Amphitheatre of Serdica
Amphitheatre of Serdica
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About
In the past Serdica was the capital of the eastern province of Dacia Mediterranea - part of the Great Roman Empire. It was an important commercial and political centre, large and well developed city, built in a Roman style with large stone streets, a forum, beautiful temples and impressive buildings with magnificent decorations.In 2004 during the construction works in the city center of Sofia unexpectedly came across a part of a Roman wall. Archaeological excavations immediately started – thus the Amphitheatre of Serdica (Amphiteatrum Serdicense) was discovered! This is a monumental public building with an elliptical layout and an arena in the middle, elliptically surrounded by the tiered seats for the spectators. The great number of coins and pottery discovered enabled the researchers to identify two periods in III-IV century. During the research on the site it became evident that about 5 meters under the amphitheatre there is a theatre, built in II-III century, i.e. 100 years earlier. A unique complex combining ancient amphitheatre and theatre was discovered. These are the largest buildings from the age of ancient Serdica, evidencing its heyday during the centuries. The finding was declared unique and the discovery - unmatched in the world!The Arena of Serdica is 60.5 m long and 43 m wide. However, the Amphitheatre of Serdica is the only one in the world, combining a Roman theatre and a late antique amphitheatre in one place and the only such public building in the Balkans. This makes the site truly unique and the discovery - sensational. It is a fact that no other capital or even city in the world can boast a theatre and amphitheatre together and located in its very centre. Its construction began during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian and was completed by the Emperor Constantine the Great.Interesting Facts:- The first evidence for the existence of an amphitheatre with arena for fights is a stone plate found in 1919 near the present-day building of the Council of Ministers. It is assumed that it served as an “advertising banner” at the entrance of the ancient Serdica. Nowadays it is preserved and is on display in the Archaeological Museum in Sofia.- The plate reveals images of lions, tigers, bulls, crocodiles, which took part in combat with Gladiators. The Christians persecuted at this time were thrown to the wild beasts for the amusement of the spectators. The excavations revealed teeth of bear.- The amphitheatre was located outside the fortress walls of the ancient town and now it is located in the centre of Sofia.- Its walls have been preserved in their actual form and the combat arena is covered with sand as it was in the past. The origin of the word “arena” is from the Latin word for sand “harena”. The sand was selected as the most suitable material to absorb the blood of the victims.- When standing in the ruins of the amphitheatre and looking up at the street level, it becomes evident how ages and nature have deposited a new layer of about 12 m between the town of Serdika from III century and the modern city.- The walls of the amphitheatre and the sectors with seats were about 5 floors high and correspond to the level of the nowadays Moskovska Street. About 25,000 spectators gathered on the site. Its opposite end is found to be near the Youth Theatre on Dondukov Blvd.- 7 stone seats for spectators are preserved and placed in their original locations.- Here the dressing rooms of the actors involved in theatrical performances can be seen, as well as the entrance of the east gate, where the chariots passed during the gladiatorial combat.- Clad in metal and leather, people from all over the empire used to die or gain their freedom on the arena.Besides the metallic clink of weapons, the ruins remembered recitations of poets and orators, virtuoso performances of musicians and actors, exalted cheers of spectators.- Clay tiles still bear the footprints of animals - goats, dogs, cats, immortalized their traces in the uncured slabs of the ancient builders.A dwelling and a furnace dated V-VI century and a well dated IV-V century were also discovered.Superstructures built during the age of the Ottoman Empire were found, as well as coins and pottery from this period. Legends about the Emperor Diocletian – the creator of the Amphitheatre of Serdica - Diocletian was characterized with his lust for power, serious and pensive look, as if contemplating great deals. It had been predicted that he would reach the supreme power after killing a boar, so he repeatedly went hunting. - When seized power, Diocletian reserved for himself the eastern empire and the position of senior co-emperor. He took the name Jovius – from the name of god Jove, Jupiter. - Diocletian first introduced as mandatory the complex royal ceremonies followed by almost all the emperors after him, aimed at enhancing the power and limiting the access to the autocrats deified while still alive. - After the solemn abdication of Diocletian - the only emperor who retired voluntarily - it turns out that it was only his authority that protected the Tetrarchy from collapsing. - Diocletian spent the last years of his life in his huge palace, which was built near his hometown of Aspalatos (today's city of Split) in Dalmatia. According to legend, when some messengers came to him with a request to return to power again, he replied to them that “if they knew what vegetables he himself grew in his garden, they would never ask him to become the Emperor again”.
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  • Serdika II • 7 min walk
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Popular mentions

4.0
4.0 of 5 bubbles472 reviews
Excellent
173
Very good
196
Average
81
Poor
13
Terrible
9

Abovetheclouds
2,074 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2023 • Solo
In all honesty as a few reviewers have mentioned, although this is located in the heart of the city, it is very easy to walk past and think it is construction! I did. Had I not done a guided walking tour, I wouldn't have known. Really depends on you and how much history you are interested in. I was happy with an overview and to browse through parts of it.
Written April 28, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

tony k
Frinton-On-Sea, UK135 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2017 • Solo
In the centre of Sofia at the point they call Serdica there is the main Metro station. Whilst developing the buildings around it these underground walls were discovered. The site is still being excavated but the walls exposed so far are the basements of 2000 year old buildings showing their foundations and plumbing system. Its free to wander round and is an amazing sight. Forget the Sofia statues and churches - go and see this instead and be impressed !
Written November 2, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ConnemaraDoris
connemara102 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2018 • Business
amazing the amount of detail that has been uncovered - really found this fascinating - incredible to see such engineering so long ago
Written February 15, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

jaydub1975
Derby, UK33 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2016
There's a total lack of fanfare about this beautifully presented and restored walk through history. Elsewhere in Europe there would be enormous charges attached to seeing only a fraction of the artefacts on show. Well worth a visit.
Written November 23, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MetalMind
Zemun, Serbia492 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2017 • Couples
This is the best way Sofia can show tourists its rich history. It is like open air museum, in city center, well marked, clean.
Written January 3, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Leonine949
Shumen, Bulgaria115 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2019
To walk on the flagstones laid down by Roman engineers, to see the layers of history that is often underground or discarded, is humbling and exciting. This is not history in a dry and dusty classroom, but history that connects you to those before you, and makes you hope that our works will survive as long.
Written January 1, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Nikolai Atanassov
Brussels, Belgium42 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2019
Upon its discovery, the Remains of the amphitheatre were a bit more extensive, but the private developer who built the hotel chose to expose only part of them.
Written December 4, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Neil K
Liverpool, UK830,453 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2019 • Friends
The ancient Roman settlement of Serdica is to be found throughout this most interesting of city's ,down by Serdika Metro Station there are lots of ruins of the old Roman settlement, at least 8 streets and baths,even a basilica and some dwelling, located as part of the hotel you have these ruins that look amazing .
The stonework is superb ,so good to touch ruins with this much age to it ,and it's great to see that the owners of the hotel had the foresight to retain these ancient ruins,absolutely fantastic.
Easy to locate in Residence Hotel on Ul. Budapeshta and well worth checking out.
Written November 30, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

sandra n
Sun City, AZ1,241 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2019
We walked with a guide here and it was a little more interesting that way, especially with a very knowledgeable Bulgarian national. That really applies to quite a bit in and around Sophia. Fascinating to see and strange to experience underneath this busy city.
Written August 13, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

hefzimonge
San Jose, Costa Rica10 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2018
For someone that has never been to Rome or Italy, being on a Roman Arena of thousands of years, and walking on ancient streets was incredible, its so beautifully lighted and so accessible, great for pictures and it has a good cafe, service was not the best but food was great, we found parking, souvenirs were a lot cheaper than average for the rest of Europe and you can visit in 1 day.
Written July 30, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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