Located in the undiscovered Balkans region, Bulgaria is one of the most affordable destinations in Europe with spectacular landscapes, lots of history, and many cuisines to offer. The travel cost in Sofia is fairly cheap, considering the local currency, Bulgarian LEV, is worth only slightly half the value of the EUR or the USD. If you want to splurge on the best accommodation there is, you can check out these activities.Explore and be amazed by the sights and sounds of this bright city.
Take a virtual tour with me around the city to discover the best things you can do here to stay within your budget.
1. Take a free food tour
Balkan Bites organized one of the first free food tours in Europe - the Sofia’s Free Food Tour. The idea is to take travellers to some of their recommended healthy and trendy family owned restaurants in Sofia to enjoy traditional Bulgarian cuisine. Your guide will also explain some of the customs and history related to the foods offered.
The tour starts at 2 PM everyday at Park Crystal in front of the Stefan Stambolov Monument, and lasts for about 2.5 hours. You will be going through five to six stores and restaurants while tasting all sorts of food: from soups, to sandwiches, and pastries-my favourite! There are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Surprisingly, you will also have a chance to taste the local wine. Afterwards, you’ll get to try a Bulgarian dance in a uniquely designed traditional restaurant that resembles a wine cellar.
2. Browse through the markets (books and crafts)
Around the symbolic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, you can find the crafts market with all kinds of Bulgarian souvenir items: embroidered table clothes, jewellery, lace, Russian dolls, handmade toys, ceramics, wooden items, imitation icons, and paintings as well as antiques. Some recommended souvenirs to buy are Bulgarian wines and Rakia - schnapps sealed in ceramic urns.
Also, check out the open book market Slaveikov. Here you can browse a wide range of foreign as well as Bulgarian books outdoors. Some other open markets to take a look at are the Graf Ignatiev Street (also referred to as Grafa), which is a nice food market, and Zhenski Pazar, an open bazaar selling flowers, cheap clothes, broomsticks, and even machine parts you never even knew existed.
3. Take a free walking tour
There is a free Sofia Tour which is the free English sightseeing walking tour through the Bulgarian capital. Their guide will take you through 35, and more, sights in Sofia’s center. The tour runs twice per day, starting from the Palace of Justice at 11AM and ends at 6 PM.
Some of the highlights are the Banya Bashi Mosque, the Central Sofia Market Hall, the Mineral Water Springs, and the Central Public Bathhouse. The city centre is small and easy to walk around by yourself too.
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4. Get a hostel deal including breakfast and dinner
Sofia is one of the most affordable destinations in Europe where you can get a hotel deal for as low price as 20 EUR (22.16 USD) per night for a private room. Family Hotel Kitka, located in the Vitosha district, near the mountains, offers a great garden with green seating areas and free barbecue facilities for its guests.
You will have a nice, quiet time indulging in the natural surroundings while exploring yourself here. There are also many low-budget hostels in town, such as Hostel Mostel Sofia, that offers a dorm bed for as low price as only 10 EUR (roughly 11 USD), including breakfast and even dinner.
5. Go on the Sofia Graffiti Tour
Discover art in the wild and out in the streets.
Embark on a journey to discover the creative work out there on the streets. The Sofia Graffiti Tour is a free tour that will guide you around the city to view masterpieces on the streets. Feast your eyes on the history of street art in Sofia and gain a different perspective on this city with this free activity!
Watch a master at work.
The journey will last for approximately 2 hours and involve loads of walking, so do remember to don your comfortable walking shoes before heading out.
6. Enjoy a cool afternoon at the Borisova Gradina
The Borisova Gradina, translated as Boris’ Garden is the oldest and best known park in Sofia. Named after a Bulgarian Tsar, Boris III, the park is a sight to behold in any season.
Take a stroll through it, or sit back and watch the world pass by.
With a wide walking path illuminated by street lamps at night, this is the perfect place for a stroll at anytime of the day. Found next to the city center, drop by and take in the sights after a quick lunch at one of the many cafes in the city. Even better, pack your lunch and enjoy it here. You can even share it with the curious residents of the park.
If you are lucky, you may spot some of the natural residents there.
7. Head out to the Vitosha Mountain
One of the symbols of Sofia, the Vitosha Mountain, is located at the outskirts of the city. There are multiple bus routes that will take you to the base of the mountain. If that’s too much of an hassle, taxis rides are available as well, making this attraction easily accessible. From there, you can start hiking up the mountain. Do follow the marked path on your way up.
Reaching the peak will treat you to a panoramic sight of the city. For photography enthusiasts, pack your cameras and shoot away!
Top of the world.
Do watch out for taxi scams and stay safe. If you are not comfortable hiking on your own, there are guided tours available.
Sofia - the city for everyone
Sofia offers plenty of things to do on a low budget. There are also many shopping malls, fashion stores, small markets, and hidden shops in the narrow streets around the city centre. The main pedestrian shopping street Vitosha, which has all the shops featuring international brands, such as Benetton, Levi’s, Sisley, and so on. This area is close to various cafes and small restaurants for you to sit down, chill, and enjoying a quick lunch. Free public Wi-fi connection is available throughout the whole city centre as well as most bars and restaurants. The abundant open internet connection is one of my favourite things about Sofia.
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