What is Sofia city day about?

Citizens of Sofia celebrate the city’s day on 17 September

Written by Andrea Vushkova, edited by Lindsay Martin and Scott Green, photo by Anastasiia Dehtiarova.


“Serdika is my Rome” 

The city of Sofia was popular long before the Bulgarian state was established. Emperor Constantine the Great considered making it the new capital of the Roman Empire because of its strategic position, the hot mineral springs, and good climate. He later changed his mind and chose the city at the Bosphorus, which he named after himself, Constantinople (nowadays Istanbul). Nevertheless, Serdika remained his weak spot, and he often said “Serdika is my Rome”. 

Sofia (also known as Sredets and Triaditsa) has played an important role in the 1300-year history of the Bulgarian state. However, it always remained in the background, while Pliska, Preslav, and Veliko Turnovo got the spotlights as consecutive capitals of Bulgaria. 


Old vs. new 

Yes, it might be a surprise, but Sofia has been the capital of Bulgaria only for the last century. In 1879, a year after the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman empire, the newly established Parliament had to decide: Veliko Tarnovo or Sofia? After heated debates, the old capital had to retreat and on 3 April 1879, Sofia officially became the new center of Bulgaria. 

At the 100-year anniversary of this memorable event, the municipality council declared 3 April as the Day of Sofia. In 1992, for reasons unknown, the council changed this date and chose 17 September, the day when the Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy martyrs- Sofia and her three daughters Vyara (Faith), Nadezhda (Hope), and Lyubov (Love). The story says that Sofia and her daughters lived in Rome in the second half of the first century. They were zealous Christians and refused to perform Roman customs and to worship Roman gods. Emperor Adrian ordered for the daughters to be tortured in front of their mother’s eyes. The girls did not survive the monstrosities, and Sofia was allowed to take their bodies and bury them. Three days after their funeral, she passed away, too.

What is the connection between the Christian martyrs and the city of Sofia, you ask? Well, besides the name Sofia, they don’t have much in common. Nevertheless, the date remained as the official city day, and it is celebrated annually by the citizens of Sofia, also known as “stolichani” (“stolitsa” means capital). In addition, many women have their name days on this date, since Sofia, Vyara, Nadezhda, and Lyubov are quite popular names. 

Nowadays the Day of Sofia is usually celebrated with various events, sometimes starting even from the day before. We gathered a list of the ones happening this year, following the Covid-19 safety measures of course. Hopefully, there will be something for everyone!

KvARTal festival
The annual festival will begin on 17 September this year and it is a great way to celebrate the Day of Sofia! This free event traditionally takes place in the area between the boulevards “Maria Luisa”, “Dondukov”, “Vasil Levski”, and “Slivnitsa”. Numerous workshops, food stands, drinks, and talks will flood the “kvartal” (neighborhood), so be sure to drop by this weekend and discover some of the capital’s secrets.

“Literary Sofia”
“Sketches of Sofia'' will present their new book and an exhibition about the literary side of Sofia. Visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy photos of writers’ houses, hidden library nooks, and portraits of contemporary Bulgarian authors. The artwork of “Sketches of Sofia” is always breathtaking, so it would definitely be a pleasure to see it “in the flesh” instead of on a screen. Cafe 1920 will host the event at 18:30 on Friday.

Day of Sofia in Mladost municipality
The Mladost municipality has prepared a celebration for its citizens with an official award ceremony for distinguished students and various music and dance performances. So if you are around chitalishte “Mladost 1971”, take a look, the event starts at 18:30 on 16 September. 

Sound Underground
The third line of the Sofia Metro will turn into a mobile stage for contemporary dance, art, fashion, and music. There will be performances in one of the metro carriages both along the way and at selected metro stations from 10:00 until 13:00 and then again from 19:30 until 21:30. More information here.

Sofia Lights
The Vrana palace will host a big light installation that will merge light, music, technology, and nature into one. Citizens and visitors of Sofia can enjoy this event organized under the city art project “Urban creatures” on 16,17, and 18 September. Tickets can be bought online only and guests can see the installation from 20:30 until 24:00 h.

Exhibition “Postcards from the future”
“KO-OP”, a coworking and art space, is organizing an exhibition of postcards, made by young artists and based on stories of children. The painters asked kids of ages 7-9 how they imagine their city when they grow up, what their jobs will be, what kind of transportation they will use, and how they will spend their free time. The panels will be positioned around the gallery “Square 500”, the Museum of contemporary art, and the Sofia Art gallery from 17 September until 17 October 2021. The postcards will also be digitally accessible on KO-OP’s webpage.


Music

Naturally, a celebration wouldn’t be wholesome without some music. This year the focus is on classical music but there will also be a big outdoor concert with popular and beloved contemporary Bulgarian singers.

Classical concert in the Military club

The chamber ensemble “Sofia soloists” will honor the Day of Sofia in the concert hall of the Military club on 16 September. The ensemble will play together with children from the program “Music instead of the street” and they will perform works of Bach, Shostakovich, Bizet, Piazzolla. Entrance is free, and the concert starts at 19:00.

“Sofia, celebrate with classics!”
This now annual classical concert will take place in “Zala Bulgaria” (Hall Bulgaria). The orchestra of the radio station “Classic FM” will play together with Maestro Maxim Eshkenazi, the opera singer Gergana Nikolaeva, and the pianist Georgi Cherkin. They will perform works of Mozart, Bach, Hendel, Tchaikovski, and other renowned composers. They begin at 19:30, the audience can enter with free invitations from this website.

“Happy Sofia day!” concert
The municipality of the city organized a free concert for its citizens. The event will take place at the stage of “Sofia Summer fest” in the Dog park (behind the museum “The Earth and the people” and Park center Sofia). Among the performers will be Orlin Pavlov, Maria Ilieva, Stefan Valdobrev, “Ogi 23”. The concert starts at 18:00 but seats will be limited, so make sure to get there early!

Hopefully, everyone will find an event they enjoy on this list! The team at Open Bulgaria wishes you a wonderful Sofia city day! And don’t forget the motto of the capital:   

“Ever growing, never aging!”