Sofia loves to party and thanks to virtually non-existent licensing laws, the city is full of venues that are open all times of the day and night. The biggest concentration of bars and cafés in Sofia lies to either side of Vitosha Boulevard, and the increasingly hip Ulitsa Rakovski.
House, techno and trance are popular with the many clubs found in Studentski Grad, but for a genuine slice of current Balkan music head to a Chalga bar. Chalga consists of a Euro-house beat spliced with Balkan and Gypsy rhythms, and generally a female R&B vocal.
For good up-to-date Sofia information on nightlife as well as cultural events, pick up a copy of The Insider’s Guide from the Bulgarian Municipality Agency for Tourism at 44 Oborishte Street. Otherwise check out Visit Sofia (www.visitsofia.bg), and the Programata (www.programata.bg) booklet. A good guide to gay venues is Bulgayria (www.gay.bg). Tickets to cultural events are available from the National Palace of Culture (NDK) or from the individual venues' box offices.
Bars in Sofia
By the Way
This stylish, centrally located lounge bar is a favourite for fashion forward city residents. Good for a coffee or brunch, it really gets going in the evening when cocktails flow and urbanites flock to the bar after work. Set on two levels, a large window in front of the bar ensures there’s plenty of light, and there’s outside seating too.Address: , Ulitsa G.S. Rakovski 166, Sofia,
Telephone: +359 2 980 3836.
Underground and un-signposted, some claim that half the fun of Hambara is finding it in the first place. Thankfully this genuine one-off is well worth the effort. A haven for musicians, artists and bohemian types, this two level crypt is lit only by candles. You’ll often find someone tinkling on the piano in the corner, or picking at a violin, but always expect a smoky atmosphere as customers contentedly chug on cigarettes here and the ventilation system is on its last lungs.Address: , Ulitsa 6 Septemvri 22, Sofia,
Raketa Rakija Bar
Required visiting if you want to sample Sofia’s best raki (fruit brandy), the retro Raketa Rakija Bar has over 50 varieties of the stuff on its shelves. Fortunately, for those that don’t enjoy it (a distinct possibility), Raketa also serves up a mean cocktail. The modern European and Balkan food on offer is of a high standard too and it’s got a great spot by the park in Yanko Sakazov. Certainly one of the most reliably hip venues in Sofia, it’s decked out in old Soviet artwork and regularly plays host to temporary art exhibitions.Address: , 17 Yanko Sakazov Boulevard, Sofia,
Telephone: +359 2444 6111.
Clubs in Sofia
In Da Club
Since Bulgaria disposed of its anti-discrimination laws upon joining the European Union in 2004, there has been a growing gay scene in Sofia. Aimed mainly at men, In Da Club is famous for its prodigious opening times (it never shuts) and its three levels playing dance, pop and other local favourites. One of the more flamboyant venues in the city, it's renowned for being a hangout for the more colourful proponents of the gay community, as well as being the most raunchy. In the summer there's a roof terrace for ray-catching.Address: , Ulitsa Tsar Samuil 33, Sofia,
Retro Club Gramophone
The recently reconstructed Retro Club Gramophone has top DJs who love dropping 'evergreen' dance classics. The décor is dark and retro, with big angel wings on the walls and dramatic lighting. At the weekend, things go on until dawn, where you’ll find plenty of well-oiled revellers throwing fingers into the air. Big warned though, despite doors opening at 2200, things don’t realty get pumping until way past witching hour.Address: , Ulitsa Budapeshta 6, Sofia,
Telephone: +359 8781 46353.
The archly minimalist Yalta could (and probably would) lay claim to the title of best club in Eastern Europe. It’s certainly the most respected in Bulgaria, and retains a high international profile. Regularly featuring highly in DJ Mag’s world’s top 100 clubs list, it represents all strands of electronic music, with a lean towards trance and house. This is reflected in the names of DJs that have played there over the years: Paul Oakenfold, Roger Sanchez, Sander Kleinenberg and Danny Tenaglia have all mounted the stage, as well as endless local stars. With three rooms and a suitably thumping sound system, Yalta is definitely your club if dance music is your thing.Address: , Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard, Sofia,
Telephone: +359 8978 70230.
Live music in Sofia
An underground club that regularly features the key movers and shakers in the Bulgarian independent music scene, Club Maze has old world charm, with décor that features old television sets and barrels and drinks that come in glass jars. Club Maze is more chilled than some of the other live music venues in Sofia.Address: , Ulitsa Hristo Belchev 1, Sofia,
Telephone: +359 8991 02177.
Sofia Live Club
Situated in the underpass by the fountains at the National Palace of Culture (NDK) is Sofia Live Club. This 270-seat venue, opened in 2009, has become the place to go for music lovers not taken with the large scale arena vibes of the NDK. Blues is extremely popular in the region, with Bulgarian and international acts represented. It also has room for tribute acts, live jazz musicians and DJs later on.Address: , National Palace Of Culture, Sofia,
Telephone: +359 8866 61045.
If you want a genuine taste of Sofia’s underground music scene, calling in at Swingin’ Hall should be high on your list. Dingy and demure, with passionate red walls, low dungeon-like ceilings and exposed brickwork, this bar pulls together a line-up of local and international acts across jazz, rock and pop. It’s popular with the purists as all the music comes live and the Sunday night jam sessions are the stuff of local legend.Address: , 8 Dragan Tzankov Boulevard, Sofia,
Telephone: +359 89 684 0161.