Borisova Gradina, or “Boris’s Garden”, is Sofia’s largest park. Starting from the very center of the capital city, it is one of the best places where you can chill out and relax, a beer in hand (yes, you can do that in Bulgaria). When the weather warms, hundreds of people go to the park to play some sports, take a walk with friends or simply lie on the green grass.
Borisova Gradina looks like Sofia’s giant green heart surrounded by buildings and boulevards from every side. But originally it was situated in the outskirts of the capital. It was in 1882 when the mayor of Sofia decided the huge area to be turned into a park, assigning the task to Swiss gardener Daniel Neff. Two other gardeners – Joseph Frei and Georgi Duhtev – continued Neff’s work through the years, each leaving his unique mark on the appearance of the garden. The park was named after Bulgarian tsar Boris III, although during the totalitarian regime its name was changed to “the Park of Freedom”. After 1989 the garden got back its previous name.
At the very beginning of the park, next to Orlov most (Eagles’ Bridge), there’s an artificial lake called Ariana. In the summer you can rent a boat and relax near the cool water. In the winter the lake becomes the biggest ice rink on the Balkan Peninsula. Borisova Gradina is home to two large football stadiums – Vasil Levski National Stadium and Bulgarian Army Stadium. Both stadiums house not only games but also big concerts.
The Lily Lake, located not so far from Ariana Lake, is a favorite spot for anyone who just wants to sit on a bench in a quiet place and have a nice read or a chat with a friend. The part of Borisova Garden that’s closer to the center is a bit busier, with a few places where you can have a bite or drink and a lot of open grass space. After Yavorov Boulevard however the Garden begins to resemble a darker forest with much more trees and much less people. It may even make you forget you’re in the heart of Bulgaria’s biggest city.