The 9 Best Cheap Restaurants in Sofia

I’ve lived in the city for awhile now and I love getting a great deal on my meals. After finding some of the best hidden gems that the city has to offer, I’m ready to share my favorite cheap restaurants in Sofia. These are the places I go when I want tasty food that won’t blow my budget.

Just like any other big city, there’s a lot to try here and the reviews can be overwhelming to sort through at times, or even worse, just plain inaccurate. Next time you’re hungry, use this list of the best cheap restaurants in Sofia to try a variety of cuisines at a great price!

 

Supa Star – Soups and Sandwiches

You’ll Spend: 4 – 5 lev / 3 usd
Location: ul. “Tsar Shishman”, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia or bul. Kniaz Aleksandar Dondukov 17, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia
More Info here

Ok, this is probably the best value you’ll find when it comes to cheap restaurants in Sofia. If you need hot food and want to spend as little as possible, Supa Star is the place. They have over 100 soups on rotation and put out six per day, so you can try something new on every visit.

 

Ashurbanipal – Iraqi Cuisine

You’ll spend: 11 lev (with a beer) / 6.50 usd
Location: Sofia, Knyaz Boris I St 174
More Info Here

This is a great place to go with friends because the portions are large and perfect for sharing.

Daniel and I went with my brother when he visited and got a ton of really tasty food for a great price. For only 33 lev total we received a salad, pita bread, hummus, roasted eggplant, biriyani rice, ground beef, and three large Bulgarian beers. The place is super authentic and they don’t even have a menu – the waiter will tell you what they’re serving for the day.

If you’re looking for something different than traditional Bulgarian cuisine, Ashurbanipal is my favorite of all nine cheap restaurants in Sofia on this list.

 

Iraqi Food from Ashurbanipal in Sofia

 

 

Banitsa

You’ll spend: 1 – 2 lev / 1 usd

Ok, this isn’t a restaurant but a typical Bulgarian snack. However, it’s hot and filling so if you’re realllyyy on a budget this can substitute for a meal with no problems.

Some of the best places that I like to get banitsa (layered philo dough with different fillings, the cheese and spinich combo is my favorite) are the Sun and Moon bakeries, the Kostas bakeries, or even at the Billa supermarket chain.

All are good but slightly different, but I personally recommend Kostas because you can also grab a large loaf of sourdough bread for only 2 lev more. I’m a sucker for good bread and sourdough is my absolute favorite. Take it home to layer with salami, cheese, or pesto (or all three) and you’ll be seriously satisfied. 

 

Rainbow Factory – Sandwiches

You’ll spend: 6 – 8 lev / 4 usd
Location: ул. Веслец 10, 1000 Sofia
More Info Here

This small cafe and restaurant is always packed at lunch time, and for good reason. The menu has different sandwich choices from only 6 lev each, or you can check out the meal of the day for around the same price. When we went it was lentils, chicken kebabs, and a fried egg layered with parmesan cheese. Kind of strange but pretty tasty, and for only 7 lev it definitely a good portion for the price. You can also get smoothies, juice, craft beer, and coffee here, so check it out when you have a slow afternoon to kill.

 

MEAT Gourmet Sandwiches and Burgers

You’ll spend: 10 lev / 6 usd
Location: ул Ангел Кънчев 1 , 1000 София
More Info Here

This place seems to be famous for burgers but I’m not a huge burger fan to be honest. Daniel and I didn’t try them but we had two different pulled pork sandwiches and they were both so good. Mine had guacamole and jalapeños while Daniel’s was more traditional.

The sandwiches are 10 lev each, large, and have a great portion of pork so they’ll definitely fill you up. We added a 4 lev order of fries to split, and because it was so big we only ended up eating half our sandwiches each and bringing them home for our hike the next day.

 

MEAT is one of the best cheap restaurants in Sofia

 

La Bottega Due Piani – Italian Food

You’ll Spend: 8 lev / 4.75 usd
Location: ul. “Tsar Shishman” 24, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia
More Info Here

Are you in the mood for a nice, sit-down meal, but don’t really have the budget? If so, La Bottega Due Piani is the best cheap restaurant in Sofia for you.

The modern Italian restaurant has a nice and cool atmosphere and really delicious food. Although it’s kind of fancy, you can still snag a margarita pizza for only 8 lev, which is a steal. For me, the pizza in Bulgaria has been disappointing but this place does it right. Flavorful, crispy crust, not too much cheese, and a large portion size mean that if you get one per person you might even have leftovers.

By the way, after your meal at La Bottega use your savings for an ice cream cone down the street at Gelateria Naturale. Yum!

 

Fanshan Restaurant – Chinese Food

You’ll Spend: 10 lev / 6 usd
Location: Sofia, Struma St 2
More Info Here

Fenshuen Chinese is good for anyone searching for cheap restaurants in Sofia, but because of the portion sizes it’s really ideal for a couple or groups that want to split a few different options together. Daniel and I got spring rolls, cashew chicken, and lo mein noodles for only 20 lev, and it was enough for two meals each (making it about 5 lev per portion). If you want variety of different dishes to try or just need some greasy, tasty, familiar Chinese food for a movie night at home, this is the place for you.

 

Ale House – Pub Food

You’ll spend: 8 lev / 4.75 usd
Location: ul. “Hristo Belchev” 42, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia
More Info Here

The Ale House is also listed in my guide to craft beer in Sofia because they brew their own and have taps at every table. It’s fun to fill up your own glass while watching a game, and of course what goes better with beer than wings?

I ordered a huge plate that had 12 wings and pita chips and it only cost 8 lev. They’re not crispy fried (which I prefer), but they were cooked well and flavorful so I definitely still recommend them for a filling meal that won’t break the bank.

 

Chicken wings from the Ale House in Sofia

 

Kim’s Cook – Vietnamese Food

You’ll spend: 10  – 11 lev / 6.50 usd
Location: Pick-up Only
More Info Here

I was interested in trying Kim’s Cook because it’s a unique operation. Kim cooks out of her house and has a different set menu every day. I got the caramelized pork with rice and veggies for 10 lev. and it was good for something lighter and different from Bulgarian fare. She also has pho, spring rolls, desserts, and more to try. Set up the order a day or two in advance to make sure you can get some before they run out, and be ready to pick it up around the Serdika metro station or Palace of Justice.

 

Try These 9 Cheap Restaurants in Sofia

Of all the restaurants on this list, I have to say Ashurbanipal, La Bottega Due Piani, and MEAT are my three favorites. But, you honestly can’t go wrong with any of them and I’ll never say no to a hot and tasty banitsa, chicken wings, or any food for that matter.

Fill your stomach without emptying your wallet with these nine cheap restaurants in Sofia, and then comment below to tell me which one is your favorite!

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7 Cheap Day Trips from Cusco that Don’t Require a Guided Tour

I was on a tight budget when I lived in Cusco for two months. Because of that, I had to find ways to explore the city and surrounding area without spending too much money every weekend.

I’m actually really happy about it though, because Daniel and I ended up discovering some absolutely breathtaking places that we never would have seen if we just stuck to the easy (but expensive) guided tours.

If you want to save some money, or just see a less popular side of the city, take these seven super cheap day trips from Cusco!

 

Visit LLaullipata Park

Cost: Free
How to Get There

No seriously. This is one of the few day trips from Cusco that is totally, completely, 100% free.

If you wake up from a late night out and totally blew your budget, come to this park to cure your hangover while also keeping your wallet closed. Or, visit anytime just to get some fresh air! Llaullipata Park (pronounced jowjipata) is a 30-minute walk from Plaza de Armas, and once you’re there there are meadows to chill in or hiking trails to explore.

Super simple, super beautiful. Definitely check out Llaullipata Park when you need to save some money and use the directions in this detailed guide to get there.

 

Hiking at Llaullipata park ion a day trip from Cusco

 

Hike to Balcon del Diablo and Temple of the Moon

Cost: Free
How to Get There

This is another day trip from Cusco that is 100% free if you just pack a lunch. Dive into history right from the start when you walk up the Imperial Incan Road to see the ruins of the Temple of the Moon. Then, you can continue further to see the Blacon del Diablo (a cave with a view of Cusco).

If you want, you can also rent a horse with a guide to take you to the Balcon del Diablo instead. This costs 35 soles / 12 usd per person but I have to say it was totally worth it.

Whether you want to walk or ride, here’s everything you need to know to take one of the easiest day trips from Cusco!

 

View from the Temple of the Moon on a day trip from Cusco

 

Hike to the Huchuy Qosqo Ruins

Cost: 39 soles / 12 usd per person if you are a couple or 14 usd if you go alone.
How to Get There

I spent 4.5 months in Peru, and hiking to Huchuy Qosqo was still a highlight.

You will get expansive mountain views while you hike in lush valleys, past glacial lakes, and through multiple climates all on one 11-mile trek along the ancient Imperial Incan trail. The best part, though, is that these ruins are so remote you’ll be the only ones in them and get the Incan site all to yourself.

The Huchuy Qosqo trek is definitely one of the best day trips from Cusco and you can do it on your own time without a tour group. Just use this guide to find everything you need to know!

 

Hiking to Huchuy Qosqo on a day trip from Cusco

 

Hike at Kinsa Cocha and See Pisac’s Three Lakes

Cost: 61.5 soles / 18.75 usd pp for a group of two. Going with 3 or 4 people will cut costs significantly.
How to Get There

After Huchuy Qosqo, this was probably my second favorite day trip from Cusco. I loved it because the hike was easy and flat (always a plus in Peru’s mountainous landscape) and we were the only ones on the trail. Also, we got to wander through a giant herd of alpacas and see three gorgeous lakes!

If you want some nice nature photos and would like to enjoy a secluded picnic, Kinsa Cocha is the place. Plus, afterward you can explore the small town of Pisac and even see the famous Pisac market before heading home. Use this guide to get all the details for the trip.

 

llamas as kinsa cocha, Pisac's three lakes

 

Hike to Sacsayuaman and the Four Surrounding Ruins

Cost: 7.5 soles / 2.30 usd pp for transportation for a couple or 4.30 usd if you go alone. You will also need the tourist ticket to enter (see below for more details)
How to Get There

Sacsayuaman and the next two day trips from Cusco are all on the Boleto Turistico, or Tourist Ticket.

So, if you want to check out all three day trips from Cusco that are on this list (Sacsayuaman, Tipon & Piquillacta, and Pisac) then you should buy the 130 sole / 47 usd tourist ticket. Transport to all three of these sites is super cheap, so divided between the three that will only be about 43 soles / 15 usd for your entrance per trip. PLUS, you will also get access to 9 more museums, sites, and ruins around Cusco. If you’re going to buy the tourist ticket, the 10-day option is definitely the most budget-friendly choice. However, you can buy partial tickets that are good for one or two days as well, so check out this guide to the tourist ticket for more details.

On to the ruins themselves. You can simply walk to Sacsayuaman from Plaza de Armas to start your excursion. Then, follow this guide to see the rest of the nearby ruins in order. This is one of my favorite day trips from Cusco because you don’t have to spend a long time in a bus or collectivo to get there, and you will get amazing views of Cusco from above.

 

Visiting Sacsayhuaman on a day trip from Cusco

 

See the Tipon and Piquillacta Ruins

Cost: 16 soles / 4.90 usd pp for transportation for a couple, or 8 usd if you go alone. You will also need the Tourist Ticket to enter (see more details in the Sacsayuaman section above).
How to Get There

If you’ve already invested in the tourist ticket, this day trip from Cusco is crazy cheap at just $5 per person.

I’m not going to lie, the Tipon and Piquillacta Ruins aren’t thaaaat great. However, if you’re into history you’ll probably fall in love. The reason is because these ruins are pretty much deserted (unless you visit on a Sunday when they’re free for Peruvians), especially the more remote Piquillacta ruins. Piquillacta is also interesting because it is a pre-Incan site and is believed to be over 1500 years old! This day trip from Cusco also includes some nice views of the Huacarpay Lake.

If you want to check them out, use this detailed guide to get there!

 

Visiting the Tipon Ruins on a day trip from Cusco

 

Visit the Pisac Ruins

Cost: 20.5 soles / 6.20 usd pp for transportation if you are a couple, or 33 soles / 10 usd if you go alone. You will also need the tourist ticket to enter (see more details in the Sacsayuaman section above).
How to Get There

The Pisac ruins are one of the most famous day trips from Cusco, and for good reason. These extensive ruins are built high on top of a mountain, so you can admire the Incan terraces and stonework will also getting beautiful views of the valley below.

Like Kinsa Cocha, a day trip to the Pisac Ruins also means you can explore the town of Pisac and the famous market before you head home. If you’re only in Cusco for a short time, I think Pisac is the best site to visit in Peru’s Sacred Valley. Use these directions to visit the Pisac Ruins without a guided tour.

 

The Pisac Ruins in Cusco, Peru

 

Try These 7 Cheap Day Trips from Cusco

Skip the guided tours and check out these seven destinations on your own on your next day trip from Cusco.

If you only have time for one, I strongly recommend visiting Huchuy Qosqo because it was one of my absolute favorite experiences in Peru. However, all of them are great and it really depends on what you like to do, the costs you’re comfortable with, and how you like to travel!

No matter what you choose, you’re guaranteed to save some money while still having an awesome time on these seven cheap and easy day trips from Cusco!

 

PS you can also eat at some of my favorite places without breaking the bank with this list of the 10 best cheap restaurants in Cusco!

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Hiking in Sofia: How to Take a Day Trip to the Seven Rila Lakes

When it comes to hiking in Sofia, a day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes is the mecca. Locals and visitors alike believe that this is one of the most beautiful (if not the most beautiful) places in the entire country of Bulgaria.

I have to say, I agree.

Our day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes really blew me away, and I spent half of it freezing cold in the pouring rain… I can only imagine how gorgeous it is on a good day!

If you want a place to go hiking in Sofia, look no further. A day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes should be at the top of your bucket list, and this is everything you need to know to make it happen!

 

The Stats

Distance Hiked: 7.1 miles

Elevation Change: 350 m / 1150 ft

Max Altitude: 2500 m / 8200 ft at Otovitsa Ridge

Time Hiking: 4 hours

Total Trip Time: 8 hours

 

day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

 

How to Get to the Seven Rila Lakes

There are multiple ways to get to the Seven Rila Lakes from Sofia. We went with friends who have a car, but I’ll give the details for every option below.

Get to the Seven Rila Lakes by Car

This is definitely the easiest way to get to the Seven Rila Lakes from Sofia. You can drive all the way to the parking lot of the Pionerska chairlift (put “lift to Rila Lakes” in your GPS to find it) which will then take you to the starting point of the hike. The drive to the lakes will be about 60 miles and 1.5 hours each way from Sofia.

Get to the Seven Rila Lakes with a Shuttle

The 7 Rila Lakes Shuttle is your best bet to see them without a car. This service runs every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and the round trip transport costs 25 euros / 50 lev per person. I know it definitely runs June through October, but if you want to take it in April/May you’ll have to check the website and see if it’s available.

Get to the Seven Rila Lakes By Bus

Going to the Seven Rila Lakes with public transport isn’t easy, but it’s definitely possible. Two students made the trip and share the complete directions here.

The trip starts at the Sofia Central Bus Station and ended up taking them over 3.5 hours to get to the lakes. On top of that, the total cost for the round trip for two people was 74 lev / 38 euro. Based on this price, going to the Seven Rila Lakes by bus doesn’t really make sense financially. When compared to the shuttle service, you will only save 13 lev / 6.50 euro per person (if you are a couple, and even less if you’re alone) but spend an extra two hours on the trip.

 

day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes

 

When to Go to the Seven Rila Lakes

June, July, August, and September are the best months for a day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes. These mountains are at high altitude so don’t forget that the temperature will be very different from Sofia. I hiked to the Otovitsa Ridge (the view point to see all of the lakes) on June 10th and still had to walk through some snow on the way.

If you go in June and September, expect colder temperatures at the top and to see some snow on the trails. If you go in July and August you’ll get sunnier and warmer days, but you pay for the good temps by also dealing with crowds. Just decide which one you prefer!

 

How Much Does a Day Trip to the Seven Rila Lakes Cost?

Outside of the transport costs detailed above, the only other fee you’ll pay on a day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes is for the chairlift ticket. The price for a round trip ticket on the Pionerska chairlift is 18 lev / 9 euro per person. Otherwise, pack a lunch and enjoy a day out in nature that won’t break the bank!

 

hiking in Sofia on a day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes

 

My Experience at the Seven Rila Lakes

Our day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes might just be my favorite thing I did in Sofia during my two-month stay. We arrived at the chairlift around 9:30 am and only had to wait in a short line for 10 minutes before we could board. Already I was layering up with my coat because it was definitely cold! It didn’t help that the sun wasn’t shining either.

The chairlift took about 20 minutes and then we were at the top. From the chalet at the top of the ski lift, it is easy to to take the path that leads to the right. We climbed up a steep bank of rocks for 15 minutes and then it flattened out for about an hour until we reached the Kidney Lake, the third one and the halfway point on our hike to the Otovitsa Ridge view point. From here, it was more steep climbs and another hour until we passed the Eye Lake and reached the top.

What’s the view like? Good question! When we got there it was rain and thick fog so I couldn’t see a thing 🙁 However, if you go on a clear day you will get amazing pictures of all seven of the Rila Lakes spread out below you.

We waited for about 15 minutes for a break in the clouds at Otovitsa Ridge before we finally gave up and returned the way we came. This hike is out and back rather than a loop, so it’s easy to follow the same route to get back to the chairlift.

All in all, we started our hike around 10 am and returned to the chairlift at 2 pm. This included a break to eat and multiple photo stops as well.

If you don’t want to climb all the way to the Otovitsa Ridge the Seven Rila Lakes are still worth visiting. Just hike an hour out to the Kidney lake for a picnic, or even take a walk behind the chalet where it’s flat but you will still get stunning mountain views.

 

chair lift at the start of the Seven Rila Lakes hike

 

Extra Tips for a Day Trip to the Seven Rila Lakes

Just a few more things to keep in mind for your day trip to the Seven Rila Lakes…

  • Pack layers! Even in mid-June I was climbing through snow and still cold in long leggings and a coat.
  • Bring waterproof clothes if you have them. Temperatures change and storm clouds roll in quickly in the mountains.
  • Wear sunscreen. The sun is extra strong when hiking at high altitude, and I got burned even though it was raining 75% of my hike.
  • Pack a lunch because there aren’t any good food options after you take the chairlift to the starting point of the the hike (although you can buy snacks in the parking lot before you get on it).
  • The Pionerska chairlift runs from 9 to 4:30 every day except Monday, when it doesn’t start until noon. It’s also closed on the last Monday of every month.
  • If the chairlift isn’t running, you can hike 2 hours to get to the starting point of the Seven Rila Lakes hike instead, or take a ride from the men offering them in their jeeps (although I’ve read this is actually prohibited in the park to protect the environment, so try to avoid it if possible.)
  • If you want to stay at the top of the mountain, there are two different huts that offer accommodation. The Lodge Rilski Exera Hut and the Ivan Vazov Hut.

 

When it comes to hiking in Sofia, the Seven Rila Lakes are the best place to start! This day trip can be done by car, by shuttle, or even by bus so there’s no reason to skip it. Escape the city and enjoy an amazing day out in Bulgaria’s beautiful nature with this complete guide to the Seven Rila Lakes.

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How to Get to Veliko Tarnovo from Sofia Without a Car

Veliko Tarnovo is a great weekend trip from Sofia is because it’s close and so easy to access.

To get to Veliko Tarnovo from Sofia, walk or take a taxi to the Central Bus Station. Here you can choose from multiple buses that run the route at different times. First we tried Union-Ivkani but it was already sold out. Luckily, the Global BIOMET line had a departure at the same time that we could hop on.

I’m really happy this happened, because we discovered that BIOMET has working wifi on the bus! That’s absolutely unheard of for most lines around the world, so I’m now going to make it a point to choose them for the rest of my trips in Bulgaria if possible.

Tickets to get to Veliko Tarnovo from Sofia cost 17 to 20 lev / 10 to 12 usd depending on what line you get, and the ride takes 3 hours and 15 minutes. The trip is fairly flat and boring, and then you’ll get dropped off at the Veliko Tarnovo bus station. From here, you can walk to most hostels and hotels in the new town and old town, or grab a taxi which should only cost 3 to 5 levs.

Just a tip: Make sure you take a look at the BIOMET bus schedule before you go. Bus tickets DO sell out on popular routes like this one, especially if you go on a weekend, so consider buying your ticket a day in advance at one of their four ticket centers in Sofia to ensure you get the time you want.

The steps to get to Veliko Tarnovo from Sofia couldn’t be more simple. You don’t need to rent a car to see this charming cliffside town or take an expensive tour. Instead, follow this guide on how to get to Veliko Tarnovo, grab a bus, and spend a weekend exploring the city!

Once you arrive in this picturesque town, check out my list of 16 Things to do in Veliko Tarnovo to make the most of your trip! 

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16 Things To Do In Veliko Tarnovo (& the Order to Do Them In)

Veliko Tarnovo is a wonderful option for a weekend trip from Sofia. Before I moved to Bulgaria, I wondered how I would fill all eight weeks here. Now my to-do list is a mile long, because there’s so much to discover in the country.

One of the most beautiful places I’ve been is the charming town of Veliko Tarnovo. This quaint cliffside city is the old capital of Bulgaria and harbors a lot of history behind its beauty. The cobblestone streets lead you past colorful houses and the red rooftops cascading down the cliffside look like something out of a fairy tale. Add the greenery, parks, fortress, and old monuments and you have a recipe for an amazing weekend!

If you’re ready to visit, use this guide to discover all 16 things to do in Veliko Tarnovo!

 

What to do in Veliko Tarnovo

Surprisingly, there’s a lot to do in Veliko Tarnovo and our weekend trip from Sofia was packed full trying to fit it all in (spoiler alert: we didn’t). Here’s some of the most popular options to help you plan your trip.

 

1. Take the Free Walking Tour

The free walking tour is the best thing to do in Veliko Tarnovo, and you should try to take it first. Why? You’ll get the layout of the city and see most of the main attractions in passing. Then, you can go back and spend more time at the ones you like the most. Plus, you’ll learn a lot about Bulgaria’s history. The walking tour is 2.5 hours which is a bit long, but I still think it’s worth it. Catch it every day at 11 am in front of the Veliko Tarnovo Tourism Office.

 

If you don’t arrive in time for the free walking tour or that’s not really your thing, you can still see pretty much everything there is to do in Veliko Tarnovo in one day. It’s a strange town because it’s built in a line and there’s not really a center square or any center at all. If you’re staying in the New Town or on the main street in the Old Town, use this list to check out everything there is to do in Veliko Tarnovo and see them in this order to avoid backtracking!

 

2. Take Panoramic Pictures at the Sky Walk

In 2014 a group of architecture students chose Veliko Tarnovo for the annual EU summer project. In two weeks, they built a small sky walk that allows for amazing panoramic views not just of the cliffside city but also the winding river, nearby hills, the monument, and more. The entrance looks like a wooden cube, and it’s easy to find on the main street in the Old Town.

 

Veliko Tarnovo Old Town

 

3. Visit the Free Art Gallery

The Hadji Nikoli Inn Museum Art Gallery is built into the last original inn in Veliko Tarnovo. The city used to be packed with them due to its location on the merchant trading roading through the Ottoman Empire, but only one remains. It has a lovely garden with flowers and a restaurant as well. After you eat, visit the small gallery on the second and third floors to see works by local Bulgarian artists.

 

4. Walk Down the Shamovodska Charshia Market

This section of Veliko Tarnovo has a lot of promise but doesn’t quite deliver. The picturesque street is fun to walk down, but you won’t need to spend too much time here. It has “workshops” where people make wood carvings, knives, art, and other traditional pieces, but like most places it’s mostly devolved into overpriced souvenir shops and not much else.

 

Exploring the old town is one of the best things to do in Veliko Tarnovo

 

5. Stop for Ice Cream with a View at Gellato Fresco

Gelatto Fresco has tasty ice cream, cold drinks, and an amazing view of Veliko Tarnovoa. Stop here to grab a cone and take a break from the midday sun while enjoying the picturesque setting.

 

6. See Tsarevets Fortress and the Church on the Hill

Tsarevets Fortress is one of the most popular things to do in Veliko Tarnovo and for good reason. The walls wrap around the hillside and transport you back to Medieval Bulgaria. Entrance costs 6 lev / 3.50 usd per person, and there are plenty of different trails to take to the top.

Here, the main attraction is the Patriarchal Cathedral St. Ascension. I’m not going to spoil the surprise, and you shouldn’t Google it either! Just make the trek to the top and step inside to see this very unique place for yourself.

My tip: If you visit in the summer, make sure you bring water because none is sold inside. Also, when you make it up to the church take a break behind it. Here the shade and a strategic wind tunnel create the perfect place to cool down in the afternoon heat.

 

Tsarevets Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo

 

7. Walk Along Gurko Street

When the main road is packed with tourists and traffic, get a break from the crowds on Gurko Street. It also runs along the length of the Old Town, but it’s down at the bottom of the cliff. Here you can get from point A to point B in a much more relaxed fashion, while enjoying amazing views and cute little streets packed with rickety houses.

After you visit Tsarevets fortress, walk all the way to Stambolov Bridge along Gurko street for your next destination.

 

8. Get Some Fresh Air at Sveta Gora Park

Cross Stambolov bridge onto the peninsula and right behind the giant monument (I’ll get to that next), you can continue walking to find a stair case. The steps will take you up to the large Sveta Gora Park. It has two terraces built specifically for view points of the city, and if you continue upwards you’ll find lots of green space and happy families enjoying the shaded park. If you really want to relax, bring a blanket and grab a few cold drinks at the cafe at the top!

 

9. Watch the Sunset at Asen’s Monument

After you explore Sveta Gora Park, return the way you came and this monument will be impossible to miss. On the peninsula you’ll see four horsemen and a giant pillar rising between them. This is a celebration of the Asenevsti Dynesty and the four kings who ruled Bulgaria during it. The statues are striking, but it’s also has one of the best views of the Old City from below. Check it out at sunset, and grab a drink outside at the Melon Bar right behind it while you watch the lights flicker on across town.

 

10. Try Some Traditional Bulgarian Food

Ready for dinner? Luckily there’s a great place to try traditional Bulgarian food right nearby. Best of all, it doesn’t have a view, which means it has to attract people based on the merits of their food alone. To be honest, this was the only meal I had in Veliko Tarnovo that didn’t disappoint.

The restaurant is called Asenevsti and was recommended by our hostel owner. We had a plate of fried chicken, an appetizer, roasted potatoes and two large beers in the garden all for only 28 lev / 16 usd. Nice.

 

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

 

11. Watch the Laser Light Show

The laser light show is one of the most popular attractions in Veliko Tarnovo. You can get a great view and watch it for free on the steps of the Orthodox Church (search Iglesia Ortodoxa in Google Maps to find it). It only runs on holidays but that’s actually still surprisingly often throughout the year. Check the schedule and make the trek all the way back to Tsarevets Fortress to watch it if you’re lucky enough to be there when it plays.

 

12. Grab a Drink at the Hipster Art Bar

Whew. Last but not least, it’s time to finally relax! If you want a drink the Hipster Art Bar is the best place to get one. The quirky atmosphere and lively crowd make it a great place to meet locals and travelers alike while you all wind down for the evening. The Hipster Art Bar is located in the Shamovodska Charshia Market area.

 

Yes, all of this can really be squeezed into one jam-packed day in Veliko Tarnovo. That’s not all, though. If you have a day to two to spare, there are even more options to check out around the city! 

 

exploring the old town is one of the best things to do in Veliko tarnovo

 

13. Visit the Town of Arbanasi

If you have extra time, another popular thing to do in Veliko Tarnovo is a half-day trip to the town of Arbanasi. This should only cost about 3 to 5 levs for a trip in a taxi from the Old Town because it’s so close.

There’s not a ton to do in this small town, but when the weather is mild and the flowers are blooming it’s still a nice place to be. Some of the popular things to do here are the Church of the Nativity of Christ and simply wandering the streets to see more than 80 houses that have been preserved as an open-air museum (including the Konstantsaliev house that you can go inside of).

 

14. Take a Dip at the Krushuna Waterfall

The Krushuna waterfalls are about 1.5 hours driving from Veliko Tarnovo. They’re easy to reach if you have a rental car, but if you’re stuck with public transport (like we were) you’re probably going to be out of luck.

If you go, hike on the nearby trails and bring a suit to take a cold swim in the gorgeous blue natural pools that lie at the waterfall’s base.

 

15. Hike to the Devetashka Cave

This cave is perfectly placed to combine with the Krushuna waterfall. The Devetashka Cave draws visitors because of the open holes in the ceiling that let in natural light and the many species of bats and other wildlife you can spot on the hike. If you’re driving out to see the Krushuna waterfall, definitely add a pit-stop at the Devetashka cave to your to-do list as well.

 

16. Check out the Buzludzha Monument

This abandoned communist monument is a must for photography lovers. The eerie UFO shape, graffiti, and crumbling walls all speak to a bygone era that’s definitely best left in the past. Just like the above trips, the Buzludzha Monument can only be visited by car. It’s 1.5 hours from the city, but don’t stress trying to fit it into your schedule if it doesn’t work. The monument is also less than 2 hours from Plovdiv and 3 from Sofia, so even though Veliko Tarnovo is the most convenient location to visit from it’s not the only one.

 

There is so much to do in Veliko Tarnovo, and if you have a car there are even more half-day trips to take from the town as well. Visit this beautiful cliffside city in Bulgaria for a quick history lesson, gorgeous photos, relaxation, and a unique weekend experience in the country!

PS Taking a weekend trip from Sofia? Use this guide to learn exactly how to get to Veliko Tarnovo by bus from the city!

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The Top 3 Places for Shisha in Sofia

When I started looking for shisha in Sofia I was very underwhelmed. I couldn’t find much information online and just assumed there weren’t many options to choose from.

However, once I started keeping an eye out for it as I explored the city, I started noticing more and more places for shisha in Sofia that weren’t listed online. Best of all, they are all in walking distance of Vitosha Street in the center of Sofia.

I’ve tried quite a few of them by now, so here’s my list of the top three places for shisha in Sofia!

 

LARGO di Serdika

Price: 25 lev / 15 usd
Visit for: music, dancing, and a party vibe.
Location: Bulevard “Knyaginya Maria Luiza” 2, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia
More Info Here

Largo di Serdika is the best place for shisha in Sofia for a few reasons. First, the quality itself was great. Because of that, even though it’s a bar and club you’ll also see a shisha on EVERY table there.

The smoke was great immediately and best of all servers came about every ten minutes to replace our coals without asking. The service was top-notch, especially compared to most other places I’ve been in the country.

Another reason to choose Largo di Serdika for shisha in Sofia is because of their iconic location. The place is built into Largo (hence the name) which is the old communist party headquarters. The three buildings are giant, ornate, and beautiful, especially at sunset. The interior matches the outside with an almost 60’s vibe with low lighting, backlit bars, and retro light fixtures.

The music does get louder as the night goes on and the dance floor will be packed, but if you want the best shisha in Sofia, Largo di Serdika is definitely the place.

 

Art Club Museum

Price: 25 lev / 15 usd
Visit for: outdoor seating and good food.
Location: ul. “Saborna” 2, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia
More Info Here

The Art Club Museum is another great place for shisha in Sofia.

I love it the most because of the atmosphere. Visit in spring, summer, or fall to be seated outdoors in a shaded garden. The location is also right near Vitosha Street and the City Garden so it’s a perfect place to relax after exploring central Sofia.

Although the price of the shisha is high here, the food and drinks were surprisingly cheap for such a classy place. You can easily get a filling meal for 10 lev / 6 usd and a pint of Stella only set me back another 4.50 lev / 2.50 usd. Pretty nice!

 

Shisha Bar Speshial

Price: 15 lev / 9 usd
Visit for: low prices and a great drink selection.
Location: 
ul. “William Gladstone” 32, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia
More Info Here

The Shisha Bar Speshial is a interesting place. Ambiance is a big thing for me, and it’s somewhat lacking here. However, there are still plenty of redeeming qualities that make this one of the best places for shisha in Sofia.

First is obviously the price. It’s way lower than most places we tried, so that was a definite plus. Second, the waiters were super friendly and attentive, which I’ve found to be rare in Eastern Europe and was a nice change of pace. Finally, they had a nice selection of shisha flavors and a wide range of tea and cocktails to choose from as well (I highly recommend the berry blend tea if you visit… so good).

Go to the Shisha Bar Speshial during the day for the best experience because that’s when it’s relaxed, quiet, and you can play games like chess or backgammon. At night the music starts blasting and it gets so crowded you won’t be able to get in without a reservation, so keep that in mind when making plans!

 

Other Shisha Options in Sofia

I tried a few places on Vitosha Street and unsurprisingly, they weren’t great,

The first was Sofia Bar & Dinner. Here the shisha was pretty good and costs 19 lev, but the service was bad. They also only take cash AND multiple reviewers on Google mentioned being overcharged on their bill… something to keep an eye out for if you decide to check it out.

The second one we tried on Vitosha Street is called FREDDO Gelato e Ristoranti. The price is only 12 lev which was quite enticing, but of course you get what you pay for. The plastic chairs, old hookah, and poor smoke made us leave after only 30 minutes. Unfortunately, this place isn’t worth your time as well.

Now, I feel like I’ve done my civic duty and will stick to LARGO until I leave, but if I missed a place for shisha in Sofia that you love comment below and I’ll add it to the list!

 

I hope this guide to shisha in Sofia can help you have a great experience in the city. There are plenty of places to try it but in my humble opinion, these are definitely the best. Enjoy!

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