The Bulgarian capital Sofia is located in the Sofiisko pole, 550 m above the sea level and occupies a territory of 1, 311 sq. km.
Sofia is linked by international routes with the capitals of Europe, and via Istanbul and Ankara, with the Middle East. Sofia’s motto is: “Ever Growing, Never Ageing”
Sofia became a capital of Bulgaria as recently as 1879.
The city’s history buildings date from the turn of the century up until the 19 30’s, when there was a rush to bring the city up to date and turn it into a modern European capital.
Evidence has been found that Sofia was inhabited as early as 7000 years ago.
Thracian and Roman remains can still be seen dotted around the city: in the underpass in front of the presidency, behind the military club, and behind the Sheraton hotel. Sofia’s thermal springs meant that it was always an attractive place for settlement. There are later Roman rule, Sofia was known as Serdika; from the middle of the 6th century the Byzantines renamed it Triaditsa and from the 9th century onwards during the First Bulgarian Kingdom it took on the Slavonic name of Sredets. The city finally became known as Sofia from the beginning of the 15th century taking on the name Sofia (Wisdom), from st. Sofia church.
- The main park in Sofia is the Vitosha park, which covers a large part of the mountain.
- The central park of Sofia is the Borissova gradina (The Garden of Boris). At the very beginning of the park is the Ariana lake, where water wheels are available from spring to late autumn. Further inside the park are numerous tennis courts, a cycle – racing track, the “Bulgarian Army” soccer stadium and the “Vasil Levski” National stadium.
- The Municipal City Garden is situated in the capital’s ideal center opposite to the Sofia Municipal Gallery. In front of the National Theatre there are fountains with a sculpture of a female dancer.
- Yuzhen park (the Southern park) is the second largest park after the Borissova garden. It extend from “Ivan Vazov” quarter to the “Hladilnika” quarter. Numerous children’s playgrounds are included in its territory. The “Spartak” swimming and sport center is an attractive place for open – air celebrations organized by the Sofia Municipality.
- Zapaden park (the Western park) is close to the “Zaharna Fabrica” quarter and the beginning of the “Lyulin” residential area. Several catering and spot establishments are available in it and there is enough space for walks and games.
- Within the Vitosha's limits the most interesting landmarks are the Boyana church and the Dragalevski Monastery. They were built in the XIII th and the XIV th century respectively and are considered the forerunners of the European Renaissance.
- The Vranya Residence and its small lake are situated along the very ring road. The place used to be a residence of the late tsar Boris III. Today the place is used only in the summer.
- Bankya is 22 km. from the capital. The town is a balneological center for cardiovascular and pulmonary ailments. It can be reached by bus or by a regular railway line. Wonderful place for picnic and tourist outgoings surrounds it.
- The Kremikovski Monastery is located 30 km. north of Sofia.
- The Kourilo Monastery stand at the mouth of the Iskar Gorge near the Kourilo village, 18 km. from the capital. It can be reached by the road to Mezdra or by passenger train on the line connecting Sofia with Northern Bulgaria. The church was built and painted in the XV th century.
- Most frequently visited in Plana Mountain is the Kokalyane monastery, built in the 10 th century by tsar Samuil. Beautiful frescoes and mural decorate the church built after Russian patterns.
- Most conspicuous to the visitors of Sofia are the mountains, which encircle the Sofia plain. Vitosha, Lyulin and Plana are interesting places that worth to be seen.
- Lyulin mountain is situated south – west of the capital, 3 km. from the ring road. Now virtually a part of the city, it is a good place for outgoings, picnics and walks. Bosnovy poliani (Bons glades) are the most frequented place in the mountain.
- Plana mountain also offers interesting sights for tourists. It is situated at about 10 km. south of the capital and can be reached by municipal bus transport or by car along the road to Samokov.
- Pancharevo lake is about 15 km. from the capital and is situated next to the Pancharevo village. The lake when is full is about 5 km. long and 1 km. wide. It is suitable for recreation, sunbathing, fishing, water sports and swimming. Rowing and water - ski competitions are frequently organized here.
- The Iskar dam is another large artificial water reservoir near Sofia. It lies 25 km. south of the city.