Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is a city of uncharted treasures and hidden surprises. This is a European city with long and interesting history dating back to 4th - 5th millennium B.C. when the first pre-historic settlements were established in these lands.
Streets, a forum and thermae were built during the Roman Empire – even today people can walk around the city's mineral baths. Emperor Constantine the Great transformed the city into a centre of Christianity. During his reign the Saint Sofia Church was built which later gave its name to the city.
Smaller churches and monasteries were built during the Middle Ages in the foot of the Vitosha Mountain which is a domineering presence in the city. The most famous of those is the Boyana Church which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The following five hundred years of Ottoman Rule left its mark on the city and it is believed that one of the emblematic Orthodox Churches of Sofia Sveti Sedmochislenici was first built as a mosque by the famous architect and engineer from the times of Suleyman the Magnificent – Sinan Pasha who also built the famous Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul and Selimiye Mosque in Edirne.
The modern city was developed after the Liberation of Bulgaria by European architects such as Adolf Mussmann, the town planner of Stuttgart and Dusseldorf, the Alsatian Josef Frei and the Swiss gardener Daniel Neff who designed some of the largest parks and gardens in Sofia.
The European development of the city was discontinued in the 50s of the 20th century when Socialist and Soviet-influenced architecture took over and transformed the city centre. This was also the time when the large residential areas in the city suburbs were built.
Today Sofia is a mixture of European style and Oriental diversity – colourful market areas, art galleries, comfy cafes, restaurants offering a great variety of tasty food. There are antique shops and book stalls, pop corn, bagel and roasted chestnut sellers scattered in the city streets which makes the walk around the city a pleasant experience.