7 Outdoor Cinemas and Open-Air Summer Venues in Sofia

Discover the best outdoor cinemas and open-air events in Sofia
Discover the best outdoor cinemas and open-air events in Sofia | © annca / Pixabay
Photo of Maria Angelova
30 May 2018

Like many big cities, Sofia tends to get eerily quiet in the summer, since most of its residents prefer sand between their toes instead of the sound of midweek afternoon traffic jams. There are, however, several places in the capital where you can get into the spirit of summer if you are not lucky enough to be on the coast. Here are the best open-air venues you can visit in Sofia.

Cinema under the stars at G8 Cultural Center

Cinema
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G8 Cultural Center in Sofia, Bulgaria | © Free-Photos/Pixabay

There have been several open-air pop-up cinema projects for the last couple of years in Sofia, but the only one that has stood the test of time is the summer project of the G8 Cultural Center called Cinema Court (Кино Двор/Kino Dvor). The cinema, known for its selection of independent, European and Bulgarian movies, turns its tiny inner courtyard into a cinema under the stars with one screening every summer night (weather permitting). Tickets cost only 10 BGN (US$6) and include a free Aperol Spritz cocktail. It’s a perfect idea for a romantic night out. All the movies are subtitled in Bulgarian, so if the original is in English, you will have no problem understanding it.

Maimunarnika

Bar, European, $$$
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Maimunarnika, Sofia | © jlamping/Pixabay
Maimunarnika (Маймунарника, which roughly translates as the Monkey Place) is a legendary summer music spot in Borisova Gradina Park that hosts open-air concerts in all musical styles – ska, punk, reggae, techno, pop, Bulgarian folklore, and more. Set amid tall trees, through which you can see the stars, this venue offers a good selection of beer and spirits but won’t make you go hungry either. The long lines for their grilled meat and French fries are well worth it.

Borisova Gradina Park

Park
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Borisova Gradina Park | © Kristian pp/WikiCommons
Every summer, from the end of June until the end of August, Bulgarian National Television organizes a traveling open-air cinema tour around the country screening Bulgarian movies in big cities and small towns, and even villages. The tour usually starts in Sofia with a screening at the Summer Stage of Borisova Gradina Park with thousands of people attending. Bring a blanket, nibbles and a bottle of wine, and find a spot in the grass. The Summer Stage of Borisova Gradina Park, the biggest park in Sofia, hosts several other summer festivals dedicated to Asian culture, healthy living, different charities, and more. You can find the whole Summer Stage program if you just pop up there around 6pm, when you are likely to come across a jazz concert, a Bulgarian dance show or a classical music performance. Just follow the sound of music.

Atmosphere:

Dog Friendly, Accessible (Wheelchair), Family Friendly

South Park, Sofia

Park
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South Park, Sofia | © Nikolai Karaneschev/WikiCommons
South Park is one of the most beautiful in Sofia, spacious and full of kids and families. For several years now, it has been hosting big and small-scale festivals, but the most prominent among them remains the biggest open-air jazz festival in Sofia – A to Jazz Festival. Both local and international bands, singers, and musicians perform in the park for three days in a row, and the best part is that it’s free.

Atmosphere:

Accessible (Wheelchair), Dog Friendly, Kid Friendly, Family Friendly

National Theater Ivan Vazov

Park, Theater
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National Thater Ivan Vazov in Sofia | © Wengen/Pixabay
National Theater “Ivan Vazov” closes its doors for the summer… or at least this was the case until recently. For the second year in a row, an open-air stage will be built in front of the main theater building for the summer edition of “Theater In Front Of the Theater.” This is where theater aficionados can spend a cool summer evening watching one of the best performances of the past season.

G.S. Rakovski Military Academy Park, Sofia

Park
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G.S. Rakovski Military Academy Park in Sofia | © Deensel/Flickr

The Sofia Opera and Ballet also moves its performances out of the theater in the summer and builds a stage in the park of the Military Academy in Sofia. The program includes both classic operas such as Aida or Lakmé, as well as special opera performances for kids. The Opera in the Park Festival takes place in June.

Once Upon a Time Biblioteka

Bar, European, $$$
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Once Upon A Time Biblioteka is favorite summer spot in Sofia | © ThorstenF/Pixabay
This nightclub has a pretty day face – a lush garden located right behind the National Library in Sofia. It usually opens at the end of May and offers a shady refuge for the hot summer days. Once or twice a summer, the club organizes big Vintage Summer Parties that extend way beyond the garden across the green area behind the library. The dress code is vintage, and there are themed cocktails, music, and events, including a vintage bazaar.