Bulgaria is a country with several cities that have a rich history and diverse culture. Sofia, the capital, is a blend of modern and historic architecture and is an economic and cultural hub. Other cities like Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse and Stara Zagora have their own unique attractions such as Roman ruins, museums and cultural landmarks. The country is also known for its natural beauty, with scenic mountain areas, caves, waterfalls and the Rose Valley, famous for rose oil production and the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak. Bulgaria's cities are served by several international airports, making travel between them easy. The country's key industries include finance, business services and tourism, making it an attractive destination for business and leisure travelers alike. Each city has its own distinct personality shaped by various empires, including Thracian, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian and Ottoman influences. From the cultural scene in Plovdiv to the mountain areas near Vratsa, Bulgaria has something for everyone.
Plovdiv is the most beautiful city with a European ambiance that allows visitors to explore its old town district, distinct neighborhoods and top sites like the Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis, the Ethnographic Museum and Balabanov House Museum. Sofia is the best city to visit during the winter months, as it transforms into a magical winter wonderland with festive light displays, holiday events and skiing and snowboarding trips to nearby Vitosha Mountain and premier resorts like Borovets. Veliko Tarnovo is the best place to visit during Christmas, with its fairytale-like town, good snowfall, medieval history, cobblestone lanes and Bulgarian Renaissance architecture that create a Christmas setting. The best activities to do during the summer in Bulgaria include attending music festivals, relaxing on the Black Sea beaches, hiking, visiting a spa town, seeing UNESCO sites and tasting wine. Major summer festivals like Bulgaria's SPIRIT Jazz Festival, the July Morning Fest, the Opera Open and the Rozhen Fest offer live music against scenic backdrops. Bulgaria's Black Sea coastline boasts beautiful sandy beaches, lively waterfront promenades and cooler climate by the sea that offers respite from summer heat waves. Bulgaria's mountains like Rila, Pirin, Rhodopes, Stara Planina and the Balkan Range make for great summer hiking with cooler temperatures and scenery. Mineral spa resorts scattered around Bulgaria offer therapeutic treatments harnessing the country's natural mineral springs. Bulgaria boasts numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites that make for fascinating historical sightseeing.
Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. Sofia is located at the foot of the Vitosha mountain in the western part of Bulgaria in a valley surrounded by several mountain ranges. The city features a mix of modern high-rises and historic sites with Eastern Orthodox churches, Ottoman mosques and Roman ruins dating back thousands of years when Sofia was known as “Serdica”. Key industries in Sofia include finance, business services, manufacturing, transport and tourism. Sofia is located in western Bulgaria at the foot of the Vitosha mountain. It sits in the Sofia valley, surrounded by several other mountain ranges such as the Balkan mountains to the north and Rila mountains to the south. The geographic coordinates of Sofia are 42.6977° N, 23.3219° E. Sofia has an area of 1,349 square km (521 sq miles) and serves as the capital of the Sofia Province and Bulgaria. As of 2023, the city has a population of 1,279,133 within the city limits.
Sofia was initially established the Serdi tribe in the 8th century BCE. The Romans later conquered it in 29 BCE and renamed it “Serdica”. Sofia continued to develop under the Roman Empire and became an important early center of Christianity. It was incorporated into the Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century and has served as Bulgaria's capital since 1879. Sofia has been controlled at different times by Thracian, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian and Ottoman rulers, contributing to its diverse culture. Some of Sofia's top attractions include Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, which is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world; the National Historical Museum, which chronicles Bulgaria's history; the ancient St. George Rotunda Church, which dates back to the 4th century AD; the St. Sofia Church, the Ivan Vazov National Theater and archaeological sites showcasing Roman ruins underneath the city center.
Sofia Airport is just 10 km (6 miles) east of the city center. This is the leading international airport serving Sofia and the rest of western Bulgaria. As Sofia is the nation's capital city, it is 0 km from the capital. The most convenient way to get to Sofia is by flying directly into Sofia International Airport, which serves destinations across Europe and the Middle East. The airport is only 10 km (6 miles) from the city center. A regular shuttle bus service between the airport and the city center takes around 30 minutes. Other options would be to take a train or bus into Sofia from neighboring countries like Serbia, North Macedonia, Greece or Turkey. D
The best time to visit Sofia is typically during the spring, early summer or early autumn. April-June and September-October have pleasant weather ideal for sightseeing, with average temperatures around 15-24°C (60-75°F). Most travelers find they need about three days to have enough time to see Sofia's top attractions at a comfortable pace.
Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria. It is located in southern Bulgaria on the banks of the Maritsa River, 150 km (93 miles) southeast of the capital Sofia. Plovdiv has a rich history spanning over 8,000 years, making it one of Europe's oldest continually inhabited cities. Plovdiv was conquered and ruled by various civilizations, including Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. The city features a charming old town with cobblestone streets, colorful Bulgarian revival-style houses, ancient Roman ruins, museums, art galleries, cafes and shops. Plovdiv is situated on the banks of the Maritsa River in southern Bulgaria, about 150 km (93 miles) driving distance southeast of the nation's capital Sofia. It sits on the edge of the Thracian plain at the foot of the Rhodope Mountains. The city center spans seven syenite hills that rise from the table below. Plovdiv has an area of 101 square km (39 square miles). The city's geographic coordinates are 42.1354° N, 24.7453° El. As Bulgaria's second most populous city, Plovdiv has over 643,682 inhabitants within the city limits as of 2023 and serves as the administrative center of Plovdiv Province.
Plovdiv's top attractions, drawing tourists and locals alike, include the spectacular 2nd-century Roman amphitheater built during Emperor Trajan's reign, the Ethnographic Museum showcasing Bulgarian folk culture and crafts, the Regional Museum of History exhibiting Thracian and Roman artifacts, the House of Hindliyan featuring lavish 19th-century decor, the Ancient Plovdiv Architectural and Historical Reserve containing sites like the Roman Odeon and Stadium, the colorful and creative Kapana artistic district, the Hisar Fortress dating back over 2,500 years, the iconic Dzhumaya Mosque and the lovely Tsar Simeon Garden in the city center. Visitors enjoy Plovdiv's thriving cafes, restaurants and nightlife culture, particularly in Kapana and the Old Town. The city also hosts various festivals, fairs and artistic performances in its many parks, squares and historic Roman theater.
Plovdiv is served by Plovdiv International Airport, located 10 km (6 miles) southeast of the city center. This regional airport offers scheduled passenger flights to several major European cities. The drive to Sofia, the nation's capital and largest city, takes around 2 hours, covering a distance of 150 km (93 miles). High-speed trains also run frequently between Plovdiv Railway Station in the city center and Sofia's Central Railway Station, completing the journey in just over 2 hours. Plovdiv also has excellent railway connections to other major cities in Bulgaria, like Varna, Burgas and Ruse, along with international destinations like Istanbul and Belgrade. Buses run frequently to Plovdiv from cities across Bulgaria and neighboring countries.
The best time to visit Plovdiv is from mid-spring through early autumn, generally April to June and September to October. These shoulder seasons provide pleasant weather ideal for sightseeing and cultural events without extreme cold in winter or heat in summer. Most travelers need about three full days to have enough time to see Plovdiv's top attractions correctly and experience the city comfortably.
Varna is the third largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Varna is a major port and transportation hub, home to the headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine. Varna is located on the western coast of the Black Sea at the Varna Bay. It sits at the mouth of the Varna Lake and the entrance to the Kamchia Biosphere Reserve. Varna's geographic coordinates are 43.2141° N and 27.9147° E. As of 2023, Varna has a population of 453,869 within city limits. Varna is the largest city in Varna Province and is its administrative and economic center. The city has excellent transportation links to the rest of Bulgaria and Europe.
Varna has a long history spanning about 3,000 years. It was founded around 585-550 BC as an ancient Greek colony named Odessos. Over its history, due to the city's strategic location, Varna has been under the rule of Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians and Ottomans. It was an early center of Christianity and saw the development of the Cyrillic script under Bulgarian rule. Varna became part of an independent Bulgaria in 1878. Some top attractions in Varna include the extensive beaches and seaside resorts like Golden Sands, the Sea Garden and Primorski Park, archaeological like the Roman Thermae and museums showcasing Thracian gold treasures and the grand Assumption of the Mother of God Cathedral. the city center has shops and restaurants and there are various festivals during the summer, like the International Jazz Festival. Other sites include the Dolphinarium, the Navy Museum and headquarters, the Palace of Sports and Culture, which hosts concerts and events and dozens of mineral water springs in the city and surrounding resorts.
Varna International Airport serves Varna. As Bulgaria's third largest city, Varna lies 475 km (295 miles) northeast of the nation's capital and largest city, Sofia. The most convenient way to get to Varna is by flying directly into Varna International Airport. It serves destinations across Europe and the Middle East on budget and flag carriers. Other options include taking the train or bus from Sofia or neighboring countries, which takes roughly 7 hours. Major European highways like the A2 connect Varna overland to the rest of Bulgaria and destinations like Romania, Turkey and Greece.
The best time to visit Varna is May through September, when sunny summer weather prevails. June to August offer beach weather but also more crowds. Late spring and early fall are pleasant, less crowded and more affordable. This shoulder season also hosts many of Varna's festivals and events. Most travelers need at least three full days to have enough time to see the top attractions in Varna, like the beaches, museums and historical and archaeological sites, while enjoying resort amenities and the city's cafe culture.
Burgas is a major port city on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Burgas features a city center with pedestrian streets, historic buildings and seaside parks. It is an important industrial hub focused on shipbuilding, refining, manufacturing, transport and tourism. The city has an extensive harbor and passenger port that provide vital transportation links to the region. Burgas refers to itself as Bulgaria's “sea capital” due to its extensive maritime infrastructure and long history as a port. It sits on the Burgas Bay at the foot of a low mountain range. The city coordinates are 42.5048° N and 27.4626° E. As Bulgaria's fourth largest city, Burgas has a population of over 395195 within city limits as of 2023. It is the administrative center of Burgas Province and serves as a critical transportation link between the Black Sea region and the rest of Bulgaria.
Burgas has over 2,500 years of history. It was founded as an ancient Greek trade colony called Pyrgos in the 5th century BCE. Over the centuries, Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians and Ottomans controlled the city, contributing to its diverse culture. Burgas was just a tiny fishing village named Ahelo-Pirgas during the medieval period. It began expanding into a port city in the late 19th century after constructing railway links to major Bulgarian inland towns.
Some top attractions in Burgas include the historic maritime neighborhood of Bratsigovo with its 19th-century wooden houses, the grand Sea Garden overlooking the Black Sea, the lively pedestrian shopping streets, archaeological museums showcasing ancient Thracian and Greek artifacts found locally, the annual Sand Sculpture Festival held on the beaches in summer, the nearby sun-soaked resorts like Sunny Beach and the annual Spirit of Burgas music festival held on the central coast each August.
Burgas is served by Burgas Airport, which is located about 10 km (6 miles) northeast of the city center. Reaching downtown Burgas takes around 15 minutes via taxi, bus or car rental from the airport terminal. The most convenient way to get to Burgas is by flying directly into Burgas Airport. It offers regular flights from destinations across Europe on budget airlines like Ryanair and WizzAir. Once in the city, walking, taking taxis or renting cars allows easy exploration of central attractions. Burgas also has ferry links to Istanbul, Turkey, in summer.
The ideal time to visit Burgas is May through early October, when sunny summer weather prevails. Burgas's festivals and cultural events also occur during these months, like the Sand Sculpture Contest in June-July and the Spirit of Burgas music festival in August. Most travelers need at least two full days to see top attractions in Burgas, like the Sea Garden, the museums and historic neighborhoods, explore the beaches and harbor promenade and experience the city's dining and nightlife offerings.
Ruse is a city located on the Danube River in northern Bulgaria, across from Giurgiu, Romania. It has a population of around 210494 residents within city limits. Ruse is the region's essential economic, cultural and transportation hub. It features a well-preserved old town with elegant 19th-century architecture, leading to Ruse being dubbed “Little Vienna”. Ruse is situated in northeastern Bulgaria, about 67 km (42 miles) south of Bucharest, Romania's capital, 172 km (107 miles) west of Varna on the Black Sea coast and 249 km (155 miles) north of Bulgaria's capital Sofia. It sits 45 meters (148 feet) above sea level on the right bank of the Danube River across from Giurgiu, Romania. The GPS coordinates are 43.8356° N and 25.9657° E.
Ruse has over 2,500 years of history, with the first settlement dating back to the 5th century BCE. The Roman Empire conquered it in the 1st century CE and became a military stronghold. Ruse later fell under Byzantine control and saw destruction by foreign invaders between the 4th and 14th centuries. The modern city emerged after the Ottomans built a fortress there in the late 14th century. Some top attractions in Ruse include the 19th-century architecture in Baroque and Rococo styles along major streets like Aleksandrovska, the Roman fortress and archaeological remains of Sexaginta Prista, museums like the Ruse Regional Historical Museum, the grand Neo-Baroque Dohodno Zdanie building and the Pantheon of National Revival Heroes containing tombs of famous Bulgarians.
Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport serves Ruse, located about 75 km (47 miles) north of Romania. The drive time is around 2 hours between Ruse city center and Bucharest Airport. Bulgaria's fifth largest city, Ruse lies 249 km (155 miles) north of the nation's capital Sofia. The drive to Sofia takes 3 hours via major highways crossing central Bulgaria. The most convenient way to get to Ruse is by flying into Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport in neighboring Romania, located about 75 km (47 miles) north of the city center. Ruse has an extensive public transport system, so getting around the walkable city center is accessible on foot, by taxi or by municipal bus.
The best time to visit Ruse is from May through early October when the weather is sunny and warm. This period between spring and autumn offers pleasant sightseeing before the cold winter months. Mid-spring to early summer (May-June) or early fall (September-October) are ideal for mild weather and smaller crowds compared to July and August. Most travelers find at least two full days and three nights provide enough time to see top Ruse attractions like the Pantheon of Revival Heroes, Kaliopa House Museum, Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo and the Roman Sexaginta Prista Fortress.
6. Stara Zagora
Stara Zagora is a city located in south-central Bulgaria. It is the administrative capital of Stara Zagora Province and is an important economic, industrial and cultural hub in the region. Key industries include manufacturing, agriculture, transport and tourism. Stara Zagora is situated at the foot of the Sredna Gora mountains in southern Bulgaria, about 230 km (143 mi) southeast of the capital Sofia. It has an area of 90 sq km (35 sq mi) within city limits. Stara Zagora's geographic coordinates are 42.4258° N, 25.6345° E. The city sits 168 meters (551 ft) above sea level in the Upper Thracian Valley. Stara Zagora has a population of 304687 residents and is the sixth-largest city in Bulgaria.
Stara Zagora has over 8,000 years of history, with archaeological evidence of continuous human inhabitation since the Neolithic era. In the 1st millennium BC, a Thracian settlement became part of the Roman Empire in the 1st century AD, renamed Augusta Traiana. The city prospered under the Romans but was later destroyed by foreign invasions in the 4th and 5th centuries. Stara Zagora re-emerged as Beroe during medieval Bulgarian rule, followed by the Ottomans, who called it Eski Zagra. It began expanding as a modern city in the 19th century after rebuilding from devastating fires. Some top attractions in Stara Zagora include Roman Augusta Traiana, the Roman Forum and city walls, the Regional History Museum, the Neolithic Dwellings Museum, the poet Geo Milev House Museum, the opera house and city gardens hosting festivals and sites like Ayazmoto Park and Bereketska Mound containing traces of ancient civilizations that once thrived in the region.
Plovdiv International Airport serves Stara Zagora, which is located about 100 km (60 mi) west of the city. The drive to Sofia, Bulgaria's capital and largest city, is around 230 km (140 mi) northwest. The journey by car/bus along major highways takes about 3 hours. Stara Zagora also has railway connections to Sofia and other major Bulgarian cities. The most convenient way to reach Stara Zagora is by driving or taking a bus from Sofia along the main A1 Thracia motorway. Several bus lines offer direct connections. The city can also be reached by train from Sofia or other key destinations like Burgas and Varna in about 5-7 hours.
The ideal time to visit is in late spring, summer or early fall, from May through September when sunny weather prevails and average temperatures range comfortably between about 15°C (60°F) to 25°C (80°F). During these months, many annual cultural events, such as opera and folk music festivals, also occur in Stara Zagora. Most travelers need at least two full days to tour the top attractions in Stara Zagora, like the Roman ruins, museums, city opera houses and gardens.
Pleven is located in northern Bulgaria. It sits at the foot of the Pleven Heights limestone hills near the Vit River. Pleven has a population of around 231513 residents within city limits and serves as the economic and cultural center of Pleven Province. It features a city center with pedestrian streets, historic buildings, museums and parks. Pleven is situated in northern Bulgaria, about 170 km (106 miles) driving distance from the capital, Sofia, near the country's geographic center. It lies at an altitude of 262 feet (80 meters) above sea level. Pleven has a total area of around 50 square miles (130 square km) within city limits. Its geographic coordinates are 43.4170° N, 24.6067° E.
Pleven has a history spanning over 8,000 years. Since the Neolithic era, it was home to Thracians and became part of the Roman Empire in the 1st century CE. Destroyed by Huns and Slavs, Pleven reemerged as a fortress during the Middle Ages under the First Bulgarian Empire. Ottomans razed and rebuilt it in the 15th century, remaining under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries with the name Plevne. The city was finally liberated as part of the newly independent Principality of Bulgaria in 1878. It rapidly developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Some top attractions in Pleven include the Pleven Panorama Museum, Skobelev Park containing memorials of Russian and Romanian soldiers on the site of the Siege of Plevna battlefields, the St George the Conqueror Chapel Mausoleum and history museums like the Pleven Regional Historical Museum and the Museum of the Bulgarian Liberation Movement. Other sites are the Ivan Radoev Drama Theater, Kaylaka Park, the pedestrian shopping streets and the city center.
Pleven is served by Gorna Oryahovitsa Airport, located about 60 km (37 miles) north of the city center. The drive to Sofia by car takes around 2 hours, covering 170 km (106 miles). Frequent bus lines also link Pleven to Sofia's Central Bus Station, usually requiring about 2.5 hours of travel between cities. Pleven Railway Station also has regular train connections to Sofia and other major destinations. The most convenient way to reach Pleven is by driving, taking the bus or driving north from Sofia. The journey takes about 2.5 hours. International bus lines from Romania, Serbia and Turkey can also access Pleven. It has domestic bus and railway connections to key cities like Varna, Burgas and Ruse.
The ideal time to visit Pleven is May through early October, when the weather is typically sunny and warm. Many annual cultural events also take place during these months. Winters are pretty cold with snow, while summers can get hot. Most travelers require at least two full days to tour Pleven's top attractions like Pleven Panorama, the historical museums and memorials and Kaylaka Park at a relaxed pace. Three days allows you to see more sites with less rush, plus enjoy the cafes and restaurants.
Sliven is located in southeastern Bulgaria. Sliven serves as the administrative and economic center of Sliven Province and municipality. It features a pedestrian city center with historic buildings, museums and parks. Key industries driving Sliven’s economy include manufacturing, agriculture, transport, tourism and textile production. Sliven is situated at the northern foot of the eastern Sredna Gora mountains in southeastern Bulgaria, approximately 300 km from the capital Sofia. It sits at an altitude of 225 meters (738 feet) above sea level. Sliven has a total area of 171 square km (66 square miles) within city limits. Its geographic coordinates are 42.6817° N and 26.3229° E. As Bulgaria’s eighth largest city, Sliven has a population exceeding 179,615 residents and serves as the administrative center of Sliven Province.
Sliven has a long history spanning nearly 1,000 years. The first recorded settlement dates back to 1153 AD, when it was mentioned as a thriving town by the Arab traveler Abu Hamid al-Gharnati. Sliven was pivotal during Bulgaria’s struggle for independence from Ottoman rule in the late 19th century. Many key revolutionaries were born there. After the Russo-Turkish War ended Ottoman control in 1878, Sliven became part of the newly liberated Principality of Bulgaria. It rapidly industrialized over the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially in textiles. Since the 1990s, Sliven has transitioned towards services, light manufacturing, transport and tourism. Some top attractions and sites to see in Sliven include the unique rock formation Sinite Kamani (“Blue Rocks”), the mineral springs of Banya and Kushbunar and the Drakata Cave. Other sites are the Regional Historical Museum, which exhibits Thracian artifacts and National Revival works, the House Museums of famed revolutionary Hadzhi Dimitar and poet Dobri Chintulov and architectural landmarks like the Town Hall and Drama Theater.
Sliven is served by Burgas Airport, which is located 130 km (80 miles) east of the city center. The drive to Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital and largest city, takes around 3 hours, covering 300 km (185 miles) via major highways. Frequent bus lines run between Sliven Bus Station and Sofia’s Central Bus Station, requiring a similar 3-4 hour journey to connect the cities depending on route and traffic. The most convenient way to reach Sliven is by bus or driving from Sofia or destinations like Burgas, Varna and Plovdiv. The bus takes around 3-4 hours from Sofia. Various bus lines offer direct Sliven connections. Driving also takes about 3 hours via main roads and highways.
The ideal time to visit Sliven is from late spring through early fall, typically May through September, when sunny weather and average temperatures between 15°C (60°F) and 25°C (80°F) allow comfortable hiking and sightseeing. Many of Sliven’s numerous festivals, open-air cafes and cultural events also occur during these months. Most travelers require at least two full days to tour top attractions in Sliven, like Sinite Kamani, the various museums and historic neighborhoods and to experience highlights of the city’s cafe culture and shopping boulevards.
Dobrich is located in northeastern Bulgaria. It has a population of around 167,418 within city limits and serves as the administrative, economic and cultural center of Dobrich Province and municipality. Key local industries include manufacturing, agriculture, transport and tourism. Dobrich is situated in northeastern Bulgaria, about 30 km (19 miles) inland from the Black Sea coast and Cape Kaliakra, the longest rocky cliff on the Bulgarian shore. It lies at an altitude of 172 meters (564 feet) above sea level on flat plains between the Frangen plateau to the west and the Dobrudzha plateau to the east, where rich black soil makes it an agricultural hub known as the “Granary of Bulgaria”. Its geographic coordinates are 43.5726° N, 27.8273° E.
Dobrich was founded as an ancient Greek colony in the 7th century BCE, later conquered by the Thracians. It emerged as an important medieval center named Bazargic under Bulgarian and then Ottoman rule for five centuries (1396-1878) when Dobrich played a vital role in Bulgaria's struggle for liberation as key battles were fought nearby. The modern city developed in the late 19th century. 1916, the famous World War I Battle of Bazargic (Dobrich Epic) saw heavy fighting between Bulgarian-German and Romanian-Russian troops. Dobrich was also known as Tolbukhin between 1949-1990 during the Communist era.
Some top attractions in Dobrich include the Ethnographic Complex showcasing Bulgarian Revival architecture and folk crafts, the Dobrich Regional Historical Museum, the massive Communist-era Monument to the Dobrich Epic and the extensive Borisova Gradina central park with lakes, gardens and cafes. Visitors also enjoy exploring Dobrich's city center and old town for restaurants, shops and people-watching.
Dobrich is served by Varna International Airport, located about 110 km (68 miles) northeast along the Black Sea coast. The drive to Sofia, Bulgaria's capital and largest city, takes around 5 hours, covering 450 km (280 miles) via major highways. The fastest way to reach Dobrich is by flying to nearby Varna International Airport. Other options include taking the train or bus from Sofia/Plovdiv, which takes roughly 5-6 hours—major roads like the A2 highway link Dobrich overland to the rest of Bulgaria and Romania.
The ideal time to visit Dobrich is May through early October, when sunny weather allows comfortable sightseeing and average temperatures. Dobrich's numerous festivals, open-air cafes and cultural events also occur during these months. Most travelers find they require at least two full days to tour top Dobrich attractions like the museums and historic neighborhoods at a relaxed pace while also experiencing the city's cafe culture and restaurants.
Shumen is located in northeastern Bulgaria, about 67 km (42 miles) from the capital Sofia. It has a population of around 165996 residents within city limits. Shumen is the region's essential economic, cultural and transportation hub. It features a well-preserved old town with historic buildings, museums and parks. The city is most famous for the spectacular Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, located on a plateau above Shumen, commemorating the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire in 681 CE. It lies in a valley at the eastern foothills of the Shumen plateau. Shumen has a total area of 80 square km (31 square miles) within city limits and serves as the administrative and economic capital of Shumen Province. Its geographic coordinates are 43.2712° N, 26.9361° E. The city has excellent road and rail connections linking it to Varna, Burgas and Sofia, plus internationally to Romania, given its location not far from the Danube River border.
Shumen dates back to the 9th century CE. In the 10th century, Shumen was chosen by the Bulgars as the site of the first capital of the First Bulgarian Empire. Shumen saw much rebuilding and expansion in the National Revival period. It was the site of the first Bulgarian theater performance and brewery. After Bulgaria's liberation, Shumen developed as a modern economic, administrative and cultural center during the 20th century. Some top attractions in Shumen include the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria featuring massive concrete sculptures of Bulgarian history, the restored Shumen Fortress, the Shumen Historical Museum exhibiting artifacts found locally, Shumen Brewery which produces a popular Bulgarian beer and the city's central square and pedestrian streets lined with cafes, shops and landmarks like the Drama Theater.
Shumen is located about 110 km (68 miles) driving distance from Varna International Airport on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, which is the closest major airport. The journey takes around 1.5 hours by car. As a critical city in northeastern Bulgaria, Shumen lies 67 km (42 miles) north of the nation's capital Sofia. Travel time is approximately 1 hour by car between Shumen's city center and Sofia's center. The most convenient way to reach Shumen is by bus or train from other key Bulgarian cities like Varna, Burgas and Sofia, which have frequent daily connections. Several major highways, including the main Sofia-Varna route, link Shumen by road to destinations across Bulgaria and Romania, given its location not far from the Danube border.
The ideal time to visit Shumen is May through early October when sunny weather allows comfortable daytime temperatures averaging around 18°C to 27°C (65°F to 80°F). Many of Shumen's numerous festivals, open-air cafes and cultural events also occur during Most travelers require at least two full days to tour top Shumen attractions like the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, Shumen Fortress, museums and historic neighborhoods at a relaxed pace.
Pernik is located in western Bulgaria. It has a population of around 59,907 residents within city limits. It features a compact city center with pedestrian streets, historic buildings and several parks. Key industries driving Pernik's economy include manufacturing, mining, machinery production, transport and tourism. The city has ancient Thracian roots that were later incorporated into the Roman Empire. Pernik is known for its major “Stomana” steel factory complex, coal mining and heavy industries. Pernik is situated at an altitude of 700 feet (213 meters) above sea level, where the Struma and Strezhetska rivers flow through a valley in western Bulgaria's Kraishte mountain region. Its geographic coordinates are 42.6052° N, 23.0378° E. Pernik lies about 30 km (19 miles) southwest driving distance of Bulgaria's capital and largest city, Sofia. The town is surrounded by mountain ranges like Lyulin, Viskyar and Golo Bardo, which lend themselves to outdoor recreation.
Pernik has a history dating back to the Neolithic era. In the 1st millennium BC, Pernik was home to Thracian tribes before becoming part of the Roman province of Dacia in the 1st century CE. Destroyed by Slavic invasions in the early Middle Ages, Pernik later emerged as a fortress town in the Second Bulgarian Empire during the 14th century. It was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the late 14th century, remaining under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. Pernik played a vital role during Bulgaria's struggle for liberation from Ottoman domination in the late 19th century. Some top attractions in Pernik include the Regional Historical Museum, along with displays of traditional culture and crafts of the Pernik region. Other sites are the large Miners' Museum showcasing the history of local mining and industry, the Krakra Fortress, the Baba Vida Fortress and several architectural landmarks like the grand Church of the Holy Mother of God and the old Clock Tower in the city center.
Pernik is served by Sofia International Airport, located about 38 km (24 miles) northeast of the city center. The drive to Sofia, Bulgaria's capital and largest city, takes around 35 minutes, covering 30 km (19 miles) via the Struma Motorway. Frequent bus lines also link Pernik to Sofia's Central Bus Station, with scheduled journeys averaging 45 minutes between the two cities. The fastest way to reach Pernik is by driving or taking a bus southeast from Sofia along the Struma Motorway, which takes 30-45 minutes. Pernik can also be accessed by bus or train from other key cities like Plovdiv, Burgas and Varna.
The ideal time to visit Pernik is May through early October, when sunny weather allows average temperatures of 15°C to 27°C (60°F to 80°F) for pleasant sightseeing conditions. Most travelers require at least two full days to tour top Pernik attractions like the Krakra Fortress, Baba Vida Fortress, Regional Museum, Miners' Museum and old town at a relaxed pace.
Haskovo is located in southern Bulgaria near the borders of Greece and Turkey. It serves as the administrative center of Haskovo Province and municipality. The city has a population of around 219725 residents. Haskovo is the region's essential economic, cultural and educational hub. Major industries driving Haskovo's economy include manufacturing, agriculture, transport, healthcare and tourism. Haskovo is at an altitude of 666 feet (203 meters) above sea level in southern Bulgaria, about 225 kilometers (140 miles) southeast of the nation's capital, Sofia, near the borders with Greece and Turkey. It sits in the Upper Thracian Valley with a total area of 66 square km (25 square miles) within city limits. Haskovo's geographic coordinates are 41.9344° N 25.5554° E. The Maritsa River valley location provides vital trade routes connecting the city domestically and internationally.
Haskovo has a history spanning nearly 7,000 years, with the earliest evidence of human settlement dating back to 5000 BCE during the Neolithic era. After destruction by Slavs and Proto-Bulgars, Haskovo reemerged as a medieval fortress town under the Second Bulgarian Empire. It was conquered by the Ottomans in the 14th century, who controlled it for nearly five centuries until the Russo-Turkish War. Haskovo played a vital role in Bulgaria's struggle for independence from Ottoman rule in the late 19th century and became part of the newly liberated Bulgarian state in 1878. Some top attractions in Haskovo include the Dramatic Theater featuring Bulgarian Revival architecture, museums like the Historical Museum, the ancient Uzundzhovo Church, parks and gardens like Kenana and the Mineral Baths, the Monument of the Holy Mother of God and landmarks like the old Clock Tower, Eski Mosque and preserved Ottoman-era buildings found in the city center.
Haskovo is located about 75 kilometers (47 miles) driving distance from Alexander Malinov Airport in neighboring Plovdiv, which is the nearest regional airport. The journey takes around 1 hour by car between Haskovo and Plovdiv Airport. As Bulgaria's 12th largest city, Haskovo lies 225 kilometers (140 miles) southeast of the nation's capital and largest city, Sofia. The most convenient way to reach Haskovo is by bus or train from other key Bulgarian cities like Sofia, Plovdiv and Burgas, with frequent daily connections taking about 3 hours on average. Various bus lines offer direct links to Haskovo. Driving also takes around 3 hours from cities like Sofia and Plovdiv via main roads and highways.
The ideal time to visit Haskovo is from mid-spring through early autumn, typically May through September, when sunny weather and average temperatures between 15°C (60°F) and 25°C (80°F) allow comfortable sightseeing. Most travelers require at least two full days to tour top Haskovo attractions like museums, historic neighborhoods, parks and architectural landmarks at a relaxed pace.
Blagoevgrad is located in southwestern Bulgaria in the Struma River valley between the Rila and Vlahina mountains. It serves as the economic and cultural center of Bulgaria's Blagoevgrad Province, with a population of around 293868 within city limits. Blagoevgrad features a well-preserved downtown area with pedestrian streets lined by 19th-century buildings, numerous cafes, restaurants, shops and two universities. Blagoevgrad is situated at an altitude of 1,350 feet (410 meters) above sea level in southwestern Bulgaria's Struma River valley between the Rila and Vlahina mountains. It lies about 63 miles (101 km) driving distance south of the nation's capital, Sofia and very near the borders with North Macedonia and Greece. Blagoevgrad has geographic coordinates of 42.0209° N, 23.0943° E.
Blagoevgrad has ancient roots as the Thracian and Roman settlement of Scaptopara, which emerged circa 300 BCE. The Byzantine and Bulgarian empires in the Middle Ages held it. During the Ottoman era, it was known as Cuma-i Bala and Gorna Dzhumaya, which developed into a Turkish village and regional administrative center. Blagoevgrad played a role in Bulgaria's 19th-century struggle for independence from Ottoman rule. In 1950, the town was renamed Blagoevgrad after Bulgarian Communist leader Dimitar Blagoev. Some top attractions in Blagoevgrad include the Varosha Old Town Quarter, the vast American University campus, museums like the Blagoevgrad History Museum, cultural sites such as the Drama Theater and recreational areas like Bachinovo Park on the Bistritsa River. Many monuments and historic landmarks dot the city as well.
Blagoevgrad is located about 60 miles (96 km) driving distance from Sofia International Airport and Sofia, the nation's capital and largest city. The journey takes around 1.5 hours by car/bus with regular connections available. The most convenient way to reach Blagoevgrad is by direct bus or train from Sofia, which takes about 1.5 hours. Daily bus/train connections from other key cities like Plovdiv, Burgas and Varna are also available, taking 3+ hours. Blagoevgrad can be easily accessed by road from Sofia International Airport or other parts of Bulgaria and neighboring countries, given its border location along a major highway/rail route through the Struma River valley.
Late spring through early fall, from May to September, provides ideal weather for visiting Blagoevgrad, with sunny days and average temperatures around 18°C to 27°C (65°F to 80°F). Most visitors find that two full days allow enough time to see top attractions in Blagoevgrad, like the old town Varosha district, museums, pedestrian streets and cafes, at a relaxed pace.
Yambol is a city located in southeastern Bulgaria on the Tundzha River in the historical region of Thrace. It has a population of around 58,925 residents and serves as the administrative and economic center of Yambol Province and municipality. Yambol is 374 feet (114 meters) above sea level on the Tundzha River in southeastern Bulgaria, about 225 miles (362 km) east of the nation's capital Sofia. It has a total area of 25 square miles (65 square km) within city limits. Yambol's geographic coordinates are 42.4842° N and 26.5035° E. As a major city in southeast Bulgaria near the Turkish border, Yambol has excellent road and rail connections domestically and internationally. It is a transportation and trade hub between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. The Tundzha River also facilitates trade and economic links throughout the region.
Yambol has a long history spanning nearly 7,000 years—the first traces of civilization in the area date back to around 4000 BCE. The Byzantines and the First Bulgarian Empire held it before falling under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries from 1373 to 1878 when it played a vital role in Bulgaria's struggle for independence. Since then, it has developed as a modern economic, administrative and cultural center in southeastern Bulgaria. Some top attractions in Yambol include the 16th-century Bezisten, the grand Dramatic Theater building, historic buildings like the old Clock Tower and Saglasie Community Hall, museums like the Regional History Museum at the Georgi Rakovski Library, gardens and parks like Ormana and Borovets and the Kukerlandia folk festival held each winter that attracts colorful mummer groups from across Bulgaria to parade through the streets.
The nearest airport is Burgas Airport, east of Yambol. The drive to Sofia, Bulgaria's capital and largest city, takes around 3.5 hours, covering 225 km (140 miles) via major highways. Frequent bus lines run between Yambol Bus Station and Sofia's Central Bus Station, requiring a similar 3-4 hour journey to connect the cities depending on route and traffic. The most convenient way to reach Yambol is by bus or driving from Sofia, Burgas or other key Bulgarian cities, with frequent daily connections. Various bus lines offer direct Yambol connections, taking about 3-4 hours. Driving also takes around 3.5 hours from Sofia via main roads and highways like Trakia Motorway.
The ideal time to visit Yambol is from mid-spring through early autumn, typically May through September, when sunny weather and average temperatures between 18°C (65°F) and 27°C (80°F) allow comfortable sightseeing. Most travelers require at least two full days to tour top Yambol attractions like museums, historic neighborhoods, parks and architectural landmarks at a relaxed pace. Three days allows to see more sites with less rush and enjoy cafes and restaurants. In 4-5 days, visitors could also take day trips to nearby destinations like the ancient site of Kabyle, Ayazmoto Park, Haskovo or the Thracian tombs of Alexandrovo.
15. Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo is a city located in north-central Bulgaria along the Yantra River. It serves as the administrative center of Veliko Tarnovo Province. The city has a population of around 227013 residents within its limits. Veliko Tarnovo is often called the “City of the Tsars” due to its historical importance as the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire from 1185 to 1396. Veliko Tarnovo is situated in north-central Bulgaria at an altitude of 220 meters (720 ft) above sea level along the meandering Yantra River. Its geographic coordinates are 43.0757° N, 25.6172° E. About 235 km (146 miles) from Bulgaria's current capital, Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo has excellent domestic road and railway connections.
Veliko Tarnovo has a long history spanning over 5,000 years. Settled since Neolithic times, it was home to ancient Thracians, Romans, Slavs and Bulgars before becoming the capital of the After the Ottoman invasion in the 14th century, Veliko Tarnovo lost its capital status but remained a key cultural hub. It was vital in Bulgaria's struggle for independence from Ottoman rule. Some top attractions in Veliko Tarnovo include the medieval Tsarevets Fortress, Trapezitsa Fortress and historic hills that were home to royalty, churches and noble families during the Second Bulgarian Empire, the open-air museum showcasing Bulgarian National Revival-era homes in the Samovodska Charshiya district, museums like the Archaeological Museum Veliko Tarnovo, the grand Cathedral of the Nativity in the old town and various historic monuments like the Asen Monument honoring the Asen Dynasty.
The nearest airport is Gorna Oryahovitsa Airport, about 10 km (6 miles) north of Veliko Tarnovo's city center. The drive to Sofia, Bulgaria's modern capital, is about 235 km (146 miles) to the west via major highways and roads crossing the Stara Planina mountains. The journey by car or bus from Veliko Tarnovo to Sofia generally takes around 3 hours, depending on traffic and routes. The most convenient way to reach Veliko Tarnovo is by direct bus or train from Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv and other major Bulgarian cities. There are several daily connections with travel times averaging 3-5 hours. Veliko Tarnovo is easily accessed by road from destinations across Bulgaria and neighboring Romania, given its inland location.
The ideal time to visit Veliko Tarnovo is from mid-spring through early autumn, typically May through September, when the weather is sunny and mild, with average temperatures ranging from 15°C to 26°C (60°F to 80°F). This allows for comfortable sightseeing conditions at attractions like medieval fortresses. Most visitors require at least two full days to tour top Veliko Tarnovo attractions like Tsarevets Fortress, the historic hills and landmarks and museums at a relaxed pace.
Pazardzhik is a city located in southern Bulgaria along the banks of the Maritsa River. It serves as the administrative and economic center of Pazardzhik Province, with a population of around 246055. It has been an important trade center since medieval times under Bulgarian and later Ottoman rule. Today, Pazardzhik is still a commercial hub focused on agriculture, manufacturing, transport and tourism. Pazardzhik is 673 feet (205 meters) above sea level on the Maritsa River in southern Bulgaria, part of the fertile Thracian plains. Pazardzhik has geographic coordinates of 42.1928° N and 24.3336° E and covers an area of around 37 square km (14 square miles) within city limits. As the capital of Pazardzhik Province, it has excellent domestic road and rail connections.
Pazardzhik has a history spanning over 7,000 years, with one of Europe's earliest Neolithic settlements found nearby. Pazardzhik reemerged under Bulgarian rule in the Middle Ages but was destroyed by the Ottomans in the 14th century. They rebuilt and controlled it until Bulgaria's liberation in 1878. It rapidly developed in the late 19th century by constructing roads, railways, schools and industries. Pazardzhik was vital during Bulgaria's struggle for independence from Ottoman domination. It has continued to modernize as an economic and cultural hub over the 20th and 21st centuries. Some top attractions in Pazardzhik include the 16th-century Ottoman Kurshum Mosque, the museum exhibiting Thracian and Roman artifacts found locally, the grand Church of the Dormition and sites related to the city's pivotal role in Bulgaria's revolution like the Nikolaki Christovich House Museum.
Pazardzhik is located about 120 km (75 miles)) east of Sofia International Airport by road. The drive to Sofia, Bulgaria's capital and largest city, takes around 1.5 hours, covering 120 km (75 miles) via major highways like the A1. Frequent bus lines also link Pazardzhik's central bus station to Sofia's, requiring a similar 1.5-hour journey. Pazardzhik also has excellent railway connections to Sofia and other destinations across Bulgaria. The most convenient way to reach Pazardzhik is by direct bus or train from Sofia, which takes about 1.5 hours. Pazardzhik can also be easily accessed by road from other key cities like Plovdiv, Burgas and Varna. Major highways like the A1 Trakia Motorway link Pazardzhik well overland to destinations across Bulgaria.
The ideal time to visit Pazardzhik is from mid-spring through early autumn, typically May through September, when sunny weather and average temperatures between 15°C (60°F) and 25°C (80°F) allow comfortable sightseeing. Many of Pazardzhik's numerous festivals, open-air cafes and cultural events also occur during these months. Winters are cold with some snow, summers can get quite hot. So spring and fall are best for pleasant weather and lively city culture. Most visitors require at least two full days to tour top Pazardzhik attractions like the museums, historic neighborhoods, Kurshum Mosque and other architectural landmarks at a relaxed pace.
Vratsa is located in northwestern Bulgaria at the foot of the Vrachanski Balkan Mountains. It serves as the administrative and economic center of Vratsa Province, with a population of around 156552 residents. It is near numerous caves, waterfalls and scenic rock formations in the surrounding mountains, such as the Ledenika Cave and Skaklya Waterfall. Vratsa is located about 112 km (70 miles) north of Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, at an altitude of 1,129 feet (344 meters) in the foothills of the western Balkan Mountains. It sits where the Leva River emerges from the Vratsata Gorge. Vratsa has geographic coordinates of 43.2102° N and 23.5529° E.
Vratsa has ancient roots as a settlement named Valve or “door of a fortress” by the Romans due to a narrow passage in the city's fortress walls. The Byzantine and Bulgarian empires in the Middle Ages later held it. It then rapidly expanded over the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The area boasts many traces of Thracian, Roman and medieval Bulgarian civilizations, including the Vratsa Regional Historical Museum, which houses Thracian treasures. Some top attractions in Vratsa include the Ledenika Cave with karst formations, Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park and peaks for hiking, the cliffs of Vratsata Gorge, the Vratsa Regional Historical Museum exhibiting Thracian gold treasures and artifacts, the memorials and battle sites Hristo Botev and various festivals held annually like the Botev Days celebrations.
The closest major airport is Sofia International Airport, about 112 km (70 miles) south of Vratsa. The drive to Sofia, Bulgaria's capital and largest city, takes around 1.5-2 hours. Frequent bus lines also link Vratsa's central bus station to Sofia's in about 2.5 hours. The most convenient way to reach Vratsa is by direct bus, train or car from Sofia, which takes between 1.5 and 2.5 hours. Vratsa has domestic bus and railway connections from cities across Bulgaria, such as Vidin, Pleven and Montana. It lies along the main E-79 highway linking inland Bulgaria to Europe.
The ideal time to visit Vratsa is from May through early October when sunny weather and average temperatures of 15°C to 27°C (60°F to 80°F) allow for comfortable hiking and sightseeing. Many of Vratsa's numerous cultural events, like the Botev Days celebrations in June, also occur in these months. Most travelers require at least two full days to tour top Vratsa attractions like the Ledenika Cave, Vratsa Regional Museum and surrounding waterfalls/gorges at a relaxed pace.
Asenovgrad is a city located in southern Bulgaria. It serves as the administrative and economic center of Asenovgrad Municipality, with a population of around 58526 residents. Asenovgrad is 168 meters (551 feet) above sea level in the Upper Thracian Plain of southern Bulgaria, about 30 km (19 miles) driving distance east of Plovdiv. It sits on the Chepelarska River and has geographic coordinates of 42.0134° N and 24.8784° E. Asenovgrad covers an area of around 27 square km (10 square miles) within city limits. Its location between the country's second-largest city of Plovdiv and other destinations makes it an essential hub for manufacturing, trade and transit.
Asenovgrad has a long history spanning nearly 7,000 years. Some of Europe's earliest prehistoric settlements dating back to the 6th millennium BCE have been unearthed. The city occupies the site of the ancient Thracian and Roman town of Stenimaka. The defense was vital in Bulgaria's struggle for independence from Ottoman rule during the late 19th century. After liberation, it evolved into a modern economic and cultural center. Much of its growth and development has occurred over the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Some top attractions in Asenovgrad include remains of the medieval Asen's Fortress with some restored stone walls and towers, ancient Roman thermae ruins, the Asen Tower built in 1933 honoring the Asen Dynasty of the Second Bulgarian Empire, the Bulgarian Revival architecture in the Old Town, the Ethnographic Complex showcasing traditional crafts and culture and historic churches and monuments throughout the city.
Asenovgrad is about 20 km (12 miles) from Plovdiv International Airport. The journey takes around 25 minutes by car. Bulgaria's 17th-largest city, Asenovgrad, lies 30 km (19 miles) east of the nation's second-largest city, Plovdiv. Travel time is 35 minutes by car via significant roadways connecting the two cities across the Thracian Plain. The most convenient way to reach Asenovgrad is by bus, train or driving from Plovdiv, which takes 30-40 minutes. Located along a major highway, the city has good overland links to destinations across Bulgaria and Europe.
The ideal time to visit Asenovgrad is from mid-spring through early autumn, typically May through September, when the weather is sunny and mild, with average temperatures ranging from 15°C to 27°C (60°F to 80°F). This allows comfortable sightseeing conditions. Many of Asenovgrad's numerous festivals, open-air cafes and cultural events also occur during these months. Most visitors require at least two full days to tour top Asenovgrad attractions like the medieval fortress remains, museums, historic neighborhoods and architectural landmarks at a relaxed pace.
Gabrovo is a city in central northern Bulgaria at the foot of the Balkan Mountains. It serves as the administrative center of Gabrovo Province. Gabrovo has a population of around 104404 residents. It is situated along the Yantra River and is known as an international capital of humor and satire and a noted center of industry and craftsmanship. Gabrovo has ancient historical roots and contains numerous architectural and cultural sites that attract tourism. Gabrovo is located at an altitude of 1,286 feet (392 meters) above sea level, nestled in the Balkan Mountains of central northern Bulgaria. It sits on the Yantra River, about 180 km (112 miles ) driving distance northeast of the nation’s capital, Sofia. Gabrovo has geographic coordinates of 42.8742° N and 25.3187° E and covers an area of 234 square km (90 square miles) within city limits.
Gabrovo has ancient roots, with evidence of settlement dating back to the Neolithic era. It started gaining importance in medieval times after Bulgaria was established in 681 CE. It was vital during Bulgaria’s struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century. After liberation, Gabrovo rapidly industrialized, becoming a noted production center of textiles, clothing and machinery, hence its “Bulgarian Manchester” nickname. It continues to be an essential economic, cultural and educational center today. Some top attractions in Gabrovo include the House of Humor and Satire, the open-air ethnographic complex “Etar” Bulgarian crafts and revival architecture. The Regional Historical Museum exhibits local artifacts and architectural and cultural landmarks in the city center along the Yantra River. Nearby sites include the Bozhentsi Architectural Reserve and Uzana ski/recreation area.
Gabrovo is located about 96 km (60 miles) from Gorna Oryahovitsa Airport, the nearest domestic airport. The drive to Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital and largest city, takes around 2 hours, covering 180 km (112 miles) via significant highways and crossing the Balkan Mountains. Gabrovo also has bus and railway connections to Sofia and other key Bulgarian cities. The most convenient way to reach Gabrovo is by bus or train from Sofia, which takes about 2 hours. Gabrovo has domestic bus and railway connections from cities across Bulgaria. It lies along a major highway linking northeast Bulgaria to Sofia and Europe.
The ideal time to visit Gabrovo is from May through early October, when sunny weather allows average temperatures of 15°C to 27°C (60°F to 80°F) for pleasant sightseeing conditions. Many of Gabrovo’s festivals, open-air cafes and cultural events also occur during these months. Most visitors require at least two full days to tour top Gabrovo attractions like the House of Humor and Satire, Ethnographic Complex “Etar,” Regional Museum and surrounding areas at a relaxed pace.
Kazanlak is a city in central Bulgaria within the famous Rose Valley. It has a population of around 65,689 residents and serves as the administrative and economic center of Kazanlak Municipality. Kazanlak is best known as the heart of rose oil production in Bulgaria and the annual Rose Festival is held there. The city also contains ancient Thracian tombs and ruins, such as the UNESCO-listed Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak from the 4th century BCE, with remarkable frescoes. Kazanlak is situated at an altitude of 1,335 feet (407 meters) above sea level within the sub-Balkan Valley in central Bulgaria, part of the famous Rose Valley. It sits about 144 km (90 miles) east of the nation's capital, Sofia. Kazanlak has geographic coordinates of 42.6194° N and 25.3930° E and covers an area of 36 square km (14 square miles) within city limits.
Kazanlak has ancient Thracian roots, with the earliest settlement dating back to the 6th-5th millennium BCE Neolithic era. It was later the site of the Thracian capital Seuthopolis and home to Thracian king Seuthes III in the 4th century BCE. In the 4th century BCE, the remarkable Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak was built outside the city. Over the centuries, Kazanlak has been held by the Roman Empire, Byzantines, Bulgarian Empire and Ottoman Empire. After the Russo-Turkish War, when Bulgaria gained independence in 1878, Kazanlak evolved into a hub for rose cultivation and rose oil production up to the present day.
Some top attractions in Kazanlak include the 4th century BCE UNESCO-listed Thracian Tomb with its beautifully preserved frescoes, the Koulata Ethnographic Complex, the ancient ruins at nearby Seuthopolis, the Rose Museum and the annual Rose Festival held in early June when rose fields across the valley come into bloom. Kazanlak is located about 144 km(90 miles) east of Sofia International Airport by road, which takes around 2 hours driving time. The journey east from Sofia to Kazanlak takes about 2 hours by car or bus via major roads and highways across the Stara Planina mountains.
The most convenient way to reach Kazanlak is by renting a car or bus from Sofia, which takes about 2 hours. Various bus lines offer direct connections to Kazanlak several times per day. The ideal time to visit Kazanlak is from late April to early June during the annual rose harvesting season and when the Rose Festival takes place. This period provides pleasant weather averaging 15°C to 24°C (60°F to 75°F) along with lively cultural events and blooming rose fields. Most visitors require at least two full days to tour top Kazanlak attractions like the Thracian Tomb, Koulata Ethnographic Complex, Rose Museum and Valley at a relaxed pace.
What is the best place to visit in Bulgaria during the summer?
Plovdiv is described as the “most beautiful of all cities”, making it the best place to visit during summer. Sofia, Varna, Burgas and Veliko Tarnovo also have their merits. Plovdiv stands out for its European ambiance and lack of big crowds compared to the coastal beach cities. Plovdiv allows visitors to explore its old town district, which features winding cobblestone lanes, Bulgarian Renaissance-era buildings, art galleries, shops, cafes and Roman ruins like the 2nd-century Roman amphitheater. Taking a walking tour is one of the top activities for orienting and learning about history. Visitors can also wander through the distinct neighborhoods across Plovdiv's seven hills, each with its own culture. Another top site is the Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis, a Roman stadium from the 1st century AD that once hosted gladiator fights and chariot races. History buffs will also appreciate the Ethnographic Museum and Balabanov House Museum for insights into Bulgarian culture. The Plovdiv National Archaeological Museum displays Thracian gold treasures and artifacts spanning millennia.
What is the best place to visit in Bulgaria during the winter?
Sofia is the best city to visit in Bulgaria during the winter months. As the capital and largest city, it transforms into a magical winter wonderland once the snow starts falling. The Christmas spirit also springs to life in Sofia in December. Festive light displays adorn the streets and buildings, creating a cheerful atmosphere. Numerous holiday events are also happening like operas, ballets and concerts to catch. You can feel the excitement and joy of the season among the locals. Sofia sees fewer tourists and lower prices during the winter compared to the busy summer months. So you can explore the top attractions without large crowds and score better deals on flights and hotels. This makes it an excellent value winter vacation spot. Sofia is an excellent base for skiing and snowboarding trips, too. Nearby Vitosha Mountain and premier resorts like Borovets offer plenty of slopes and trails to enjoy.
What is the best place to visit in Bulgaria during Christmas time?
Veliko Tarnovo is the best place to visit in Bulgaria during Christmas time. Veliko Tarnovo is described as a fairytale-like town that sees good snowfall due to its location in the Balkan Mountains. Medieval history and cobblestone lanes lined with Bulgarian Renaissance architecture create a Christmas setting. As one of Bulgaria's most popular tourist destinations, Veliko Tarnovo offers plenty for visitors to do during the winter months when other spots may feel dreary or depressive. As the former capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, it offers a combination of history, architecture and winter charm compared to other Bulgarian cities.
What are the best activities to do during the summer in Bulgaria?
Listed below are the best activities to do during the Summer in Bulgaria.
- Attend Music Festivals. Bulgaria hosts music festivals across genres like jazz, opera, rock and folk during the summer when musical events are organized nationwide. Major summer festivals include Bulgaria's SPIRIT Jazz Festival held in Burgas, the July Morning Fest in Black Sea coast resorts, the Opera Open in Plovdiv and the folklore-rich Rozhen Fest. The outdoor events let visitors soak in live music against scenic backdrops from mountain tops to medieval fortresses.
- Relax on the Black Sea Beaches. Bulgaria boasts beautiful sandy beaches along its Black Sea coastline that come alive in summer. Major resort towns like Sunny Beach, Golden Sands and Varna offer lively waterfront promenades lined with restaurants, shops, bars and clubs that stay open late in summer's balmy nights. Visitors can soak up the sun on lounge chairs during the day and then party into the night. The cooler climate by the sea also offers respite from summer heat waves.
- Go Hiking. Bulgaria's mountains like Rila, Pirin, Rhodopes, Stara Planina and the Balkan Range make for great summer hiking with cooler temperatures and scenery. Trails wind through lush green forests, craggy peaks, refreshing streams, meadows blanketed in wildflowers and quaint mountain villages. Popular routes include the Seven Rila Lakes in Rila National Park or climbing Musala Peak, the Balkans' highest point.
- Visit a SPA Town. Mineral spa resorts scattered around Bulgaria like Velingrad, Kyustendil and Bankya offer therapeutic treatments harnessing the country's abundant natural mineral springs. Visitors can pamper themselves at hotels with pools, saunas and spa centers providing massages, mud baths, mineral water soaks and more – perfect for relaxation on a summer break.
- See UNESCO Sites. From ancient Thracian tombs to medieval monasteries, Bulgaria boasts numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites that make for fascinating historical sightseeing. Top summer picks include the Thracian tombs of Kazanlak and Sveshtari, Rila Monastery, the Ivanovo rock churches and Nesebar's beautiful Black Sea peninsula old town.
- Go Wine Tasting. Bulgaria's winemaking regions like Melnik, Shumen, Pomorie, Lyaskovets and Sandanski make for wonderful summer wine-tasting getaways amid vineyards and cellars. Sample grapes like the local Mavrud and Melnik varieties crafted into rich reds, fresh whites and fruit-infused rosés ideally matched to the Mediterranean climate.
- See Roses in the Valley of Roses. The Rose Valley near Kazanlak blooms brightly each summer when Bulgaria's prized Damask rose flowers are harvested for rose oil production. Visit in late May/early June during the annual Rose Festival to see rose-picking rituals, parades, concerts, craft fairs and tastings of rose-infused foods and cosmetics.
- Explore Cities Like Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. Bulgaria's big cities offer plenty to do. Sofia has vast green spaces and historic sites like the iconic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Plovdiv's cobblestoned old town district is full of 19th-century Bulgarian Revival architecture. Varna makes for a lovely Black Sea urban getaway.
- See Nestinari Fire-Dancing. The Nestinari fire-dancing ritual held at rural villages like Balgari over the summer offers a glimpse into an ancient pagan tradition still surviving in remote Strandzha Mountain areas. Watch entranced dancers step barefoot over hot embers in a mystical trance state seen as communing with patron saints.
- Shop Local Crafts. Bulgaria's artisans produce beautiful handicrafts that make wonderful souvenirs. Summer handicrafts markets and open-air bazaars in cities and villages let you browse authentic Bulgarian-made products while soaking up local culture.
What are the best activities to do during the winter in Bulgaria?
Listed below are the best activities to do during the winter in Bulgaria.
- Skiing and Snowboarding. Bulgaria's ski resorts like Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo offer well-groomed slopes for all ability levels. The scenery is breathtaking and the prices are affordable compared to Western European resorts. Skiing and snowboarding in Bulgaria is a thrilling and unforgettable experience for winter sports enthusiasts. This activity is one of Bulgaria's most popular winter activities and attracts many visitors worldwide.
- Ice Skating. Ice skating is a fun winter activity that people of all ages can enjoy. Bulgaria has many outdoor and indoor ice rinks that are perfect for ice skating during the winter season. The outdoor ice rinks in cities like Sofia and Plovdiv have a magical atmosphere with twinkling lights and festive decorations. Visitors can skate around while taking in the beautiful scenery and enjoying the company of friends and family.
- Visiting Thermal Spas. Bulgaria has natural hot springs and mineral spas that are perfect for a relaxing winter getaway. Towns like Velingrad, Hisarya and Sandanski offer a variety of spas where visitors can soak in hot therapeutic waters and unwind. This activity is perfect for those looking to escape the cold weather and rejuvenate their mind and body.
- Going on Winter Hikes. Bulgaria's mountain ranges, like the Rhodopes, Rila and Pirin, offer beautiful snowy scenery. These mountains are a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers who enjoy exploring the outdoors. Winter hikes in Bulgaria offer a unique and unforgettable experience not available in other seasons.
- Attending Cultural Festivals. Bulgaria has a cultural heritage and the country celebrates its traditions and arts through various winter festivals. The Surva International Masquerade Games in Pernik and the International Film Festival in Sofia are popular events that attract visitors from all over the world. These festivals provide a unique opportunity to experience Bulgarian culture and traditions.
- Trying Delicious Winter Cuisine. Bulgarian cuisine is hearty and comforting, making it perfect for the cold winter months. Some of Bulgaria's most popular winter foods include dishes like kapama stew, bob chorba (bean soup) and banitsa cheese pastry. Pair them with hot rakia, a traditional Bulgarian brandy, for a complete winter culinary experience.
- Visiting the Magical Rila Monastery. The Rila Monastery is a UNESCO-listed 10th-century monastery that looks like something out of a fairy tale during the winter months. The snow-covered surroundings create a magical atmosphere perfect for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Going on a Wine Tour. Bulgaria is famous for its excellent wines and many wineries offer tastings and tours. Visitors can sample some of the finest Bulgarian wines while learning about the history and production of this beloved beverage. Wine tours are a perfect winter activity that couples or groups of friends can enjoy.
- Shopping at Christmas Markets. Christmas markets are a popular winter activity in Bulgaria and cities like Sofia and Plovdiv have charming markets selling local handicrafts, foods and more. Visitors can enjoy the festive atmosphere while shopping for unique holiday gifts and souvenirs.
- Exploring Cities like Sofia and Plovdiv. Bulgaria's top cities have many indoor attractions like museums, galleries, historic buildings and cafes that are perfect for exploring during the winter season. Sofia, in particular, sparkles with holiday lights, creating an atmosphere that is perfect for a winter city break. Visitors can explore the city's rich history and culture while enjoying the festive decorations and holiday atmosphere.
What is the best time to visit Bulgaria?
The best time to visit Bulgaria is during the summer months of June through August. This peak season offers the most reliably warm weather, with average high temperatures around 30°C (86°F), sunny skies and the longest daylight hours for enjoying activities. July and August are the warmest months, though June sees pleasant heat with less rain and smaller crowds compared to these two most popular months. Other good times are late spring from April to May and early fall from September to October, when daytime highs remain mild in the low 20s °C (70s °F), rainfall decreases and fewer tourists visit than in summer. September stands out for having 28 perfect sunny days and the least monthly rainfall (8mm). Winters are quite cold in Bulgaria, with average lows freezing or below, frequent snowfall and fewer open attractions, so this season is not ideal for most visitors.
What should you know before traveling to Bulgaria?
Listed below are the key things to know before traveling to Bulgaria.
- Weather. Bulgaria has a temperate continental climate with hot, dry summers and cold winters. Summer spans June to August with average temperatures. This is the peak tourist season with sunny skies and the longest daylight. Late spring (April-May) and early fall (September-October) have milder weather.
- Health. No vaccinations are required for Bulgaria except for yellow fever if coming from an infected area. Carry prescriptions and medical documentation in English. Water is potable in cities, but drink bottled water when in rural areas.
- Laws & Customs. Carry a passport at all times in Bulgaria per local laws. Public drunkenness and disorderly behavior are illegal and can carry fines or jail time. Bulgaria has strict drug laws with penalties involving both fines and prison sentences, so do not consume or carry illegal substances. Tolerance for rowdy backpackers and parties is low. Respect quiet hours from 10 pm-6 am in residential areas.
- Transportation. Bulgaria’s rough roads, limited public transit and remote attractions favor renting a car for most visitors. Long-distance buses link major destinations affordably. Purchase train tickets well in advance to get discounts, as trains fill quickly. Taxis must use meters, give receipts and negotiate rates upfront to avoid scams. Valid licenses are required to rent vehicles and an International Driving Permit for non-EU nationals.
- Tipping. Tipping 10% is standard at restaurants and for taxi fares in Bulgaria. Tip a couple of dollars per service for hotel staff. Tipping is expected in Bulgaria to supplement low base salaries. Round up taxi fares and bills at cafes/bars by 10%.
- Opening Hours. Most shops and attractions in Bulgaria open 9 am-6 pm on weekdays and earlier on Saturdays. Sundays often have reduced hours or closures. Outside major cities, hours may be more limited. Check opening times online or with your hotel to avoid finding sites closed if planning activities for Sundays
- Entry Requirements. Most visitors to Bulgaria only need a valid passport for stays under 90 days. Some nationalities require visas, including countries like Russia, Turkey and China. Visas must be obtained before travel from a Bulgarian embassy.
- Safety. Bulgaria is safe, but exercise normal precautions in cities and tourist areas. Petty theft occurs, so secure belongings and avoid showing wealth. Do not buy, use or carry illegal drugs, which carry strict fines and prison sentences. Bars may try to overcharge tourists, so clarify bills before paying.
- Driving. Drive on the right in Bulgaria. Carry an International Driving Permit and valid licenses. Rentals require drivers to be over 21. Get Green Card proof of insurance since coverage is required. Watch for potholes and rough roads off highways that favor renting SUVs over small cars
What is the best local food to eat in Bulgaria?
Listed below are the best local foods to eat in Bulgaria.
- Banitsa. Banitsa is one of the most popular traditional Bulgarian foods. This flaky pastry is made with filo dough and is stuffed with various fillings, but the classic cheese filling is the most popular. The cheese used in banitsa is often a combination of feta and cottage cheese, which gives it a creamy and tangy flavor. The pastry is then baked until it's golden and crispy and usually served hot. Banitsa is not only a breakfast food but a popular snack that can be enjoyed throughout the day.
- Shopska Salad. Shopska salad is a refreshing and healthy Bulgarian salad made with fresh vegetables and sirene cheese. The salad features chunks of fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers, topped with crumbled sirene cheese. Occasionally, vinegar or herbs are added to the dressing to enhance the taste. The salad is often served as an appetizer or side dish and it's perfect for hot summer days.
- Kebapche. Kebapche is a popular Bulgarian fast food similar to kofta kebabs. These grilled skinless pork and beef sausages are highly seasoned with cumin, parsley, mint and other spices, giving them a unique Balkan flavor. Kebapche is often served with fries, roasted vegetables, lyutenitsa (a pepper spread) and boza (a fermented malt drink). This dish is perfect for a quick and delicious meal on the go.
- Sarmi. Sarmi is a traditional Bulgarian dish made with stuffed cabbage or grape leaves filled with a flavorful mix of rice, minced meat, onions, carrots, parsley and spices. The rolls are then stewed in a tomato sauce, which gives them a tender and aromatic flavor. Sarmi can be served as a light meal or as an appetizer and usually accompanied by a side of yogurt or a salad.
- Kyopolou. Kyopolou is a roasted pepper dish stuffed with a mix of rice, onions, tomatoes, parsley, garlic and sometimes meat or cheese. The peppers are slowly baked until meltingly tender and full of sweet smoky flavor from the charred skins. Kyopolou can be served as a side dish or as a dip and it's usually accompanied by a slice of bread or pita.
- Meshana Skara. Meshana skara is a popular Bulgarian meat dish essentially a mixed grill platter. The platter includes a variety of grilled meats, such as kebapche sausages, kyufte meatballs, pork steaks and skewers. Meshana skara is often accompanied by a side of fries or roasted vegetables.
- Kapama. Kapama is a hearty stew loaded with meat, vegetables and herbs. The dish simmers for hours in a clay pot until thick and flavorful. Regional recipes vary, but common ingredients include pork or lamb, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, onions, garlic and herbs. Kapama is a perfect dish for chilly winter nights and it's often served with a side of bread or potatoes.
- Kiselo Mlyako. Kiselo mlyako is a tangy yogurt staple in Bulgarian cuisine. The yogurt contains natural probiotic cultures, which makes it healthy and delicious. The yogurt is often topped with fruit, honey, nuts or baked goods and it's eaten daily by Bulgarians.
What are the facts about Bulgaria?
Listed below are the facts about Bulgaria.
- Currency. Bulgaria's official currency is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN), pegged to the Euro at 1 EUR = 1.95583 BGN. Leva come in banknote denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100.
- Time Zone. Bulgaria is in the Eastern European Zone, UTC/GMT +2 hours year-round. Bulgaria is 2 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time, 7 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time and 9 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific Standard Time.
- Language. Croatian is the official language in Croatia. Italian and German are also regional languages in some areas. English is spoken widely in cities and tourism centers but less in rural villages. Croatians appreciate it when foreigners try simple phrases, though most urban professionals and youth converse comfortably in English.
- Power Plugs. Bulgaria uses Type C and Type F power outlet plugs with two round pins. The standard voltage is 230V and the average frequency is 50 Hz. Visitors from North America and regions that use Type A and B outlets will need a plug adapter and possibly a voltage converter to use their electronic devices.
How do travelers get around in Bulgaria?
Travelers get around Bulgaria by renting a car, bus and train. Firstly, travelers often rent cars to get around Bulgaria outside major cities, as public transportation options are limited. Roads can be poorly maintained with potholes, but renting provides the most flexibility to access remote attractions. Travelers should carry International Driving Permits and their native licenses if coming from outside the EU. Rental cars should also have Green Card insurance coverage, per Bulgaria's requirements.
Secondly, long-distance buses link Bulgaria's most significant towns and cities as a budget way to travel. Buses provide an affordable option if travelers have flexible itineraries. Purchase tickets in advance when possible, as buses fill quickly during the peak summer travel season. Popular long-distance bus companies include Union-Ivkoni, Biomet and Etap-Grup. Thirdly, Bulgaria has a reliable domestic train network connecting cities like Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas and Veliko Tarnovo. Travelers should book train tickets well ahead of time to get discounts, as trains are often sold out, especially for sleeping compartments. Trains favor major destinations over remote areas. An alternative is hiring private drivers for day trips to smaller towns or custom tours. Buses and trains link major hubs affordably but need planning. Beyond public options, travelers can arrange private drivers or tours for flexibility.
Is a road trip a good idea to explore Bulgaria?
Yes, a road trip is highly recommended as the best way to explore Bulgaria. Visitors have the freedom and flexibility to easily access remote historical sites and scenic areas across the countryside that are otherwise difficult to reach by public transportation.
Is driving in Bulgaria easy?
No, driving in Bulgaria cannot be considered easy for most foreign visitors. Firstly, infrastructure quality declines rapidly on rural roads, with uneven surfaces, potholes and a lack of signage or lane markings to anticipate turns or hazards. Drivers must constantly scan for crumbling edges or debris that could damage tires or wheels. Secondly, local driving culture tends toward aggression and tailgating even in towns or mountain passes. Sudden passing attempts are common regardless of lines of sight. Thirdly, navigating in Bulgaria relies heavily on offline maps or GPS with local SIM cards, as signage disappears in rural areas. Confusing intersections are frequent even on main roads. Visitors can easily become lost down unpaved tracks. Despite some uneven secondary roads, Bulgaria's improving highway infrastructure connects key destinations reasonably well for self-driven tours.
Can travelers rent a car in Bulgaria?
Yes, travelers can easily rent cars in Bulgaria from major international agencies as well as local companies. Travelers can book online ahead of arrival for the widest vehicle selection and guaranteed rates. International companies have newer fleets but cost more than local firms. Renters need valid driver's licenses from their home country along with International Driving Permits to legally drive in Bulgaria if non-EU residents. Car rental minimum ages are 21-23. Required paperwork varies but travelers should verify insurance policies and any cross-border travel limitations when booking. In driving conditions range from modern highways near cities to poorly-maintained rural roads, renting enables tourists to access remoter areas not served by Bulgaria's limited public transportation.
What are the popular events and festivals in Bulgaria?
Listed below are the popular events and festivals in Bulgaria.
- International Festival of Masquerade Games “Surva”. The International Festival of the Masquerade Games “Surva” held annually in late January in Pernik near Sofia showcases ancient pagan rituals centered around elaborately costumed kukeri dancers meant to banish evil winter spirits and bring health and fertility. It features over 3,000 masked kukeri in handmade costumes weighing up to 40 kg, decorated with massive bells and chains. Their acrobatic dances echo ancient Thracian beliefs that the loud noises scare away demons. The hypnotic performances are accompanied by bands with drums and bagpipes. Surva also has crafts bazaars, wine tastings, Bulgarian cuisine and concerts, attracting over 30,000 spectators. It promotes preserving old Bulgarian traditions and is inscribed in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
- Rose Festival. Bulgaria's beautiful Rose Festival held annually in late May/early June in Kazanlak celebrates the country’s rose oil industry. Festivities last a few days, including a parade with floral floats and girls in rose costumes, a rose-picking ceremony reenacting the harvest, exhibits on rose oil extraction, craft bazaars and tastings of rose products like soaps and spirits. The highlight is the parade led by the Rose Queen on a float with participants in shimmery pink/red costumes. Folk dancers and musicians perform along the route too. It's both a joyous celebration and a tribute to Bulgaria's long rose oil-making heritage.
- International Folklore Festival. The International Folklore Festival held annually in early July in Varna gathers folk dance/music groups from Bulgaria and abroad for a week-long celebration of traditional culture and diversity. It features daily colorful dance performances showcasing the varied regional styles of Bulgaria plus international traditional dances. The grand finale is a spectacular staged open-air production uniting all groups, often based on folk tales/history. There are also children’s contests, academic conferences, handicrafts markets and jam sessions. Visitors gain exposure to diverse folk arts from Bulgaria and globally through music/dance.
- Nestinari Fire-Dancing Festival. The Nestinari Fire-Dancing Festival held annually in late May/June in the Strandzha village Balgari offers a glimpse of an ancient Thracian pagan ritual still surviving – dancers in a trance state walk barefoot over smoldering embers, seen as communing with patron saints. It starts with prayers, horo circle dances and gaida bagpipe music to induce trances. Then Nestinari takes turns gracefully dancing with eyes closed over hot coals for minutes, protected from burns by the saints. Rules like no applause must be followed.
- International Bagpipe Contest. The International Bagpipe Contest is a unique 3-day event held each August in Gela, Rhodopes celebrating Bulgaria’s bagpipe traditions passed down from ancient Thrace. Dating from 1968, it gathers pipers playing instruments like the Thracian gaida, Macedonian gajda, Scottish bagpipes and more. Musicians compete to showcase their skills in solo pieces, ensembles or full orchestras with percussions, often fusing traditional melodies and modern sounds. Workshops, jam sessions, crafts/wine markets and a closing concert unite all musicians to honor the country's enduring, soulful bagpipe culture.
Is it expensive to visit Bulgaria?
No, Bulgaria is not an expensive country to visit compared to most European destinations. Budget hotel rooms can be found for under BGN 60 (€30, $35, £25) per night pretty widely, while long-distance bus tickets cost as little as BGN 10-30 (€5-15, $6-18, £4-13) between cities. Bulgaria is one of the most affordable destinations in the European Union and over 40% cheaper on average than a country like the United States across expenses like meals, hotels, attractions and more. Sofia is pricier, rural areas and smaller towns have very low costs. Even a nice restaurant meal may run just BGN 10-20 (€5-10, $6-12, £4-9) and budget eats under BGN 5 (€2.5, $3, £2) are easy to find. Activities like hiking in Bulgaria's many mountains and national parks are free or very low-cost. Historic attractions and museums rarely top BGN 5 (€2.5, $3, £2) entrance fees. Intercity transportation and car rentals are also cheaper than in Western Europe. Bulgaria offers many interesting things to see and do without breaking the bank compared to other EU members.
Is it cheaper to visit Bulgaria during Christmas?
No, visiting Bulgaria during the Christmas holidays is not cheaper than other times of the year. Low-season hotel rates may apply from mid-November to March excluding the Christmas/New Year's weeks, flights and holiday packages often cost more. Prices also increase for things like restaurant dining, ski trips or equipment rentals and some tours that cater to the winter travel rush. Budget hotel rooms average around BGN 60 (€30, $35, £25) per night year-round. Fancy hotels can double rates to BGN 120-240 (€60-120, $70-140, £50-100) during the 1-2 weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year's. Airfares also spike in December, especially closer to the holidays. Summer flights from London to Sofia average under BGN 150 (€75, $90, £65) and Christmas airfares run BGN 300-600 (€150-300, $175-350, £125-250) for the same route. Holiday demand lifts ski town lodging too.
What are the best Christmas markets in Bulgaria?
Listed below are the best Christmas markets in Bulgaria.
- Sofia Christmas Market. The Sofia Christmas Market located in front of the Ivan Vazov National Theater in Sofia's City Garden is Bulgaria's largest and most well-known Christmas market. Open from December 1st-26th, it offers decorated stalls selling Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers, holiday decorations, packaged Bulgarian foods, mulled wine and more. There are live music performances on the stage, appearances by Father Christmas and a photo booth for family pics. It has become a beloved holiday tradition since starting in 2010, being Bulgaria's first real Christmas market merging German-style markets with local touches.
- Christmas Market at Slaveykov Square. This Christmas market hosted in Slaveykov Square in central Sofia has a more local Bulgarian flavor with stalls selling handicrafts, wines, sausages, pastries, honey and handicrafts from smaller producers across Bulgaria. The food stands offer classic holiday dishes like roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, boza and banitsa. Carolers and folk dance groups in Bulgarian costumes periodically give live performances on the outdoor stage and children can visit the Father Christmas house.
- Park Hotel Moskva Christmas Market. The Park Hotel Moskva in Sofia hosts an annual Christmas market focused on Bulgarian food and crafts, bringing together over 50 producers of artisanal teas, honey, jewelry, cosmetics, wines and other locally-made products. The historic hotel's glittering lobby and restaurants take on a festive air for the weekend-long event held in early December. Folk music and dance groups provide entertainment with performances celebrating Bulgarian winter traditions.
- Christmas Bazaar at National Palace of Culture. This large Christmas bazaar hosted inside Sofia's National Palace of Culture makes for easy holiday shopping at one big venue. Over 200 vendors and artisans take over the halls selling all kinds of Christmas-themed decorations, ornaments, handmade crafts, sweet and savory foods, wines and souvenirs. Shop for unique Bulgarian products while enjoying live music and entertainment.
- Plovdiv Christmas Fair. Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second-largest city, hosts an annual Christmas fair in its historic downtown district centered around the main pedestrian street. Vendors fill the street with sparkling Christmas decorations and artisanal Bulgarian products while music and performances entertain visitors. Regional wines, handicrafts, sweets and foods invite to shop for one-of-a-kind holiday gifts and sample Christmas flavors from around Bulgaria.
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