Must see attractions in Bulgaria

  • Sights in Belogradchik

    Belogradchik Rocks

    The massive Belogradchik sandstone and limestone rock formations cover an area of around 90 sq km and tower over the town. The rocks, standing up to 200m high, were sculpted over millions of years by natural compression. Several hiking trails of varying difficulty lace through the rocks. The tourist information centre has a map of the routes.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Danube & Northern Plains

    Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari

    The highlight at this Unesco-protected Thracian settlement is a nearly perfectly preserved three-chamber burial tomb from about 300 BC. The high quality of the construction, the fine artwork and reliefs adorning the tomb, and the exquisite burial gifts attest to the advanced state of the civilisation. Visitors are free to walk throughout the compound and visit a Muslim shrine from the 16th century. It's located about 8km from the town of Isperih, in the village of Sveshtari.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Varna

    Archaeological Museum

    Exhibits at this vast museum, the best of its kind in Bulgaria, include 6000-year-old bangles, necklaces and earrings said to be the oldest worked gold found in the world. You'll also find Roman surgical implements, Hellenistic tombstones and touching oddments including a marble plaque listing, in Greek, the names of the city’s school graduates for AD 221. All of the exhibits are helpfully signposted in English, with excellent explanatory text. There's a large collection of icons on the 2nd floor.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Veliko Târnovo

    Tsarevets Fortress

    The inescapable symbol of Veliko Târnovo, this reconstructed fortress dominates the skyline and is one of Bulgaria’s most beloved monuments. The former seat of the medieval tsars, it hosts the remains of more than 400 houses, 18 churches, the royal palace, an execution rock and more. Watch your step: there are lots of potholes, broken steps and unfenced drops. The fortress morphs into a psychedelic spectacle with a magnificent night-time Sound & Light Show.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bulgarian Thrace

    Bachkovo Monastery

    About 30km south of Plovdiv stands the magnificent Bachkovo Monastery, founded in 1083. Most of the complex dates from the 17th century onwards, with the Church of Sveta Bogoroditsa (1604) as its colourful centrepiece. The church is decorated with 1850s frescoes by renowned artist Zahari Zograf and houses a much-cherished icon of the Virgin Mary. More beautiful murals can be found in the former refectory.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Sofia

    Aleksander Nevski Cathedral

    One of the symbols not just of Sofia but of Bulgaria itself, this massive, awe-inspiring church was built between 1882 and 1912 in memory of the 200,000 Russian soldiers who died fighting for Bulgaria’s independence during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78). It is named in honour of a 13th-century Russian warrior-prince.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Etâr

    Etâr Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

    If ambling down cobbled lanes with a stick of halva in hand sounds like an agreeable foray into Bulgaria's past, a day in Etâr will delight. Nearly 50 shops and workshops cluster along the lanes of this historic complex, set between trees along a tributary of the Yantra River. Officially an open-air museum, Etâr feels like a movie set with its costumed performers and traditional handicrafts. The museum is on the Gabrovo–Shipka road, a 17km drive north from Shipka.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Veliko Târnovo & Central Mountains

    Dryanovo Monastery

    A history of destruction and revolution, as dramatic as its cliff-backed location, entices visitors to Dryanovo Monastery. Originally founded in the early 13th century, when relics of St Michael were transported from Batak, the complex was plundered by the Ottomans. It was rebuilt in the late 17th century at its present location, astride the gorge about 6km from Dryanovo village, sheltered by limestone bluffs. The highlight is its frescoed church, sporting a huge gold and red chandelier.

  • Sights in Belogradchik

    Kaleto Fortress

    Almost blending in with the surrounding rocks, the Kaleto Fortress was originally built by the Romans and later expanded by the Byzantines, Bulgarians and Turks. Most of what you see today was completed in the 1830s. You can wander round three courtyards and explore the defensive bunkers; accessing the highest rocks involves a precarious climb up steep ladders.

  • Sights in Sofia

    Boyana Church

    Tiny 13th-century Boyana Church is included on Unesco’s World Heritage list and its 90 murals are among the very finest examples of Bulgarian medieval artwork. A combined ticket includes entry to both the church and the National Museum of History, 2km away.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Plovdiv

    Roman Amphitheatre

    Plovdiv’s magnificent 2nd-century AD amphitheatre, built during the reign of Emperor Trajan, was uncovered during a freak landslide in 1972. It once held about 7000 spectators. Now largely restored, it's one of Bulgaria's most magical venues, once again hosting large-scale special events and concerts. Visitors can admire the amphitheatre for free from several look-outs along ul Hemus, or pay admission for a scarper around.

  • Sights in Sofia

    Archaeological Museum

    Housed in a former mosque built in 1496, this museum displays a wealth of Thracian, Roman and medieval artefacts. Highlights include a mosaic floor from the Church of Sveta Sofia, a 4th-century BC Thracian gold burial mask, and a magnificent bronze head, thought to represent a Thracian king.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Balchik

    Summer Palace of Queen Marie & Botanical Gardens

    At the far western end of the seafront, this palace was completed in 1926 by King Ferdinand of Romania for his English wife, Queen Marie, when Balchik was part of Romania. Size-wise, it's a relatively modest villa, though the architecture – a blend of local, Gothic and Islamic styles topped with a minaret – is unique. Behind the palace are the extensive botanical gardens. The complex also includes a water mill, a winery and the tiny Chapel of Sveta Bogoroditsa.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Shumen

    Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument

    Visible within a 30km radius, this tremendous Soviet-era monument was opened in 1981 to commemorate the First Bulgarian Empire’s 1300th anniversary. Enormous futurist sculptures depict Bulgaria's medieval rulers, and the complex includes the Balkans' largest outdoor mosaic triptych.

  • Sights in Shipka

    Buzludzha Monument

    The concrete UFO looming over Shipka Pass is central Bulgaria's most peculiar sight. This former assembly hall slid into disrepair after the fall of communism, but its space-age silhouette has turned it into an irresistible stop for travellers. At the time of writing, authorities had reopened its front doors after months of barring them shut and forbidding visitors. We strongly recommend admiring it from outside: there's a high risk of injury from broken glass or falling masonry inside the unmaintained building.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Veliko Târnovo & Central Mountains

    Emen Canyon

    Thrashing beneath lofty limestone cliffs, the Negovanka River has sculpted deep creeks and pretty waterfalls in this captivating nature reserve, 22km west of Veliko Târnovo. For soaring views across Emen Canyon, hike the Negovanka Ecotrail along 90m-high bluffs. The trail begins with a steep clamber up rocky steps from Emen Cave (it’s safer not to enter) to a spectacular vantage point over the gorge. The path then weaves among tree-shaded clifftops before a muddy descent to a 10m-high waterfall.

  • Sights in Shipka

    Nativity Memorial Church

    A magenta-and-white ice-cream cone of a church glows above tumbledown Shipka village, its golden onion domes glittering from thick woodlands. Part of Shipka Monastery, the magnificent structure was built in 1902 as a dedication to soldiers who died at Shipka Pass during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–8). To get there, follow the Hram Pametnik sign for 1.2km through the village, or walk 300m up from the restaurant along the Kazanlâk–Gabrovo road.

  • Sights in Burgas

    Poda Conservation Centre

    Four lakes surrounding Burgas (Pomoriysko, Atanasovsko, Mandrensko and Burgasko) comprise 9500 hectares and represent the largest wetland system in Bulgaria. The area is home to some 260 bird species, nearly 70% of the country’s total. This conservation centre, about 8km south of Burgas, was established in 1998 to protect the habitat and offers visitors an excellent chance to spot numerous scarce and endangered birds.

  • Sights in Rusenski Lom Nature Park

    Cherven Fortress

    Just outside the village of Cherven, about 30km south of Ruse, are the remains of a remarkably intact 6th-century hilltop citadel. Several streets, towers and churches have also been discovered, and there are great views of the river valleys and peaks from the top. Wear comfortable walking shoes because it's a long climb up from the car park to the citadel.

  • Sights in Rila Monastery

    Church of Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno

    The highlight of Rila Monastery is this magnificent church, built from 1834 to 1837, with distinctive black-and-white archways and three yellow-painted domes. Its exterior frescoes are richly coloured scenes of Bible parables, including some blood-curdling illustrations of the punishments awaiting sinners; look out for demons gobbling the damned whole, or lassoing sinners into hell. Some are autographed by Zahari Zograf, the most eminent of Rila's painters. Taking photos inside the church is prohibited (though this is loosely enforced).