Hi, I’m Donna.
I was born in Bulgaria, grew up in between Australia and China and somehow I ended up in Iceland.
Despite having roots across many continents, Sofia in Bulgaria is, and always will remain a place that I cherish and always look forward to coming back to.
This city is one of those hidden gems that’s full of surprises. Good weather, a pleasant atmosphere and an oozing social scene that’s continuously growing make Sofia a travel hotspot.
Come and explore Sofia together with me, through the excitement of a tourist and knowledge of a local.
Sofia isn’t as big as many other European capitals however, I strongly recommend anyone visiting to make full use of its extensive transport system. One ticket will cost you less than 0.90 euros and a full day pass is just a little over 2 euros. Explore the old town by hopping on a tram that will make you go back in time or for those seeking a more comfortable and quicker way to get from A to B, the newly built underground is the way forward. The metro system also links the airport to the city centre and vice versa, allowing for a smooth and fast connection.
When it comes to eating out in Sofia, there is really no right or wrong way to go about it. With cafés and restaurants open at every other corner and a mixture of cuisines from cheap eats to fine dining, Sofia knows how to deliver.
I always try and go to smaller, family-owned locations, with a creative and friendly atmosphere – places that you go in as a stranger and come out as friends, and of course places that go the extra mile when it comes to food. I never go for anything fancy, but has to be unique and memorable.
When it comes to coffee, Drekka is the place to be. Set only a few streets away from the hustle and bustle of chaotic downtown (near Slaveikov), this specialty coffee and teashop provides the perfect setting for an intimate morning coffee. Their cold brew with a dash of milk is by far the best one I’ve ever had. Highly recommend for an early morning energy boost.
A local hotspot, Rainbow Factory is one of a kind. With food being served from dusk till dawn, unique quick eats and Instagram worthy experiences, this restaurant is always on my list when showing someone around Sofia. Their vegetarian sandwich and homemade lemonade is to die for.
A little piece of Italy in Bulgaria. When I’m craving some sweetness in my life, I always head towards Savini Gelato, regardless of the time of day. It’s pretty much the crème de la crème when it comes to ice creams. Made solely with natural products, extreme artistry and divine taste, this ice cream never fails to delight your taste buds.
For evening drinks, Hambara bar is by far my favourite place to go, that is, if you can get in. You have to knock and if allowed, you enter through a mysterious, basement looking door to find yourself in a parallel universe of reality – a bar lit by candlelight, ornamented with theatrical statues and slow jazz music playing in the background. A true gem for those wanting an authentic, local and rewarding experience.
This is where you get in trouble. Like all European capitals, Sofia boasts a wide array of shopping possibilities; from local Sunday markets to haute couture designer brands and everything in between.
For the size of the city, you’ll be surprised to find out just how many shopping centres are scattered nearby. In fact, it has the largest number of malls on the Balkan Peninsula.
Paradise Mall is one of my favourite one-stop shopping centres for popular brands. With its abundance of international shops and Starbucks fixes, you’ll feel as if you’ve never left home.
When it comes to local specialties and crafts, I personally love to stroll around the streets of Ivan Shishman and its surrounding area.
Picture it as a mini London ‘Brick Lane.’ This area, which is right in the heart of Sofia, is where all the excitement happens. From street art to craft stores and cosy bars, it’s the place to be.
For unique presents or memorabilia, I wholeheartedly recommend stopping by ‘Gifted Sofia’ – a unique urban space, art gallery and shop supporting fellow local artists and craftsmen.
If you’re into slow fashion and second hand shopping like I am, “Trash Clothing Shop” is one of my top picks. The selection of garments is truly unique.
There are many things to do in Sofia for free depending on the time of the year so keep your eyes and ears open. From dance fests to museum after dark nights, there definitely isn’t a lack of choices when it comes to activities.
If you want to feel like a true local, go to one of the many outdoor green places around and take a stroll or enjoy a drink at a café. One of the best local evening hangout places is the garden of the National Theatre Ivan Vasov.
Flights to Sofia
- Donna Tzaneva