Location: Western Bulgaria. Population: 1,200,000. Ethnic Mix: 90% Bulgarian, 10% Romanian Religion: 95% Bulgarian Orthodox, 5% Muslim, Jewish and other Time zone: GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October). Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz; round two-pin or three-pin plugs are in use. Average January temp.: – 2°C (28.5°F). Average July temp.: 22°C (71.5°F). Annual rainfall: 645mm (25.4 inches).
that goes back thousands of years. Through the centuries, many nations have inhabited it and added to its rich and diverse history. Numerous Neolithic villages have been discovered in the area, while a chalocolithic settlement has been recently discovered in the very center 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, the word “sofia” means wisdom.) In the 3rd century AD, the Romans built strong walls around Serdica, their capital of Inner Dacia and an important stopping point on the Roman road from Naisus (present Nish, Yugoslavia) to Constantinople Today there are many archaeological sites in Sofia, that display the city’s diverse history – the castle gates and towers of Serdica, public buildings and streets thousands of years old.
A large part of the ancient city of Serdica is underneath important modern buildings. The ancient city council (bulefteris) is hidden under the Sheraton hotel, while a number of basilicas are below the Hall of Justice. The Roman thermal baths are under the Sofia Mineral Baths and a Roman residence with elaborate mosaics is below the Rila hotel. After the Hun invasion in 441 AD, the town was rebuilt by the Byzantines.
The Slavs gave Sredets a key role in the First Bulgarian Empire, then in 1018 the Byzantines retook Triaditsa. At the end of the 12th century, the Bulgarians returned and Sredets became a major trading center of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The Turks captured Sofia in 1382 and made it the center of the Rumelian beylerbeyship. The city declined during the feudal unrest of the 19th century, but with the establishment of the Third Bulgarian Empire in 1879, Sofia once again became the capital of Bulgaria.
The city’s image rapidly changed from its Oriental roots, to reflect its new European tone. Today many streets, buildings, parks 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. Today, Sofia is home to over 1 250 000 people.
Arriving by plane
Sofia International Airport Tel. + 359 2 937 22 11 / 937 22 12
Sofia international airport, 10 km east of the city center, is a small place with limited facilities. The arrivals hall boasts a café, care-hire counters, an ATM and a 24-hour exchange bureau.
Getting to town
By taxi: If things are busy you can pre-book a taxi in the arrivals hall. The fare shouldn’t cost more than 10-15 lv.
By bus: Bus a?? 84 runs daily service between the airport and Orlov most, on the eastern fringes the city center, departing roughly every 10-15 min. between 05:00 and 23:00. Tickets cost 0.70 lv. and can be bought from the kiosk by the bus stop or directly from the driver. You also have to punch a separate ticket for each bulky piece of luggage otherwise you will be fined 7 lv. for each item.
Arriving by train
Central RailWay Station Knyaginya Maria Luiza Blvd. Tel. +359 2 931 11 11
Sofia’s Central Station (open 05:00-24:00) is 20-minute walk north of the city center. Facilities include left-luggage, money exchange kiosks, ATMs, bars and fast-food outlets. There are coin-operated left-luggage lockers in the basement and a left-luggage office just off the eastern side of the main ticket hall (open 06:00-23:00).
Getting to town
By tram: The cheapest way of getting to town is to hop on tram 1 or 7.By taxi:
Arriving by bus
Central Bus Station Knyaginya Maria Luiza Blvd. Tel. +359 2 0900 21 000
Most international and domestic buses arrive at the spanking new Central Bus Station, 200 m east of the Central Railway station. It include plenty of shops and cafes, a pharmacy and ATM. There is a 24-hour left-luggage office in the main ticket hall.
Trams, Bus and Trolleybus
Sofia is covered by interlocking network of trams, buses and trolleybuses, with services running from about 05:00-23:30.
Single-journey tickets cost 0.70 lv. and can be bought from street kiosks or from the driver. Once on board each ticket must be validated by punching it. A strip of 10 tickets cost 6 lv. Passes (valid for one day, five days or one month) are also available, but they can only be bought from kiosks at major stops, not from the driver. Note that in case of using bundle of tickets you have to keep and carry with you the last ticket.
Minibus / Route taxis
Several popular cross-town routes are operated by minibuses. Rather than being limited to specific stops, they can be hailed at any point along their route, and will drop passengers off on request. Tickets can be bought only from the minibus driver.
single metro line runs from Sedika station in the city center to the western suburb of Lyulin. Tickets are different from those used in trams and buses, and can only be purchased from ticket counters in the underground stations themselves
All legal and registered taxi cabs must be yellow, and operate by meter. Rates per km (between 0.49-0.59 leva), any starting and call-out charges must by law be displayed on the windows. Dispatchers and drivers usually speak only Bulgarian, so you may need someone to help you order one by phone, and you should learn how to name your destination. Remember that they will give you a 3 digit number of the taxi which will come to pick you up.
The city also offers many places of special interest. As one of the oldest capital cities in Europe, it blends its past and present in a remarkable architectural style. Historic landmarks include the 10th-century Boyana Church (one of the UNESCO World Heritage protected sites), the Alexander Nevski Cathedral (one of the world’s largest Orthodox churches), the Rotonda of St. George, The Banya Bashi Mosque, The Sofia Synagogue and the early Byzantine Church of St. Sophia. More modern architecture is represented by the Bulgarian National Opera and Ballet, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, The Sts. Kilril and Metodii National Library, the Rakovski St theatre district, Slaveykov Square’s outdoor book market, and the NDK, which is Southeastern Europe’s largest cultural and congressional centre. There are 16 universities in the city, among them Sofia University, founded in 1888. Sofia is the see of an Eastern Orthodox and of a Roman Catholic diocese.
Sofia houses numerous museums, notably the National Historical Museum, the Bulgarian Natural History Museum, the Earth and Men Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the Military History Museum, the National Polytechnical Museum and the National Archaeological Museum. In addition, there are the Sofia City Art Gallery, the National Art Gallery, the Bulgarian National Gallery of Foreign Art, the Icon Gallery as well as numerous private art galleries.
National Historical Museum Boyana, 16 Vitoshko lale Str. Tel. 955 76 04 Open 9:30-15:30 Natural History Museum 1 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd. Tel. 987 41 95 Open 10:00-18:00
Earth and Men Museum 4 Cherni vruh Blvd. Tel. 865 66 39 Open 10:00-18:00 Etnographic Museum Alexander Batenberg Sq. Tel. 987 41 91 Open 10:00-18:00
Military History Museum 92 Cherkovna Str. Tel. 946 18 05 Open 9:00-17:00 Archeological Museum Saborna Str. Tel. 988 24 06 Open 10:00-18:00
Sofia art Gallery 1 Gurko Str. Tel. 987 21 81 Open 10:00-18:00
National Art Gallery Alexander Batenberg Sq. Tel. 980 33 25 Open 10:00-18:00
National Gallery of Foreign Art 1 Alexander Nevski Sq. Tel. 988 49 22 Open 11:00-18:00 Icon Gallery Crypt of Alexander Nevski Memorial Church Open 10:00-18:00
Bulgari 71, Knyaz Dondukov Blvd. Tel. 843 54 19 Open: 12:00-24:00
Hadzhidraganovite Kushti 75, Kozlodui Str. Tel. 931 31 48 Open: 11:30-02:00
Pri Yafata 28, Solunska Str. Tel. 980 17 28 Open: 10:00-…..
L’Etranger 78, Tsar Simeon Str. Tel. 983 14 17 Open: 12:00-23:00 Sat. 18:00-23:30 Closed Sun
Peter The First 2, Pozitano Str. Tel. 980 65 77 Open: 12:00-24:00
Captain Cook 12-14, Pencho Slaveykov Str. Tel. 954 90 98 Open: 12:00-24:00
Vegi House 10, Patriarch Evtimii Blvd. Tel. 981 56 77 Open: 11:00-24:00
Greenville 36, Atanas Dukov Str. Tel. 8 19 18 18 Open: 7:30-10:30 11:30-14:30 18:-24:00
Kushtata s Chasovnika 15, Moskovska Blvd. Tel. 987 56 56 Open: 12:00-24:00
Moderato 6, Atanas Dalchev Str. Tel. 970 01 11 Open: 09:00-24:00
Otvud Aleyata Zad Shkafa 31, Budapeshta Str. Tel. 983 55 45 Open: 12:00-24:00
Uno Enoteca 45, Vasil Levski Blvd. Tel. 981 43 72 Open: 12:00-24:00
Vishnite 45, Hristo Smirnenski Str. Tel. 963 49 84 Open: 12:00-23:00
Art Club Museum 2, Saborna Str. Tel. 986 26 10 Open: 09:00-24:00
Laguna 13, Hristo Belchev Str. Tel. 980 30 01 Open: 10:00-24:00
Bars & Clubs
By The Way 166, Rakovski Str. Tel. 980 38 36 Open: 09:00-01:00 Sat, Sun 10:00-01:00
Motto 18, Aksakov Str. Tel. 987 27 23 Open: 09:00-02:00
Toba&Co 6, Moskovska Str. Tel. 989 46 96 Open: 10:00-04:00
Cabaret 12, Hristo Belchev Str. Tel. 981 60 88 Open: 19:00-04:00
My Mojito 12, Ivan Vazov Str. Open: 21:00-05:00
The main shopping areas are on Vitosha Blvd., Graf Ignatiev St., Rakovski St. and all the streets leading off from them. The Central Department Store (TsUM) is a shopping centre on three floors where you will find everything from souvenirs to household goods. Mall of Sofia is a favorite place for shopping and entertainment as well as a meeting point for the citizens of Sofia and guests of the city. In Mall of Sofia you will find a variety of 130 selected shops. City Center Sofia turns out to be the first of the three international-style malls. Its shops offer clothing and footwear, electronics and white goods,food. It houses coffee/sandwich bars, six cinema halls, bank offices, a pharmacy, beauty parlours and a dry cleaning shop. The Central Halls (Halite) on Maria Luiza Blvd. once again specialise as a Food Hall with over 100 different pavilion shops offering all kinds of fresh foods. On three levels: shops also offer household goods and fashion boutiques. There is also a food court and creche facilities. Nearby, Pirotska Street has been transformed into a continental style pedestrian area with a variety of shops and street cafes. Many of the big western names in clothes, shoes, cosmetics and electronic goods together with bulgarian products such as textiles, wood, ceramic and leather products are represented here. Slaveikov Square with its open air book stalls is a great place to browse and you may well find foreign language books about Bulgaria as well as dictionaries etc.
Most shops are open from either 9 am till 6 pm or 11 am till 7 pm on weekdays and till 1pm on Saturdays, though there are many 24-hour food shops in the centre and private shops which are now open on Saturday afternoons.
In general you still need to carry cash, although most shops accept credit cards such as Mastercard and Visa.