Saturday, August 20, 2011


Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko – 98 Pirin Street; 011-359-7-498-8888;; located within Bulgaria's top ski resort in Pirin Mountains.

ISPERIH (includes Sveshtari)
Sights & Sights
Sboryanovo Historical & Archeological Reserve – 6 Tsar Osvobodite Street (starting with Isperih Museum of History); 011-359-8431-4783, 011-359-8431-3619, or011-359-8431-3631;; situated on western Ludogorsko Plateau, along Krapinets River banks, between Malak Porovets and Sveshtari; UNESCO World Heritage Site; unique necropolis, sanctuary, village complex; more than 140 archeological sites (Sveshtari Necropolis, Islamic Demer Baba tomb, Kamen Rid (Rocky Heights), and medieval village near Byuven); Sveshtari Tomb is Thracian king’s necropolis and sanctuary (3rd Century BCE); Tomb of Demir Baba dates to 17th Century.

Bakeries, Coffee, Ice Cream, Juice & Tea
Affredo – corner of Stefan Stambolov Square & Knyaz Aleksandâr (2nd Floor); Bulgaria’s popular gelato chain.
Belle Ville Hotel – 24-26 PR Slaveykov Street (Old Town); 011-359-32-623-931; best value in city; free Wi-Fi; breakfast included but not worth it.
Hebros Hotel – 51A Constantin Stoilov Street (Old Town); 011-359-32-260-180;; city’s best; traditional Bulgarian architecture and renovated, spa-style bathrooms; book well ahead; cozy courtyard restaurant.
Hebros Hotel – 51A Constantin Stoilov Street (Old Town); 011-359-32-260-180;; cozy courtyard restaurant serving continental fare.
Hotel Alafrangite – 13 Ulitsa Kiril Nektariev; 011-359-32-623-187;; lovely courtyard setting; traditional Bulgarian food (Mediterranean).
Philippopolis Museum – 29 Saborna Street; 011-359-32-624-851;; restaurant inside and outdoor garden.
Sights & Sites
Amphitheater – Old Town (between Dzhambaz Tepe’s south-western slope & Taxim Tepe); traditional Roman theater; per builders’ inscription, discovered on eastern proskenion’s frieze-architrave, constructed under Emperor Trajan (98-117).
Balabanov (Hadži Lampša) House – 57 Ulitsa Dr. K. Stoilov; 011-359-32-627-082;; dates from early 19th Century; fine interior decoration and remarkable façade; upper floor includes apartments restored to their original state, furnished in western style (Empire, Rococo, Viennese Baroque); magnificent carved ceilings; also houses ancient Plovdiv institute and can provide tour guides.
City Gallery of Fine Arts – 14 Ulitsa Saborna; 011-359-32-635-322 or 011-359-32-624-221; promotes little-seen Bulgarian works, both by contemporary and past artists.
Djumaya (Dzhumaya) Mosque – 2 Zhelezarska Street (Old Town, next to Dgumayata Square); Plivdov’s main Muslim temple; Turkish name is Hüdavendigâr Camii or Cuma Camii; built in 1363-1364, demolished and replaced 1421-1451; among Balkan’s oldest Ottoman religious buildings and among bigges; wall-paintings probably date back to 18th Century’s end and 19th Century’s beginning; surrounded by palm trees.
Hindlian House – 4 Ulitsa Artin Gidikov; 011-359-32-628-998; once owned by merchant Stepan Hindlian, built in 1835; among Plovdiv’s most opulent, full of exquisite period furniture and walls, painted with imaginary and real Alexandria, Constantinople, and Venice landscapes; magnificent panelled ceilings and Oriental-style marble bathroom, with domed, high ceiling and skylight; small courtyard garden lovely, too.
Nedkovich House – Ulitsa Lavrenov; 011-359-32-626-216;; dates from 1863; leafy courtyard sometimes hosts art shows; flowery wall paintings and ornate wood ceiling.
Old Town – central district;; cobble-stoned, tree-lined street maze; antique stores, museums, restaurants, and Roman ruins.
Philippopolis Museum – 29 Saborna Street; 011-359-32-624-851;; art gallery and museum.
Sephardic synagogue – 13 Tsar Kaloyan Street; in small courtyard in what was once large Jewish quarter; dates to 19th Century; among Balkan’s best-preserved examples “Ottoman-style” synagogues; interior is ”hidden treasure,” glorious, if run-down, color-burst; exquisite Venetian glass chandelier hangs from domed, richly painted ceiling center; all surfaces covered in elaborate, Moorish-style, geometric designs in once-bright greens and blues; Torah scrolls kept in gilded Aron-ha-Kodesh.

Bakeries, Coffee, Ice Cream, Juice & Tea
A:part:mental – 68 Neofit Rilski Street; 011-359-87-878-7321; century-old residence turned African embassy turned bar-cafe-gallery; pastries.
Tea House – 11 Georgi Benkovski Street; 011-359-88-705-1080;; draws Bohemians expats with red-walled atmosphere; evening jams, live poetry readings, 60-odd teas, and vegan food.
Bars & Nightclubs
A:part:mental – 68 Neofit Rilski Street; 011-359-87-878-7321; century-old residence turned African embassy turned bar-cafe-gallery; locally made wine.
Culture Beat – Vitosha Boulevard (in National Palace of Culture, or “NDK”); 011-359-89-681-3234 or 011-359-89-845-3400;; cosmopolitan lounge with mosaic-tile floors.
Hambara – 6 Septemvri Street; if there were ‘most hidden place in Sofia’ contest in Sofia, this would win: dark alley leading to shanty structure and wooden door (no name, no signs, nothing); formerly, place for intelligentsia and you could only get in if you know right person and words; on lower level, bars with stools while upstairs, few tables with small chairs; if you need toilet, look for “editor’s office.”
Horoteka – 1 Cherni Vrah Boulevard; 011-359-88-850-5045;; for traditional Bulgarian line-dancing.
Kino Vlaikova – 11 Tsar Ivan Assen II; 011-359-87-985-5819;; former 1927 cinema now indie band venue for Pirinsko-swigging hipsters.
Kanaal – 2 Madrid Boulevard; 011-359-88-285-6346;; Dutch-inspired spot that serves Trappist beers.
SkaraBar – 12 Georgi Benkovski Street; 011-359-2-483-4431;
SkaraBar – 2 Dimitar Grekov; 011-359-2-483-0696;
Studio 5 – 1 Bulgaria Square, entrance A3 (in National Palace of Culture, or “NDK”); 011-359-2-963-1254;; Balkan jazz bar that welcomes local comedy acts, music, and tango.
+Tova – 30 Marin Drinov; 011-359-88-720-3340;; boza, Bulgarian malt drink.
Arena di Serdica – 2-4 Budapeshta Street; 011-359-2-810-7777;; 63 spacious rooms and suites; spa on ancient Roman amphitheater (section of ruins in lobby where you even can see ancient animal footprints in clay-stone walls.
Les Fleurs – 21 Vitosha Boulevard; 011-359-2-810-0800;; boutique.
Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan – 5 Sveta Nedelya Square; 011-359-2-981-6541;
Lubimoto – 25 General Parensov Street; 011-359-88-477-8464;; try slow-cooked pork loin.
SkaraBar – 12 Georgi Benkovski Street; 011-359-2-483-4431;; barbecue joint; try meshana skara platter.
SkaraBar – 2 Dimitar Grekov; 011-359-2-483-0696;; barbecue joint; try meshana skara platter.
Soup Me – 55 Neofit Rilski Street; 011-359-88-862-6525; soups; be aware that shkembe chorba is tripe soup.
Supa Star – 8 Tsar Ivan Shishman Street; 011-359-88-844-6437; done up with whimsical artworks and colorful lighting fixtures; soups; offers Bulgarian classic, tarator (chilled yoghurt cucumbers, and walnuts).
Tea House – 11 Georgi Benkovski Street; 011-359-88-705-1080;; draws Bohemians expats with red-walled atmosphere; evening jams, live poetry readings, 60-odd teas, and vegan food.
+Tova – 30 Marin Drinov; 011-359-88-720-3340;; quiches.
Free Sofia Tour – 2 Vitosha Boulevard (Palace of Justice); 011-359-88-699-3977;; twice daily free tours by Ph.D. students and volunteers.
A:part:mental – 68 Neofit Rilski Street; 011-359-87-878-7321; century-old residence turned African embassy turned bar-cafe-gallery; local art.
Nenios – 25 Solunska Street; 011-359-87-725-0257;; children’s quilts, tees, and toys.
Le Petit Salon – 1 Tsar Ivan Assen II; 011-359-88-920-0558 or 011-359-88-564-4170;; showcase for stylish wares from embroidered linen dresses to ceramic and papier-mache dolls.
Shipka – 23 Professor Asen Zlatarov; 011-359-88-952-2022;; organic beauty products.
Testa Gallery – 8 Tsar Shishman Street; 011-359-2-981-8363;; contemporary ceramics and jewelry.
Sights & Sites
Boyana Church – 1-3 Boyansko Ezero Street; 011-359-2-959-0939 or 011-359-2-959-2963;; UNESCO World Heritage Site; medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church; east wing originally constructed in late 10th or early 11th Century; central wing added in 13th Century; whole building being finished with further expansion in mid-19th Century; famous mainly for frescoes from 1259 (which form 2nd layer over paintings from earlier centuries); total of 89 scenes with 240 human images; 18 scenes in narthex depict Saint Nicholas’ life.
Central Market Hall – 25 Knyaginya Maria Luiza Boulevard; built in 1909 on Serdika fortress site; colorful but chaotic shopping stall locale.
Central Mineral Baths – 2 Triaditsa Street; central Sofia landmark; city long known for area mineral springs since at least as early as 16th Century.
Alexander Nevski Cathedral – 1 Alexander Nevski Place; 011-359-2-988-1704; Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral built in Neo-Byzantine style; among largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in world; gold dome; built between 1882-1912 in memory of 200K Russian soldiers who died fighting for Bulgaria’s independence during Russo-Turkish War (1877-78); in Crypt is Bulgaria’s best and biggest religious icon collection.
Ladies’ Market (Zhenski Pazar) – Stefan Stambolov Boulevard; public market.
Lover’s Bridge – Bulgaria Boulevard; where young couples stroll while taking in open-air photo exhibits and Vitosha Mountain views.
Museum of Socialist Art – 7 Lachezar Stanchev Street; 011-359-2-980-0071;; art from 1944-1989; includes black and white propaganda films from Communist era; also, statue garden.
National History Museum – 16 Vitoshko Lale Street; 011-359-2-955-4280;; among other things, has medieval “vampire” skeleton.
National Palace of Culture (“NDK”) – Vitosha Boulevard; 011-359-2-916-6830;
Vitosha Mountain – Golden Bridges Road; 011-359-2-926-5112;; mountain massif, on Sofia’s outskirts; hiking and skiing; Balkans’ oldest national park.

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