Bulgaria Featured

Sofia, My Darling

December 5, 2016
bulgaria

There’s just something about you.

After a long month in Rabat, we arrived in Sofia to crisp, fresh mountain air and a landscape painted in autumn colours.

Sofia’s a sweet and intimate city where each block comes alive with history. Where each restaurant’s filled with incredible cuisine and where the cost of living is extremely affordable.

She’s also a city full of stories.

Over the course of a long history, Bulgaria’s been invaded, conquered and settled by the Greeks, Scythians, Romans, Byzantines, Turks and Russians. For almost 500 years, her people have barely survived under Ottoman rule and have seen their country fall several times. But while Bulgarians have certainly been through a lot, they always prevail. Today, Sofia’s a tolerant, peaceful and pleasant city that’s definitely coming into her own.

Here are a few of my favourite things:

Work:

SOHO Co-working space: Drop by this laid back co-working space to meet some friendly locals, play with two golden retrievers and get some work done. It features indoor and outdoor working spaces, as well as many great places to eat nearby. (Try Rainbow Cafe, just around the corner from SoHo.)

Go:

Sailing with Vassil: We enjoyed a brisk, sunny day on the water on a small sail boat with Vassil. Vassil’s a cool, knowledgeable sailor whose been at the helm of a boat his whole life. Our day trip was a perfect escape from the city. Go sail with him! http://sailwithme.bg/

Free Sofia Walking Tour:
Run by a non-profit, the Free Sofia walking tour is one of the best free tours I’ve ever been on. It’s one of four tours run by the same company throughout the city and our guide Dessi was so sincere about sharing her love for Sofia that she made for an excellent guide. Learn all about the city’s multi-cultural demographics, tumultuous history and historical monuments in just under two hours. All you need are two feet and few leva to tip your guide with when the tour’s over. http://freesofiatour.com/

Vitosha Street: Spend an afternoon browsing on Vitosha street at any of the many local boot shops or at some of your favourite international brands (think Zara and H&M). Then relax with a glass of Bulgarian wine at any of the welcoming restaurants that spill out into the pedestrian only street.

The Elephant Book Shop: Charming and intimate, this book shop was one of my favourite quiet places in the city. I enjoyed perusing through the shelves here and picking up every used book that might possibly interest me while listening to Frank Sinatra croon from the sound system.

7 Rila Lakes: Though I never made it into the mountains and the 7 Rila lakes, many of my friends did and the photos and smiles that they brought back were both magical. Spend the day climbing through the mountains, visiting the Rila Monastery and taking in the sights, sounds and fresh air.

Eat:

Home Made: A well thought out and wonderful restaurant where the menu is entirely made up of home made fare and hearty meals. Try the roasted red pepper hummus or the glazed salmon.

They also have a sister restaurant called Blue House which is more popular during the Summer.

Shtastliveca Restaurant:
I loved Shtastliveca so much that I used it as inspiration for my column after having a quiet, lunch alone there. The menu is always seasonal and their food expertly prepared. My top menu picks are any of the decadent dishes that are baked with rich cheese.  http://www.thewhig.com/2016/11/02/there-is-hope-in-sofias-future

Edo Sushi: The best sushi and teppanyaki in town. For really decent prices we were able to sip sake, drink Asahi and pick as many plates off the menu as we pleased. Some favourites are: the salmon chirashi, eel nigiri, avocado salad, beef teriyaki and miso soup with scallops. Edo’s also conveniently located just a block away from Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

Taj Mahal:
Not that you would ever find yourself sick of Bulgarian food, but if you were to, the Taj Mahal offers diners some of the best indian food I’ve ever had and like everywhere else, is centrally located. Go for the mango lassi’s, tikka masala curry, garlic butter nan and aloo ghobi.

The Little Things: Located in an old, tall, Victorian-style home, this restaurant is all about “the Little things” and each room is decorated with charming details such as daisies in mini mason jars, ornaments made from birch trees and cutlery that’s been tied with twine. What I liked most about this restaurant is that each room had only enough space for 3 or 4 tables with mismatched furniture, bookshelves and other homey decorations made every space feel cozy … and their menu was divine.

Drink:

Hambara:
Visit this sweet, secret spot and enjoy Divo Pivo beers in an intimate setting lit only by candlelight. Officially, Hambara’s “not really” a bar but it will only take one knock on the nondescript door to get you in.

Note: Divo Pivo is an American Pale Ale craft beer brewed in Bulgaria that pours cloudy, tastes a bit fruity and goes down smoothly.

The Apartment:
Just off Vitosha Street, the Apartment is a cool and cozy hipster bar that’s located in an old house and known for it’s many rooms and intimate vibe. Spend the day working remotely here while enjoying home made goodies before transitioning into the evening with great music and a solid selection of craft beers and cocktails.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/

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