Bulgaria is among the countries on the Balkans and a favourite destination of mine for many reasons: First, it’s much less expensive than other countries in the Europe, that the food is delicious, and also Bulgarians are welcoming and warmhearted. As a bonus, the history buffs will have ancient sites to detect throughout the country. Below are 15 places you must visit in Bulgaria, although it was difficult narrowing the list down!
Bulgaria is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the west coast. Its location at the crossroads of of Europe and Asia has undeniably influenced history of its own inhabitants, and the traditions, gastronomy. Bulgaria has been home to great cultures such as the Thracians, Romans and Greeks.
Back in 2013, I decided to research took a 3 week road trip across the entire country. Ana and I entered Bulgaria and based ourselves in Burgas, Varna, Ruse, Veliko Tarnovo, Sofia, Plovdiv and Stara Zagora. Following an 22 days we understood we could have easily spent another couple weeks seeing so much more. Here are my top 15:
Sofia is the capital city of Bulgaria and probably where you are going to fly into in the event that you’re traveling by airplane. Sofia is home to over 1.2 million residents and is now located in the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, midway between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea.
Sofia is ancient, together with human habitation dating back making it the oldest in Europe. Early inhabitants comprised the Celts and the Thracians, following by the Romans who created Sofia the most important city in the area. It was held by the Ottomans for a range of centuries before getting the capital of a separate Bulgaria.
This distinguished and lengthy history implies there is plenty to visit during a visit to the city. One was that the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, among the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world. The walls are decorated with paintings of religious scenes and saints. The outside dome stands out in the city skyline.
Other sites include the remains of the fortress of Serdika, and the underpass Utilized to move from the Presidency.
Include a visit to the National Archaeological Museum with ranges from ancient Thrace directly through to the Middle Ages — the Thracian burial mask pictured above is highlight of this exhibit.
Nikopolis ad Istrum
On a day trip, while remaining in Sofia, we also visited Rila Monastery (Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila). Here is the greatest and Eastern Orthodox monastery across the Rilska River 73 miles south of the capital, in Bulgaria. It is located almost 1,200 meters above sea level, in the Rila Monastery Nature Park.
The monastery was founded back in the 10th century and can be both a key architectural and historic site as well as a significant tourist place. There are approximately 60 Mothers there now and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ornate interior of outside and this building make it a spot that is must-see when visiting the area.
Burgas will be the fourth biggest city and was just yet another foundation for our trip to Bulgaria. Burgas is a city that may easily be explored in the world and also provides a good balance of shore locations history and shopping.
The seaside park is a superb location for a picnic or even a shore walk and the sea wind prevents it getting too hot even. The sand festival happens here with beautiful sculptures made to a motif from the sand. The Archaeological Museum of Burgas contain Greek and Roman eras as well as findings from the Thracian civilization and has uncovered around the area.
To get a choice of places to eat, we enjoyed a restaurant called Ethno, together with its meat and seafood menu as well as delicious community semi-sweet white wines.
Pomorie was among those places we visited on a day trip while remaining in Burgas. This resort is about 12 miles from the city and sits on a peninsula around the Burgas Bay. The city began life as Apollonia, a Greek colony which was defeated by the Romans. It was also part of the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires.
Among the highlights to visit with while in the town is that the Beehive Tomb. This really is an impressive ancient site that’s close to the road from Burgas and is thought to be a tomb for its Anhialo household, dating back to the two nd or 3rd centuries AD. It was the scene for several pagan rituals and has been restored to find out what it looked like in the moment, even though the murals considered to have once decorated the walls are finally gone.
Another trip we took during the Burgas leg of our trip was to Sozopol, an ancient seaside town around 21 miles apart. It is famous as the place of this Apollonia Art and Film Festival which occurs in September. The city is also among the earliest in Bulgaria on the Black Sea coast with evidence of settlement.
The city turned into Apollonia when Apollo’s temple was constructed and was famous Antheia. It turned into an important trade centre and preserved a strong Greek people. There were Greeks than Bulgarians when it became part of contemporary Bulgaria! While the remains of the settlement have been excavated off the coast, the city walls can still be seen around the town.
The foundation of our trip was the city of Veliko Tarnovo, using churches and its rich history. The city is located on the Yantra River and was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, being home to many of the nobility. Later, it gave its name to the Tarnovo Artistic School, famous for its literature and painting fashions.
Among the most famous medieval monuments in Bulgaria could be observed in the city. The city is built on three mountains — Tsaravets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora using the river running through the center. The fortress on Tsaravets was the fortress of the Bulgarian Empire from 1185 to 1393 and dates from medieval times.
Some 3,000 ft of stone walls, some of which are 11 feet thick surround it. It is a now a popular tourist destination and also a location.
Check out our article on How to See and Do in Veliko Tarnovo
For wine lovers, a daily trip to the Maryan Winery is recommended while remaining in Veliko Tarnovo. The winery is just 45 minutes from the city, close to the town of Maryan also offers the chance to try a number of unique wines.
The winery is a family run business and there are a refreshing rose as well as five distinct forms. A tour involves exploring tasting wines and the wine cellar right from the barrel. The wines are created out of a combination of winemaking methods and modern technologies to acquire the best quality products.
The ancient Roman city of Nikopolis ad Istrum is just yet another important day trip to take whenever you are remaining in Veliko Tarnovo. Emperor Trajan in 101 AD founded the city in the linking of Rositsa and also these rivers Tantra. He dedicated it and the stays can now be seen close to Nikyup’s village , approximately 12 miles north west.
As was the fad at the moment the Roman city was destroyed in 447 from Attila the Hun’s forces but was later rebuilt as a fortress including churches together with the structures. The new fort just occupied around one-fourth of the first city and was destroyed again in the 6th century. Several buildings may be viewed as well as the road network and sculpture stays.
Was that the city of Stara Zagora. It is known for its linden trees and its own allies and is the city. The area around the city has mounds and Bereketska, yet, is the biggest in the country. The city crossroad and was inhabited from the Thracians, Romans, Ottomans and Bulgarians at various points during its history.
We enjoyed a rare chance to see two lodgings and artifacts from the period and seen the Neolithic Dwellings Museum. Even the Regional History Museum is just another spot to savor, a four-story construction that houses things from Neolithic times through to the 19th century, including an impressive Roman display on the cellar level.
Augusta Trayana’s Roman Forum, as the city was called the Romans, can be located together with the courthouse that was contemporary. It has the remains of a 1,300-spectator amphitheater, the terrace and their city walls. This can be still used today such as festivalsperformances and opera. You can enter for free but do need permission.
Check out our article on How to See and Do in Stara Zagora
Plovdiv is the second biggest of the towns that are Bulgarian and functioned as our second base during the trip. This is a significant economic, transport and cultural centre that was once called Philippopolis, since it was defeated by Philip II of Macedon in the 4th century BC.
It was later invaded by Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Turks, Crusaders before getting a part of Bulgaria because we know it now. Plovdiv is frequently known as’The City of the Seven Hill’.
All that history means a lot is do and to see! Although the Old Town tends to be smoother and more laid back, the city centre is active and lively. Both are extremely pedestrian friendly so it’s possible to enjoy the key sites. Close the Tourist Information Centre in Dzhumaya Square is the Stadium. This sits beneath the contemporary city degree and was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian in the two nd century. Though just 14 marble columns stay it initially held some 30,000 spectators.
The Old Town is famous for Bulgarian National Revival structure, a movement which saw that the Bulgarians take back their ethnic identity and its cobblestoned roads. Large, richly homes were a part of the most are now open to the general public.
Watch our Post about What to See and Do in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Hisarya is a resort city on the edge of the Sredna Gora mountain range and also located close to enough to Plovdiv to make for a terrific day trip. The city was once called Hissar or even Hisar (meaning’fort’ or’castle’ in Turkish) however, the payoff pre-dates their days.
Under the Romans, it was known as Diocletianopolis and it’s some of those Roman walls and gates across 22, now. Its fame came springs which made it a popular place to visit — Emperor Septimius Severus seen it to go through the power of the waters.
Our Second base was Ruse’s Town, located on the Perfect bank of the Danube opposite the Town of Giurgiu.
The city is the fifth biggest in the country and is a significant river port as well as function as the site of the sole bridge, also known as the Ruse-Giurgiu Friendship Bridge.
Ruse has over 300 historic buildings and is called’Little Vienna’ across its roads spread due to the amount of Neo-Rococo and Neo-Baroque buildings. The city has an ancient pedigree, before eventually become part of contemporary Bulgaria in 1878, was home to Thracians and Romans.
Among the sites we found was that the Pantheon of National Revival Heroes, burial place of Bulgarians. The Regional Museum of History was established back in 1904 and holds some 140,000 items such as the Borovo treasure as well as items from the medieval stage, directly through to things of china and glass out of the 19th century.
Watch our guide on Things to See and Do in Ruse.
Varna was our final foundation for the trip and will be the third biggest city in Bulgaria, located on the Black Sea coast close to Varna’s Gulf. It is referred to as the capital of the country and will be the home of the Bulgarian Navy.
Among the Areas we visited was That the Archaeological Museum of Varna.
It is renowned for being the place where the Varna Necropolis treasure is located, the earliest gold jewellery. There’s also an impressive Roman tub complex to visit, the 4th biggest in Europe in which you could also find the shops which were once located just beyond the bathrooms.
Varna Cathedral is the oldest in Bulgaria, dating to 1886 and is still the cathedral on the Black Sea coast. It can be among the symbols of the city and is the residence of the bishopric of Preslav and Varna. It contains several hand painted icons and scenes from Jesus’ life span which are worth seeing.
1 day trip we took while based in Varna was going to stop by Balchik Palace, also called the Quiet Nest Palace. This really is a palace created the area was commanded by the Romanians and were created for Queen Marie of Romania while. The palace is a complex of villas located close to the resort of Balchik around the Black Sea coast.
In addition to the comforts, the complex has its own wine cellar, a monastery, a sacred spring, a chapel and other buildings such as an impressive botanical garden that’s now state run. The palace uses Balkan and Oriental themes and has been revived for vacationers.
Another day trip we enjoyed while remaining in Varna was to some little town called Pliska that’s notable because the funding of the Bulgarian Empire. From 681 to 893 AD, the city was the capital of their Bulgarian nation that is new and covered around eight square miles. It contained a range of buildings and palaces for the aristocracy and has earthen ramparts with stone walls.
Regrettably, this is a time that is turbulent and the city saw near constant war. The Byzantines plundered it and burnt to the ground. But visitors to the site can still find the remains of the giant complex such as also the remains of the walls, basilica and the palace.
I got a feel of what Bulgaria is all about after spending over three months driving around the entire country. From wineries, history, medieval towns, the sea and delicious food, Bulgaria is a really distinctive country with months’ worth of things.
Perhaps You have been to Bulgaria?
What are your recommendations for should visit places? Leave us a comment below!