Bulgaria — Shopping and Leisure
The prices in Bulgaria are often lower than in Western Europe, particularly for locally produced clothes, shoes and bags. Typical souvenir items include the famous rose oil, which is often very expensive. Handmade earthware is another Bulgarian specialty, particularly an individually painted cooking pot called a gyuvech. Religious icons also make for an attractive and meaningful memento of your trip.
The cities of Plovdiv and Burgas are known for their pleasant shopping precincts. Sofia is Bulgaria’s biggest city so naturally there is plenty of shopping, from the small local craft and design shop-lined streets of Shishman to the pedestrianized main shopping area of Vitoshka in the city center.
Sofia has several malls including the largest and newest, amply named ‚ÄúThe Mall‚Äù, which has an eight-screen cinema, bowling alley, pool tables, food court and the only Carrefour supermarket in the city. By contrast, Graf Ignetiev street is lined with vendor stalls, selling mostly fruit and vegetables where visitors can try the delicious Bulgarian produce, notably the cherries, peaches and tomatoes.
Bulgaria boasts over 800 different mineral springs with varying curative properties, as well as mud and clays from the Black Sea coast. These have been used since ancient times to treat many different diseases, giving rise to some of Europe’s best spas, with one of the oldest and best known being Bankya, about five miles from the capital of Sofia. Other popular spa regions are Hissarya near the famous Valley of Roses in the Sredna Gora Mountains and Pomorie on the coast of the Black Sea. The 80 or so thermal pools around Velingrad lure wellness devotees year after year.
The mountain-based Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena in Bansko near the second largest city of Plovdiv was voted Bulgaria’s Best Spa Resort by the World Travel Awards in 2012, an accolade it has won four other times in the past decade. Other nominees included the Grand Hotel Varna, which won in 2011 and 2010.