What To Do In Sofia In The Winter
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you might have read our article about the best things you can do in Sofia during the hot summer days. Following that, we decided to provide you with some ideas about the winter months as well. Rainy or snowy cold weather, accompanied with shorter days and less sunlight can be depressing and might make you want to stay at home all day. But there are some fun things you can do around the city that can warm your heart and bring you Christmas spirit. Whether you are a local, freshly moved to the city, an expat or just randomly passing by, we hope this will give you some options for the days ahead.
Gather your friends and let’s go!
Note to reader: While this article is English, keep in mind that some events or activities might not be available in English or any other languages apart from Bulgarian. This usually applies for theater plays.
German Christmas open market
Okay, admittedly this market might not be as good as a German one, but since some of us haven’t actually seen a proper German Christmas market, we will pretend that this one is top of the top. And in a way it is! It is definitely the best in Bulgaria and serves its purpose well by bringing people together for some delicious cakes and wine, while warming them in the cold and creating some Christmas mood. Unfortunately, it won’t be here around Christmas as it ends on the 20th of December. Yes, today! So hurry up and get your Christmas dose! We were there again last night and it was packed with people eating and chatting. The food looks amazing – from German wurst to Spanish churros and Bulgarian raspberry wine!
Christmas gift bazaars.
You’ve probably been or at least heard about some of the Christmas bazaars that has been organized in Sofia. A lot of them has already passed, but there are still some that will take place in the next few days, especially for people hunting presents at the last minute.
– This Sunday (20.12) there is Thriftshop Atelier on 4 Iskar str., gathering some items made from children with disabilities and by buying them you can support a good cause and make an alternative gift.
– Between 17th and 24th there is a Christmas Crafts bazaar at the Museum of History which will bring together Bulgarian craftsmen and organize some workshops.
– Sunday Soare (20.12) at Malkite 5 (57 Ivan Rilski str.) where you can find handmade lingerie, perfectly made leather bags and punk rock jewelry.
– How about some vintage vinyls? You can find them this weekend (19-20.12) at Vintage Stereo (1 Vitosha str.)
Museum are always a good indoors option to save you from the cold if you feel like exploring Sofia.
– There is a Pablo Picasso exhibition in the National Art Gallery until 25th of January.
– Muzeiko is a new modern interactive museum for children, but also curious grown ups that was created together with the America for Bulgaria Foundation and has an absolutely innovative and one of a kind for Bulgaria building, structure and exhibitions.
– The ethnographic museum is always a good option if you want to dive into the past of Bulgarian culture, history, food and clothes, while wandering into different rooms reconstructed to look like 100 of years ago.
Decorate Christmas cookies
Get yourself in the mood by baking and decorating Christmas cookies! Honey and butter cookies or gingerbread will make the whole house smell like Christmas. If you don’t like baking, you can just buy some plain cookies and decorate them yourself to add a personal touch.
There are a lot of volunteering missions at the first Bulgarian volunteer website Time Heroes. If you feel like donating your time, energy and skills, check it out.
Buy presents for Bulgarian orphanages
A lot of kids might not have presents this year, so a few non-government organizations are collecting donations and presents each year to provide orphanages with something special for Christmas. You can organize yourself and bring something to the nearest orphanage or homeless person on the street. Or you can check the event (in Bulgarian) with the list of places here.
Make mulled wine for your friends
If you are feeling cold and way too lazy to go out of the house and visit a bar or the Christmas market for a glass of mulled wine, then why don’t you make your own at home? Gather some friends, buy a bottle of wine and have a cosy evening. Did you know that people are making mulled beer as well? I just came back from Poland where you can find in the stores a pre-made beer with spices in a bottle, ready for you to warm it up a bit and already feel a more Christmasy.
Ski in Vitosha mountain
Vitosha is as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer (check our post summer post here). Actually, it might be even more magnificent covered in snow. It is situated only half an hour away from the busy city center and gives you the opportunity to enjoy skiing without travelling to another winter resort.You can buy a day card for 35lv for an adult as well as rent an equipment. There is a ski school for the cost of 30lv per hour.
The barn and Vello bar
Two places located at 6-ti septemvri str. #22, that are not so easy to find, because they are not promoted in the typical way and you can hardly find them in any social media, guide or website.They want people to find them themselves and to regularly come back spreading the news about the by word of mouth.
The Barn (Hambara in Bulgarian) used to be a secret place where you needed to have the key in order to go in. Writers, poets and journalists used to gather here. Now you still need to knock on the door for it to open sometimes. Inside, you will find an old candlelit place that can warm your heart.
Velodispansera, Vello Bar or Fix&Ride 2 is a bike workshop during the day and an underground bar during the night. But don’t worry, everyone is welcomed, not only bike lovers.
Buy alternative presents
We strongly recommend to get out of the shopping centers and head to small boutiques with local designers or concept stores where you can find one of a kind presents different from the mass market. Here are some ideas:
Jelanie shop – 15 Dobrudzha str.
Domocharm – 27 Tsar Ivan Shishman str.
Detailor – 46 Ivan Denkoglu str.
Sabai Gallery – 63A Neofit Rilski str.
Gallery 2.0 – 26 6-ti Septemvri str.
Zoya – for bio & organic food and cosmetics – 22 Aksakov str., 63 Neofit Rilski str.
Shipka – Bulgarian bio cosmetics – 23 Asen Zlatarov str.
Ice skate rink at Ariana lake
The ice-skate rink has been there for years and is a favourite place for all ages in the winter. It is open once again, so get your skates and go. Even if you don’t have the skills there is an instructor for a pretty symbolic price.
Entrance – 5 lv for 1 hour 20 minutes.
Ice skates rent 4 lv.
Instructor for 40 minutes – 8 lv.
From 10 am to 6 pm you can skate however long you want.
Hahaha Impro Theater
This is a professional group for improvisational theater which makes the public part of the play by engaging them in different scenes, takes ideas from the people and act them in front of you on the scene. Everything is happening at the moment and you can see how they will bring to life the story and the characters. Follow their website or facebook page for more info. Next event is on the 4th of January in Kino Vlaikova.
Go watch Star Wars
This one is self-explanatory. If you still haven’t seen the movie, rush to the nearest cinema and be part of the hype. It is an indoor activity which means you’re not gonna be cold and you can be as lazy as you want with a box of popcorn as an extra. We recommend Cine Grand in Ring Mall because of the comfortable chairs where you can lay down and enjoy the few hours in the cinema feeling like a VIP.
Alternatively, if mainstream is not your thing and you don’t want to be part of the crowd – check Kino Lumier, Dom na Kinoto, Kino Odeon for independent European movies. Today (20th December) there is a short movies marathon called Future Shorts at Dom na Kinoto.
Exchange Christmas traditions
You have some international friends? Holidays are a great occasion to gather and exchange some Christmas traditions and food. Teach them how to cook banitsa or learn to make tortilla for example. You will be surprised how different and the same our traditions could be. Even with Bulgarian people from different regions of the country you can compare and find some new dishes to add on the table for Christmas Eve.
Take your time to wrap your presents
Lots of presents to wrap can mean a lot of fun! If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, but still looking for a unique way to wrap your presents, buy some basic materials and dig in your drawers for things you can use. Old ribbons, lace, glitter, dried leafs or even dried orange peel can add a handmade, special feeling to the otherwise boring presents boxes. You don’t need to have any skills for this, only some patience and enthusiasm.
Warm yourself with Bulgarian rakia
In case you don’t know rakia is a traditional Bulgarian alcohol, we can say it is a fruit brandy, originally made of plums or apricot, with a high percentage of alcohol – usually 40%, but could go up to 80%. Rakia is popular around all the Balkan countries where the name of the fruits it is made of could vary. If you want to try it, you can either find a homemade one, or go to Raketa Rakia Bar and choose from the long list of different types of rakia they have. Try a traditional plum or accept our recommendation and give the honey rakia shot a try! I am pretty sure, you won’t be disappointed. Pair it up with a Bulgarian shopska salad for a more authentic feeling.
photo:under the line
Right next to Raketa Rakia Bar, its sister venue Sputnik opened a few months ago. This cocktail bar is a modern space that combines contemporary design with ethno elements. Some of the wall are covered with traditional carpets which brings an unique Eastern Europe atmosphere.
Some cool parties
Spending the time around Christmas and New Years Eve in Sofia? Here are two cool parties you can join. That’s as local (and underground) as it can get:
– Cosmos Coworking Space on 31st.
– Studio EW on 26th.