Sofia through the eyes of a local tour guide

The Bulgarian history, culture, cuisine, hidden gems, secret spots, valuable tips for an unforgettable experience during your stay in Sofia

We introduce you to Viktor, a true Insaider of Sofia.

Viktor, Sofia Tour Guide (in front of the Sofia History Museum)

Viktor is the only local tour guide who is currently running walking tours, simultaneously with bus, tram and museum tours in Sofia.

 

Viktor is passionate about showing people around the city. He has been a tour leader since August 2016 and his first job as a guide was in City Sightseeing Sofia – the only company that offers daily bus tours in the city. Since that he has lead more than 300 tours on both a double-decker and an open-top bus. In December 2016 he created The Feel of Sofia – a platform for walking tours in the city. Since February 2018 he is also working as a tour guide at Sofia History Museum. In the beginning of 2019 he lead my first tours in a vintage tram for Alter Experience Bulgaria. His food tour company was just recently launched (spring 2019).

We are proud to have him as one of our Insaiders in Sofia.

He is now willing to share with you some valuable tips, so that you make the most out of your visit to our capital. 


Viktor with a group of visitors in front of the National Theater

You’re passionate about history and culture. What do you find particularly interesting about Bulgarian history?

Bulgarians know their history and are proud of it. We are not ashamed of our past and we talk with a flame in the eyes about all the glorious battles. Unlike many nations, Bulgarians worship their historical figures as if they are still alive today. We show affection and respect for them, as much as to people close to us.

You’re a real ambassador of Sofia. What makes you feel proud of being its citizen?

Sofia has a history of thousands of years. Over the last 8,000 years people of different origins have been calling our territory their home. Surrounded by mountains, crossing rivers and warm mineral water in its very center makes Sofia different from any other city. Also, the area around Sofia is called the Little Holly Forest because of the abundance of religious centers such as churches and monasteries that have preserved the Bulgarian spirit of the city during the Ottoman rule.

According to your experience, what’s the overall impression of travellers visiting Sofia?

Very few visitors of Sofia have expectations before visiting the city. Most of them spend about 3 days here and their program is full. Often the first day is dedicated to a tour of our main landmarks. What they often share from their first day here is that the center is very clean and there are surprisingly many churches. On the first day, most often they try Bulgarian food and what is a commonality among almost all my guests is that they do not like the boza (popular fermented beverage). At the other extreme is the banitsa, as well as the grill. The second day is when they get to know the city more freely and meet local people. According to my guests, the citizens of Sofia speak good English, but it is difficult for them to make their way through the city only by reading the signs, as most of them are written in Bulgarian or poorly translated. The third day is reserved for Vitosha. This is the best way to finish your stay here because you are breathing in the fresh air that has attracted people here many centuries ago. This is also how they end up remembering Sofia, the town below Vitosha.

Which is your favourite spot that you enjoy bringing them to?

The Church “St George” Rotunda

My favorite stop is the space around the rotunda “St. George”, built in the 4th century. The buildings around form a closed space and the temple is in its center. The place is unique, because around it are the Presidency of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Ministry of Education, residential building and hotel Balkan. This layout is a small representation of the city itself – large, with population of more than a million people, with important administrative buildings, but in its heart it hides its long history and its faith.

You just started Sofia Food Tours. What is it about and what’s your impression so far?

Sofia Food Tours

👉 Join our food tour and get the taste of Sofia! 🇧🇬
⭐ This is what we do!
♥️ Visit www.sofiafoodtours.com for more.

Posted by Sofia Food Tours on Friday, June 14, 2019

 

Although my tours are aimed for foreigners, my guests are often Bulgarians from other cities. During the tour, foreigners and Bulgarians learn different things. Foreigners are introduced to some of the typical dishes and beverages for Bulgaria related to the different periods of our history, and Bulgarians learn the truth about many of their favorite dishes such as Tarator, Shopska salad or Garash cake.

What’s the place of food in Bulgarian culture? How important it is for us?

In different moments of our history food has played a different role. At the very beginning, when the three tribes – Thracians, Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians – merged, food was a means of survival. Later, during the Middle Ages, bread became an integral part of the Bulgarian table, but also an important tool for religious rituals. Its then when bread became the symbol we know today. During the Ottoman rule, food again became a way of survival, as the variety was poor and the food served as energy used later in the field. It is only after the Liberation that we began to accept food as something more than a source of energy, started cooking different European dishes and the first mass culinary books appeared. To this day, the attitude towards food has remained unchanged.

Being located in a crossroad, our cuisine is a mixture of many others. What makes it however truly unique?

Exactly this, the combination of different tastes and influences. Our cuisine today is a mix of the traditional for Bulgarian dishes milk products and vegetables, but in the last 140 years we have added to these recipes the European flavor that creates modern variations in the food that our grandparents have eaten. Often one single ingredient makes the difference between two dishes, as is often the case with the so-called “Balkan cuisine”.

Just as a little teaser, tell us one of the favourite stories that you enjoy sharing with your visitors?

In 1965, the Bulgarian Toncho Mihailov was sent by the Communist Party to Paris to get to know the equipment needed to produce soft drinks. He sits in a French bistro and orders a soft drink. Delighted by its taste, he asks to meet with the manufacturer without knowing that it is Coca-Cola, which is seen as a symbol of imperialism. After the negotiations, an historical decision was made – the first bottle of “Coca-Cola”, produced in Bulgaria with the legendary Cyrillic inscription on it, was sold in Bulgaria very soon. 

Which is the place that you usually recommend to off-the-beaten-path travellers?

Viktor with a group of travellers in front of the National Library

My favorite place to escape from the familiar streets and buildings is the area behind the National Library. The neighbourhood around the Doctor’s Memorial is a three-dimensional history textbook. There lives a large part of the elite in the three periods of our 140-year history – Monarchy, Socialism and Democracy. Behind the walls of these houses were made decisions that changed the course of history of Bulgaria. Many of them are still preserved in their original form, which makes them really priceless.

If you want to get to know Viktor and learn more about the stories of the city, visit some of his walking tours.

Don’t miss Viktor’s latest “Sofia Food Tour” and taste the local specialties:


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