In Sofia in December, the air is crisp and clear, and the streets are alive with festive spirit. Bulgaria’s capital draws visitors with its rich history, stunning architecture, and the annual Christmas market in the city centre.
In this guide, I’ll provide details on the 2023 Sofia Christmas Market, including opening times, locations, and the specialities you can expect.
Christmas in Sofia is marked by a sense of warmth amid the cold winter weather.
The city’s churches and public squares are adorned with festive decorations, and traditional Bulgarian Christmas meals are enjoyed in homes and restaurants throughout the capital.
Sofia Christmas Market 2023
The Christmas market in Sofia is notable for its blend of Bulgarian tradition and international flavours.
Located in the heart of the city, it attracts locals and tourists alike with its diverse range of stalls selling crafts, festive foods, and drinks.
Visitors can enjoy live performances, including folk music and dance, that showcase Bulgaria’s rich artistic heritage.
There are many Christmas markets in Sofia. This list includes the most popular markets.
1. Sofia Christmas Market
Sofia Christmas Market dates: Likely dates: 17th November to 22nd December 2023.
Location: City Garden.
Opening times: 6pm to 10pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Christmas lights: Yes, Christmas Tree switch on date: 1st December 2023 in front of the National Theatre.
Ice skating: Yes, at Prince’s Garden. Opens 1st December 2023 from 9am to 11pm.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes, but not recommended during busy periods.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: Blend of Bulgarian tradition; international flavours; eco-friendly products; live folk performances; commitment to sustainability.
Recommended tour: Communist Sofia walking tour.
Specialities: Traditional Bulgarian pastries; grilled meats; mulled wine with local spices; honey-infused desserts; festive breads.
Where to stay: Grand Hotel Sofia is a popular hotel, located 5 minutes from the Christmas market.
Hotels near Sofia Christmas Market
For those looking to be near the Christmas market in Sofia Centre, staying in the heart of the city is a practical choice. The central location provides easy access to the market, other major attractions, and public transportation.
One popular hotel near Sofia Christmas Market is the Grand Hotel Sofia, a convenient option for your stay.
Location of Sofia Christmas Market
City and Christmas Tours
A city tour of Sofia provides an opportunity to explore the city’s rich history and culture. With its impressive mix of ancient ruins, religious buildings, and modern architecture, Sofia is a destination worth visiting at any time of the year.
A unique city tour that I recommend is this history tour of Communist-era Sofia.
Alternatively, consider taking this food tour to immerse yourself in the local culture through Bulgarian cuisine. Food tours are growing in popularity, and I suggest taking one if possible. This tour focuses on cheese and wine.
2. A Christmas Park
A Christmas Park at Slaveykov Square in Sofia is an inviting destination during the festive season.
This square, named after the famous Bulgarian poets Petko and Pencho Slaveykov, is transformed into a Christmas hub with a variety of attractions for visitors.
As you enter the square, you’ll notice traditional wooden huts housing vendors who sell handmade crafts, toys, and seasonal decorations.
The aroma of freshly baked goods, mulled wine, and other Bulgarian winter specialties fill the air, and numerous food stalls give you the chance to taste these local delights.
For families, there’s an emphasis on children’s entertainment, with activities like puppet shows and interactive craft workshops that engage young visitors.
Slaveykov Square Christmas Park dates: Likely dates: 3rd to 30th December 2023.
Location: Slaveykov Square.
3. Sofia Christmas Festival
Sofia Christmas Festival at South Park provides a festive experience located just south of the city centre in Bulgaria’s capital.
Upon arriving, you’ll find a variety of stalls lining the pathways, each displaying traditional Bulgarian Christmas crafts, ornaments, and gifts.
Children’s activities, such as workshops and storytelling sessions, draw families to the area. Live music, including folk performances, fills the air, enhancing the festive atmosphere.
One of the features of this Christmas market is the emphasis on Bulgarian tradition, seen in the handmade crafts and local delicacies.
In the evenings, the park transforms with illuminations and light displays that provide a warm glow, allowing for a pleasant stroll through the park even after sunset.
Sofia Christmas Festival dates: Likely dates: 17th November to 25th December 2023.
Location: South Park.
4. Saborna Christmas Bazaar
The Christmas market on Saborna Street in Sofia is an intriguing addition to the festive scene in the city.
Located right next to the German Christmas Market, this venue is quite small, with around six stands on each side.
What sets this market apart is the surprising presence of a DJ, adding a modern twist to the traditional Christmas market atmosphere.
It’s an unconventional spot that may appeal to those looking for something different during the holiday season.
Saborna Christmas Bazaar dates: Likely dates: 1st December 2023 to 7th January 2024.
Location: Saborna Street.
Opening times: 12pm to 10pm.
Christmas in Sofia
The following video provides a visual overview of the Christmas markets in Sofia, giving you an insight into what you can expect during a visit.
For a detailed overview of Bulgaria’s finest Christmas markets, you can explore my guide to ensure a festive experience grounded in local traditions.
Christmas Specialties in Sofia
Bulgarian Banitsa: A popular pastry filled with cheese, sometimes spinach, making it a satisfying vegetarian option. Often served hot, it’s a favourite among locals and tourists alike.
Kozunak: A traditional sweet bread enjoyed during Christmas in Bulgaria. It’s often braided and can contain nuts, making it a festive treat.
Grilled Sausages: As a common staple in many Christmas markets, you’ll find various types of grilled sausages, including some made with local spices and herbs.
Mulled Wine: This warm beverage is spiced with Bulgarian herbs, giving the familiar Christmas drink a unique twist.
Sarmi: This cabbage or vine leaves stuffed with rice and sometimes meat are a classic Bulgarian dish. Vegetarian versions are also available.
Kebapche: A type of Bulgarian minced meat, usually mixed with spices and grilled. It’s often served with a side of onion or in a sandwich.
Tarator: This cold cucumber soup is a refreshing vegetarian and vegan-friendly option. It’s made with yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, and dill.
Pretzels: An international favourite, pretzels are often available in various flavours, providing a familiar snack for many visitors.
Roasted Chestnuts: A classic street food found in many European Christmas markets, roasted chestnuts are a simple and tasty vegetarian snack.
Hot Chocolate: You’ll find vendors serving rich hot chocolate, sometimes with a Bulgarian twist using local cocoa or spices.
Popcorn and Candied Nuts: These sweet treats are commonly found in Christmas markets worldwide and available in Sofia.
Bulgarian Craft Beers and Wines: Local vendors often showcase the country’s craft beer and wine, giving visitors a taste of Bulgarian beverages.
Vegetarian and Vegan Stands: In addition to traditional dishes, the market also caters to plant-based diets with dedicated stalls offering a variety of vegetarian and vegan options.
Christmas Gifts and Stocking Fillers
Bulgarian Pottery: Famous for its ornate designs, Bulgarian pottery comes in various shapes and sizes, including plates, mugs, and vases. Craftsmen often demonstrate their skills at the market, making it a fascinating purchase.
Rose Oil Products: Bulgaria is renowned for its rose oil, and you’ll find various products like perfumes, lotions, and soaps infused with this unique fragrance at the market.
Wooden Toys and Carvings: Skilled craftsmen offer a variety of wooden toys and intricate carvings. These handmade items often reflect Bulgarian culture and folklore.
Knitted Scarves and Hats: Vendors sell locally-made knitted items, often made from Bulgarian wool. They provide warmth and style, often featuring traditional patterns.
Icon Paintings: You can purchase traditional Bulgarian Orthodox icon paintings. These spiritual artworks are typically hand-painted by local artists.
Honey and Jams: Bulgarian honey, as well as jams made from local fruits, can be found in decorative jars, perfect for gifting. Many vendors specialize in these sweet delights.
Wines and Rakia: These local beverages make for classic Bulgarian gifts. You’ll find vendors specializing in various regional varieties.
Christmas Decorations: In addition to unique items, the market also sells typical Christmas decorations like ornaments, lights, and wreaths, often with a Bulgarian twist.
Candles and Lanterns: Handcrafted candles and lanterns, often created using traditional methods, add a festive touch to any home.
Books and Calendars: Local publishers and authors might have stalls featuring books about Bulgarian culture, history, or fiction, along with themed calendars.
For updated information on things to do and the latest events in the city, you can refer to Visit Sofia, a valuable resource that includes current happenings and activities tailored to a variety of interests. You can find the events calendar here.
Sustainable Christmas Tips
Here are a few tips on how we can travel more responsibly in Sofia at Christmas:
Eco-friendly Hotels: While staying in Sofia, consider choosing accommodations committed to environmental stewardship. Many hotels in the city are now adopting green practices such as using renewable energy sources, implementing waste reduction measures, and conserving water. Your choice to support such establishments contributes to the city’s overall sustainability efforts.
Reducing Food Waste: When indulging in the festive delights at Sofia’s Christmas markets, be mindful of portion sizes. Try to order only what you can consume to minimise food waste. Many vendors are increasingly aware of this concern and will often accommodate requests for smaller servings, allowing you to enjoy a variety of treats without unnecessary waste.
Ethical Consumption: As you explore the Christmas markets, you may be tempted by the array of gifts and trinkets. Focus on purchasing items that you genuinely need or will use, and consider supporting local artisans who craft products in an environmentally responsible manner. In Sofia, there are numerous options for finding unique and sustainably produced souvenirs.
Sustainable Diets: Embrace the local and seasonal foods that are plentiful in Sofia during the Christmas season. Opting for meals prepared with locally-sourced ingredients supports the regional economy and reduces the environmental impact associated with food transportation. Many restaurants and stalls in Sofia highlight these local options, providing a culinary experience that aligns with a sustainable lifestyle.
Sustainable Transport: Sofia provides various environmentally friendly transportation options for getting around the city. Utilising public transport like trams, buses, or bicycles is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint. Additionally, walking between sites, especially in the city centre where many attractions are close together, adds an immersive experience to your visit while also being eco-conscious.
There are several large Christmas markets in Sofia. The main opening dates are from 17th November to 22nd December 2023, but other markets continue until 7th January 2024.
Most of Sofia’s Christmas markets take place in local parks. This includes City Garden, Slaveykov Square, South Park and also along Saborna Street.
Opening times for the Sofia Christmas Market are typically from 12pm to 9pm.
Yes, Sofia has a well-connected public transportation system, including buses and trams, that continue to operate during the winter months. Walking is also feasible, but do dress warmly and be cautious of icy patches.
Sofia provides a wide array of winter activities, from ice skating rinks like the one at Prince’s Garden to nearby skiing opportunities in Vitosha Mountain. The city’s rich cultural heritage also means that indoor attractions like museums and galleries remain appealing destinations, even in the colder months.
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Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Sofia, Bulgaria. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.