Eastern European Shopping at its Best
From the Black Sea to Sofia, Bulgaria has some of the best shopping in Europe. Rose oil, linens and even property are some of the best deals around.
As if the sunny beaches, pristine mountains and jaw dropping architecture weren’t enough, Bulgaria is a haven for great shopping at even better prices. There’s something for everybody no matter what the budget. Here are the 10 Best Deals in Bulgaria:
Bulgaria Shopping Highlights
Rose Oil: Bulgaria’s most famous export is undoubtedly rose oil. From the Valley of the Roses, south of the Balkan Mountains, the roses are harvested in May and June every year. The oil is shipped around the world for perfume and fragrances. Pure rose oil runs at about $300 US per ounce. An affordable alternative is Rose Oil Essence, which costs about one lev ($0.70 US) per 5 ml vial. There is even a rose water juice, which is worth a try, though tastes exactly as it sounds.
Mineral Springs Experience: This one might not fit in a suitcase, but when in Bulgaria, a spa experience is a must. The natural mineral springs attract Europeans from all around. The healing qualities are legendary, and there’s a mineral spa for every ailment.
Property: Perhaps beyond the budget, but tempting nevertheless. Property prices have increased since Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, but a lovely seaside cottage can still be had for less than fifty thousand US dollars. A country cottage is way less. Fifteen years ago a two-bedroom condo in Sofia might have c cost twenty thousand US dollars, whereas not it may cost half a million. But if in the market for a country home away from home, consider Bulgaria now before inflated prices are prohibitive.
Shop and Cook Like a Bulgarian
Gyuvech: A what? A handmade clay cooking pot. Stout and round, it is used to cook its namesake gyuvech, a thick stew made from potatoes and eggplant. This is a great addition to any kitchen. They’re unique, practical and beautiful. A natural earthy red, most have hand painted designs on them. No two are the same and they only cost around $20 US.
Cherries, Peaches and Tomatoes: Remember how tasty fruit was as a kid? This is even better. The temperate and sunny climate provides ideal conditions for fruits and vegetables to grow plump, juicy and sweet. Barring very wet or dry years (which happen from time to time), the summer produce is remarkable. An added bonus is pesticides are rarely used because they are expensive.
Rakia: Bulgarians are crazy about this intense but flavourful brandy. It’s usually made from grapes, but can be made from apricots or plums as well. It’s a staple in every Bulgarian household and it goes great with salad. A bottle of good quality runs about $10 US.
Shopping in Bulgaria: Style and Quality for Home and Body
Handmade Linens: Tatted table cloths, premium cotton sheets, bed spreads and cushion covers are exquisitely and carefully handmade by a group of Babi (an affectionate name for grandmothers) around the back of St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. In good weather they set up market to sell their wares for a fraction of store-bought prices. It’s nice to give these ladies a little extra if possible, because their work is undervalued.
Children’s clothes: Prices vary widely here, but the significance of the clothes is the quality. Bulgarians are very particular about quality, and when it comes to their little ones, they mean business. Shoes are leather, sweaters are wool, and cotton is cotton. Polyester is not popular here. A child can be outfitted from head to toe for around $40 US.
Tuxedos and Wedding Dresses: Compared to North American prices, these deals are a bargain. For extra steep savings, bring a pattern to a clothes maker and have a copy made. Since materials are very cheap, a designer dress can be made for around $500 US. Typically allow about two months from first fitting to finished product, although it can always be done in a pinch for extra.
Gold and Custom Jewelry: Take advantage of the excellent craftsmanship and low prices in Bulgaria. Just off Vitosha Blvd. are many unique master jewelers. Custom-made jewelry can be had for low prices and short turnaround times. Wedding rings are especially a good deal: a good quality custom-made set runs in the low hundreds. These jewelers don’t market themselves to tourists, so it’s necessary to casually ask around to find them.