With so many malls trying to take shoppers away from the city centre, Sofia's central streets are filling up with small, craft shops, local designers, cafes and bars.
Sofia's central shopping street Vitosha is currently fully pedestrian. Once upon a time this was the only place to shop in Sofia, with the Central Department Store (TsUM) at one end and any shop worth its salt being located here. A stroll up and down Vitosha Street is a pleasurable experience as there are outdoor cafes at every step so you can intersperse your shopping with a cup of coffee, a homemade cookie or a pizza. Most of the top interenational brands are here: Mango, Max Mara Levi's and Zara, etc.
This little Shishman Street that starts behind the Radisson Blu hotel has in recent years been turned into the centre of alternative art and culture in Sofia. Although narrow and usually parked up with cars, several initiatives by local media have turned it into a weekend pedestrian area with outdoor theatre, concerts and crafts. On a normal day, Shishman Street has several artsy clothes and jewellery shops, an Indian crafts shop, health food shops and plenty of small clothing boutiques to keep you busy. There are also some very nice imaginative cafes and restaurants.
Just across the Central Department Store is Pirotska Street - the first pedestrian shopping street in Sofia. Central Halls (Halite), the former food market, at the beginning of this street also have a variety of small shops on the upper level, in addition to the predominantly food oriented stalls on the ground floor.
Graf Ignatiev Street is another pedestrian area, although there are two tram lines running along it. The street is a common shopping place for books (Slaveykov book market), shoes, bags, clothes, accessories, fruits and flowers. There are many cafes and restaurants.
An area in front of Alexander Nevski Square hosts a flea market aimed directly at tourists. Here you will find everything from antique cameras, coins and medals to hand knitted socks and Russian lacquered dolls and boxes. Well worth a browse, but remember haggling is essential!
Several centrally located markets attract the attention with the unique mixture of colours and cultures. Each market has its own traditions and character, some being quite upmarket and selling exotic fruits and veg, others almost oriental in character. The most famous ones and easilly accessible are on Graf Ignatiev Street, Rimska Stena, Zhenski Pazar, Iliyantsi market.