In Praise of Sofia
|Bulgarian National Revival architecture and Irena|
|The Russian Cathedral|
|The Russian Church|
|Looking towards the Parliament Building, with the President's Office on the right|
Tea, coffee and cake
Set in a pretty courtyard, Villa Rosiche (Neofit Rilski Street) does an amazing selection of cakes – and, joy of joys, these ones actually taste delicious. Nice coffee, friendly service, and lots of locals.
Fabrika Daga (which translates as Rainbow Factory) on Veslets Street does great coffee and sandwiches. They also serve a very nice cooked breakfast (hard to find in Sofia), complete with eggs and bacon.
The Tea House (Georgi Benkovski Street) has a huge selection of tea blends. They serve booze as well and sometimes have live music on in the evenings. If there is one downside to this place, it is the erratic opening hours – as far as I can tell, they are open very little in the summer. But, when they are open, you won’t be disappointed.
|Yes, it is The Happy Grill, and how unoriginal can you get?|
|"A Streetcar Named желание " does not sound right to me|
Halbite (‘The Beer Mug’) does a brilliant selection of international ales. We always go to the one on Neofit Rilski Street, which has a small courtyard beer garden that’s permanently overrun with cats and kittens. Beer and kittens. It’s like dying and going to heaven.
Bar Me is a small place with a cosy back room and decent cocktail menu. It’s on Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard, close to the Russian Church and around the corner from the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, so you’ll definitely be in the area.
The Ale House cellar bar on Hristo Belchev Street brews its own live beer and, best of all, there are taps at the tables for you to pour your own beer. I repeat, pour your own beer. You just pay by the litre at the end. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how awesome that is. We have found they can get a bit sniffy about just having beer and no food, so I’d go when it’s quieter, late afternoon or something. Order a portion of chips if you have to.
Hambara. I almost do not want to tell you about this bar, that’s how much I like it. I think it’s probably Sofia’s coolest bar. It is hard to find (you’ll feel like you’re walking down a dark alley towards someone’s shed).
|Outside the Covered Market|
Food for thought
Sun and Moon has got to be the top choice for vegetarian food. It’s pricey, by Bulgarian standards, but worth it. There are a couple of them in Sofia, one on William Gladstone Street and one on September 6th Street (at Five Small Corners Square). The one on William Gladstone is nicer inside but the one on September 6th has better outdoor seating.
For cheap, decent Bulgarian food (and Bulgarian wine by the litre), you can’t go wrong with Divaka. It is part of a chain, and very popular. We like the one on Hristo Belchev Street best.
Boom! on Karnigradska Street does the best burgers ever. Okay, it may feel wrong to come to Sofia and eat burgers, but who cares? While you’re at it, you may as well get a filthy Oreo milkshake. Go on, you’re on holiday…
I am not going to say all that much about sightseeing because I am not the Lonely Planet guidebook, but maybe, in between all that eating and drinking, you should probably check out some of the following places / activities.
|Mamulichka and Yev at the Mosque, near the Covered Market|
I have never been inside the Banya Bashi Mosque, also located next to the Covered Market. There is a special set of shelves outside for all of the shoes, the footwear of the faithful. The mosque always seems to be full of worshippers and sometimes they spill out onto the street. Yes, there are a lot of places of worship here.
|All the President's Men|
The goose-stepping “Changing of the Guard” ceremony at 12pm outside the President’s Office is worth watching. Lots of peacock feathers and leather boots, if you like that sort of thing. Yes, it is reminiscent of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.
|The Ladies' Market (but men can go there too!)|
|Inside the Covered Market|
One of my wife’s favourite things to do in Sofia is trawl through all of the second-hand clothes shops, searching for weird and wonderful clothes. She has had some amazing finds in these shops over the years. The main area for these shops seems to be along the road from the railways station to the Lions’ Bridge. If you see a clothes shop with the sign ‘втора употреба’ (second hand), then be sure to go in and have a rummage. The smell usually puts me off, I have to say.
|You still can't hide your lion eyes...|