Living in and traveling around Europe for the past few years, I’ve been able to visit some of the best Christmas markets on the continent. From Berlin to Vienna to tiny Heraklion, I love getting in the festive spirit every year! Of course, being based in Sofia, the Sofia Christmas Market is one of my favorites!
After many years and many visits, here’s everything you need to know to have the perfect visit to the Sofia German Christmas Market, including my best tips for what to do after!
Read Next: 11 Magical Things to Do in Sofia in Winter
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How to Visit the Sofia German Christmas Market
Here’s everything you need to know to plan your trip to the Sofia Christmas Markets:
What are the dates and times for the 2019 Sofia Christmas Market?
The Sofia German Christmas Market runs for a month, from November 22, 2019, through December 21, 2019. During this time, the market is open daily from 11 am until 9 pm. On opening night, the market will stay open an additional hour until 10 pm.
Where is the market located?
The Sofia Christmas Market is held every year at the City Garden on Knyaz Alexander I Square. This is the same park where Ivan Vazov National Theater is located but on the far end of the park close and across the street from the National Art Gallery.
If you’re taking a taxi, ask to be dropped off at the corner of Tsar Osvoboditel and Dyakon Ignatiy so you will be close to the side of the park where the market is.
If you have to walk on the yellow bricks (you’ll know what I mean) be careful! They get very slick if it’s raining or snowing outside. If it’s wet at all, wear shoes with some grip and walk slowly on this part of the road.
What kind of entertainment will there be for adults?
There are musical performances held at night on the stage, in addition to typical shopping, food, and drinks.
What kind of entertainment will there be for children?
Some of the performances on the stage are aimed at children. There are also appearances by Father Christmas. For families looking to get a great family Christmas pic, there’s a holiday photo booth where you can get pictures taken and printed.
What kind of goods will be for sale?
In addition to typical Bulgarian souvenirs, you can also find Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers, decorations, and packaged foods to take home with you.
What kind of food and drinks will be available?
You’ll find typical German Christmas Market fare, including bratwurst, sauerkraut, potatoes, etc. You’ll also find Hungarian Langos, Mexican churros, and a smorgasbord of other delicious eats.
To drink, pick up a mug of mulled wine (gluhwein). You can spend a little bit more and take home a souvenir mug that you can use for gluhwein refills.
Is there a ticket price to get into the events?
Entry to the Christmas Market is free! You can even enjoy the performances for free as well. If you want to shop, eat, drink, or take photos in the photo booth, you’ll spend a bit of money. However, I find that the prices at the Sofia Christmas Market are pretty incredible, and your money will go pretty far. For example, a serving of churros is 4 leva (less than $2.50 USD)
Are there any other special festivities in Sofia this December or January that travelers might want to attend?
Full disclosure: avoid Sofia at New Year’s at all costs. It’s a hellscape. This will be my third New Year’s Eve in the city, and I have a few secret spots that I like, but I would NEVER tell someone to come here for New Year’s.
But…that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come for December and January! Just avoid New Year’s Eve.
My favorite thing to do in Sofia in January is to go to Surva! This Balkan festival is held at the end of January every year in Pernik, which about forty-five minutes outside of Sofia.
For more information about Surva and the Kukeri dancers, check out 25 Photos of Kukeri, the Pagan Dancers who Guard Bulgaria from Evil Spirits.
Tips for visiting the Sofia German Christmas Market.
If you want to visit the market when there aren’t crowds, go during the day! There are far fewer people there when its daytime. If its also snowing, you’ll have the market practically to yourself!
Make sure to bring cash, since the market vendors do not take credit cards.
Bundle up! Standing outside will make you feel colder than the temperature may look or feel when you’re walking around the city.
If it’s snowing, you might want to bring an umbrella with you so your hair doesn’t get wet (like mine did).
Make sure your camera and cell phone are charged! You’re gonna want to take a lot of pictures while you’re here!
Don’t take any taxis that are lined up around the Christmas Market, as these are more likely to be scam taxis. Read our Sofia Taxi guide so you avoid scams. The taxis are a great way to get around the city but don’t get in one you don’t order.
Ideas for what to do when you’re done with the market.
Make sure that you also stop by Ivan Vazov National Theater before you leave City Park! It’s beautiful whether you stop by during the day or at night! Because of it’s scarlet, gold, and white exterior, it always makes me feel a little extra festive at Christmas!
If you are looking for something to do after you visit the market, you can grab a cocktail at Sense Rooftop Bar. The bar is indoors and has one of the best views of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The walk between the two is just a few blocks. They also serve a delicious chocolate winter cocktail that is one of my favorite holiday beverages in the city!
Another option is to walk over to Vitosha Boulevard. Even though it’s not specifically Christmas-themed, it’s always fun to be on Vitosha. There are tons of great restaurants, but right now I’m particular to Social Cafe.
If you want some more Christmas decorations (perhaps for your own photoshoot), the Largo is typically decorated with holiday lights that you can enjoy during December.
For more ideas, we have guides to the best Sofia restaurants, Sofia bars, and things to do in Sofia at night.
Where to stay in Sofia
Here are our top 3 recommendations for where to stay when you visit Sofia.
Budget: For a hostel, we always recommend Hostel Mostel. I have never stayed at the Sofia location but several of my friends have and have always spoken highly of it. I stayed at the one in Veliko Tarnovo and it was excellent.
Perks include a free vegetarian dinner in addition to breakfast included in your stay! Check rates and availability here. If you are traveling in peak season, be sure to book online, as Hostel Mostel is popular and tends to get booked up.
Mid-range: For a trendy new boutique hotel that is shockingly affordable, we recommend R34 Boutique Hotel.
The location is fantastic, near the Ivan Vazov National Theater in central Sofia. It has gorgeous, loft-inspired details like exposed brick, giant windows, and streamlined but modern décor. It’s a great bargain, too – check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Luxury: As far as we see it, there’s only one option for the best hotel in town: Sense Hotel. We go to their upscale, beautiful rooftop bar all the time when we have guests in town – it has one of the best views in the entire city and they make fantastic cocktails.
With beautiful views over Alexander Nevsky, Sofia’s most iconic landmark, the hotel couldn’t be in a better location. Sense Hotel also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, an art gallery in the lobby, an excellent spa with luxe treatments, and an indoor pool. It’s truly the best choice in town. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Still looking? Check out Where to Stay in Sofia: Best Hostels and Hotels in Sofia
What to Pack for Bulgaria in Winter
We have a full Bulgaria packing list, but in case you just want the quick version, here are a few essentials you shouldn’t forget to pack!
A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle: We love and own Lonely Planet Bulgaria & Romania for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.
One or two swimsuits: If you plan to enjoy your hotel sauna, indoor pool, or steam room, you’ll likely want one! We suggest bringing two so you never have to put a cold wet one back on. We love this one.
Plenty of winter clothing: You can check our packing list above for our full winter packing suggestions for men and women. At a minimum, you’ll want to bring a warm winter jacket (I love this North Face parka), cozy snow boots, warm wool socks, touch-screen friendly gloves, a scarf, and a winter hat.
Any ski equipment and clothing: If you’re combining a trip to Sofia with a ski trip to Bansko, Borovets, or Pamporovo, don’t forget your gear!
We’re not skiers ourselves, so we don’t have specific ski gear equipment, but special ski clothes — waterproof pants and jackets, goggles, etc. — and ski gear obviously should be on your packing list, unless you have decided to rent it all when you arrive at your Bulgarian ski resort.
Moisturizer: Travel will beat your skin up in the best of times — and winter travel in addition to skiing will do a number on it! If you use a moisturizer at home, bring it. If you’ve never used a moisturizer before, you really should start. You’ll be happy to give your face a boost before heading outside in the cold all day.
Sunscreen: We strongly suggest wearing sunscreen when you spend time outdoors, no matter the weather outside. The higher altitudes combined with the reflection of the sun off the snow can lead to unexpected sunburns. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen – it’s mess-free, works well in carry-ons, is ultra-protective, and blends in well.
Read Next: Essential Bulgaria Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Bulgaria
More Bulgaria Travel Resources
If this will be your first time in Bulgaria, we have some resources to help make your first trip here a breeze. Check out our guide on how to plan your trip to Bulgaria, which goes over everything from visas to ground transportation to budgeting your trip.
Don’t forget to check out our Bulgaria packing list which has details of everything you’ll want for your trip.
If you’ll be in town for a few days, check out our guide to what to do in Sofia in winter, plus things to do in Sofia and Sofia itinerary posts to help guide your way through the city we call home. Make sure to check out our guide to avoiding taxi scams in Sofia as well.
If you will also be spending time in Plovdiv, make sure to check out our guide to things to do in Plovdiv, Plovdiv Instagram sites, and our Plovdiv nightlife guide.
You will also want to check out our overview of Balkan currency, which describes Bulgarian leva, as well as our complete guide to tipping in Bulgaria.
We publish new posts almost every day! Bookmark our Bulgaria and Balkans pages so you don’t miss any new resources that come out between now and your trip!
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance
Finally, make sure you always travel to Bulgaria with a valid travel insurance policy. The country is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
>>Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.<<
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Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.