Highly recommended for second-time visitors who already saw the Alexander Nevsky cathedral, ate kiufte and kebapche, listened to Azis and made friends with a gypsy!
Recommended also for Bulgarians, wanting to (re)discover our beloved city of Sofia.
1. Eat a princess
Yes, I know what you are probably thinking. Not only are we Bulgarians huge fans of cannibalism, but we are also anti-monarchists! That’s why, I would like to highly recommend you that you eat AT LEAST one princess during your stay in Sofia. It’s a must!!
Of course my dear ones, this one is not limited to Sofia as we have princesses in all parts of the country. But since we are discovering Sofia now, I am going to tell you how to easily get your hands on some very delicious princesses in the capital.
Okay… I’m in a good mood today, so I will let you in on the secret of Bulgarian princesses. Well, it’s not royalties I’m talking about, but sandwiches! Because a princess or ПРИНЦЕСА (PRINTSESA) is what you see on the photo below! ❤ Nom nom.
Photo source: pizzapaty.eu
This unusual and yet very typical for Bulgaria sandwich is made with bread, minced meat and some cheese on top (if you want). Though, the classic one is just bread and ground meat, and should be about 30-40-50 cm long!
There are many places that offer princesses, but one that I would definitely recommend you is just near Slaveykov Square in Sofia (where the open Book Market is). It’s called the Sandwiches (or at least that’s how we call it?) and is located exactly here: Sandvichite Sofia. The best thing is that it is open 24/7, which makes it our favorite stop after a night out!
2. Visit Sofia History Museum in the old building of the city’s public baths
It happens so that even Bulgarians are not aware of the existence of this museum. The usual response when I mention it goes like this: “What museum? In the old building of what? But where is it?!” Few seconds of silence. Conclusion: “Oh, cool!”.
Yes, in fact it is! The building was used as the city’s public baths until 1986 when it was closed because of its poor condition. After that, for a long period of time the building remained “under construction” and in 2015 it became the new home of Sofia Regional Historical Museum.
Photo source: investireoggi.it
What I really like about the place is that it can give you just the right amount of (background) information about Sofia, covering the period between 6th millennium BC up to 1940s. The permanent exhibition is spread across 8 different rooms: Antiquity, The Strength of the Spirit, Links with European Dynasties, A Sofia Street, State and Municipal Institutions, Sofia Home and Clothing, Culture and Leisure. In every room you have the chance to watch a short movie (subtitled in English). There is also a pretty cool display of traditional Bulgarian clothes, an old tram (!)… aaaand enough with the spoilers! Go see for yourself!
The entrace is 6 leva for adults and 2 for students. For more information you can visit the website of the museum: Sofia History Museum.
3. Taste the hot mineral springs water
Right in the heart of Sofia there are hot mineral springs where you can go with a an empty bottle and fill it up! There are not many cities that can offer you the same, that’s why I would highly recommend you to go for it. If you decide to visit the History Museum of Sofia, you have the hot springs right next to it. Actually, there are even a few “attached” to the building of the museum! So, on your way out or in, you may as well drink some hot mineral water! No need to say, but the taste is amazing!
4. Admire the Golden Penis
This one is more like a hint for you to discover a “hidden” detail on the facade of the National Theater Ivan Vazov. When you stop to admire the building (which I am sure you will do), take a closer look at the gold-plated figures!
There it is! The Golden Penis!
A few years ago when they were gold-plating the theater, one of the guys decided to make a joke and put gold on the penis of the little angel. Maybe not surprisingly, but they did fire the creative guy right away, though leaving the golden penis be!
Today, according to urban legends the square in front of the theater is called Golden Penis Square. He-he.
5. Touch the Egg of Happiness and make a wish
Yes, we have a magic egg in Sofia. It’s located in the top center of Sofia, which means you can easily go there instead of waiting to catch the golden fish (plus, the egg can grant you an unlimited amount of wishes, but shh).
The Egg of Happiness is located right in front of the beautiful Russian Chuch in Sofia. All you have to do is to place your hand on the egg and make a wish. Important note! If you are two or more people, don’t place your hands simultaneously, because you don’t won’t your wishes to get mixed and become some kinky version of the original ones!
If you are not a fan of random wish-fulfilling eggs on the street, I would recommend you to visit the Russian church (like I said, right in front) and make a wish there. In the crypt of the church is the grave of Archbishop Seraphim Sobolev who is considered a “wonder worker”. Many people go there to make a wish, which they write on a white paper and put in the special wooden box placed there.
To reach the crypt you would have to enter from the left side of the church and not the main entrance.
6. Explore the city while doing some geocaching
Some what? Geochaching? Yep, why not.
I would have never thought about this one, hadn’t a friend from Portugal come to visit me for a second time in Sofia. The last time she was here, I had shown her pretty much all the main sights in Sofia and now I was kind of struggling to think of places to take her. During winter, kh. So, she suggested we do some geocaching and it turned out to be quite fun!
As you can see on the map there are a lot of caches in Sofia! Who would have thought! So, what we did was just start a walk from my place, looking for caches nearby. While looking for them, we made quite a nice walk around the city and somehow even ended up in a very sweet and cozy coffee shop where a big cache was hidden! To get it, we had to enter and tell the barista – “I would like to have salted cake!” 😀 She just smiled and gave us the box, which was actually the geocache we were looking for.
7. Go to a shisha bar
Shisha bars have always been popular in Bulgaria, but lately they are becoming quite the trend. Visiting one may be another not so traditional way of experiencing the city.
If you google “shisha bars Sofia” you will see there are many. In some of them you can listen to the “traditional” Bulgarian music, called CHALGA. This way you can combine two very typical experiences and feel like a local.
8. Go souvenir shopping in the closed market
The closed market in Sofia is called Halite (Халите) and it’s very close to the History Museum of Sofia. It is also a perfect stop during rainy/snowy/windy days!
Inside there are mainly food stands, but also souvenir shops and other more or less typical Bulgarian goods. You can take a coffee there, try a big variety of tasty and super FRESH olives, buy a magnet or traditional Bulgarian pottery, eat some banichka…
Photo source: sofia.bta.bg
9. Visit the Antique Market in front of Alexander Nevsky
I personally love this one. The Antique Market in Sofia is located right in front of the Alexander Nevsky cathedral. Here you can see the exact spot on the map: Antique Market Sofia.
Photos source: programata.bg
The market is split in two – antiques and art. You can find anything from old coins, pieces of furniture, jewelry, paintings, icons and what not. A good time to visit the market is in the morning or on weekends. In the afternoon many of the merchants may have already left.
10. Explore the coat of arms of Sofia
For this one you don’t have to do anything in particular. Just take a closer look at the beautiful coat of arms of Sofia and learn more about it.
Kind of looks like Hogwarts stuff, right?
Well, this is it. As you can see on the photo it is as shield, divided in four. The head in the upper left corner depicts a humanized picture of Ulpia Serdica taken from an antique coin. Next to it is located the church of Sophia, which gave the present name of the city. Beneath the church you can see a statue of Apollo Medicus representing the mineral springs in the city. And I guess all of you can recognize that in the lower quarter to the left is Vitosha mountain. As for the mini shield in the middle – it depicts a lion, which is the symbol of Bulgaria.
Last but not least, now you can also learn what’s the motto of Sofia, written below the shield: “Расте, но не старее” (Raste, no ne staree), meanig “Ever Growing, Never Aging”.
Now that you are familiar with Sofia’s coat of arms you will come to notice that it is depicted on many buildings in the city, as well is to be seen in Serdika metro station. Below, a photo of the coat of arms on the building of the closed market – Halite.
Photo source: skyscrapercity.com
You can do all of the above-listed activities pretty much in one day, as they are in a close proximity of one another. Here’s a sample route you can take, starting the day with princesses for breakfast. Along the way you can do some geocaching, and in the evening – if you are not too tired you might go to a shisha bar. 😀 Click on the image to see it on Google Maps!