Things to see and do on a trip to Bulgaria

Things to see and do in Bulgaria
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Bulgaria is a country that surprises because it is so unique and has a very strong personality of its own, quite different from the rest of the Balkan countries. There are many things to see in Bulgaria, from monumental Soviet-looking cities to charming villages representing the Bulgarian National Renaissance style. The country is also famous for its numerous archaeological sites, a source of knowledge to understand the history of a country with so many peoples, as the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans passed through its territories.

In Passporter we will help you prepare your trip to Bulgaria so that you don’t miss a single detail. How much time do you have? a week? a month? no problem! In this post you will find several must-see places that you should include in your itinerary. We also give you some tips to move around the country without problems and we discuss its gastronomy. Bulgarian cuisine is famous for being abundant and for its curious use of the acidic flavors of vinegar and yogurt. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

What to see in Bulgaria

1. Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria

Sofia may not be one of the most prestigious European cities, however, it is worth at least one day. Besides, if you travel to Bulgaria you will most likely fly to the capital, so it is a good option to make the most of your time. The city is famous for the monumental buildings of communist style, one of the most impressive being the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Its frescos are considered a World Heritage Site.

Another obligatory stop is the Banya Bashi mosque, built in the 16th century and the result of the passage of the Turkish people. We also recommend you stop by the Boyana Church, the Hagia Sophia Basilica and the Russian Church. There are numerous museums in the city such as the archaeological, regional history and communist art museums. Sofia is an ideal weekend destination, although you can also spend more time visiting the city and the surrounding area.

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Sofia Cathedral @Pixabay

2. Varna, the maritime capital of Bulgaria

Varna is known as the maritime capital of Bulgaria as it is one of the most famous cities in the country with the greatest historical and cultural heritage. This beautiful city stretching along the Black Sea coast is full of parks, fountains and beautiful buildings in the old town. It also has a beach. However, the most famous things to see in Varna are the Odessos Thermal Baths and the archaeological sites nearby.

You can visit Varna in one day. We recommend you to stroll around its small historic quarter and Primorski Park, the largest sea garden in Bulgaria. There are also a couple of interesting museums such as the archaeological museum and the naval museum. In the surroundings, less than 1h by car you can reach the Devnenskite Izbori springs, the Ovech fortress and the Aladzhá monastery.

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Sunset in Varna @pixabay

3. Valley of the Roses

Near Plovdiv, at the foot of the Balkan Mountains is the Valley of Roses, one of the most spectacular sites to see in Bulgaria. These are extensions of rose cultivation that bloom in spring and are used to extract its oil, one of the most expensive in the world. During the rest of the year you can also visit (although it loses a little grace) and take a tour of the distilleries, where they will explain the whole process of oil extraction. The first weekend of June is the Rose Festival, which celebrates the harvest with parades, processions, folkloric exhibitions and much more.

4. Plovdiv

Plovdiv is the second largest city to see in Bulgaria and a must stop on your travel itinerary. The most characteristic features are the colorful 19th century Renaissance style houses located in the historic center. They coexist in harmony with the modernity of the city, and the best thing is that you can visit it on foot.

Like many other cities in Bulgaria, Plovdiv has archaeological sites and world-famous ruins such as the Roman theater or Neber Tepe. It’s a complex where there are still remains of the Thracian and Roman peoples. It is also worth visiting the National Ethnographic Museum, even if you don’t go inside, as its courtyard and façade are impressive, a perfect example of the Bulgarian National Revival. Find out more about the city in this post: Things to see and do on a trip to Plovdiv Bulgaria.

trip to Plovdiv Bulgaria
Trip to Plovdiv @pixabay

5. Tryavna and the Bulgarian National Revival

Tryavna is a small town out of a fairy tale for its beautiful and colorful low houses of the 17th century, typical of the Bulgarian National Renaissance style. But beyond the beautiful corners that hide the streets of the city, there you can visit the museum of wood carvings and the Daskalova House, famous throughout the country for its curious mandera roofs.

In Tryavna there is an Orthodox church built in the 19th century over the previous one, which had been destroyed by the Turks. It is worth entering to see its iconostasis, one of the most famous in Bulgaria along with that of the Rila monastery.

6. Belogradchik Fortress

The Belograchik Fortress is one of the most amazing places to visit in Bulgaria and it will transport you to a world of fantasy. Surrounding the building you will see the Belogradchik Rocks, curious rock formations that reach up to 200m in height and extend 90km square along the foothills of the Balkan Mountains. Each formation has a completely different shape, which is why many of them have such names as bear, mushroom…

In the middle of a legendary landscape is the fortress that dates back to the Roman Empire and occupies 10,210 square meters of extension. The fortress always had a defensive function and passed from Roman to Byzantine control, and then to Bulgarian control, which further strengthened it to defend against Ottoman attacks. The fortress is open daily from 9:00h to 18:00h and the entrance fee is 3,07€.

things to do on trip to Bulgaria
Fortress of Belogradchik @pixabay

7. Arbanasi

Arnabasi is an incredible town famous for the mixture of cultures reflected in the facades of each building. The town was built on the occasion of the wedding of a Bulgarian tsar and a Greek princess, who had new houses built to accommodate the guests. The new buildings dating from the 17th century are both Greek and Bulgarian in style.

You can see the village in a morning. And we recommend you to enter the Konstantzaliev period house, visit the church without a bell tower and flattened plan, and walk the streets enjoying the architectural spectacle.

8. Rila Monastery, the most famous monastery in Bulgaria

The Rila Monastery, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is one of the reasons why Bulgaria is worth visiting. In the country there are many more Orthodox monasteries located in natural enclaves with spectacular views as is the case of Rila, which is located between mountains where you can only access by narrow roads.

Originally the monastery was 4km from the present one, located in a small cave that can still be visited. The present monastery was built in the 14th century and later rebuilt in the 17th century after its destruction despite all the conquering peoples’ efforts to keep it standing. The Ottomans portegnated it and during the communist era it was kept as a museum until monastic activities were reinstated. The complex is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and admission is free.

things to do on trip to Bulgaria
Rila monastery @Pixabay

9. Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval town in Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo was the capital during the heyday of the Bulgarian empire and is another must-see city in Bulgaria today for its history and great cultural legacy. But that’s not all, the city is also famous for the beauty of its surroundings, as it was founded between mountains following the curve of the Yantra River. It is built on 3 hills, and we can assure you that you will feel at the end of the day.

One of the city’s main sights is Tsavarets Castle, home to tsars during the Second Bulgarian Empire. Admission is 3€ and it is open from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. You can’t miss the historical center and its houses of more than 200 years old, and the museums of regional history and archeology. There is also a park called “Mini Bulgaria”, ideal to go with children.

things to do on trip to Bulgaria
Veliko Tarnovo fortress @pixabay

Gastronomy of Bulgaria

Bulgarian cuisine is hearty with lightly spiced meat and vegetable dishes. The main meats are lamb, pork and chicken, although fish dishes are also popular. Other typical products in their cuisine are dairy products. Curiously, Bulgarian gastronomy is not as influenced as other Balkan cuisines, which share many characteristics. It is also interesting its relationship with acid flavors, such as soups with vinegar.

The most famous dishes are:

  • Kebapche: a kind of highly spiced sausage made from minced meat.
  • Kyufte: are meatballs similar to the previous dish.
  • Salata Shopska: is the most famous salad in Bulgaria. It has tomatoes, parsley and grated cheese.
  • Shkembe Chorba: is a soup of tripe and a certain vinegary aftertaste. It is one of the most famous dishes, but not for all tastes.
  • Kiselo Mlyako: is a typical Bulgarian yogurt of the best quality served as a side dish.

What should I consider before traveling to Bulgaria?

  • The official currency of Bulgaria is the Bulgarian leva (BGN).
  • The best time to travel to Bulgaria is from May to September.
  • In the main cities of the country tap water is drinkable.
  • Winters are very cold.
  • Please note that many signs may be written in Cyrillic.
  • The main language is Bulgarian. In big cities and young people speak English, but it is not a widespread language.
  • In Bulgaria it is UTC/GMT +2 hours.
  • For Spanish citizens it is not necessary to have a visa. Your ID is enough.
  • Be covered for possible medical emergencies: travel insured.
  • The country is generally very safe, but just in case be careful with your belongings.

How to prepare what to see on your trip to Bulgaria

Register or download the Passporter App and discover all its possibilities.

  • Get inspired by the experiences of other travelers.
  • Create your own itinerary and add the app’s suggestions to it.
  • Add the stops you are most interested in, as well as the restaurants and bars where you want to eat (you can use the points of interest we indicate in this post as a reference).
  • Organize your itinerary by route days according to their location on the map (you can be inspired by the routes we present in the post).
  • Check the travel budget that the app calculates for you based on your travel stops, restaurants, and leisure activities.
  • Make any modifications you need and you’ll be all set for your trip.
  • Share your experience. Upload photos of the places you visited on your trip to the app and recommend other travelers what to see in Bulgaria.

If you have doubts about how to do it, you can check our post: How to create your travel itinerary with Passporter.

Frequently asked questions about a trip to Bulgaria

What are the typical dishes in Bulgaria?

Some of the most famous dishes are kavarma (meat stew), sach (meat with potatoes, kyufte (meatballs) or kebapche (sausages). The best sweets are called the banitsa, a puff pastry with cheese.

What is the best time to travel to Bulgaria?

The best time to travel to Bulgaria is from May to September, as winters are very cold.

Do you need a visa to travel to Bulgaria?

If traveling from Spain, the ID card or passport is enough to enter the country.

Is tap water drinkable in Bulgaria?

Tap water in Bulgaria is drinkable in the main cities.

What are the must-sees in Bulgaria?

The must-see cities in Bulgaria are Varna, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo and Tryavna.

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