The Shopping Scene:
Over the past years more multinational companies have been setting up in Sofia and there are now more luxurious hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment centres in the city centre. Along the big boulevards like Tsarigradsko Shousse and Nikola Vaptsarov, a variety of modern business centres are also being built.
The brand new underground that connects the city centre with the outskirts now also brings more people into the city. Shopping malls like City Centre Sofia, Mall of Sofia and Sky City Sofia have all come up in recent years to tap into the increased shopping demand.
Where to Shop
Mall of Sofia on Alexander Stamboliiski Blvd. (west of the city centre) is the most stylish of the shopping malls. It is a smoke free mall (hurray!), its interior is light and airy and it carries a better range of shops.
City Centre of Sofia on Arsenalski Blvd. (south of the city centre) is on the edge of South Park. This mall is spread over six levels and there is also a cinema complex here.
TZUM, the Central Department Store, is at 2, Knyaginya Maria Luiza Boulevard in the very heart of the city centre. It is close to key government headquarters such as the Council of Ministers, the Presidency and the National Assembly.
Interestingly, the tourism agency is asking people to Boycott TZUM as they used to keep a showcase tiger ‘Shakti’ in the store. Although Shakti has now been moved to the zoo, there are rumours that TZUM intends replacing the tiger with a panther. If this is true, then I’m with the tourism people as this is not acceptable.
Other shopping areas
Apart from the shopping centres, other shopping areas are:
Vitosha Boulevard – is the posh shopping street of Sophia. This is a semi-pedestrianised area and its worthwhile checking out the side streets as well. Vitosha is a long street which cuts through the centre of Sofia and walking along Vitosha you’ll also see some of Sofia’s nicest buildings, such as the Sofia Court of Justice, Sveta Nedelya Orthodox Church and the Banya Bashi Mosque.
Pirotska Street – is just across from TZUM. It is the only pedestrian shopping street in Sofia, so it’s worth a visit.
The HALI – Central Market Hall – was formerly a food market. The interior of this heritage building has been refurbished and it’s an interesting place to visit to see its architecture. There is a variety of small shops on the upper level and the ground floor is predominantly occupied by food stalls. The locals do their food shopping here.
Alexander Nevski Square – There is a flea market here and you’ll see interesting objects like antique cameras, lace work, jewelry, coins and medals and objects from their Eastern Bloc days. It’s hard to tell if these are genuine goods from bygone days or objects that have been manufactured for tourists. Nevertheless, they are cheap enough and Tony and I found a ring each here.
What to buy
Jewelry, religious art and art in general are good value in Bulgaria, but if you only want small souvenirs to take home, go for the rose products like rose oils, soaps and fragrances. Bulgarian-grown roses produce the best rose oil in the world and this is an essential element in all famous brand named fragrances.