A Journey Into the Past: How Sofia Became a Capital of Bulgaria

A Journey Into the Past: How Sofia Became a Capital of Bulgaria

The history of the largest city in Bulgaria – Sofia, begins long before the creation of our country. The earliest data on the inhabitation of the territory are from the early Neolithic. Over the centuries the city did not stop developing, but it was declared the capital only in 1879.
Before that we can trace interesting events from its prehistory, as well as from the Thracian, Roman and Medieval eras. We will tell you about them some other time, and now let’s follow when and how the city rises to the most important administrative center of the Third Bulgarian State.

Name Development

Today’s Sofia in the past bore different names. The oldest documented is Serdonopolis (translated from Greek “city of the Serds”) and according to researchers the Serds inhabited the area in the first century BC. Emperor Trajan officially gave the city the name Ulpia Serdica, often abbreviated only to Serdica. After the region joined Bulgaria at the beginning of the 9th century, it became known as Sredets, and the name Triaditsa is also used in ancient Greek sources. In the 14th century it was already mentioned as Sofia on behalf of the Church of St. Sophia.

How Did Sofia Become a Capital?

For centuries, Sofia has played a particularly important role as a central center and a natural crossroads connecting East and West. And indeed, as the motto of our capital states, the city is growing, but not aging, and therefore it has more than 7,000 years of history.

After the Liberation of Bulgaria from Turkish slavery, a temporary Russian government was formed with headquarters in Plovdiv, which was significantly larger in terms of population at that time. The head of the temporary administration is the Russian prince Alexander Dondukov-Korsakov, who later moved to Sofia and this became a sign of the future strategic location of the city.

A little later, at the suggestion of Marin Drinov, the city was chosen as the capital of the Principality of Bulgaria (April 3, 1879). This led to a rapid increase in population and Sofia became a large and important political, administrative, economic, scientific and cultural center.

The Early Capital

When Sofia was declared the capital, the population was just over 11,000, and urbanization lagged far behind. At that moment there were only two schools, almost no administrative buildings, and only 3,000 houses. But the situation changed very quickly, because the city had good communication lines and a key location for the construction of the future railway network of the Principality.

Transformation of Sofia

In the same year (1879) the first urban plan of Sofia was prepared by the city engineer S. Amadie, who transformed the city. Some of the most prominent architects and builders at that time came to help build the new look. Bold changes began and the center shifted from the square at Banya Bashi Mosque to the square around the Cathedral “St. King ”(today’s Holy Sunday Church).

The first city architect – the Czech Antonin (Adolf) Kolar, created the Ministry of War, Hotel Bulgaria, the Military Club, etc., and Chitalishte Slavyanska Beseda, the buildings of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Bulgarian National Bank and the mausoleum of Prince Alexander Battenberg were conceived by the Swiss Hermann Meyer. A famous Viennese architect of Bulgarian origin (Konstantin Jovanovic) designed the building of the National Assembly. The emblematic Eagle Bridge, which is considered the symbolic gate of the city, was designed by the chief architect Kolar and Vaclav Prosek in 1891. The name, as you know, comes from the bronze statues of eagles on the bridge.


If you have a way to the capital Sofia, welcome to Art Hotel Simona, which is located very close to the city center. We will accommodate you in interesting design rooms and we will make sure that you have eaten well with the specialties in the Simona Restaurant.
We are expecting you!