Smiles, friendliness, generosity, an atmosphere, lot of good products, the Ladies Market or Zhenski Pazar is Sofia’s largest and busiest market, the most picturesque and vibrant one located near Stefan Stambolov Boulevard and Pirotska Street in the center of the capital. Recently well renovated, it is a place that I frequent once a week for the quality of its products and the friendliness of its merchants.
The Ladies Market – 9:00am – 7:00pm (Google map) – is one of the oldest outdoor market of Sofia established from the Ottoman era. It has been recently renovated but the place still retains its authentic and exotic atmosphere. I love the atmosphere of this market because it’s for me the best site in Sofia to observe a local way that apparently hasn’t changed in centuries. Upon entering the market, follow it to the end (when you can not go further, after more rustic fruits and vegetables market area). The Ladies Market is known for being the cheapest outdoor market in Sofia, with oriental influences, where you can find a wide range of seasonal colored fruit and vegetables, seeds and dry fruits, local dairy, cheese, cured meats, all kinds of spices, Bulgarian typical pottery, homemade honey and wine, plumbing equipment, clothes and others things.
« This market is a real pleasure for all the senses : the beautiful colors of fruits and vegetables (green, red, yellow, etc.), spices smell, the noise of the local life market and the delight of its products put all your senses in turmoil. »
Contrary to what local people sometimes tell me about this market, I never had problem there although I don’t seem to be very local. So, I was not robbed, nor attacked, nor talked evil and I think being not alone. I have nothing else than very good memories in this place. So, No !, the Ladies Market is no more dangerous than Disneyland in Paris (to take an example) and whenever I can, I like to spend time and to take home the products I appreciate to buy there. My 20 reasons to stroll there :
1. Enjoy a glass of local wine for only 1 Leva
Just after the market entry, in the first sellers block on the left, you can taste a local wine that will start your walk and the exploring of the market. Just beside, you can buy a Bulgarian hot dog which goes very well with your glass of wine (and a nice idea for a saturday’s cool lunch).
2. Find there the best quality of eggs and other bulgarian dairy products very good
Just some meters later, on the same side of the market, you will find this very small shop of dairy products, arranged in the same way it was 50 years ago in France, I like it very much. Product are simple but of good quality. It’s also the only place I find eggs category 1, the best ones, when the hens run free in the meadow, and cow’s milk that I digest.
3. Meet the only merchant of the market – and maybe of this planet too – who plays bullfight with his Bulgarian tablecloth
To continue to follow the market, be sure to visit the shop of this guy, very friendly (he often gives gifts to his customers : the last time, he offered me a small cute bell (So cute !) and totally passionate by his product. There, you can find all you need to have a Bulgarian atmosphere at home for a very attractive price : Guvetche containers (5levas), coffee cup (3levas), tableware … All his products are manufactured in Bulgaria.
4. … who sells also super Bulgarian typical costumes for your small local parties with friends
You could find there also very beautiful and well colored Bulgarian costumes.
5. Speak about Bulgarian Crafts with the neighbour merchant just also as friendly and passionate by his products
Just 3 meters after, another merchant of Bulgarian potteries will tell you about its products with lot of passion, with some English notions and a smile from ear to ear. Anyway, I think he could have spoken to me of this beautiful Bulgarian dish made by his family for hours.
6. Contemplate the shelves fulled of sweets and to yield to temptation
In opposite to the right, there will be sweets everywhere. Be quiet, you have a good reason to want to buy some kilos : only 6 levas 1 kilo, it’s very interesting and Summer is still far …
7. Buy super slippers for long evenings by the fire
You will find there mainly slippers, tablecloths, etc. all made in Bugaria.
8. … and beautiful woolen blankets Made in Bulgaria
To put on a bed and fill you with warmth for only 60 levas (30€). My next purchase there definitely.
9. Fall on an old scale, completely old school (I love !)
You can find everything you need to bake good cakes. A small well stocked shop close the last one, in the old part in front of the wooden renoved one, at the beginning of the market.
10. Wonder what coffee beans you’ll choose as the choice is large
At the middle of the renoved part of the Market, on the right, in a classic shop, this merchant propose lot of different kind of edible seeds – flax, rice, sunflower seeds, nuts, beans, coffee, etc. – let yourself with the coffee aroma that wafts throughout the place.
11. Test the delicious honey on sale here and there on the market
Made by Bulgarian local producers.
12. Visit the Church near the Market
In your way, going to the Hall portion of the market, it is your right and deserves a stop.
13. Spices, Spices & Spices, she has all you need I think
14. A desire for bananas ?
Stalls filled with bananas, only bananas with a merchant who only sells bananas. At least 450 bananas on this little table.
15. … Or potatoes ?
I missed the photo but this merchant had played the game for my photo, there is a nice atmosphere here. You’ll understand it’s him we have to go if we want to eat potatoes (or onions).
16. So, lot of colored and fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere in this market
17. All this give me the desire to cook a couscous. Sure, all I need is here (including the best seeds couscou that I find only there) …
18. …why not with some olives
19. Here you find a good quinoa for only 1 leva / 100gr
It’s impossible to leave the Ladies Market without enter on this shop, located close to Pirotska Street and the enter of the Market. You cannot miss it, because its window is filled with big pots glasses filled with herbs or seeds of all kinds. Inside, odors and flavors mingle and you will turn the head of pleasure. There, I buy lot of things but mainly my quinoa, really less expensive than other places.
20. Then, visit the shop of the bulgarian brand, LB Bulgaricum
LB Bulgaricum is the Bulgarian yoghurt made of high-quality cow milk and symbiotic starter that contains the bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus isolated in Bulgaria. Milk, cheese, yogurt, seasonal products, wine or butter, those products seems to be very good for the health. So why not ? To know more : lbbulgaricum.bg (english version).
The Ladies Market is definitely a place to visit or to shop for food. I let you find all these nice places on the market, it will not be complicated. And then, if you cannot find them, you will find others. Have a nice moment.