In the north of Bulgaria, there is a fertile plateau that stretches from the Danube River toward the Balkan Mountains. It is an important farming region where grains, fruits and vegetables are grown. Beyond these mountains are rolling lowlands, rising to the Rhodope Mountains along the Greek border. Bulgaria was once called Thrace. The Thracians were the first people who originally settled here in about 1000 B.C. After AD 500, Slavs poured into the region from the north and a century later an Asian people called the Bulgars invaded from the east.
To improve its economy, Bulgaria is encouraging international trade and tourism. Visitors are attracted to its beautiful churches and colorful festivals. People come from all over Europe to vacation resorts along the Black Sea coast.
These are the top ten not to be missed places in Bulgaria.
Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski
Cathedral of St. Alexandar Nevski
with its twelve golden domes is one of the most beautiful churches in Bulgaria and the undisputed landmark of Sofia, the capital city. It is dedicated to the 200,000 Russian soldiers who lost their lives in the Russo-Ottoman war from 1877 to 1878. The cathedral is the main church of the Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate and dedicated to the Russian National Saint Alexander Nevsky (1220 – 1263). His mosaic portrait can be seen towering over the entrance. The Russian architect Alexander Pomeranzew planned this church. The foundation stone was laid in 1882, with completion in 1912. From 1916 to 1920 it was called the house of God Cyril and Methodius Cathedral. The cathedral has five naves and covers an area of 3,170 m², where over 5,000 people can find space inside.
The central dome has a height of 42 meters; the bell tower with twelve different sized bells is 53 m high. The largest bell weighs 12 tons, the smallest just 10 kg. The ringing of bells can be heard as far as 30 km. The cross on the tower is made of solid gold. The interior was designed by various artists where 4,000 frescoes and 82 religious icons can be admired. Expensive and rare materials such as Italian marble, Egyptian alabaster, Brazilian onyx and Venetian mosaics adorn the church interior. In the crypt of the cathedral, the remarkable Museum of Icons holds a collection of masterpieces of Bulgarian icon painting from the 9th up to the 18th Century in addition to 200 icons and some frescoes. In the cathedral there is a small souvenir shop where you can buy replicas of famous icons, postcards, shirts, rosary beads and other souvenirs.
lies immediately to the south of Sofia and is quite busy in the winter with the many cable cars and chair lifts, as well as various chalets and mountain hotels for the skiers. In summer, the Vitosha Mountains are ideal for hiking trails and summit assault hikes because when the skies are clear the mountain offers a beautiful view over Sofia. Although getting up there by public transport is a bit difficult, it is not impossible. The journey starts from the bus terminal of Hladilnika (this is the Kempinski Zografski operated by bus 9TM that is only three stops away) you can take the bus 93 that will take you to the Dragalevtsi Monastery.
Although this is still always relative to the foot of the mountain, you can make a 15-minute walk to the monastery and pass by the Vitosha Visitor Centre (with a small lookout tower) visit or even come into the restaurant which is located in the forest there. If you want to take the bus quite up to the terminus of Aloka (at 1.780m above sea level), then you take the bus of Hladilnika or from the Vitosha Visitor Centre (Please note: no timetable yet) Bus No. 66 (journey time: 1 hour, runs every hour). The Vitosha Mountain is right next to the city of Sofia and is not to be missed with its steep slopes.
The spacious and pleasant pedestrian promenade Vitosha Boulevard starts from the center of Sofia the avenue towards the massif of Vitosha. It is wide, full of shops, bars, and restaurants. At the end of the pedestrian stretch, the walk can continue in the park that houses the Palace of Culture where tourists can go over it with a pedestrian bridge. In its surroundings there are many restaurants that are quite of distinct character. It has a surprising quietness of the evening and a simple night life (always suffused with music), but this is fairly widespread in Bulgaria.
Occasionally you can hear the notes of some nice player. It’s a long street full of beautiful shops. There are many cafes where you can sip a drink, relax, and watch the world go by. The boulevard stands between this and the various numerous streets & alleyways perpendicular or parallel to the city. Here, you are able to find whatever you are looking for in Sofia, from hotels to restaurants & shopping for fashion, electronics, food, perfume to ice cream parlors, fast food and libraries. In addition there are many wineries that offer quality and amazing wines.
The Rotunda of St. George (Sveti Georgi)
The Rotunda of St. George is one of the best preserved monuments from the Roman period that still exists in the heart of the capital in Bulgaria. The “Rotunda Sveti Georgi” is tucked away in the courtyard of the Presidential Palace and Hotel Sheraton and it is an outstanding example of Byzantine domed cruciform architecture. The small brick church was originally built by the Romans with beautiful frescoes (between 10th and 14th century) under the dome representing the prophets. It is near the presidential palace where you can watch the changing of the guard if you arrive at the right time.
The most beautiful view is also at the rear of the palace and not at the hotel. The church tour will take you a few minutes but it is absolutely necessary to do it. In the midst of huge palaces and streets of traffic, appears this pretty little church. It is very dark inside. The church was built on the remains of ancient Greek and Roman temples. Set in hideous tower blocks although very central but nevertheless so anonymous, charming, and magical, this religious gem exudes life vitality to empower its faithful devotees and visitors. The old church is open for visitors and there is no entrance fee collected.
Ivan Vazov National Theater
The National Theatre “Ivan Vazov” is located in the city center and close to the city park. The theater is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and a landmark of Sofia. For each Bulgarian actor, it’s a great honor to be allowed to perform in this prestigious house. The building is in neoclassical style and designed by the Viennese architects Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner. They also built the opera house in Zagreb. The finishing position was in 1906 and the solemn park on 01/03/1907. In 1923, a fire destroyed the theater but was rebuilt that same year. Even the bombing of Sofia in 1945 (during World War II) caused significant damage. The building was always reconstructed and rebuilt.
The design of the façade is proudly shown in the 50 Lev Bulgarian bank notes. The main entrance is provided with six white marble columns with ornate capitals, supporting a triangular pediment with partially gilded figures of Apollo and the Muses of the arts. The two towers have rooftop sculptures with figures on a chariot. Inside, it has a wide marble staircase leads to the richly decorated main hall. The theater has three halls, the main hall with 750 seats and two side halls with 120 and 70 seats. Before the court is a fountain built in 1976.The Theater is named after Ivan Vazov Mintschew (1850 – 1921) a famous Bulgarian writer, historian and politician. He was also an activist of the Bulgarian National Revival and in 1897-1899 became the Minister of Education. Ivan Vazov is considered the founder of modern national literature and he has left many important literary works dedicated to the people of Bulgaria.
is a historic church with world famous ancient murals. The church is one of the few entirely cultural goods from the Middle Ages in Bulgaria and one of the foremost examples of fine monumental art from the 10th to 14th Centuries. It is dedicated to Saint Nicholas and Pantalejmon. The church is located about 8 km outside of the city center at the foot of Vitosha Mountain and surrounded by park-like grounds. The emergence of the church took place in three phases of construction. The oldest part is the building with the cross dome and the apse from the 10th/11th Century. The second part was in the 13th Century and is composed of two levels – below as the Holy Sepulcher for the founder Kaloyan and his wife Dessislava and above as a family chapel. The third part was created with donations from the people of the mid-19th Century and promoted the cultivation of the Roman Catholic faith.
The church is famous not only because of its unique architecture, but for its wall paintings done since the year 1259. They lie as a second layer over paintings of even older origin, and represent one of the most complete and best preserved examples of medieval Eastern European art. On the walls, the visitor can view images of 240 people in 89 different scenes. The painter is unknown, probably belonged to the art school of Tarnovo. The term “Boyana Master” is a collective term for all painters who created these works. The taxi ride from downtown to here costs about 15 lev (including tip). Better yet, take a taxi for three or four hours for rent (about 70 lev) and see also the other points of interest (National Museum of History, Boyana Residence and Vitosha Mountains). This saves having to queue for a taxi for the return trip.
Skibansko by Traventuria
In the city of Bansko, you can get a ski pass for 6 days costs 340 Lev, which is about 176 Euros at the
Skibansko by Traventuria
. The site always has a long queue at the gondola rides. If you go there at 9 in the morning you have about 50 minutes to stand before getting a ride. If you come at 8:30, then you need to spend 25 minutes to stand in line. But on the weekend, skiers are less than on weekdays.
After the chairlift or gondola rides, everything becomes much better and you arrive at the resort where you can rent skis, snowboards, sleigh rents, and a host of other ski adventures that are worth trying on this excellent resort.
In the city of Sunny Beach, the
is a small old town located on a peninsula that is considered one of the landmarks of Bulgaria. It has many old houses, Byzantine churches, small streets with small shops and cozy restaurants. All around there are hotels and convenience stores that have been created for the consumption of tourists.
If you want to get away for at least a day from the monotony of buildings, casino, and nightclubs in the city, take a bus and visit this charming little town, where you can enjoy delicious local cuisine, and delicious dishes based on fish. In addition to seeing a bit of history it is also highly recommended to take a nice dip on its crystal blue sea.
Varna Archaeological Museum
Marvel at the oldest gold jewelry in the world in the
Varna Archaeological Museum
in Bulgaria. Anyone who visits can’t hardly believe that here in Varna on the Black Sea this gold jewelry will be discovered in the 1970s – a total of over 5 kg. It was found as grave goods in tombs from the Neolithic period. The jewelry is from the 5th Millennium B.C. It involves a lot of small parts but also very beautiful crafted pieces among others in animal form – a total of over 3000 pieces.
Anyone can see gold chains, bracelets, trinkets that were apparently applied to clothing – all shown here in the current Fund position. In other showcases ceramic vessels, stone tools, and much more can be seen. Something special and also interesting is the collection of icons which can be viewed here. About 130 pieces from the 16th century are beautifully presented here on the upper floor of the museum. There is something special to discover here aside from admiring the oldest processed gold in the world. It is older than the gold of the Incas or the Aztecs.
Plovdiv Old Town
Old Town of Plovdiv
is definitely worth a visit. It is one of the most beautiful and interesting city in Bulgaria. From the Hotel Dedeman you can stroll through the pedestrian zone to the mosque over and then gradually uphill through the old town to the place of the “rebirth” houses.
Bulgarian independence took an end during the 19th century by the Ottoman Empire and these houses were built at the same time. You can go over and stroll to the nearby amphitheater and from there you can have a magnificent view of the city of Plovdiv and the Black Sea.