Interior of the ancient Saint Sophia Church which gave its name to the city, Wikimedia Commons
Sofia, Bulgaria - is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria in the western part of the country. It occupies a strategic position at the centre of the Balkan Peninsula, and is the 15th largest city in the European Union with a population of around 1.3 million people. Surrounded by sprawling parkland, Sofia lies at the foot of popular ski mountain, Vitosha. With a history that stretches over seven millennia, ruin-rich Sofia is one of Europe's oldest cities. The National Historical Museum is one of Eastern Europe's most extensive. Wide, cobblestone boulevards, charming boutiques and truly electrifying nightlife star in this city of 1.3 million. Trolleys, trams and buses traverse the dynamic city.
The current name Sofia was first used in the 14th-century Vitosha Charter of Bulgarian tsar Ivan Shishman and refers to the famous Holy Sophia Church, an ancient church in the city named after the Christian concept of the Holy Wisdom.
Sofia's development as a significant settlement owes much to its central position in the Balkans. It is situated in western Bulgaria in the Sofia Valley that is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The valley has an average altitude of 550 metres (1,800 ft). Three mountain passes lead to the city, which have been key roads since antiquity, connecting the Adriatic Sea and Central Europe with the Black and Aegean Seas. A number of low rivers cross the city, including the Vladaiska and the Perlovska. The Iskar River in its upper course flows near eastern Sofia. The city is known for its 49 mineral and thermal springs. Artificial and dam lakes were built in the twentieth century.