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What is the Capital of Bulgaria? Sofia and Her Charms

Whether you’re just curious, or you need to know, here are the answers to all of your burning questions about Bulgaria’s capital city.

What is the Capital of Bulgaria?

The capital city of Bulgaria is Sofia. A beautiful city with ancient roots, Sofia is home to approx 1.2 million people, and receives another 1 million visitors annually. (Except during…”unprecedented times.”)

An old building in Sofia City Center
Photo Credit: Erica Allardice

How Long has Sofia Been the Capital of Bulgaria?

During Roman times, Sofia was known as Serdica, and at one time was the capital of Dacia Mediterranea under the rule of Diocletian.

In modern times, Sofia became the capital in 1879, when Bulgaria was freed from 500 years of Ottoman rule.

Why is Sofia the Capital of Bulgaria?

Sofia is Bulgaria’s largest city and has been an important part of the region since antiquity. In fact, people have been living on the land that Sofia occupies for at least 7,000 years!

In 1879 Bulgaria was much larger than it is today, and Sofia was in the center of the country. It was voted to be the capital city and won over Veliko Tarnovo, despite being a fairly small town at the time.

Modern day Bulgarians also believe that Sofia was chosen to be the capital because it is surrounded by mountains and therefore highly defensible.

Where is Sofia Bulgaria?

A map of Bulgaria with a magnifying glass over it. Flag pins point out every border where three countries meet.

Sofia is in west central Bulgaria, only 60 kms from the Serbian border. Bulgaria is in Southwestern Europe

What Province is Sofia In?

Bulgaria has a very confusing system of organizing its geography.

Here’s a little info from Wikipedia to make it make sense:

“The provinces do not have official names – legally (in the President’s decree on their constitution), they are not named but only described as “oblast with administrative centre [city name]”

Great idea and all, but most people still refer to areas as “such and such province.”

To further complicate matters, Sofia has never been part of Sofia province, but rather is it’s own region of “Sofia City.”

What is Sofia Famous For?

Sofia is most famous for the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It’s undoubtedly the building you will see when you Google search Sofia.

Sofia should be famous for it’s Roman history, but that is largely unknown outside of the country and people who have already visited.

Graphic of a map of Bulgaria over a background of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Sofia in Ancient Rome

If you remember, I mentioned that Sofia was once named Serdica, and a major part of the Roman and Byzantine empires.

There is too much to say about it here and it is truly fascinating. Check out this guide to Serdica, and get your map to all of the ruins!

Before Sofia: What was the Old Capital of Bulgaria?

During the First and Second Bulgarian Empires, Veliko Tarnovo – then Tarnovgrad and later Tarnovo – was the capital of Bulgaria. This was between the 7th century and 14th century AD.

When Bulgaria was liberated from the Ottomans in 1878, Veliko Tarnovo was once more the capital, but it was very short lived. That vote I mentioned earlier, made Sofia the new capital in 1879 and parliament was moved.

In 2019 Veliko Tarnovo was declared the historical and spiritual capital of Bulgaria, so hopefully that lessened the sting. Veliko Tarnovo is still a great place to visit!

Downtown Sofia Bulgaria

How to Visit Sofia Bulgaria

If you want to know more about Sofia, and what to do when you visit, check out my complete guide to Sofia!

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