GDP of €20,600 in 2014,
higher than any other region in the country. In 2008, the average per
capita annual income was 4,572 leva ($3,479). For the same year,
the strongest sectors of the city's economy in terms of annual
production were manufacturing ($5.5 bln.), metallurgy ($1.84 bln.),
electricity, gas and water supply ($1.6 bln.) and food and beverages
($778 mln.). Economic output in 2011 amounted to 15.9 billion
leva, or $11.04 billion. The average monthly gross wages paid in
December 2015 amount to €645, the highest in
Bulgaria and the lowest
among EU capitals.
Sofia as one of the top 10 places in the world
to launch a startup business, because of the low corporate tax (10%),
the extremely fast internet connection speed available – one of the
fastest in the world, and the presence of several investment funds,
including Eleven Startup Accelerator, LAUNCHub and Neveq. In 2015
Globalization and World Cities Research Institute ranked
Beta- world city.
Historically, after World War II and the era of industrialisation
under socialism, the city and its surrounding areas expanded rapidly
and became the most heavily industrialised 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 Sofianite citizenship.
However, after the political changes in 1989, this kind of citizenship
Sofia is becoming an outsourcing destination for
multinational companies, among them IBM, Hewlett-Packard, SAP,
Siemens, Software AG.
Bulgaria Air, PPD, the national airline of
Bulgaria, has its head office on the grounds of
From 2007 to 2011, the city attracted a cumulative total of $11.6
billion in foreign direct investment.
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%.
In January 2015
Sofia was ranked 30th out of 300 global cities in
terms of combined growth in employment and real gross domestic product
(GDP) per capita in 2013–2014. This was the highest rank amongst
cities in Southeast Europe. The real GDP (PPP) per capita growth
was 2.5% to $33,105 (28,456 euro) and the employment went up by 3.4%
to 962,400 in 2013–2014.
Transport and infrastructure
Sofia Metro trains at
Sofia Airport Metro Station
With its developing infrastructure and strategic location,
Sofia is a
major hub for international railway and automobile transport. Three of
the ten Pan-European Transport Corridors cross the city: IV, VIII and
X. All major types of transport (except water) are represented in
the city. The Central Railway Station is the primary hub for domestic
and international rail transport.
Sofia has 186 km (116 miles) of
Sofia Airport handled 4,980,387 passengers in
Public transport is well-developed with bus (2,380 km
(1,479 mi)), tram (308 km (191 mi)) and
trolleybus (193 km (120 mi)) lines running in all areas
of the city. The
Sofia Metro became operational in 1998, and
now has two lines and 34 stations. As of 2012[update], the system
has 39 km (24 mi) of track. Six new stations were opened in
2009, two more in April 2012, and eleven more in August 2012. In 2015
new 7 stations were opened and the subway extends to
Sofia Airport on
its Northern branch and to
Business Park Sofia
Business Park Sofia on its Southern branch.
On July 2016 the
Vitosha Metro Station was opened on the M2 main line.
A third line is currently under construction and is expected to be
finished in the second half of 2019. This line will complete the
proposed subway system of three lines with about 65 km
(40 mi) of lines. The master plan for the
includes three lines with a total of 63 stations. In recent years
the marshrutka, a private passenger van serving fixed routes, proved
an efficient and popular means of transport by being faster than
public transport, but cheaper than taxis. As of 2005[update] these
vans numbered 368 and serviced 48 lines around the city and
suburbs. There are around 13,000 taxi cabs operating in the
city. Low fares in comparison with other European countries, make
taxis affordable and popular among a big part of the city population.
Tsarigradsko shose, one of the busiest boulevards in Sofia
Private automobile ownership has grown rapidly in the 1990s; more than
1,000,000 cars were registered in
Sofia after 2002. The city has the
4th-highest number of automobiles per capita in the
European Union at
546.4 vehicles per 1,000 people. The municipality was known for
minor and cosmetic repairs and many streets are in a poor condition.
This is noticeably changing in the past years. There are different
boulevards and streets in the city with a higher amount of traffic
than others. These include Tsarigradsko shose, Cherni Vrah, Bulgaria,
Slivnitsa and Todor Aleksandrov boulevards, as well as the city's ring
road, where long chains of cars are formed at peak hours and traffic
jams occur regularly. 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.
Sofia has an extensive district heating system based around four
combined heat and power (CHP) plants and boiler stations. 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 (559 mi) long
and comprises 14,000 substations and 10,000 heated buildings.
The Aula of The
Sofia University in the Rectorate Building
Sofia concentrates a significant portion of the national higher
education capacity, including 109,000 university and college
students and 22 of Bulgaria's 51 higher education
establishments. These include four of the five highest-ranking
national universities –
Sofia University (SU),
Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy, the Technical University
University of National and World Economy and the University
of Mining and Geology.
Sofia University was founded in 1888.
More than 20,000 students study in its 16 faculties. A
number of research and cultural departments operate within SU,
including its own publishing house, botanical gardens, a space
research centre, a quantum electronics department, and a
Confucius Institute Rakovski Defence and Staff College, the
National Academy of Arts, and
University are other major
higher education establishments in the city.
Maxima Aula at UNWE
There are 5 primary, 77 middle and 187 secondary schools, of all 77
are private. Education institutions include 13 specialised for
children with disabilities, 8 art schools, 22 professional colleges.
35 professional high schools, 25 profiled high schools and 4 sport
schools. The "elite" secondary language schools provide education
in a selected foreign language. These include the First English
Sofia High School of Mathematics, 91st German
Language School, 164th Spanish Language School, and 9th French
Language School. Some of them provide a language certificate upon
graduation, while the 9th French Language School has exchange programs
with a number of lycées in
France and Switzerland, such as the
Parisian Collège-lycée Jacques-Decour. The American College of
Sofia, a private secondary school which developed from a school
founded by American missionaries in 1860, is among the oldest American
educational institutions outside of the US.
Other institutions of national significance, such as the Bulgarian
Academy of Sciences (BAS) and the SS. Cyril and Methodius National
Library are located in Sofia. BAS is the centrepiece of scientific
research in Bulgaria, employing more than 4,500 scientists in various
institutes, including the Bulgarian Space Agency.
Twin and sister cities
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See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Bulgaria
Sofia is twinned with:
Algiers, Algeria
Amman, Jordan
Bucharest, Romania
Karlovac, Croatia
Kiev, Ukraine
Maraş, Turkey
Madrid, Spain
Moscow, Russia
Pittsburgh, United States
Prague, Czech Republic
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Oman (since 2011)
China (since 2014)
Sidon, Lebanon
Skopje, Macedonia (since 2015)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Warsaw, Poland
Sofia has co-operation agreements with:
Budapest, Hungary
Serdica Peak on
Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands,
Antarctica is named after Serdica.
Satellite image of Sofia
Sunset behind Vitosha
Tram in snowy Sofia, 1995
Sofia Public Mineral Baths
A faculty of
St Nedelya Church assault
The rebuilt Saint Nedelya Church
Georgi Dimitrov Mausoleum
Georgi Dimitrov Mausoleum 1969
Artifacts from Serdica
Remains from the settlement in Slatina dating to 6000- 5500 BC
European Union portal
List of churches in Sofia
List of shopping malls in Sofia
List of tallest buildings in Sofia
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