Bucharest, Odessa, Zagreb, Tirana, Prague, Warschau, Bratislava, we’ve delighted in exploring the former East Europe. Last month, we finally made it to Sofia, which had been flickering brightly on our radar recently. But be warned, this is a destination that won’t stay untouched for long. Sofia has been called the Paris of Eastern Europe and it lives up to expectation. With an amazing historic architecture that contrasts between old buildings á la Vienna, and the soviet monolithic style constructed during the Soviet era, fused very much with Balkan chic.
Locals tell us would that just five years ago, you wouldn’t see many trendy places, but now it´s booming. Think Berlin 15 years ago, when the cool bars were hidden behind secret doors, hip restaurants in old villas and fancy clubs in palaces. It is the fusion of retro, unpretentiousness, raw, underground, trendy, stylish and ultra-luxury, which means there are many worlds to explore in one night! Plus it’s one of the cheapest capitals in Europe, so visit now!
While the city is already an Eastern pearl full of relics from the communist era, there’s a definitely a shift towards fashionable western style places – with restaurants, cafes, bars, fashion stores and art galleries opening up. But don’t expect Parisian luxury! This city that creating its own vibe. The future is best explored along the semi-pedestrianised Vitosha Boulevard and its side streets. Vitosha cuts through the centre of Sofia and here you’ll find Sofia’s nicest buildings and many upmarket stores, restaurants and bars.
Our top pick is the Sense Hotel, which is a member of the Design Hotels group. We stayed in a magnificent corner suite with a stunning view, overlooking the rooftops and top attractions of the historic heart of the city. The hotel boasts a spa with pool and a sky bar with a divine 360 degree view.
1. The Roof Top bar at Sense. With a cool DJ, the trendy crowd drink or cosy up on the cosy sofas taking in the atmosphere and the view.
2. OneMoreBar is situated in an old villa. It’s probably the best cocktail bar in town! It’s a very busy with sexy staff offering great service.
3. The Black Label Whisky Bar is one of the coolest bars of Sofia. It’s tucked away inside the former Central Military Club, a beautiful Neo-renaissance building from the 19th century.
Where to eat?
The food scene is becoming trendier with western oriented concept restaurants popping up all over town. Many restaurants have an Americanized bistro menu with burgers, steaks, Caesar salads and pasta dishes, but there also lots of creativeness. Don’t miss the Shopska salad, which was voted as the most popular dish of Europe in 2014!
The best restaurant scene is found in the neighborhood of Sredets. It is full of trendy cafes and restaurants in the beautiful old buildings.
Our top picks:
1. Opened for 10 years, Checkpoint Charly is a local favourite. It offers delicious Bulgarian cuisine and has live jazz every Friday night.
2. Spaghetti Kitchen is a reflection of the cool new Sophia. They specialize in an American style smoke grill offering yummy meat and seafood.
3. The cosy tucked away Lavanda Restaurant is hard to find but worth it as it offers delicious comfort foods like risotto and roast chicken. Sit in the pretty garden in summer.
Where to party!
Sofia has a bonafide nightlife. There is an energetic scene where party hungry citizens, dance the night away to international DJ´s. Like Berlin, the smaller cooler bars are harder to find, meanwhile the hip and bigger venues are easy to locate. The best place to start looking is Vitosha Boulevard and its side streets.
Our top picks:
1. Club Yalta was voted one of the 25 best clubs in the world by DJ Mag this year. It’s got a pedigree, opening in 1959, it started playing electronic music in 1989 with big names Tiesto, Boy George, Armin Van Buuren, Laurent Garnier and Roger Sanchez spinning there lately.
Summer time, the crew behind Yalta goes Cacao Beach/Sunny Beach for the Solar summer festival.
2. With its super arty interior, Culture Beat Club doubles up as a bar and club offering live music, as well as DJ’s. It’s right on the backside of the National Palace of Culture.
3. The Mascara Club is where the super cool, super rich of Sophia meet for some serious posing. It’s about looking good, feeling great, drinking lots in a classy location beneath the National Sofia Opera and Ballet building.