Sofia is vibrant city, full of art and history, delectable food to sample, and yet you will not find the usual crowds of tourists even during high season.
If that doesn’t have you Google-ing plane tickets (which by the way, are quite affordable from most European cities and a short flight too), then maybe today’s article will convince you.
Yes, we’re going to talk about the nightlife scene in Sofia, Bulgaria. I believe that it’s going to be a similar thing throughout the country, but I only experienced it here and in the summer resorts.
The Sofia nightlife scene is excellent, much like you’d find in Budapest, for example. And you’ll love the prices, as well as the friendly locals.
Speaking of which – if you don’t have a date already for your time in Sofia, make sure to check out this website. You have a chance to hit it off in advance with a local Bulgarian girl…
Fun fact: fish for Sofia’s restaurants usually comes from Thessaloniki, since it is closer than the country’s own seaside
But while you can read about sights and must-visit monuments in any guidebook, the nightlife in Sofia remains largely unexplored by most foreigners (except those who live here, of course).
And for that exact reason, I am coming at you with an insider’s review and recommendations for bars, clubs and discos in Bulgaria’s capital.
(Of course, if you prefer soaking up the sun instead, I have an article where I share the best All Inclusive hotels in Bulgaria for a perfect summer holiday).
The Sofia nightlife scene is quite varied – from smoky rock clubs, to fancier clubs with great DJ sets, to the infamous chalga discos (lovingly called chalgoteka by the locals).
Usually you would start the night off with drinks at a bar or a park in summer and then around midnight to 1AM people start heading to clubs.
Pre-drinks could also be a house party, of course, but when it’s warmer you will notice everybody gravitating towards beer in the park.
Technically, drinking in public is not “very” legal, but unlike the US, it is kind of the norm during the the summer.
Some nice Bulgarian beers are Zagorka Retro (highly recommended), Kamenitza and Ariana.
As for cider (another popular park drink) – the only domestic one is an apple cider by the name of Kradetsat na Qbulki (look for a bottle with a fox on it) which is decent, but not spectacular.
Sofia Nightlife: Bars & Pubs
Must-Read: What to Expect When Dating Bulgarian Girls
As for bars in the Sofia nightlife scene, basically anything in the Vitosha street area is good.
One of my personal favourites is The Cocktail Bar. It has an awesome atmosphere with it’s twinkle lights, retro vibe and the tiny, cobble stone-covered park in front of it (actually, it is so small that it might be best to consider it a garden), but as the name suggests, the cocktails are what makes it great.
Some recommendations – Whiskey Sour, Negroni or the classic Margaritas. The only downside to this one is the slightly higher price range.
A cocktail can easily cost you around 10 BGN ($6) which is still cheap, compared to other European countries, but for Bulgaria it’s not cheap.
At the other end of the price spectrum is Bar Katerina. This one is slightly hidden in a courtyard just next to Slaveikov square. Use Google Maps and try asking someone on the street if you are having trouble finding it.
The entrance to the court is right between a pharmacy and a shoe shop. Once inside, look to the right and there you have it – your personal affordable cocktail heaven.
Their Bloody Mary’s are probably the best in town, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with ordering anything from their impressively big menu. The one thing I do not particularly like is that they let you smoke inside, but that might be a perk for some.
Once you feel sufficiently tipsy, it is time to head to a club. To make it all easier here are my top picks for Sofia nightlife, divided by category:
Best Clubs in Sofia
House and Electronic clubs
Yalta is a classic and would be where the best DJ are invited, so check out their website and Facebook page beforehand.
Bedroom Premium is impressive in atmosphere and decor, if somewhat overpriced when it comes to drinks.
Culture Beat is one of my recent discoveries with really awesome music, as well as location (it is inside the National Palace of Culture) and has an amazing view towards Vitosha.
Top 40 style music clubs
For top 40 style music your best bet is Once Upon A Time Biblioteka. It is literally located inside the National Library (hence the Biblioteka in the name) and is usually quite fun, although there is the occasional slow night.
One cool thing about it is that the entrance fee is just 5 BGN and Thursdays are free entrance nights.
The drinks they make are pretty decent and well-priced and you will love the retro vibe of the décor (if fun retro vibe in décor is something that impresses you).
Another place like that is Sugar. Be warned though, it is not very big and people smoke inside, so if that is something that bothers you, you would be better off avoiding the place.
For meeting Eastern European women and tourists alike, go on a Friday night, a.k.a. Ladies Night where you get a free entrance and free drinks (yup, really, although they are only slightly alcoholic cocktails).
Guys might feel kind of discriminated, since the entrance fee for them is 10BGN, but hey, at least there will be a lot of cute girls around.
And a very important tip – during the summer go up to the terrace, the fresh breeze is just what you need to power through dancing the night away!
Rock and Metal
The first recommendation here is slightly… soft core, if you will. It is still rock music, but they tend to opt for the hits so don’t expect a lot of classic rock outside what is popular (the Bon Jovi you are going to hear for instance – probably only It’s my life).
That being said, in Terminal 1 there are always plenty of people so you are in for a really fun, long night. Also, they make great Bloody Mary shots, if you are wondering what to try.
For those of you that are not into that watered down version of hard rock, how about Rock’n’Roll-a?
There is some hardcore metal, the alcohol is cheap and the place has a cozy charm to it (surprising as it sounds).
There is not a lot of dancing there, for obvious reasons, but if you and your buddies are into that kind of music you will have a great time just chilling there and probably even make some new friends with similar interests.
More than music, it is kind of associated with a certain lifestyle of a lot of cheap bling for the gals, and bulky muscles, gold chain necklaces and all-out macho attitude for the gents. You could say chalga fans are not the nicest of people.
But still, somehow we all listen to chalga at some point of the night (especially at house parties). There is something about it that brings people to the dance floor.
So, to experience the chalga-frenzy you have two options. One would be the chalga clubs in the city center. I recommend Revue. It was recently renewed so now the interior is pretty nice, alcohol is well-priced and the crowd is pretty diverse. You will end up having a lot of fun.
Then there is Studentski Grad (a literal translation is Students’ town), which is slightly far away from the center and is an entire experience in itself.
First and foremost, if you are a student or if you still have your student ID (or ISIC card, and sometimes you might even pass with an expired one) bring it. There is no entrance fee for students, and even if it is just 5BGN, that money is better better spent on other things, right?
Secondly, since it’s not exactly in the center (and hence, close to your accommodation) have a plan for going back – a designated driver or extra money for a cab (side note, Uber is banned in Bulgaria, so that is not an option).
It is also a good idea to do pre-drinks in the area. A place I always recommend is Harem Lounge since they also have shisha there and that is an experience in itself.
There are often live performances and the chalga hits are usually played, so those are good places to be acquainted with the basics of pop folk.
Closing Thoughts on Nightlife in Sofia
At the end of the night, look for the infamous Mandzha Street (no, it is not an real name of a street, but everybody knows it).
Your best bet is to ask any local outside the club. What you will find is basically a row of barracks where you can get huge, delicious and really cheap street food such as kebab, burgers and fries. Just the greasy meal you need after a night of drinking!
No matter which of the clubs above you chose, you will certainly need to visit it. End the night like a local and have fun!
Have I missed any important clubs in Sofia? Let us all know by sharing your favorites in the comments section below.