Bulgaria is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Not only does it provide tourists with mountains, sea, mineral waters and different options for activities, but it is also a place rich of historical landmarks and adorable hidden places. One of the top destinations of course is the capital, Sofia.
It is famous for many things, but this is not a post about the things everyone knows. This story is about the gems that are visible yet hidden, that are famous but not if you’re new to Sofia. Brace yourself and get ready to rediscover some of the great places in the capital.
While a bit outside Sofia, Lake Pancharevo is a great place to enjoy nature and spend the day outside. The eco-trail Pancharevo Lake is one of the most popular tourist routes in the area. There is a great view to enjoy while walking but it is also a great path if you turn out to be an enthusiast for biking.
In addition, there are places where you can sit, and enjoy the weather or have a snack. It is the perfect get-away from the busy life of the capital and the ideal way to get in touch with Nature.
Personally, I love the place because it is quiet, and you can enjoy a conversation with friends without being bothered by the constant noise of the outside world.
Last but not least, if you happen to be into jogging, there are good paths for a run because there are no cars passing by and you would feel comfortable passing by fellow joggers.
Pastry Shop Malina (Raspberry)
As unconventional as this may sound, this tiny little pastry shop has some of the freshest and best cakes I have ever tried in Bulgaria. Although nothing measures up to Italian sweets and pastries, Malina has certainly raised the level for sweet treats in the capital.
But this is not all.
Not only is everything more than tasty but the prices are extremely low. You could purchase a piece of cake and a coffee for about 2 euros, and a whole cake for 15 euros.
The shop is located at Liditse 14 Street and is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
It’s appropriate for dates, sweet treats and every other occasion that requires cake. And what occasion doesn’t, right? Moreover, if you want to buy a cake and celebrate somewhere else, that’s fine. After all, I bought sweets which travelled half of the country and got delivered on their location without any issues. So, my personal advice is to visit this hidden little place whenever in town to explore some delicious sugar treats.
Vitosha Street and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Boulevard Vitosha, or as we Bulgarian people call it “Vitoshka,” is one of the most picturesque streets
in the whole country. Full of little cafes and restaurants, the streets gives you a warm feeling about the country and provides you with a breath-taking view.
The name of the street comes from the fact that you can see Mount Vitosha when you’re walking in this retail district.
Another famous fact that makes the street so popular are the multiple boutiques and fashion stores spread along it. It is important to mention that this boulevard is a pedestrian zone, so no motor vehicles are allowed. And while walking on Vitoshka, you’ll most likely reach the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which is one of the most famous landmarks in Bulgaria.
It is totally worth seeing because it is magnificent in its architecture.
Other notable landmarks in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral are the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the National Gallery of Foreign Art, the Bulgarian parliament, and a park honoring Bulgarian poet Ivan Vazov, where one can buy handmade textiles, icons, and antiques in a small flea market.
Happy is a Bulgarian chain of restaurants which offer everything from sushi to traditional Bulgarian food. Yes, this may sound a bit overwhelming but their food is more than perfect. As a vegetarian person, I am always able to find something tasty and meat-free in their menus and that’s how they win bonus points in my personal preferences for places to recommend.
The great thing about Happy is that there are restaurants located all around Bulgaria and not only in Sofia. You can find them in other major Bulgarian cities such as Varna, Burgas, and Plovdiv. In addition to all the good thing, the prices are affordable and you can have a great meal for less than 20 euros per person.
Kambanite (The Bells Park)
The Bells Park is also located a bit outside of the city but it is a picturesque place to be for a day. While there is a lot of history behind the place, what I found particularly interesting was the fact that each and every single bell placed there is from a different country. In addition to this, you could ring some of them and hear the different sounds they make, and you could even notice the difference in the culture.
In addition to this, you could combine the visit to Lake Pancharevo with the visit to the Bell Park because they’re pretty close to each other. It is the perfect day outside if the weather allows it but in Bulgaria this shouldn’t be such a problem especially in the summer months.
Read more about Sofia here in Dispatches’ archives.
Polya Plamenova Pencheva is a young Bulgarian journalist based in Groningen, Netherlands. Polya holds a Master's degree in journalism from Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and loves writing and telling the untold stories of interesting people. You can find her dining at cute café, shopping at markets, scouting second-hand shops or just chillin' at home with something great to read.