Sofia (Bulgarian: София, pronounced [ˈsɔfija]) is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria and the 47th largest city by population in the European Union, with 1.4 million people living in the Capital Municipality. It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of Mount Vitosha, and is the administrative, cultural, economic, and educational centre of the country, being ranked as a Beta world city.
Prehistoric settlements were excavated in the centre of the present city, near the royal palace, as well as in outer districts such as Slatina and Obelya. The well-preserved town walls (especially their substructures) from antiquity date back before the 7th century BC, when Thracians established their city next to the most important and highly respected mineral spring, still functioning today.
Sofia has had several names in the different periods of its existence, and remnants from the city's past can still be seen today alongside modern landmarks.
The city offers many places of special interest such as the Sts. Cyril and Methodius National Library (which houses the largest national book collection and is Bulgaria's oldest cultural institute), the British Council, the Russian Cultural Institute, the Polish Cultural Institute, the Hungarian Institute, the Czech and the Slovak Cultural Institutes, the Italian Cultural Institute, the French Cultural Institute, Goethe Institut, Instituto Cervantes, and the Open Society Institute.
The city is also known for the Boyana Church, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. In addition, Sofia houses the Sofia Zoological Garden, which was founded in 1888.
Several international film productions were made here. Vitosha Boulevard, also called Vitoshka — ranked as the world's 22nd most expensive commercial street — represents numerous fashion boutiques and luxury goods stores and features exhibitions by world fashion designers. Sofia's geographic location, situated in the foothills of the weekend retreat Vitosha mountain, further adds to the city's specific atmosphere.
Music and nightlife
Sofia has an extensive nightlife scene with many night clubs, live venues, pubs, mehani (Bulgarian traditional taverns), and restaurants.
The city has played host to many world-famous musical acts including Elton John, Madonna, George Michael, Tiesto, Lenny Kravitz, Kiss, Kylie Minogue, Depeche Mode, Rammstein, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Judas Priest, Rihanna, Iron Maiden, AC/DC , Marillion , Scorpions and many more.
Sofia houses numerous museums, notably the National Historical Museum, the Bulgarian Natural History Museum, the Museum of Earth and Men, the Ethnographic Museum, the National Museum of Military History, the National Polytechnical Museum and the National Archaeological Museum.
In addition, there are the Sofia City Art Gallery, the Bulgarian National Gallery of Arts, the Bulgarian National Gallery for Foreign Art as well as numerous private art galleries.