My frustrating experience looking for a co-working in Sofia (and how I discovered this amazing space)
We arrived in Sofia one week ago, on a Saturday night. We were so tired after a long and stressful trip via Belgrade that we spent the whole Sunday sleeping and resting. On Monday evening, after catching up with work, I started to look for a good co-working space in Sofia.
Usually, finding a good place to work is not that hard. We do some research on Google, select four or five spaces that look promising (and not overly expensive), and visit them.
However, in Sofia, looking for the perfect co-working became one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
In this post, I tell the story of a poor digital nomad trying to find a good co-working in Sofia, and how he finally found an amazing space for an affordable price.
Co-working spaces are becoming expensive. Really expensive. Four or five years ago, prices ranged from 50 to 100 €, and for 100€ you could even get a dedicated seat in great spaces like TechHub.
Now, it is increasingly normal to be asked for 180 to 200 € for a flex seat in many co-workings, and you really have to look for the less-known spaces to get a decent price.
This is so bad for many reasons. Not only because more than 100€ for a flexible seat is abusive, but also because these prices discriminate local entrepreneurs in countries with a low cost of living.
Another trend we dislike in co-workings lately is setting price tiers depending on the number of hours. So now some co-workings offer you just 80 hours for 100€ a month. That means paying 100€ for a flex seat for less than 20 hours per week, which is not even 4 hours a day. And of course, that’s just the seat. Things like conference rooms or call booths are usually charged apart or offered as “Perks”.
So we decided to set our budget in 100€ and not pay a single euro more. Otherwise, well, I can perfectly work from home 😊.
The city and its co-workings
Most co-working spaces in Sofia are located in the old-town. That’s also the hipster area, where most cafes and fancy restaurants are located. This area is delimited by a large pedestrian walk that starts close to the St. Kyriaki Cathedral Church.
As you can see, we are unfortunately far from that area, and there were not many “real” co-workings close to our apartment. Thus, I decided to focus on the ones we could reach by foot in 20 minutes in the main promenade.
The mandatory Google research
A quick search on Google showed us some interesting places:
- SODA Workspaces. They had an ugly Wix website but the monthly price was 100€/mo, which was in budget.
- Malkite 5. They had this website that looks like the page of a really small AirBnB apartment (showing only details of the furniture and cute flowerpots), but we decided to give it a try.
- Networking premium. Amazing website, amazing photos, not so-amazing prices (135€/mo). They have three locations and one of them is close to our apartment so we decided to visit them.
We initially discarded one of the closest ones, Cosmos, because of its hourly pricing policy and unappealing website which did not show anything about the place. SPOILER: finally we ended up visiting Cosmos. Why? Did we like it? Read below to find out!
So on Tuesday afternoon, after work, I made a three-spots route on Google Maps (more, in fact, as I added some gyms to visit), sent it to my phone, and headed towards the city center.
The hidden co-working space
First stop, SODA Workspaces. I reached the place in around 15 minutes. Well, more precisely, I reached the street in around 15 minutes, but could not locate the place. There was no co-working space in sight.
The address was Hristo Belchev, 15. Number 13 was there, number 17 was there, but no clue of number 15. There was a small cul-de-sac in between with a yellow building that looked like an church or something, but no sign of a co-working space anywhere. Nada.
I called the co-working phone number but got a message in Bulgarian that seemed to indicate that phone number did not exist anymore. So I kept on looking for 10 minutes, feeling stupid. I mean, the space should be there, right?
Frustrated, I sent an email asking them for help to locate the co-working for a future visit, and headed to my next destination.
On Wednesday, I received a message from them saying:
Hi Ignacio, the address is ul. Hristo Belchev, 15. It is a grey door. But it is better to arrange a time with us, to make sure we can show you the place.
That was super weird. Not only because I could not see any gray door, and probably that describes 90% of street doors in Sofia, but also because the concept of “arranging a time” to just have a look or visit a co-working space seemed so weird for me.
The empty co-working space
Next stop: Malkite 5 co-working space. I reached the street in less than five and, luckily, the building existed and I could find the door. Yay! I still can find a place with the help of Google Maps.
Interestingly, it would have been impossible for me to realize there was a co-working space there if I wasn’t looking for it. There was no sign at the door. Nothing. Just the name “Malkite 5” in the doorbell. The building looked like an old residential construction, with no clue that there was a business inside.
This seems to be a weird pattern in co-working spaces in Sofia. Probably you need to pay an extra to have a sign or steel sheet with your name in the building.
I rang the bell, but no answer. Nothing. So I called the number that appeared on the website and luckily I got answered by a girl. She kindly informed me that there was nobody at the co-working space and that (again) I could arrange an appointment to see the space.
I decided not to do it, because if there is no one in a co-working space on a Tuesday at 17:00… Well, there’s probably not much going on there and I can save 100€ a month working from home.
The not-so-premium, not-so-networking co-working space
So I headed towards my final destination, the “Premium Networking” co-working. They have several premises in Sofia. The main one is called “Rakovska”, but it was really far from us, more than 40 minutes by tram. So we decided to visit their offices at “Vitosha”.
I talked with them previously, and they insisted that we met at their main office. I told them that I really needed to see the location that was close to our apartment, so they gave me a number to call before visiting.
After my experience with the previous co-working spaces, I decided to call beforehand. It was around 17:10. The guy told me that he was not there (at Vitosha), asked me to wait for a minute, and told me he had seen a guy working there through the cameras (?). So if I was lucky I could get there soon and the guy would still be there to open the door (??).
He gave me the code for the main entrance door downstairs. I got there in a hurry, opened the door with the code, and got to the seventh floor with the help of a cranky elevator dating from the soviet times.
Up there, four doors, and again no sign of a co-working space anywhere. I got close to the doors to “hear” if there was someone inside to get a hint of what could be the right door #truestory. I finally knocked one of them randomly and, to my surprise, it was the right one. Yay!
Then I entered and realized why they insisted so much of meeting me in their main premises. This is one of the many impressive pics of their website.
Looks amazing right? I thought so too. But this was the real space I found:
It was super small and dark (we call this a rabbit hutch in Spain), and there were beds on top of some desks to allow people to sleep up there… while you work? Or maybe as a co-living? None of these possibilities sounded especially good in my ears.
There was room for 6-7 people here tops. And that was all. So definitely not premium, and not-so-networking either.
I went back home quite disappointed.
The cafe scene…
Then Miguel told me there was a “remote working” event at a cafe. Basically, a bunch of people gather to work at a cafe or co-working space. Not to talk or share remote working experiences, just to work. This sounded to me like a millennial thing, like hanging out with your “friends” to catch Pokemons, but what the heck! It was a good opportunity to find alternatives to the terrible co-workings of the previous day, so I accepted.
Then we got to this Photosynthesis cafe that was absolutely delightful. There was an open space downstairs and a cozy upper floor with a piano and comfortable working spots. The WiFi connection was super fast and reliable.
I made some calculations, and at 1,50€ for a latte, I could work there and have two coffees a day for 60€ a month, much less than any co-working space in town. And being able to play the piano was an extra. So I was seriously considering working from cafes only in Bulgaria.
… And an unexpected discovery
But after lunch, Miguel suggested us to visit the Cosmos space, the one I had discarded previously because someone from Facebook had recommended it to him. I sent them an email and asked them if we could discuss the price to work there at least six hours a day, with some conditions, within our budget. Six hours a day was still not ideal but was a good compromise.
They said yes, so we decided to visit them, and I am glad we did. The place is relatively easy to find. They even have a sign at the entrance, can you believe it!
As soon as I entered the space, I knew I was going to join. They gave us one day for free to try the space, and I was sold. The building is just gorgeous. It honestly feels like working at a palace or museum.
They have a huge main area in the ground floor and a basement downstairs with conference rooms (for free), kitchen, bar, and more working rooms. The place is clean, and while you need to order the coffee at the bar, you can have a tea for free at the kitchen. The WiFi connection is great, and there are people working there… no beds in sight.
Above all, the place is comfortable and cozy. I’ve never worked in such a lush and giant room before, and I really love it. People are quiet and respectful, and there is a focused working atmosphere.
Conclusion: Our quest for a co-working in Sofia
Finding a proper co-working in Sofia has been one of the weirdest experiences of my life. In all other countries I’ve visited, co-working spaces proudly open their doors and shout to the outside people: “We are a cool place to work, and yes, we are open!!! Come join us!!!”.
In Sofia, Bulgaria, things work differently. Co-working spaces are not easy to find, and for most of them you need to arrange an appointment to see the place.
So after a frustrating experience with non-existant, empty or overpriced spaces, and almost deciding to give up and work from cafes, we found this awesome Cosmos co-working space. If you are staying in Sofia for some months, make sure to check them out. (No, I don’t earn any affiliate fee from them :).