Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. It is located in the western part of country at the foot of the mountain Vitosha, and is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country. Sofia got its present name in the 14th century after the name of St.Sofia Church, which means wisdom in Greek. On 3rd April 1879 the town became a capital.
The history of Sofia dates back to the 7th century BC. Sofia was originally a Thracian settlement called Serdica, named after the Thracian tribe of Serdi. The city was destroyed by the Huns in 447, but rebuilt by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and renamed Triaditsa. Sofia was captured by the Bulgarians for the first time in 809. Afterwards, it was known as Sredets, the name given to it by the Slavs. It was renamed Sofia in 1376 and conquered by the Ottomans in 1382, becoming the capital of the Turkish province of Rumelia for more than 4 centuries.
From the earliest times, Sofia’s main attraction has been its thermal springs, which are still in public use today, as a water source. Its strategic location on military and trade routes made it an important administrative centre in Roman times and one of the most urbanized cities.
During World War II, Bulgaria became part of the Axis and Sofia was heavily bombed in British and American raids – 3000 buildings were destroyed and 9000 damaged. In 1944 the Soviet Army took the capital and Bulgaria became part of the Eastern Bloc. Communist Sofia underwent a period of rapid industrialisation – new factories and high-rise apartment blocks grew up to form extended ugly suburbs. The city centre is dominated by neo-classical Stalinist architecture.
However, the side streets and century-old commercial quarter reveals the true magic of Sofia – a very European city of tree-lined boulevards and balconied buildings by 19th-century Russian and Viennese architects, standing among a cluster of ancient Orthodox churches.