The Best Places in Bulgaria to Feel the Christmas Spirit

Christmas tree in Sofia, Bulgaria
Christmas tree in Sofia, Bulgaria | © Vassil Tzvetanov/Flickr
Maria Angelova

The streets are bathed in lights, everyone humming “Last Christmas” (the global Christmas hit) and slaloming between the Christmas markets and the ice rinks – this is what the festive season looks like in Bulgaria. If you visit the Balkan country in December, here are the best spots to enjoy the Christmas spirit.

1. The German-style Christmas Market in Sofia

Market

The German Christmas Market is a small ‘Christmas street’ with wooden stalls, handmade gifts, charity exhibitions, mulled wine and German food. It is located between the National Art Gallery and the National Theater, making it the perfect pit-stop to recharge on a day of sightseeing.

German Christmas Market, Sofia, Bulgaria

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2. The Christmas Market in Plovdiv

Market

A German Christmas Market pops up in the center of Plovdiv, too, right in front of the building of the Plovdiv Municipality and next to the main Christmas tree in the city. The stage at the market hosts children plays, local singers present their work and general Christmas cheer is in the air. Mulled wine and wursts aplenty.

German Christmas Market, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

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3. The Christmas Market in Veliko Tarnovo

Market

Every year, the beautiful park of Marno Pole in Veliko Tarnovo turns into a festive hub with wooden shacks selling decorations, sweets, mulled wine and all kinds of treats. A special mailbox remains open here throughout December to post important letters to Santa Claus.

Marno Pole, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Traditionally, shopping malls have the most sumptuous Christmas decorations, lights, children’s arts and crafts workshops, mini-handmade bazaars and everything that will switch your mood from mundane to festive in an instant. They also organize a lot of free events, especially on the weekends in December, so be sure to check what’s on.

Christmas in a shopping mall

Handmade Festivals

Handmade festivals have been becoming increasingly popular the last couple of years with hundreds of artists engaging their creative spirit in crafting Christmas tree ornaments, dolls, gifts and much more. Although the dates of the festivals are different every year, you can always try your luck at the Sofia Central Market Hall, (Tsentralni Hali) the National Palace of Culture, and Sofia Live Club (this one on weekends only) – all of which are all traditional hosts to the festivals.

Visit a handmade festival

Ice rinks

Bring your own pair of skates or rent them at the ice rink and go with the wind! Every major city in Bulgaria has its own ice rink, usually in the city center (Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Bansko, Veliko Tarnovo) where you can practice your triple axel to the beat of “Last Christmas” and other Chrismassy tracks. The one at the entrance of Borisova Gradina Park in Sofia is open 24/7 during the whole winter, so you can take advantage of the off-peak times and enjoy skating at 3am, should you wish to.

Ice skating

At home

If you have Bulgarian friends and receive an invitation to their home over the Christmas period, this will be the most genuine way to experience what Christmas means to Bulgarians. You will witness all the festive household preparations and become familiar with the local traditions. You’ll find out the typical Christmas Eve dishes served in a Bulgarian home and why no animal products are served for dinner on this date. You’ll discover how Christmas morning starts with the exchange of gifts and continues with a hearty lunch of pork and cabbage.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

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