When you’re looking for things to do in a country you’re unfamiliar with, sports can be a terrific place to start. Not every country values them equally, and certainly the leagues and public venues are better in some places than others. But all over the world, sports inspire passion and can keep people entertained. For these reasons they can be wonderful experiences for tourists, as they can give you a glimpse not only of local athletes competing, but of fans having fun in the purest and most genuine way. Basically, a sporting experience abroad can serve as a nice snapshot of a population at its best.
Because of this, we thought we’d point out a few fun places to witness some live sports in Bulgaria.
Located in the capital city of Sofia (really a beautiful place if you’ve never looked into it, and one with plenty of fun things to do), Arena Armeec is a multi-purpose indoor stadium that seats a little over 12,000 people for sporting events. It’s said that the arena is built to host up to 30 different types of sporting events, including weightlifting, gymnastics, and basketball, all of which are fairly popular in Bulgaria. The main event on a regular basis, however, may just be the Dima Xtra Sofia Open, an ATP 250-series professional men’s tennis tournament. The 250-series is generally comprised of less prestigious tournaments, but Sofia has put on a show since this event started in 2016. Major professional players such as veterans Marcos Baghdatis and Mikhail Youzhny, deep Grand Slam competitors Philipp Kohlschreiber and Ernests Gulbis, Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, and native Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov have all played the tournament.
Georgi Asparuhov Stadium
This is another Sofia venue, and one of two major football venues in town that house the most successful teams, from a historical perspective, in the Bulgarian top flight. In a very basic way, live football is perhaps the best sporting experience in Bulgaria. It’s the most popular sport, which means it gets the most in terms of fan enthusiasm. Additionally, with sports legal in Bulgaria, football gets the most direct fan interaction as well. Sites from the UK and around Europe area accessible, and allow supporters to stake their own money on matches, which can enhance the general excitement around the matches. As for this specific football venue though, it’s a simple but beautiful 25,000-seat ground, opened in 1963 and long the home of the powerhouse club PFC Levski Sofia. Watching this team play home matches is always a treat, particularly against cross-town rivals CSKA Sofia. Though you can also see the national team at Georgi Asparuhov Stadium on occasion.
For this last venue we step away from Sofia and into the pretty, western Bulgarian town of Botevgrad. This is an interesting arena in that it’s fairly striking on the exterior, yet intimate inside – which makes it a very fun place to watch basketball. It’s the home of four-time NBL champions BC Balkan, and also a home venue for the Bulgarian national team, which has had some bright moments in recent years. Most notably, the team just recently stunned France on the international stage, and while that doesn’t mean Bulgaria is a basketball powerhouse just yet, it does demonstrate that it has become a more serious competitor in this particular sport. With basketball on the rise, and with Botevgrad being a pretty place to work into your Bulgarian visit anyway, this is a brilliant sporting experience to try to fit in.