Bulgaria is a beautifully diverse country. With places to visit like the magnificent mountain town of Veliko Tarnovo, Black Sea city of Varna, and the capital, Sofia, it’s easy to get wrapped up in everything the country has to offer.
Located in the western part of Bulgaria, Sofia, at the foot of Vitosha Mountain, is the most populous city in the country, with more than 1.2 million people.
While there are plenty of tourist highlights to keep a person busy, there are also some seriously fabulous offbeat attractions in Sofia, Bulgaria. Once you’ve checked into one of the many hotels in Sofia, head out the door and explore everything this town has to offer.
Eat Your Way Through the City
Thanks to Balkan Bites, travelers can experience local cuisine and learn about popular haunts on a free food tour. The first free food tour in Europe, participants head to family owned restaurants and sample traditional Bulgarian cuisine while learning about the history and customs of the country. The tour lasts two hours.
Art in Action
Art and politics merge at the Monument to the Soviet Army. This oft-contested sculpture in the King’s Garden served as recognition of the Soviet Red Army for their efforts toward Bulgaria in World War II. When Bulgaria moved to democracy, however, the sculpture became a blank canvas for protesting the symbol of Communism in the city. Today, these figures appear as characters such as Superman and Santa.
Shop at a Flea Market
Get an up-close look at the lives of locals with Bitaka, the largest flea market in Sofia. Splayed out on asphalt, people come every weekend to sell antiques, random junk, and more. It’s perfect for photos and some authentic souvenirs of the city.
Grab a Tea
While sipping tea sounds like the wrong country, don’t be fooled. Hit the Tea House to mingle with expats and artsy locals at night. Enjoy jam sessions, vegan food, and more than 60 types of tea. This spot gets bonus points because it also offers a second-hand English bookshop to grab some random reading material on your travels.
Take Advantage of Free Tours
Want to get a better grasp on Sofia? There are free tours available — both walking and biking. In addition, visitors can also schedule a jogging tour of the city for a small fee. Tours take visitors through a range of locations (more than 30) that not only explain the city’s past, but also the present.
For even more free tours, try a hiking tour that winds people around Vitosha Mountain. (Note, while the tours are free, tips are welcome and generally expected.)
Check Out Puppets
While it may seem like an activity only for kids, the Sofia Puppet Theatre is a special way to get a feel for the city’s cultural and performing arts. An institution in the city, every year the theatre performs more than 500 times, adding six new performances to its repertoire every season. Bring out the kid in you — or bring the kids — and check out the intricate and award-winning performances.
Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the Hipmunk #CityLove campaign.