In spite of being a capital and buzzing at a fast city pace, Sofia is full of pockets of peacefulness, be it city parks with elderly men playing chess, vast gardens in the city center perfect for picnics, or an outdoor bar. If you love good weather in a city setting, here’s where to go in the capital of Bulgaria. Up for a tour?
Borisova Garden (Borisova Gradina) is the largest park in Sofia, taking a vast territory in the city center with both wild, forest-like areas and neat alleys with flower beds and benches. Go all the way up to the Lake with Lilies where hundreds of lilies bloom in a pond tucked in the shadows of old trees. The spacious grass areas are where the Sofia dwellers organize picnics, practice slacklining, and hang hammocks in the trees. There’s also a summer stage with free concerts and events taking place all summer long – from classical music to culinary festivals and open-air cinema screenings.
The park in front of the National Theater
The official name of this park, Sofia City Garden, rarely rings a bell if you ask for directions, as it’s commonly known as the “park in front of the National Theater.” The fountain spreads cool air during the hot summer nights, while the surrounding benches and grass areas are full of young people chatting, having beer, or playing the guitar. There are free live music concerts and photo exhibitions to make the art scene complete. During the day, the area is quite different – the benches are full of elderly men who play chess or wait for their rivals to arrive, young people with laptops work in the shade (there is free Wi-Fi access in the park), and kids eat ice cream. If you happen to visit the park in winter, you can’t miss the nearby German-style Christmas Market and warm up with a glass of mulled wine.
Maimunarnika (translated as Monkey Place) is an open-air summer bar in Borisova Garden that welcomes internationally known and local rock, alternative, reggae, and electronic bands and performers for concerts under the stars. If there is no event for the evening, you can always pop up for a beer and some of the best meatballs in Sofia.
Vitosha Boulevard is the major pedestrianized street in Sofia with luxury stores and dozens of cafés and restaurants lining both sides. In the summer, the street turns into a huge open-air bar with every spot trying to create the most spectacular atmosphere. Colorful garden lamps, comfy armchairs, hookahs, happy hours, and promotions all make the choice really difficult.
There’s nothing crystal to look for, as this park received its name due to a bar called Crystal that used to be here. Although this bar is long gone, the small city park is home of several open-air bars with a happy young crowd hanging around with cocktails in hand.
Ciccione Panini Bar & Bakery
If you are in the mood for a glass of wine and a plate of Italian cured meat and cheese, head to Gurko Street and discover the casual and cozy atmosphere of the Ciccione Panini Bar & Bakery #3 (it is the third branch of the chain). Order your choice of cheese, olives, freshly baked bread, salads, and a variety of sauces to accompany the good Italian wine. Return in the morning for a croissant and a cup of perfect Italian espresso or cappuccino.
For those of you who are dedicated beer explorers, KANAAL is the go-to spot. It’s a cozy craft beer bar and generous home of beer lovers with a beautiful summer garden, situated very close to Park Zaimov. The summer garden is a small shaded oasis in which to escape from the hot weather. This is not your regular beer bar, though! The place keeps its menu exciting and diverse with occasional art exhibitions, late-night DJ parties, or weekend sports games sessions on the big screen outside.