Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
Yalta Club is, proudly, the oldest club in Bulgaria. It dates back to 1991, which is no mean feat given the immeasurable changes the country has gone through since then. It is a place that boasts a slick Meyer M'elodie soundsystem, and all round the main dancefloor is a suspended balcony. It often has people hanging over the edge to make for an intense, cauldron-like atmosphere as various disco balls, smoke machines and lasers all add further drama.
There is also a big glass wall at one side that allows light to beam in come sun-up, and offers views over the Bulgarian capital that are truly stunning. For punters after a more heady experience, though, the second room downstairs holds just 500 people, has a much darker vibe with no lights — save for a neon on one wall that reads 'The Night Is Your Friend' — and is a sweaty rave space up there with the best of them. Artbat, a five-hour set from Âme, Alan Fitzpatrick, Roger Sanchez, wAFF and Claptone are just some of the highlights from the last 12 months.
Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
Reasons to visit Sofia, one of the oldest capital cities in Europe: ancient history, contemporary art and culture, and a food scene that spans the Balkans and the Mediterranean. The main reason to visit Bulgaria’s capital, however? That would be Club Yalta. Not only does has it been the beating heartbeat of the city’s club scene since 1991 — making it the oldest club in Sofia — it’s progressively moved with the times and currently books the biggest and best names in the house and techno scene, including Solardo, Richy Ahmed, Hot Since 82 and Eats Everything, as well as more alternative names like Nightmares on Wax.
Once you step inside, you’re greeted with a perfectly tuned Meyer M'elodie soundsystem and a beautiful minimal grey and black interior, perfectly offsetting the stunning views back across Sofia, which, come sunrise, flood the room in glorious rays of light as hedonistic hands usher in the new day. The real night owls will be downstairs at this point, however, lost in music in Room 2, a 500-capacity space with no WiFi or mobile reception or LED screens — making it the perfect after-hours rave space.
Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
Although this Bulgarian institution opened for business back in 1959, Yalta really started to gain recognition as the first club to introduce electronic music to the East European country back in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. Since those early years, Yalta has retained its position as the go-to Bulgarian club for international names. In the past year alone, Dyed Soundorom, Shonky, Guy J, Victor Calderone and Matador have performed at the venue, with deeper artists like Âme and Moodymanc given free reign to take over the club’s second room.
Yalta’s three main nights are Takeover, No Orders and Elegant Touch, with each one revolving around the the club’s three residents — Liubo Ursiny, Runo and Diass.
Liubo says: “We’re pushing the club programme with new, fresh and upcoming artists from around the world. The idea is to present, as much as possible, artists in a ‘club’ environment rather than festival, i.e. many of them are playing open-to-close sets with no local support, or at least extended sets up to six hours.”
Both rooms at Yalta boast Meyer Sound M’elodie systems, with the smaller second space’s low ceiling and industrial design lending itself to longer sets. With Liubo promising that Yalta will book more high calibre acts “before the summer really kicks in”, it looks like Yalta will remain Sofia’s number one hotspot.
Upon entering, the immediate message you get depends on the club. Some scream sex, some money, some hedonism. Stark yet comfortable, two-roomed Sofia club Yalta screams passion. Passion for underground electronic dance music, passion for presenting it properly. Undaunted by the loss, Ricardo Villalobos closed their main space for a 10-month revamp in 2016 (with particular attention paid to acoustics and sound), before it re-opened with Loco Dice and Mark Knight in December. But while closed, this quarter-century-old club and residents Liubo Ursiny, Runo, Philip Chernikov and Diass still managed to host Keinemusik, Subb-an, Franky Rizardo, Enzo Siragusa, Hot Since 82 and Âme in the second space, under the ‘Takeover’ banner, which excels in offering debuts in Bulgaria.
“For many Bulgarians, Yalta is where it all started,” explains Kliment Yonchev, one of the main men behind Sofia’s famous nightspot. Far from a marketing line, when you take into account this club’s history, he has a point.
Following a re-opening in 2005, partying at Yalta became more akin to a session in someone’s home. Everything from the furniture and floorplan to lights and speaker stacks gives the impression of a private shindig, as wild as it is personal. Add to this a backstory that began when the first revellers passed through its doors in 1959, saw the arrival of electronic music in the country, circa 1989, not to mention Bulgaria’s first international DJ booking three years on, and you realise how special the place is.
Bringing things up to date, Yalta currently focusses on the underground, and its main room is now more reminiscent of an industrial hall, with bookings to match. Local residents — Liubo Ursiny, Stefan Popov, Runo and Philip Chernikov — have control on Fridays, with guests like NOIR, Blond:ish, Dixon, Tiga, Roger Sanchez, Ricardo Villalobos, Guy J, Subb-An and Deep Dish joining every Saturday. Or at least that’s how the last 12 months have looked.
Yalta is one of our favourite places in the world to party. Yet the Bulgarian institution — based in the capital city of Sofia — isn't founded on fancy visual effects, or supercharged production.
The matte black walls and surrounding balconies house a thunderous soundsystem and some of Europe's most dedicated party people.
Huge lettering emblazoned along an upstairs wall confidently declares that 'everyone is a VIP'. Don't think this is some cheap marketing slogan — you're more likely to see the regulars propping up the partially-manned bars than ordering sparkler-strapped bottles of Goose for five figure sums.
The crowd here are all about 4/4 beats, which manifest themselves in the housier side of EDM — via local favourite Fedde Le Grand — or in the rolling techno grooves of Marco Carola and Luciano. This summer's line-ups are looking hotter than ever, with Get Physical's M.A.N.D.Y and Innervisions' Âme already locked.
The reality of the Yalta experience actually extends beyond the walls of their flagship venue. The team behind the famous club are also responsible for Bulgaria's biggest outdoor and arena events.
Their annual Solar Summer Festival is an essential date in the national electronic music calendar, and they recently hosted the Top 100 DJs World Tour Event for 10,000 people.