Over the last couple of years several coworking places have popped up across Sofia and in several of Bulgaria's big cities. Before the pandemic, the business seemed more niche, aimed mostly at small startup teams who couldn't afford to rent out an entire office space of their own, and foreigners. Since 2020 however, more Bulgarians, both individuals and companies, have opted for the flexibility that online work provides. And the country's competitive costs, especially compared to other countries in Western Europe, are attracting waves of digital nomads from abroad, looking for peace in local mountain resorts and along the Black Sea.
The boom in demand for coworking spaces raises the question of sleeping arrangements. This is where coliving places, which allow longer stays against monthly fees, come in. Usually, coliving fees include an individual room, workspaces, fast WiFi and the opportunity to socialize with other nomads. There are several players in Sofia who offer the service. One of them is the Networking Coworking office chain, which has several studios across the city, whose monthly rent includes free access to all Networking coworking locations. More recently several businesses entirely focused on the concept of shared living have opened doors. There are some in Sofia, but, it seems, they are also gaining popularity outside the cities, far from traffic and noise.
In the city: WorkNomads Lab Hotel
The temporary home for digital nomads WorkNomads Lab Hotel is located on the site of the former Suite Hotel in "Studentski Grad". The concept is 3 in 1 - one can choose between coworking, coliving and a shorter hotel stay. Its main purpose is to house employees working for the digital company WorkNomads, but it also offers short and long-term accommodation for clients. The hotel has 120 rooms, common kitchens, laundry rooms, a fitness center, and a free parking lot. Permanent access to a co-working space is also included in the staying fee.
Visitors to the WorkNomads Lab Hotel, which officially opened in early 2023 after a year-long renovation, can choose the length of their stay, with short-stay nightly rates starting at €71 and monthly fees varying by room size. Three room size options are available: Tepee (20 sq.m), Igloo (40 sq.m) and Yurt (60 sq.m). The monthly coliving rate starts at 660 euros, or about 22 euros per night.
Customers can purchase a package of 30, 60 and 90 nights as part of the Destination Deal Program service and use their nights in one of four WN destinations - Bulgaria, Bali, Colombia or Thailand. The price is fixed regardless of the location they choose.
On the seaside: Burgas Coliving
In the months leading up to the summer season, many small spaces turn into coworking offices on the Southern Black Sea coast. These offer fast internet and the opportunity to work remotely in a cool seaside space that guarantees silence and seclusion against the background of the summer heat.
Katia Dimitrova and Anton Penchev decided to supplement the local ecosystem with a project that, in addition to a place for shared work, offers digital nomads a place to stay. After a long renovation process, in June 2022, in the former buildings of the "Burgas Mineral Baths" rest station, Burgas Coliving, a space for remote work and overnight stays with a capacity of up to 20 people, opened to guests.
Attendance at Burgas Coliving is seasonal, with most customers visiting in the period May - September, says Dimitrova. The service is mainly used by digital nomads, and a large percentage of them are foreigners who combine work with a seaside vacation. "Our visitors are from Europe, but also the USA, Canada, Mexico, Colombia," she explains.
Visitors at Burgas Coliving can stay there for a minimum of seven nights. Rooms with a separate bathroom or a shared bathroom and toilet are available, and the prices per night are drastically lower for stays longer than a month - for a stay shorter than 1 month, one night in a room with a private bathroom costs 45 euros, whilst a night in the same room for a stay of more than 1 month drops to 33.75 euros.
In the mountains: Coliving Semkovo
A different proposal for digital nomads is offered by Matthias Zeitler's Coliving Semkovo project, which transforms the former Rila Hotel in the Semkovo ski resort into a space for shared accommodation. The renovation of the hotel, which is 16,700 square meters, is yet to begin. The plan is to have 200 residential apartments upon completion, of which at least 125 will be for sale and the rest for rent. Prices vary by apartment size, starting at €15,000 for an unrenovated 20 sq m studio, and include access to common areas in the site, including workspaces, meeting rooms, shared kitchens and dining rooms, a pool and more. The apartments are up to 60 square meters in size (at a price of 35,000 euros) and have their own bathrooms and kitchens.
"The concept of Coliving Semkovo is to create a community for digital nomads and remote workers, offering a place where they can gather, collaborate and live a more fulfilling life in nature," says Zeitler, who has experience in the co-working sector as the founder of Coworking Bansko. Renovation of the building will only begin after 125 buyers commit to buying an apartment, with each of them becoming part of the co-op (managing costs for common spaces, renovation solutions, and more), as crowdfunding usually works.
There are currently 69 buyers on board - people who paid an initial fee of 600 euros, and the plan is to start the renovation works by the summer of 2023.Of those who have made a commitment so far, 30% are Bulgarian, and the rest are mostly German, English and American.