Forget sandy hotel rooms and frying on the beach – the capital offers cool shade, trendy places and pools for those who like to sunbathe. This is compensation enough if you are unable or unwilling to trade the city for a resort holiday – there are places in all the clubs, you can go out to dine in spacious summer gardens with fountains, and you don’t have to plan for an exhausting, time-consuming trip to the seaside.
While the microclimate in Sofia during the summer is very hot, with the occasional lightning storm, your salvation during the day is the air-conditioner. At night, as Joe Cocker says, it’s a different world. The best discos and nightclubs have extensive programmes to make sure you never lack a party, while numerous festivals, open-air concerts and cinema compete for your attention in the evenings.
If your preferences are more to the nature side, the nearby mountains provide enough cool forests to follow the trails each weekend for the rest of the summer. But if you’d rather don your lightest clothing and meet some friends, then a list of the trendy places in the city is necessary. And whatever your plans, don't forget to make a reservation – you will probably not be the first to plan an open-air dinner.
Staging a relaxing weekend break from the routine might prove difficult if you are sick of the city already – but there are places that make you forget you are in Sofia. One of them is MAXI complex, which features dense greenery within the closed yard and between the four pools of the Aqua World site. Aside from the two children pools, the big ones have additional VIP tables and sunbeds. The tempting waters relax you completely, and choice is yours whether you would like to nap on a sun bed under the green shade, recall your swimming skills in the great pools, or enjoy the excellent cocktails from the bar. The garden of the complex has also a big playground to keep the children entertained and a great Greek restaurant within the hotel part. The seafood specialities in it will certainly make you believe you are on the Aegean coast. You can also dine at the pool, the menu is different from that in the restaurant. Come alone and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, or invite friends for an improvised beach session. Parties are a regular feature here, taking place each Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and held by top DJs.
Establishments in Bulgaria still have some way to go, but some of them are starting to realise that posh interior and courteous staff can’t replace the influence of good food. King Breakfast has always kept to the idea that food comes first – which is why here you will find one of the best dining experiences in Sofia. The menu covers everything from fancy salads, juicy chicken and expertly prepared veal to freshly squeezed juices and pancakes. Thanks to the varied interior, you can always have a different meal, but a well-connected one with free wi-fi and transport hubs nearby.
The wisest thing to do during the long hot days in Sofia is to head for somewhere refreshing. If the sea coast is unavailable, you can take your pick from pools and beaches in the vicinity. In case you are looking for comfort as well as a bit of glamour, head over to Gorublyansko Hanche. The hotel at the edge of Sofia has a well-sized pool of 315 sq. m, surrounded by sun beds and shades, where you can catch up on your tan and your friends. Consider spending the day there – the skilled chefs at the restaurant take care of your palate with Bulgarian cuisine and coal barbecue, and you can enjoy your meal in a big summer garden with a playground.
Barbecues are a staple of the summer, when the scent of grilled meat and potato salad guarantees long and lively afternoons or evenings. Since Sofia is lacking in places set aside specifically for outdoor grills, you have a great alternative: the Pri Miro restaurant, which offers Serbian style coal grill menu. The range of dishes and specialties makes your mouth water, and larger companies can enjoy a whole piglet or lamb cheverme, roasted on a spit. The spacious summer garden adds to the similarities, and the speedy service takes the labour-intensive part off your hands – this way you can freely enjoy the evening out with friends.
When it comes to delicious kitchen creation, the pizzeria chain Mamma Mia has one of the top spots. The fresh salads and original dishes make for a splendid meal, which is best shared with friends. The four pizza spots around the city make for a great business meeting as well, providing relaxing and elegant atmosphere. Check out the constant flow of new options and additions to find out the summer hits such as chicken wings with spring salads, or get the classical pizza with thin and savoury crust by phone order straight to your home party. Since each pizzeria has a garden, you can make this the satisfying end to a long summer day.
Bulgarian climate has been getting hotter and hotter for the past few years, and people are increasingly turning to Mediterranean cuisine for its light dishes. If you are a fan as well, Mappamondo is the place for you with its Italian and Bulgarian cuisine. Set your mood with the dishes – a hint of the seaside with a fish specialty, pizza for a cosmopolitan feel, or plates of natural products if you are celebrating a summer occasion with friends.
Why stop at dinner? Late nights in Sofia are the best time to be out and about, since the air is cool and balmy, and the parties are beckoning. You can easily slide from one into the other in the Blaze restaurant, where dishes such as honeyed ribs or oven-baked bread will soften you after a long day of work and the live music will lift your spirits for an unforgettable night. A nice bonus is the wine list – the plentiful choice of cellars and styles complements perfectly any meal you decide to have.
If you want to break the pattern and go for the novelty factor, visit Orisha bar. The Afro-Latin ambiance transfers you immediately into another place, and the coffee drinks served in half a coconut help strengthen this feeling. Orisha’s menu has more than 100 cocktails and well-selected dishes to go with them – you can get both innovative and classical drinks. The jazz and bossa nova music match the summer mood perfectly, as does the everyday Happy Hour.