Both old legends and contemporary tips share one thing in common – the Women’s Market (also referred to as the Ladies’ Market, Ladies’ Bazaar and Zhenski Pazar) is the must-visit colorful, lively and fragrant spot in the heart of Sofia. Established right after Bulgaria’s Liberation from Ottoman rule in 1878, the Women’s market is the oldest open-air market in town. Back then Sofia had just been declared as a capital of the newborn country and the city was still much smaller than today. Today, this open-air market is at an immediate proximity to most major tourist sites such as the Square of Tolerance comprised by the four temples of the four main religions in Bulgaria.
In its early days, the Women’s Market quickly became the favorite place for local people eager to buy fresh agricultural production which farmers from the villages nearby sold on more than affordable prices. A single egg would cost only 5 cents, a hen would cost 60 cents and a pig – 4-5 leva.
Previously, the market was known as the Horses’ Bazaar and the Wheat Bazaar, while during the communist regime it was renamed after a popular trade union leader – Georgi Kirkov. The origins of the current name actually date back to the Ottoman period when ladies were not allowed to go shopping elsewhere but in the area of today’s Ladies’ Bazaar. And they could only dare do so on Fridays.
Today, anyone can visit the Ladies’ Bazaar offering the widest variety of goods – fruits, vegetables, spices, meat and dairy products, exotic spices, clothing, souvenirs, various little gadgets and pretty much everything that comes to mind. The market is also famous for being one of the cheapest places to shop in Sofia. You would find plenty of stores selling things for less than a dollar/euro/pound.
There is also a wide variety of imported goods from the Middle East and restaurants with exotic or fast-food meals available in the area. The market now has its own app that helps you navigate the area more easily and find all that you are looking for. Available on Google Play and the App Store.
In 2014, the market underwent major reconstruction. A brand new cultural space was created – the contemporary art gallery “Serdika”. It has hosted many beautiful exhibitions ever since.
With the help of these events and many other initiatives, in recent years the market restored its popularity among locals. It also became a must-see for all visiting Sofia. On a daily basis, almost 60 000 people come to the Ladies’ Bazaar and no one is left bored or disappointed. Make sure you check it out and dive into the beating heart of Sofia, once you visit the city.
Though a sight on its own, there is also plenty to discover around the market. Even though it is centrally located, the area surrounding it is considered by some locals as “the rundown part” of the city center. That being said, it is also one of the most historically significant. The architecture around the market has a different feel to the rest of the city. It also reveals more of Sofia’s charm from “back in the day”. All of this creates a unique atmosphere that is impossible to resist. For many that’s where the appeal of the area lies. While visiting the market, make sure to also check out:
The Women’s Market is also part of our very own Sofia Alternative Tour – a unique quest-like experience around Sofia’s hidden gems.