Often overlooked by tourists heading for the coast or the ski slopes, Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia is a cool city with a hip young population. While not usually thought of as a destination high on the music lover’s travel list, Sofia nonetheless impresses with its swanky clubs, international artists are making Sofia part of their tours, and there is a weird, local music that has to be heard to be believed. Let’s explore!
National Palace of Culture
The NDK, as it’s called by Sofians, will never grace the pages of Architectural Digest. It is a monstrosity of concrete and glass with a decidedly Communist feel covering 123,000 square meters. However, it does house 15 music halls with surprisingly good acoustics and hosts everything from political to debates to live music. Chuck Berry and George Michael have graced the stage here, and as more and more bands are stopping in Sofia on their European tours, we can expect many more big-name acts to play at the NDK.
One of the largest clubs in Sofia, Swingin’ Hall seems to live up to its name. All types of music are showcased here, from jazz to pop to techno to blues. Regular themed nights are held, and an open mic/jam session often occurs on Sunday nights.
Arguably Sofia’s hottest club, Chervilo, which is translated as “lipstick” in Bulgarian, is newly remodeled. Local and international DJs spin here every night, and the Sofians show up en masse to dance. Live bands will also appear at Chervilo, so get there early and dress to impress.
Another of Sofia’s trendy nightclubs is Cabaret, which is housed in the former residence of a 19th century Bulgarian poet. Open Tuesday through Saturday nights, Cabaret offers rock, techno, and karaoke for those really crazy nights.
Social Jazz Club
This dark and moody club is the perfect spot for jazz lovers. The ideal place for a whiskey and cigar themed evening, Social Jazz Club hosts both local and international jazz musicians.
Sofia has a rapidly growing gay community and ID Club is the coolest gay bar in town. It has three bars, massive dance floors that are attended by top notch DJs, lounge space and naughty little darkrooms. It’s theme nights keep partiers on their toes and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
A strange amalgamation of Turkish, Arabic, and Bulgarian music with some flamenco moves thrown into the mix, and similar to turbofolk in the former Yugoslavia, Chalga is Bulgaria’s soundtrack. Once banned by the Communists for being too raunchy, Chalga has seen a resurgence in popularity since 1989. Today, clubs and pubs all over Sofia blast Chalga, and popular singers of Chalga have achieved cult status. Recently, Chalga has been fused with hip hop to create a new sound that is very popular with Sofia’s hipsters and local DJs put impressive spins on this traditional beat.
Europe’s youngest capital city has a vibrant attitude and a sexy vibe to accompany its old world charm. Head on your Bulgaria holidays and spend your days gawking at the sights, and your nights gawking elsewhere. If you click here for holidays in Bulgaria with Inghams you’ll find out there’s a club for that.