Name of the organization: 365 Association
Brief description of the organization
The 365 Association was founded in 2010 as an organization aimed at developing projects in the areas of tourism, culture and education. Its first line of action was the development and launch of the Free Sofia Tour. The first one ever was led by the organization’s founder on 13 August 2010. From that day onwards the Free Sofia Tour has been taking place every single day, regardless of weather conditions and the number of participants, and has been widely acclaimed. Since then the 365 Association has gone on to develop numerous other projects in the country’s two biggest cities, Sofia and Plovdiv. In 2011 the young organization launched its Social Program. For the first few years of its existence, it focused on working with foster homes for children deprived of parental care, organizing different events and workshops aimed at socializing and showing the outside world to the kids. Since 2017 the focus has shifted to working with high school students through the means of informal education.
Problem addressed by the good practice
The good practice addresses the problem of making newcomers in the capital feel welcome by introducing them with the Bulgarian culture.
All tours are performed in English targeting newcomers, foreigners and tourists, as well as, people who want to find new friends.
Summary of the good practice
The very first Free Sofia Tour was organized on Friday, 13 August 2010. Since then, the walking tour of Bulgaria’s capital expects its guests every day. Currently, the tours are performed four times a day. The sightseeing tours of Sofia are organized by guides from the 365 Association. Every tour is both fun and educational, the perfect introduction to the city and its thousands of years of history.
During the approximately 2 hours of the tour, visitors get to see the main cultural and historic attractions of the city. Besides the main information about all the “must-see” places, guests would learn different little-known stories about each site such as why the bell of the Hagya Sofia church is hanging on a nearby tree. Moreover, they get acquainted with the history of Bulgaria in general and with various traditions and customs such as martenitsa, horo, etc.
The organizers are young local people who are passionate about their home city and would like to help it develop even further in the right direction. They want to give a warm welcome to everyone who decides to visit or pass by. They are open and curious folks who enjoy meeting new people from all over the world. All of them speak a couple of languages, mastered during different periods of studies or work abroad. No reservation or registration is required. Snow or shine, Free Sofia Tour organizers are always there, waiting for their next guests. If the weather requires it, they might even bring an additional umbrella, a blanket or a flask with warm tea. They organize the tour even if only one person shows up.
In the years, the 365 Association expanded its Social program by offering additional tours as Communist Tour, Culture Tour, Sofia Jewish Tour, Sofia Alternative Tour and Free Plovdiv Tour.
The Free Sofia Tour initiative is Number 1 attraction in Sofia according to the TripAdvisor Popularity Index. It has received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in eight consecutive years since 2011.
The initiative is a product of the desire of young locals in Sofia to present their city to foreigners, tourists and newcomers, practice their foreign languages and make new friends. To become a successful activity for introducing the local culture to newcomers, the well-prepared young people shall love local history and traditions, be motivated to meet new people and explore new places.