There’s no substitute for local knowledge! So in this new series I find out all the insider info and hidden gems from the people who really know a place – the locals!
Local Secrets Guide to Sofia, Bulgaria
Adriana Vassilkova is from Sofia, Bulgaria’s charming, underrated and great value capital.
As a private tour guide, Adriana creates individual tours and unforgettable experiences for tourists in Bulgaria and other Balkan countries so she really knows what shes talking about!
Her blogs got awarded in few competitions, included the prize for best blog in the competition for the best Bulgarian blog of 2014.
Adriana, so why do you love Sofia? (and why should we visit!)
I just love this place, because Sofia is my city and everything here makes me feel home. Every small shop, bar or street art in the hidden streets, everything makes me feel comfortable and happy.
Of course the city would not be the same without the people who are living here, so they are probably the most important part of it. And I love them! Honestly, all the young people in Sofia are so easygoing and easy to communicate with, that you won’t believe your eyes. And yes, 90 % of them speak perfect English, which makes the communication even easier.
Another reason why I love the city is because it’s cheeeeep (all of Bulgaria is cheap!) and because everything in the city center is located so close to each other. Not like in London, where you must take a train, metro and tram only for a oneway ride. You know what I mean and I can buy beer at any time and drink it anywhere. Probably the most important reason to fall in love with Sofia is because here I feel free. I can do whatever, whenever, wherever. Honestly, Sofia is awesome!
What are your 5 must see things in Sofia?
Perhaps, as a tour guide I should mention the main landmarks, churches and famous buildings! But I won’t! There are so many other hidden things which waiting to be explored. I’ll tell you about the places only locals know!
- Shishman street is one of my favorite places where you can find many art and handicraft shops, bars and street art.
- The Borisova Garden. This is a park located in the city center of Sofia. Did you know that Sofia is one of the greenest cities in Europe and has a lot of parks all over the city.
- As a nature lover I have to recommend another green place – Vitosha mountain, which is located only 20 mins drive from the city center. The mountain is great for a day hiking or just a short walk in the nature with a picnic. There are many places revealing spectacular views of the city, one of the best spots is the restaurant and the old lift, located near the Kopitoto restaurant. During the winter Vitosha turns into a great ski resort and favorite place of the locals .
- Kristal Park and the city garden ( the park infront of the National Theater ) Both places are located only 5 minutes walking distance from each other. During the warm months the parks are a popular meeting point and favourite place for both locals, backpackers and people from all the other world to hang out, go after about 7pm.
- The Square in front of the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral. This is one of the iconic and most famous buildings in Sofia and is a great place for pictures. There you will also find another church – “Saint Sofia” and few more monuments and parks.
What’s your top recommendations for eating out in Sofia? Is there a typical Bulgarian dish to try?
Hmm, now you make me share my biggest secret for eating out! There is a place called “Pri Krasi”, which unfortunately is not located in the city center but a taxi will only cost about 10 – 12 BGN (around £4 / US$6 ).
I have another favourite place to eat, again not in the center. Its name is Vodenitsata – it’s located in the Vitosha mountain. The interior is in traditional Bulgarian style and the portions are big and not expensive. Almost every night there is a folklore program with traditional dances, costumes, fire dances and more.
My third favourite place is located downtown on the main pedestrian area and Vitosha street It’s called “Shtastlivetsa” which means “the happy man”.
In those three places the food is delicious, the portions are huge and the prices are very reasonable. Before you go you’ll need a reservation, because these restaurants are really popular and it can be hard to find a free table.
I will also share some of my must try dishes in Sofia and around Bulgaria.
- All the soups in Bulgaria are amazing and big enough to feed you for lunch. My favourite one is the traditional Tarator – cold yogurt soup.
- Same is for the salads. One huge salad (600 g) with vegetables, cheese, mushrooms and meet Can cost you about 7-8 BGN (£2-3). Traditional one is the Shopska Salad made with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and Bulgarian cheese.
- The Bulgarian cheese (by the way don’t call it feta cheese, because it is different and Bulgarians will get offended!)
- All the fruits and vegetables
- Wine and home made Rakia (Brandy).
Wow, sounds delicious! Thanks for the insider tips!
So where is the most happening night out/ bar right now in Sofia?
I have few favourite places to go out at night. One of it is called “Маймунарника“ or “Maimunarnika” and its located in Borisova Garden. It’s open air club, situated in the wood with great stage, music, atmosphere and reasonable prices. The club is open even during the winter, when becomes a fun park for snowboard and ski.
Since last week I have new favourite place here and I am so happy to know it! It’s a brand new bar, owned by foreigners with great thematic parties, cocktails and atmosphere. It is located in the building of the Old Public Bath called Madara
What’s your top local secret for Sofia?
Don’t believe all you read in the guidebooks or on the internet. Come to Sofia, or to Bulgaria, as a blank page without preconceptions and let the city show you the best of it!
Thanks Adriana! If you are planning to visit Sofia check out her blogs or get in touch with her to organise a tour.
You can get in contact with Adriana on:
If you would like to share your local secrets and insider info on your city then contact me for your chance to be featured here!