Located at the foot of Pirin at an altitude of 925 m, Bansko is considered to be Bulgaria's fastest growing winter resort. The mountain peaks near the town, the numerous lakes and the old pine woods make it a popular site for recreation. The town has gained international popularity after the start of the annual Bansko Jazz Festival and consequently the annual Bansko pop-star concert featuring top pop stars. Bansko is also the only Bulgarian ski resort that is centered around a historic old quarter - a tangle of cobbled streets lined with thick stone walls and metal-studded gates behind which half-timbered double-story homes can be glimpsed. The nearby village of Banya, located only 5 km from the town, is known for its 27 thermal mineral springs.
One of the oldest capital cities in Europe, the history of Sofia dates back to the 8th century BC, when Thracians established a settlement there. This is the administrative, cultural, economic, and educational centre of the country. Historic landmarks include the 10th century Boyana Church (one of the UNESCO World Heritage protected sites), the Alexander Nevski Cathedral (one of the world's largest Orthodox churches), and the early Byzantine Church of St Sophia. Sofia houses numerous museums, notably the National Historical Museum, the Bulgarian Natural History Museum, the Museum of Earth and Men. Sofia is one of the hippest cities in Bulgaria. It has a lively nightlife scene with many different night clubs, live venues, pubs, mehani (Bulgarian traditional taverns), and restaurants.
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