What to do in Sofia in the summer?
Sometimes in the summer Sofia is way too empty, a bit too hot and even a little boring. So if most of your friends are by the seaside or travelling around Europe, here’s what you can do by yourself or with the few people left in the city. Let’s call it a survival guide of sorts.
Note: Most of the links to the events are in Bulgarian. If you are a foreigner interested in any of the events and want more information, don’t hesitate to ask 🙂
Have a picnic at the park
Sofia has some really beautiful parks like Borisova garden and South park for example. Apart from strolling around, you can feel like a kid again and make a picnic. Take a blanket and some homemade treats, a bottle of freshly squeezed lemonade and head for the park. That’s what we did for a friend’s birthday two months ago. Just look at the first photo of our gourmet picnic! Don’t worry, people won’t pay any attention at you even if you dance around or do a handstand in a tight dress. We promise you will have a relaxing and fun time with your friends. If you’re not really a picnic type, then check for some events and festivals that are often organized such as vintage garden party, jazz festival, handmade bazaars. Hint: There’s a Vintage Garden Party today (26.07) – check the event here.
If you only look around, pay attention at the details, observe the architecture – you can find amazing things that can be photographed and turned into memories. Colors, patters, reflections, rays of sunshine on a broken window… Take some snapshots even if you’re not interested in photography, even with your phone. Why not send them to your foreign friends or even turn them into postcards and mail them the old fashion way. I’m sure it will be appreciated by the receiver.
Visit some of Sofia’s churches
When you visit a new city and you’re exploring the most famous attractions, historic and cultural sites, you’re inevitably drawn to the beautiful ancient churches and cathedrals. While showing a friend around Sofia, I was surprised how many of the famous churches in the city I haven’t visited, even though I knew a thing or two about their history. It’s worth a visit, even if you’re not religious! See why at the post about our favourite churches in Sofia and their history here.
International cuisine restaurants
Maybe you can’t go on vacation in Morocco at the moment, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying Moroccan food. You can do that at Annette on Angel Kanchev str. #27. Curious what the Peruvian cuisine is like? Check Lomo at Sheinovo str. #4. You’re more of a traditionalist – get an Italian dinner in a classical atmosphere at one of the La Bottega restaurants or eat an Italian pannini in our favourite Bistro Pesto on Angel Kanchev str. #18. Sushi, Indian or Thai food… We’ve got you covered. Check Multi Kulti map for more ideas, or just ask, we’ll be happy to give you an idea and some insider tips.
Cook for your friends
If you don’t feel like going out, gather your friends and try a new recipe. Personally, I am not much into cooking myself, but I absolutely adore our little gatherings when my friends are cooking. Believe it or not, my friends’ homemade sushi is much better than the one we’ve ordered from a restaurant.
Get a cupcake…or two
Why? Because we know the best cup cake shop in town and that’s why! You might think that in this heat, it will be better to get an ice cream. True! But once you get a bite of fresh mint and chocolate cup cake, delicious Irish cream or traditional mouth watering red velvet, you will know you made the right choice. You can find Take a cake bakeries at Tulovo 1 str. or Benkovski 6 str. or you can order at their site.
Ok, sometimes in the city heat all you need is an ice cream. Grab a cone from one of the Raffy kiosks – they are pretty much on every step in the city center. Italian gelateria Confetti offers delicious traditional Italian ice cream and gourmet dishes. The owner uses a recipe that has been passed in his family through the generations.
You can even learn how to make a homemade ice cream in this event in betahaus next week.
Visit an art gallery or museum
The newest addition to the galleries in Sofia is National Gallery “Kvadrat 500” (Square 500) that officially opened at the end of may and already received the nickname the “Bulgaria Louvre”. It hosts about 2000 art pieces with half of them being from Bulgarian artists. Always looking for something modern and fresh? Vivacom Art Hall and Photosynthesis almost always have interesting exhibitions of contemporary Bulgarian and international authors. Check their web sites for more information about the current art events.
Buy a book from the street book bazaar
At the very center of the city (on Graf Ignatiev str.), there is a big book bazaar where you can get old and new books. Not only there, but on a lot of places on the streets and near metro and bus stops you can get second hand books for even cheaper prices. Grab a book and head to one of the parks for a relaxed afternoon.
Listen to a street musician
Music on the streets of your busy city is authentic, entertaining , free and close to you. Have you heard a familiar song while walking out of the metro? Did it put a smile on your face? I bet it did!
Recently Beefeater Gin organized a great campaign bringing 11 street musicians from London (or as they call themselves – buskers) to sing in Sofia for 9 days. They were young, fresh, cool and really talented! We really enjoyed going for a cocktail or beer every evening and listening to some great live music. The photos above are from the last event where almost 100 people were sitting on the grass and enjoying a spontaneous and genuine collaboration between Lewis McTie and two local musicians. So next time you wander around summer Sofia (or your own home town) look around and pay attention. Slow down, enjoy and support local artists!
Go to an open air cinema
The theaters might be on vacation in the summer and the cinemas may not have the most interesting movies at the moment, but there’s an alternative. Summer scene “One More Kino” is the first option – apart from movies, they sometimes have concerts or other events. And this is happening in the very center of the city with a cocktail in hand. Follow the schedule here or here.
If you want something fancy – Grand Hotel Sofia is hosting a summer cinema at their garden with wine and gourmet menu. Check the program here.
There is another more alternative and very innovative project called “Blok Kino” that organizes movie screenings in different neighborhoods in Sofia, out of the city center. Here’s the schedule.
Learn to do a refreshing cocktail
Sweet or sour? It’s time to learn to do a few cocktails and impress your friends. Do a little research, choose your favourite ingredients and alcohol and make some magic. Not an alcohol person? Summer is the perfect time to make some fruity non-alcoholic cocktails. Or why not try mixing some fresh mint, sugar, lemon juice, water and iced green tea for a refreshing lemonade? Serve over ice with slices of lemon and fresh mint leaves.
Antique hunting in a church basement
Sounds a bit weird, right? We didn’t know about this place until a year ago. It is that underground and you will probably only learn about it by word of mouth. It is located in the basement of “Sveta Paraskeva” church and it is a place packed with everything you can imagine and more. Unfortunately, most of it is junk, but I think if you look hard enough, you can find a hidden treasure. Just prepare to get dirty.
Drink wine or beer at “The Barn”
Hambara (“The Barn”) is an urban legend that ok, we admit that exists in written in some guide books but you would definitely have a whole lot trouble finding the place. Before it became a bar, it used to be a printing house. After that only people who had a key could enter the bar. Often writers and journalist would gather to drink here. And even now you have to go in a dark alley and knock on the wooden door to enter. We love it, because it is a cozy candlelit place with wax drops on the wooden tables, relaxed music and chill people. We recommend the local craft beer “Divo pivo” for the beer lovers (hint: it has a picture of a bear on the bottle).
Hambara is open every day from 7 pm until 4 am.
Check our post about the royal park and palace that is located in the outskirts of Sofia and where you can spend a lovely sunny afternoon surrounded by nature and history. It is open for visits only on the weekends.
Go to a live concert in the evening
There are a lot of Bulgarian bands that you can check during the summer. Here are a few that you can follow for future events – Bears and Hunters, Jeremy? and Ostava. Also, Swinging Hall is one of the oldest bars in Sofia when it comes to live music and acoustic concerts.
Go to an escape room
The oh-so-popular in Europe escape rooms have come to Sofia about two years ago and since then there is a big variety to choose from. If you’re not familiar with the concept – you team up with your friends, get locked up in a room for an hour and you have to work together, finding clues and solving riddles in order to escape. A modern Sherlock Holmes meeting the SAW movies.
dextrophobia/ 3keyrooms / escaperooms
Boyana waterfall and church
Recently we explored Vitosha mountain and the Boyana neighborhood a bit. You can read our post about the Boyana waterfall which makes for a great escape from the busy city. You can also visit the Boyana church – an UNESCO heritage site.
Have a picnic with a view on Kopitoto
Kopitoto is one of the highest points of Vitosha mountain and luckily you can go there by car if you don’t feel like hiking or biking. Lots of people go there for a picnic or to enjoy the view of Sofia from above with a beer in hand. And from there you can head to the Boyana waterfall for example.
Volunteer at Animal Rescue Sofia
This is the largest non-government dog shelter in Bulgaria, founded by volunteers that aims to solve the big problem with the stray dogs and to help them find new owners. Every weekend volunteers gather at the shelter to walk the dogs, play with them and give them some love. You can check the website for more info and an address, if you love dogs and want to spend a day from your weekend volunteering.
A beautiful lake where you can go fishing, canoeing, sunbathing or just walk around. There are restaurants and a swimming pool around it. You can go for a traditional or more fancy lunch with a beautiful view of the lake. Such a lovely escape from the city!
Play board games
If the summer heat makes you really lazy for actual adventures… or for even moving, there are a few places where you can have fun playing board games. Visit “The Three Trolls” (Трите Трола), they are opening a second bar/social club the upcoming week.
Go to the zoo
This one is for the animal lovers and the ones who still feel like kids. Honestly, Sofia’s zoo might not be the biggest, fanciest or cleanest zoo you can visit, but it is still the best in Bulgaria and a fun way to spend half of the day.