10 things to do in Sofia. Few expectations and a lot of surprises

Do You have few expectations about Sofia? Then it’s time to think about it again. Relaxing, quiet and full of interesting aspects, Sofia is a European capital of a pure Balkan flavour, amazing especially for the way in which different cultures and religions use to live together peacefully within the same city.

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The Bulgarian capital is in fact one of the cities where one can find an Orthodox church, a Christian church and a Mosque on the same road, placed in front of each other. Sofia can be visited easily. If you like to wake up early you can also do within a day. So, plan even a weekend to live quietly this city and above all discover its most hidden and interesting sides. Walking through the main streets starting from the Orthodox Church of Sveta Nedelya, head to the south of Vitosha to stroll on the shopping street up to the palace of culture and to the east on Bulevard Tsar Osvoboditel to find the most important historic buildings up to the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Do not limit yourself to a classic touristic tour, because Sofia is a city that should be experienced in its most hidden alleys which preserve the energy of the third oldest city in Europe. We took advantage of a free food tour, organized by non-profit association of enterprising guys of Sofia, to discover a part of the city apart of the main streets, as well as to taste the local dishes and learn about many curiosities about Sofia and Bulgarian culture. It would be perfect if those tours would be organized in every city in the world to give the opportunity to every kind of tourist to know the city with the eyes of its citizens. In fact, thanks to this tour we get to know a really fascinating part of Sofia, on the East of Vitosha street where one can feel the true essence of the city outside the tourist chaos, strolling on the market of second hand books and the streets rich of typical restaurants and shops of local artists. It is worth spending a couple of hours here and try the local street food in the road that heads to the Orthodox church of Veti Sedmochislenitsi. History, legends, culture, street performers and food make Sofia one of the most beautiful cities one can visit. Set aside a weekend for your visit, as after every trip you will come back enriched.

Interesting facts

  • Yogurt: Bulgarians are proud to have invented (by accident) yogurt. It is said that the proto-Bulgarians, a nomadic population who moved from Asia to Bulgaria had the habit of transporting milk within lamb skin pouches tied on the backs of their donkeys or horses. Because of the animal’s body temperature, the micro-flora of the bags and the movement of the animals during long journeys, the milk became acid but still tasty and nutritious. This containing the Lactobacillus Bulgaricus to whom the Bulgarians attribute their longevity (Bulgaria does have the highest percentage of people older than 100). Now I feel like I would like some yogurt !!
  • The Lactobacillus Bulgaricus makes the Bulgarian yoghurt very healthy, lowers cholesterol, fights cancer and helps the bowel to work better.
  • The Bulgarians say they are physically very strong (Spartacus was born in Thrace, today’s Bulgaria) this because they eat lots of garlic, and we can confirm it…
  • Sofia is the third oldest city in Europe after Rome and Athens

10 Things to do in Sofia

  1. Food Tour of Sofia
  2. Hidden poetries of Sofia: around the city there are 28 poems written by authors from different European countries and drawn on the facades of several buildings. They create a good opportunity to visit the hidden corners of the city.
  3. Free Sofia Tour. These guys offer free tours of Sofia, including a tour full of stories and facts about the city, an evening pub crawl and comunist tour.
  4. Walking on Vitosha, the shopping street, and stop to have a coffee in one of the bars on the street. Then move on to the districts East of Vitosha and get lost on the streets, it’s really worth.
  5. Church of San Giorgio.
  6. Serdika Archaeological Site
  7. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Entrance is free, but you have to pay a fee to take pictures inside the church.
  8. Historical Museum of Sofia, very interesting because it is located in an ancient SPA, of which there are still hot spring water fountains. We have seen people drinking from these fountains and we also tested the water…we were not hurt 🙂
  9. Church of Sveti Sedmochislenisti: look around the church to find an electrical cabinet covered by a graffiti which shows on the front two Orthodox priests hugging and on the back the same priests palpating their asses. There are many of these electrical cabinets throughout the city, they are called Transformers and were originally designed to give a new and more colorful aspect to the city.
  10. Antique market: in the vicinity of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral you can find everything from holy pictures to accessories of the Nazi period which may shock your sensibility.

What to eat

It ‘obvious to find garlic in the Bulgarian cuisine, except in desserts… Yogurt is present everywhere, both as a beverage and as contouring or sauce to be associated with meat and vegetables. The influence of Ottoman cuisine is still present in many spicy dishes. Cheese and meat of goat and pork are present on all menus.

To drink: try the Bulgarian red wine, the one which Roman Empire legionaries used to drink . Close your meal with a glass of iced rakie.

  1. Tarator: is a traditional summer soup, served cold and made by yogurt, salt, cucumber, dill and nuts.
  2. Shopska Salata: a salad of tomato, cucumber and grated cheese that resembles the colors of the Bulgarian flag, white, green and red. This is the national dish par excellence.
  3. Banitsa: Typical pastry looking salty cake, filled with cheese (the most typical), or apple, pumpkin, spinach, onion. Bulgarians use to eat it during breakfast. It will surely give you an energy boost throughout the day. It also represents the traditional New Year dish and during its preparation a coin is places inside the dough before putting it in the oven. Who will take the piece of banitsa with the coin will have a lucky year.
  4. Meshana Skara: mixed meat grill
  5. Kavarma: stew of pork and vegetables
  6. Buhtichki: or Bulgarian donut, served with powdered sugar, caramel or chocolate, they are easily found in markets.

Where to eat

  • Hadjidraganov’s cellars: the best traditional restaurant we tried in Sofia, with furniture built by craftsmen from Bulgarian villages. It has some good red wines and a wide variety of meat dishes and vegetables. Also try the sugared typical wine. We were surprised to see a wooden cart at the entrance much like a Sicilian cart (does it means that Sicily and Bulgaria have something in common?) (Address: Ul. “Hristo Belchev” 18, 1000 Sofia)
  • Supa Star: small restaurant with a wide selection of soups in Sofia (Address: ul. “Tsar Shishman”, 1000 Sofia)
  • Sun and Moon: small vegetarian restaurant housed in an old bakery, only furnished with second-hand furniture. The bread is homemade and is seasoned with exquisite spicy sauces. Get used to the strong garlic taste. (Address: Ul. “William Gladstone” 18-Б, 1000 Sofia)
  • Farmer’s: Bulgarian fast food chain, a good alternative to the various American chains, they serve organic products from regional farms. (Address: Ul. “General Yosif V. Gourko” 38-Б, 1000 Sofia)

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Hamburg – Alternative Elbe Boat Trip

A characteristic and unexpected boat trip on the Elbe river. The best way to visit Hamburg from a different point of view and at a low budget. Hamburg offers a big variety of boat trips on the old Speicherstadt, the new harbour and the Elbe. An alternative and cheap choise is to jump on one of the public transport boats at Landungsbrücken in direction of Finkenwerder (line 62) to enjoy the St. Pauli water front, the Fischmarkt and Cruise Center from the water up to the sandy beach of Övelgonne. Fancy a beer or coffee on the beach? This is the best you can enjoy expecially when one of the big cargo vessels will slowly slide in front of your eyes. A magnificent show that Hamburg offers simply every day. 

Hamburg – Santa Pauli Christmas market

Hamburg’s hottest Christmas market and maybe Germany’s hottest, on the Spielbudenplatz of St.Pauli district along the frivolous Reeperbahn.
Where the boundaries between conventional Christmas tradition and frivolous “Kiezleben” melt with each other. Typical Christmas Market stalls and streetfood stands alternate with live music on the show stage and hot angels in the SANTA PAULI strip tent.

For those who look forward to a sensual Christmas waiting in front of a cup of Glühwein featuring a naked, fat Santa while above the heads a fire stream heats up the atmosphere of the Hanseatic city.

SANTA PAULI takes place annually from the end of November to the end of December in the heart of St. Pauli.

Hamburg – Miniatur Wunderland

Visiting in Hamburg and the same time visiting the world. Yes, all of this is possible at the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, the largest model railway in the world. Founded in 2006 by a couple of railway model amateurs, the extension of the railway has reached in 2016 15,400km. But it is not only about the length, it is about the detail of the environments and landscape through which the railway runs. Hamburg, Las Vegas, Switzerland, Scandinavia, the last arrived Italy and the amazing airport model which is a real airport only of a smaller size, with the same timetable of Hamburg airport. We had fun searching the through the details of the represented cities and landscapes, people kissing, nude models, scuba cows and so on. Undoubtedly one of the things you can’t miss if you visit Hamburg, and one one the things that should be on everyone’s to do list.  

Hamburg – Street Food Festival

Black Wasabi Burger

We start our discovery tour of Hamburg from his “Tor zur Welt”, the gate to the world, his harbour.We are at the Cruise Center of Altona at the Street food festival took place, close to an amazing building shaped in the form of a big cruise boat. Among the famous wurst of Germany, the scandinavian smoked salmon, nachos from latin america, spicy food from brasil, asia and california skewers look but an Explosion of taste at the first bite. The winner for us in this nice small street food festival in the Hansestadt. 

Cruise Center Hamburg