Traditional Bulgarian Food: a Food Journey in Sofia
As some of you already are familiar – Sofia is a hidden gem for tourists and it holds many pleasant surprises for the ones who are curious enough to seek for them. That can be largely contributed to the multi-cultural legacy that has been imprinted on Bulgaria by the vast majority of different nations who have influenced these lands in the past. During your stay here, you will see the aftermath of Sofia’s rich cultural history resulting in many different architectural styles, but as you get closer and closer to the city, you will inevitably want to try out the local food, which, just like our architecture, has been updated by many external influences. Anyone who loves travelling and exploring different places knows for sure that a huge part of experiencing a new city/culture is through its cuisine, so let’s get going on the traditional Bulgarian food tour.
There are many food tours in Sofia to choose from, but the best ones always happen around the city Centre. This means you’ll only benefit from staying at a central place, and a good pick to this end would be hotel Budapest (92 A Budapest str.), which offers comfort and peace for your time off, while at the same time is located within walking distance from the main action in town.
Now that you’re all set, it’s time to wake up, leave the hotel and go for breakfast. There is a scheduled breakfast tour that sets off from the Alexander Nevsky cathedral as early as 9 AM, which we highly recommend. To get there you can enjoy a nice ~2 km walk, or, if you’re not feeling much like it – get on trolley №9 from Lavov Most square (Lion’s Bridge) for 6 stops and get off at Sofia University (can’t miss it). A local guide will meet you and the rest of the group and give you a nice, informative and most importantly – tasty, walking tour of the city Centre. During this tour you will visit three or four food shops, where you will literally be able to get a taste of local culture, while in the meantime, during the walk you’ll see some of today’s most important buildings peacefully co-existing with some of the most important Thracians and Romans buildings from back in the day. The guide is not only a foodie, so they will be able to offer you some interesting stories about this city’s turbulent past. The first food place you will visit is famous for the unique quiche-like banitsa: a traditional Balkan pastry that is usually filled with white cheese, sometimes meat, spinach or nettle. This will surely get you going and the best drink to accompany your morning banitsa with is called ayran (a local salty yoghurt drink). Many of us grew up on this classic set up, so you will truly be tapping into the source here. You will then continue to a lovely food market, where you can get some fresh fruit desert or other snacks and baked nuts. The last stop will see you munching on some sweet pastries such as baklava (quite famous around the world) or tolumbichki (deep-fried pastries with sweet syrup). Another traditional drink that goes down well with sweet pastry is called boza, and you can get it at that spot too. You can book your breakfast tour here. This tour costs ~25 euro and lasts for approximately 3 hours, which means that by the time you’re done it will be time to have lunch!
Lucky for you, the guys from Balkan Bites organize free food tours in Sofia, which will just fit what you are looking for. The meeting point is Stefan Stambolov’s statue at Park Crystal at 2 PM. The tour kicks off with sampling the most refreshing cold soup you will ever try in your life – tarator. This one is made from yoghurt, water, cucumbers, garlic, walnuts, dill and salt. Then you’ll continue to a restaurant where you will be offered a Shopska Salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, white cheese, onion, peppers, olive oil and salt) and you’ll also be told of the Shopi people who have pioneered this salad. Lastly, you’ll visit a lovely bakery that prepares all sorts of interesting breads, that go incredibly well together with traditional Bulgarian spreads like lyutenitsa (red pepper, aubergine and tomato puree) and relishes like kyopolu (roasted eggplants and garlic).
Certainly after these two tours you will not be too hasty to think about your dinner plans. So that will be left up to you, but you should keep in mind that we haven’t even started talking about all the different meat dishes in our cuisine… so there’s a direction for you to explore. Enjoy your stay and bon appetite!