Bulgaria is the oldest country in Europe that hasn’t changed its name since it was first established. This happened in 681 AD. Before the native Bulgarians settled down near the Danube river, the land was inhabited by many early civilizations such as the Trachians, the ancient Romans and the ancient Greeks, as the country’s many monuments attest.
There are nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria. Two of them are natural : Pirin National Park and Srebarna Nature reserve; seven are cultural sites: Rila Monastery, Boyana Church, Madara Rider, Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Thracian tomb of Kazanlak, ancient city of Nessebar and ancient tomb of Sveshtari. In addition, there are two masterpieces of the intangible cultural heritage, under the protection of UNESCO – the ritual of Nestinarstvo and Bistritsa babi.
Bulgaria’s varied landscape provides the opportunity for different kinds of tourism and entertainment. There are over 40 mountains in Bulgaria which has enabled the development of many winter resorts that are preferred both by Bulgarians and by foreign tourists. Bansko, as one of the biggest skiing resorts, is famous not only for its slopes, but also for its Town Centre, where Renaissance architecture and traditional culture and cuisine have been a tourist attraction for years.
Mountain regions are visited not only in winter. During summer one can take on the
challenge to conquer Cherni Vrah (2,290 m), the summit of the Vitosha mountain, or even the Musala peak. Situated in the Rila Mountain, Musala (2,925 m) is the highest peak in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula. For those not inclined to walk the distance, there is also an open lift that takes you to the route around the Seven Rila Lakes – a beautiful site of the Bulgarian mountain landscape.
The Black Sea seaside also offers quite a lot. There are resorts for different kinds of summer experiences. From off the beaten track camps where one can feel nature to big party centers, such as Sunny Beach and Golden Sands. Being one of the countries with the highest number of natural mineral springs in Continental Europe – over 600, Bulgaria offers also many SPA resorts. Three cities have been capitals of the Bulgarian state before Sofia became one – Pliska, Veliki Preslav and Veliko Turnovo. Sofia was founded 7000 years ago which makes it the second oldest city in Europe. It was settled by the Thracian tribe Serdi, and from there its first name, Serdika. Later, when the region became part of the Bulgarian empire, the city was called Sredets. This was until 14th century, when it was named Sofia, most probably because of the church “St. Sofia”, that was, at the time at the very end of the city.
The official holiday of the capital is celebrated on the 17th September, when it’s the day of the goddess Sofia and her three daughters – Faith, Hope and Love. There are numerous tourist attractions located in our capital city, which are worth seeing.
The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
One of the most impressive buildings is The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The gold- domed cathedral was built in the early 20th century in memory of the 200,000 Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian and Bulgarian soldiers, who died in the Russo-Turkish War. It is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. The cathedral’s gold-plated dome is 45 m high, with the bell tower reaching 50.52 m.
Church of St George
The Church of St George is a late Roman rotunda dated from 4th century situated in the courtyard of the Sheraton Sofia Hotel. It was constructed with red bricks and is considered the oldest building in Sofia.
It is known for its Medieval frescoes in the central dome dating from 12-14th centuries.
Cathedral of St Joseph
The Cathedral of St Joseph is a Roman Catholic cathedral. The cathedral, rebuilt at its previous location after it was destroyed by the Allied bombing raids during World War II, was inaugurated on 21 May 2006 in the presence of Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals and Cardinal Secretary of State of the Roman Catholic Church. The foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid personally by Pope John Paul II.
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum occupies the largest and oldest former Ottoman mosque in the city built in 1474. It has a large collection of archaeological artifacts from all over the Balkans including some of the golden Thracian treasures. The museum is among Bulgaria’s oldest and was inaugurated in 1905.
National Art Gallery
It is located on Battenberg Square in the capital city of Sofia, occupying most of the historic and imposing edifice of the former royal palace of Bulgaria, having been established in 1934 and moved to the palace in 1946, after the abolition of the monarchy.
National Museum of Natural History
The museum’s collection includes over 400 stuffed mammals, over 1,200 species of birds, hundreds of thousands of insects and other invertebrata, as well as samples of about one quarter of the world’s mineral species. Today’s National Museum of Natural History was founded in 1889 as the Natural History Museum of Knyaz Ferdinand of Bulgaria.
The St. Clement of Ohrid University of Sofia or Sofia University is the oldest higher education institution in Bulgaria, founded on 1 October 1888. The university’s edifice was constructed between 1924 and 1934 with the financial support of the brothers Evlogi Georgiev and Hristo Georgiev, whose sculptures are now featured on its façade.
Ivan Vazov National Theatre
The Ivan Vazov National Theatre is Bulgaria’s national theatre, as well as the oldest and most authoritative theatre in the country and one of the important landmarks of Sofia.
National Palace of Culture
The National Palace of Culture cultural and congressional centre — the largest multifunctional complex in Southeastern Europe, inaugurated in 1981 and situated in a lush green park surroundings.
Vitosha park and mountain
Vitosha mountain, one of the symbols of Sofia, just a short drive or lift trip away, open year round. Ski and snowboard are popular in the winter, and hiking in the summer.