What should you expect?
Bulgarian pastries, ancient ruins, handmade origami lamps, family vibes, rakia, hacker culture and a surprising tech ecosystem.
The Big Picture
Sofia, one of Europe’s longest inhabited cities, is a place that has been home to “the good life” for longer than maybe anywhere else in the world. Because that’s the first thing you realise in the Bulgarian capital: people know how to relax and have fun. Possibly rare for Europe – this is a truly cool city with zero pretension, zero snobbery and zero pomposity.
Coming to Sofia is like entering into a big family. And nowhere is that more true than at betahaus Sofia.
With big rooms flooded with light and good music, conversations that spill out from the café onto the terrace, dogs that are treated with equal dignity as humans, and a warm welcome that will make you feel at home even if you’re far from it – are just the beginning of what you can expect upon your first visit.
Ever wanted to discover a model sociality for coworking? Well betahaus Sofia might be the best place to start.
What You’ll Learn from the Space
Here, you’re going to find the distilled energy of the Sofia tech scene, in its surprising and dynamic form. But in our experience, you’re not just going to “learn” something about it – you’ll “discover” it. The space is full of many startups and entrepreneurs, pursuing projects that are changing the Bulgarian tech scene at a revolutionary pace.
From hacking to CV design, education to ecommerce, software engineering to journalism, caffeinated drinks to dentistry* (crazy, right?) – betahaus is home to a comprehensive cross-section of the Bulgarian tech scene.
We hear often in the news of developments in London, Paris, New York and – of course – Silicon Valley. But this new country to the European Union (2007) has a huge amount to offer, as tech companies have realised, with its young, entrepreneurially-inclined, well-educated workforce.
In a rapidly changing and integrating environment in the EU, much is changing quickly, and betahaus plays a key part in providing infrastructure and opportunities for young, aspiring tech-workers through its workspace and community. (Check out one of their members, Hack Bulgaria, for an example of the burgeoning tech-spertise here!)
(In case you’re as curious as we are, here you’ll find the “Dental Tribune Bulgaria” – the Bulgarian instantiation of the Dental Tribune Newspaper. What coworking space that you know hosts a group of guys publishing a global dentistry journal?!)
Where You’ll Find the Space
Sofia is a city of amazing contrasts. From the Serdeka metro station in the city centre, you can stand in one spot and see the ruins of a 3rd century Roman colosseum, a 10th century church, a 14th century chapel, a 16th century mosque, the third-largest Synagogue in Europe, a Stalinist government office, a communist department store and a huge 1980s modernist bank.
After stumbling through the amazing historical building blocks of this complex city, you’ll make your way to the calm and collected residential neighbourhood of Lozenets. Situated minutes away from the National Palace of Culture, head in the direction of betahaus and you’ll be soon immersed in a leafy ensemble of cobblestone streets and old apartments.
The neighbourhood is full of parks and schools, with friendly dogs and delicious Bulgarian restaurants. Just five minutes from the European Union metro station on Line 2, you’ll walk through a couple of beautiful streets until you’re faced with the bold, bright building that is betahaus Sofia.
Where You’ll Be Working
You’ll find betahaus in a three-story building that stands out from the neighbourhood. Covered in delicate calligraphy of cyrillic phrases with a comfortable outdoor work / smoking area, stepping in you will enter their café space. This big blue-and-white room (with homemade origami lighting fixtures..!) feels like home and handmade.
Big chairs and quirky desks, with an old arcade machine and an odd selection of (mostly Bulgarian) books, it’s got a good buzz throughout the day as teams come down to socialise, play foosball and enjoy the sunshine. Head upstairs, and you’ll find the rest of the coworking in a huge open floor plan room, with an adjoining room for hot desks, a conference room and an events room.
You might wonder what such a large, industrial space is doing in the middle of such a sleepy residential quarter. Built in the 1950s, it was originally home to a call centre for Sofia.
Where You’ll Be Living
When you’re working at betahaus, you’ll have a great opportunity to check out many cool neighbourhoods around the city. The city itself is not so large, with only a population of just over one million people – but the neighbourhoods are quite spread out and surprisingly diverse.
They are easily accessible from the central neighbourhood, Sredets. You can walk in any direction and find nice neighbourhoods with restaurants and bars and parks to discover!
If you’re looking for something cool, affordable and central, look no further than Canapé Connection in Sredets. Wish reputedly the widest beds around (and a nice design sensibility), you’ll find this right in the old historical heart of the city that has shaped Sofia for millennia. You’ll be only five minutes walk from the city’s central cathedrals and mosque, and it’s main commercial street, Boulevard Vitosha.
Not too far, also in the city centre, you’ll find the excellent Hostel Mostel. In a beautiful newly renovated 19th century wood-and-plaster building, this architecture stands out from the more recent Soviet architecture that covers the city. It’s clean, large, and well organised – so as far as a place to stay goes, it’s everything you need.
The Events You Will Go To
Betahaus has a very busy events rota. But the thing to note is that many of their events are in Bulgarian, in order to stay connected to the local tech scene and as a matter of practicality. If there are enough non-Bulgarian speakers, however, they’ll easily switch into English with no problem.
The thing you have to try is the betahaus weekly Thursday morning breakfast. It’s a ritual that will get you introduced to the spirit of the space, and the spirit of its coworkers. Halfway through it, you’ll “click” and suddenly understand some fundamental things about betahaus and its community.
They also have other cool events, where you can design your own dress, practice your mindfulness meditation, visit a leather jewellery exhibition and check out Oscar-winning cinema together on the big screen right in the space!
Tip! At the Thursday breakfast, try the delicious local pastries, like banitsa or khachapuri here that they bring from a neighbourhood bakery. It’s a great introduction to the sweet treats you can find in Sofia – you’ll see that even though it’s not France, the pastries are out of this world!
What You Will Eat
This city, while not having the grand architectures of London or the bold history of Paris, is a gastronomic capital in its own league. To get a taste, we highly recommend finding a local guide to go to some random restaurants. There’s a huge variety of Balkan and Bulgarian foods in the city, and many of the truly local establishments don’t have any menus in English.
Following this route, you can sample such delicacies like beef tripe and onion soup, ox tongue and poached eggs with yoghurt and cheese. There’s a lot of room for experimentation if you’re keen to try new things. The sky’s the limit if you can go with someone who reads Bulgarian!
Otherwise, for food around Betahaus Sofia that’s delicious, you’ve got some great options. The first is a locally-sourced cheese shop and Bulgarian deli, Dobrev Cheese. Selling oils, wines, cheeses, smoked meats and more, you can grab a sausage sandwich with olive tapenade for less than four euros!
La Bottega is a classic as well. A strange mixture of Italian and Bulgarian (you have to taste it to see), it’s a regular place for betahaus-ians in the neighbourhood. Balkan meatballs, fresh salads and delectable pizzas make up the fare of this place, with several menus that change seasonally. Plus, they’ve got a calm terrace where you can relax in the afternoon sun after a stroll through some nearby parks.
Finally, you’ll find some super fresh cuisine at Soul Kitchen, a casual ten-minute stroll from betahaus. Eclectic and chic design meets homemade comfort food in this Lozenets hangout. There’s a nice European wine selection here too, for a more relaxing lunch on the town.
In this city, it’s best to go with the flow. Especially during the spring and summer months, Sofians are fully booked with weekend evenings of parties and afterparties going on in bars, clubs, and flats around town. If you’re at betahaus Sofia, take a listen around and see what’s going on (betahaus even throw great parties from time to time!)
One of the reasons this is much more the case here than other cities, is that licensing laws are very lenient. Clubs don’t begin to get busy until 5 or 6am. The other thing to consider, is that in Sofia – a city the size of 1.2 million – has 16 universities!
With that in mind, there are some general recommendations we can give you to get you started. For live music, you can check out Swinging Hall or Black Stage, which have almost daily selections of live music. You can check out Skaptobara, a cosy bar founded by alumni of the American University of Bulgaria, for some English-speaking comfort and good music + drinks.
There’s also the Culture Beat Club, on a rooftop terrace overlooking the huge Vitosha mountain and city centre – a beautiful bar that might be the coolest looking and best-located in the city.
And last, but definitely not least, you can try Memento. There are three locations in Sofia, but the one we recommend is near the Krystal Garden and the Ivan Vazov National Theatre. Here, you can go during a sunny weekend day to sip a cappuccino and observe locals in their normal routines on the street, or at night you can enjoy some good music and cocktails in the city centre.
As far as clubs go, there is one definitive Bulgarian club you’ve got to see: the Yalta Club. Founded in 1959, it has since set expectations high for clubbing and house music in the country. After the fall of communism in 1989, this was the first place in Bulgaria where electronic music was played (and with a foreign DJ). This multi-story 16,000 coloured-light night club is a profound cultural experience – check it out.
The Practical Stuff
The Copass Crew