Sofia is a city worth visiting during the cold winter months, too. To prove you that, I’ve prepared a list of 10 things to do in Bulgaria’s capital this winter.
I promise that you won’t get bored with these places and activities because you’ll find not so typical experiences to have in Sofia as well as must-does while you are in the city. But they are all perfect for winter visitors and will let you have an interesting holiday turn in the capital.
So if you’re ready to have some fun and to experience the city the best way possible, here’re 10 cool things to do in Sofia this winter:
1. Visit the German Christmas market in Sofia
Photo: Facebook/Weihnachtsmarkt Sofia
Although it’s German and I can’t pronounce its name (or spell it… or understand it), this cute little Christmas market brings a smile on every Sofia’s residence face. I’m sure it will make you happy, too. You can find many sweets, German wursts and tasty drinks there, as well as many Christmas decorations and accessoires. The market will be there until December 20th so make sure to check it out if you are in Sofia during this time of the year.
Where: In Sofia’s City Garden next to the National Theatre and the National Art Gallery
When: from November 18th 2017 until ~ 20th Dec; every day from 11 am to 9 pm
Price: Free entrance
2. Go ice skating in the biggest open air ice rink on the Balkans
Photo: Facebook/Ariana Ice Skate Rink
Every year the Ariana lake in the Borisova Garden in Sofia becomes the biggest open air ice rink on the Balkans. It’s bold to say “open air” because it’s wrapped in fabric on all sides, however the idea is still pretty interesting. It is located in a central and very accessible place in Sofia so it’s the perfect spot for a fun hour or two with friends. The ice rink opens sometime during December until March/April. In the summer the ice is gone and the Ariana lake is filled with water again where you can still enjoy it by renting a pedalo or a boat.
Where: On the entrance of the Borisova Garden near Orlov bridge
When: Still not open as of 3rd Dec 2015 [Wait for updates]
Price: Entrance – 5 BGN (2,50 EUR), Ice skates rent – 4 BGN (2 EUR)
3. Spend hours playing board games in a bar
It’s cozy, it’s fun and it’s perfect for the winter. This board games bar in Sofia has more than 150 games and you won’t notice how the time flies when you’re there. You can gather some friends from your hostel and organize a fun night out. I promise you won’t get bored for a second. The bar offers variety of craft beer and you can bring your own food there. It’s also super cheap. You can read more about the Three Trolls board games bar here.
Where: 24 Chataldzha street, Sofia
When: Mon-Sun 4 pm – 10 pm
Price: 5 BGN entrance fee (2,5 EUR)
4. Don’t skip the museums
During the winter months it will be cold outside so why don’t you warm yourself by visiting some of the museums in Sofia and get to know the history, culture and traditions of Bulgaria in a warmer atmosphere. I’m not a museum person myself, but if that’s your thing, you can head to one of the following most interesting museums in Sofia:
- Sofia History Museum – newly reopened (17 September 2015) museum which takes place in the former building of the Central Mineral Baths. It showcases many aspects of Sofia’s life from 6th century BC to nowadays including traditional costumes, vehicles, aspects of the cultural and entertainment life in Sofia during the centuries. Ticket price: 6 BGN (3 EUR). Open: Tue-Sun, 10 am – 6 pm. Website: www.sofiahistorymuseum.bg.
- Muzeiko – interactive museum for kids, perfect for a family visit. It is full with more than 130 interactive games which aim to inspire kids to learn and discover new things from different fields of science and life. Ticket price: from 6 to 10 BGN (3-5 EUR). Open: Tue-Sun, 10 am – 6 pm. Website: www.muzeiko.com.
- National Ethnographic Institute with Museum – if you are interested in traditional folk costumes, embroideries, fretworks and other traditional items, this should be your stop in Sofia. The museum is located on 1, Alexander Battenberg Sq. (the former royal residence in Sofia). Open: Tue-Sun, 10 am – 5:30 pm. Ticket price: 3 BGN (1,50 EUR). Additional info: www.bulgariatravel.org/en/object/286/Etnografski_institut_BAN
Other museums in Sofia are:
- National Museum of Military History (www.bulgariatravel.org/en/object/292/Voenno_istoricheski_muzej_Sofia)
- National Archaeology Museum (www.naim.bg/en/home)
- Museum of Socialist Art (www.freesofiatour.com/blog/museum-of-communism)
- National History Museum (www.historymuseum.org/en/)
- National Museum of Natural History (www.nmnhs.com/)
- Earth and Man National Museum (www.earthandman.org)
5. Try to escape a room for one hour
If you are a geeky traveler who loves riddles and puzzles, then head to one of the 50+ escape rooms in Sofia. First, it’s warmer inside than outside, and second, it’s really fun. If you haven’t been to an escape room before, you will really love it. The adrenaline rush is unbelievable. I recommend the following 3 escape rooms in Sofia and you can read more about each one of them by clicking on the link:
- Game Castle – The Collector – the best escape room we visited so far, in combination with board and social games after the room challenge.
- The Cube – You have one hour to find and defuse a Nazi bomb.
- Dextrophobia – One hour filled with unexpected riddles and puzzles, hiding in every corner of the room.
- EscapeWay – Boutique escape room offering unique experience in the center of Sofia.
6. Visit the unique and exquisite Art House “Kuklite” (The Dolls)
Photo: Victorian era dolls/Art house Kuklite
Hundred of dolls live in the Art House “Kuklite” in the heart of Sofia. It’s a unique tourist attraction where you can see literally hundreds of dolls from different times and cultures. Most of them are shown as museum exhibits. You can also make your own doll. Just ask for it.
Where: Tsar Samuil 34, Sofia
When: Tue – Sat, 1 pm – 7 pm
7. Go ski in Vitosha mountain next to Sofia
One of the best advantages of Sofia for the ski enthusiasts is that the city is surrounded by mountains and therefore by opportunities for spending a day skiing or snowboarding. Vitosha mountain, which is just half an hour away from Sofia, offers reasonable conditions for skiing. That way you can combine sightseeing and skiing without spending hours to get to the nearest mountain. The ski resort is still closed, but check regularly for the latest news and updates.
8. Day trips from Sofia in winter
Sofia offers many day trip options for its visitors. You can find some ideas in my previous post “10 single day trips from Sofia”. For the winter, however, I suggest you the following ones:
- Day trip to Rila Monastery (+Shuttle)
- Day trip to Plovdiv – the Capital of Culture for 2019
- Day trip to Koprivshtitsa and the region
- Day trip to Veliko Turnovo and Arbanasi
How to visit these places? Check out my friend Adriana’s website for private guided tours in Bulgaria.
9. Join the free tours in Sofia
Photo: Free Sofia Tour/Facebook
One of the most affordable and yet most interesting way to discover Sofia is by joining the local guides from Free Sofia Tour. They will tell you the most important and interesting facts in just a few hours walk around the capital. Another great way to experience a destination is by its food. So you should definitely join the free food tour ‘Balkan Bites’, too. For the most curious ones, there is also a free communist tour with trabant car. Check them out:
Free Sofia Tour
Start: Palace of Justice
Every day, twice a day
Mon-Sun: 11 AM & 6 PM
Balkan Bites – Sofia’s free food tour
Start: Park Crystal
2 pm – Every day
(excluding national holidays – NO Tours on December (24, 25, 26, 31) and January (01, 02, 03, 04)
Sofia Communist Tour with Trabant
Start: Starbucks near NDK
10 AM every Saturday and Sunday
Check out the list of all “FREE tours in Bulgaria“!
10. Go hiking
Bulgaria has spectacular mountains and you can go hiking or trekking in every season. Just make sure you are well prepared and even hire a guide if you have no experience. My last hike was in the magnificent Rila mountain and I recommend you to go for it.
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Are you ready to explore Sofia in winter?
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