A free food tour in Sofia, Bulgaria! Need I say more? Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about what you can expect if you decide to take the Balkan Bites Free Food Tour on your next trip in Sofia. By the way, I think you should definitely do it.
In case you are anything like yours truly and a bit OCD like me and like to review things to the smallest details and decide for yourself whether or not you should take this tour, well you are in the right place.
The Details: Balkan Bites Free Food Tour Sofia, Bulgaria
When: Offered Daily at 2pm ( Do check the website for most up to date timings)
Where: Krystal Garden, in front of the Stefan Stambolov monument ( the massive head sculpture)
Duration: around 2 hours
Pro Tip: This tour was free but you do need to make a reservation on their website
What to Expect in the Balkan Bites Free Walking Tour?
Once you get to the Krystal Garden, quickly make your way towards the massive head sculpture which is a monument for Stefan Stambolov. Once it’s time, you will be greeted by a lovely guide holding the sign. There is also a high chance that the tour is maxed out and that there is a sizeable groupd of around 15 fellow foodies with you. And this is when the fun begins.
You will walk around the city, slowly but swiftly making your way and stopping in different shops.
My understanding is that they regularly change the stops. So I cannot guarantee you exactly which cafes you will end up staying at for food and drinks. But the principle is the same.
The guide told me that they do try to have a mix of drinks and alcoholic beverages along with a wide variety of bites. I believe that the tour encompasses around 6 stops. So you are guaranteed to have a variety of things to sample. Well there is no guarantee as you can only ask so much for a free food tour. Yet the guide did tell me that they try their best to have a variety from drinks, to main to deserts.
Depending on the time of the year it is, this might also affect the types of beverages too. I took this tour on my second trip to Sofia and it was already fall. This was reflected in the drink being sampled and adapted for the weather. We had the chance to try a winter drink which probably would not have made it in list during the height of summer. So do keep an open mind.
You know what they say right? A picture is worth a thousand words. So let’s jump right in.
1st stop: Banichka
These are heaven sent. Banichka is a beloved food in Bulgaria. And it is often eaten for breakfast. It is made of pastry sheets. Banichka also comes in navy variety but the classic filling is a mix of cheese, eggs and yoghurt. They could be seen as the mini version of the Banitsa which is a bigger circular cheese classic Bulgarian snack.
Once the tour group enters the little shop, you will get the chance to sample a tiny portion. Then if you want more, you can buy whatever you want from the shop before you move to the next food stop
2nd Stop : Wine bar in Sofia
I won’t lie but this was definitely one of the highlight if the tour from me. Sofia is really big on the wine scene. I absolutely love wine, yet I had no idea at all. It was a pleasant discovery. There are a fair share of wine shops scattered around the city. There you can go in and ask to sample wine or buy them by the glass. Then the cool part about this is that you it is very sustainable. They will fill whatever wine you want and sell it to you in different size glass container. You will be charged a deposit of about 2 dollars for the bottle but you get it back once you return the bottle.
Another major point is that this option will allow you to taste a variety of local Bulgarian wine. I was surprised about the sheer quantity of options in the shop.There are both curated local and international wines on offer.
While walking between the many stops, the guide also tries to take the most scenic routes. This way you can also have admire the many street art scattered around Sofia.
3rd Stop: Yummy Bulgarian Desert Pastry & Ayryan
This stop was right next to a local pizza shop. We did not taste pizza but some people of the group made a few purchases. The true focus of this shop though is the nice tasty donuts from the pastry shop which was also served with an Ayryan version.
Now Ayryan is a very popular drink in the region. First time I encountered it was in Istanbul. It is a pretty much mainly yoghurt and water but to me it also has a mild sour taste to it. I will be frank and admit that I do not like it. I feel like it might be one of those drinks that you would have to grow up drinking in order to appreciate it. Yet, it is quite popular in the region. Give it a try! Your palette might be able to appreciate it better than mine.
Bonus Point: If you’re up for the challenge, also try the Boza drink. You can pick it up in most supermarkets and shops around the city. Don’t forget to come back and tell me what you think of it.
4th Stop: Tourist restaurant in Sofia
This was the final stop of the tour. Definitely a bit quirky and touristy. This is where the tourists come to if don’t want tot experience the classic Bulgarian folk culture. The place is decorated in a charming old traditional way and they also play more traditional music inside. You will feel like you are inside of a game of throne film set.
Notice the buckets on the ceiling? According to the guide, these buckets would hold the wine and other alcoholic beverage that way they wouldn’t have to get up to fetch more wine. Now I don’t know how true this is but it definitely makes for an entertainment factor.
Once we got seated, we got the chance to taste two different types of wine made by the restaurant itself. If you like the taste, you can even buy a bottle from the shop on your way out.
The red spread on the bread is Lyutenitsa. This is extremely popular in Bulgaria, Turkey and other neighboring Balkan countries. Think red pepper, chili peppers, onions and salt. It was not that spicy but a bit sweet from the tomato. I loved it so much, that on my way back home, I stopped at the supermarket to pick up a generic can. So delicious!
Should You Take The Balkan Bites Free Food Tour?
As long as your expectations are managed. Meaning, do not expect full course menus for free from the tour. If you go in seeing this as a culture tour along with food sampling, I think you will have a great time. It is a fantastic to get to know the city of Sofia and learn more about the culture along with some local customs.
You also get the spend a fantastic time with some like minded foodies and have great conversation while laughing together.