Famous Bulgaria Landmarks You Will Want To See
Written by Nora from Go Frame The Word.
Bulgaria is a country with an extraordinary history dating back all the way to the seventh century. But historic and culturally significant landmarks still stand as a record of the civilizations that inhabited these lands even long before Bulgaria became a country in the first place. From bronze age drawings through remnants of the Roman empire to monuments of national heroes, hundreds of well-preserved sites can still be seen today.
Many of the most impressive buildings and monuments that stand as evidence of that rich history can be found in or near some of the major present-day cities of Bulgaria. But natural wonders and sites considered national heritage can be found scattered across Bulgaria’s beautiful mountains.
Multiple medieval fortresses have been erected in geographically strategic locations for defense purposes or on ancient trading routes. Roman bridges and roads make their appearance through the lush forest landscapes. Tombs, mounds, and religious ritual sites can be found across South-East Bulgaria, left by the Thracian tribes that occupied these lands in Roman times.
Another pivotal point in Bulgaria’s more recent history is the country’s liberation from the rule of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in the Russian-Turkish war. But even before that, the country’s power and cultural development were sealed in timeless historical landmarks, and here is a list of the most impressive sites to visit for a taste of the land’s past.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is by far the most famous Orthodox cathedral in Bulgaria. It is situated in the heart of the capital city of Sofia and is one of the most easily accessible ones. Alexander Nevsky was a Russian prince who was known for his military success. The cathedral was built to honor the Russian soldiers who died in the Russian-Turkish war, which liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.
Another memorial marking the liberation of Bulgaria is the Shipka Monument, also known as the Liberty Memorial. It stands to signify the defense of the Shipka pass, which prevented Ottoman armies from joining forces, leading to a victory for the Bulgarian army in the siege of Pleven, which played a big role in the outcome of the Russian-Turkish war.
Going back to the year 681, when the country was first established, the medieval city of Pliska became Bulgaria’s first capital. The Pliska archaeological site preserves remains of the incredible city and was declared an important historical and cultural landmark in 1970.
The Tsarevets fortress is situated near Veliko Tarnovo’s old town. During the second Bulgarian Kingdom between 1185 and 1396, Veliko Tarnovo was the country’s capital, and Tsarevets was its main fortress. It is built on top of Tsarevets Hill. It is listed as one of the 100 National Tourist Landmarks – a national tourist movement aiming to encourage tourists to get acquainted with some of the most meaningful landmarks in the country. The earliest remains of civilizations that were found in the area date back to the bronze and iron ages.
Philippopolis Stadium And Theatre
Philipopolis is the old Roman name of the modern-day city of Plovdiv. Plovdiv is well known for its cultural and historical importance. The antique stadium was built in the early II century under the reign of emperor Adrian and is one of many well-preserved Roman buildings in the city. The ancient theatre is among the best preserved in the world and one of the most famous landmarks in Plovdiv. It is the only ancient theatrical building in Bulgaria.
The Roman baths in the city of Varna, built in the late II century, are the biggest in the Balkans. The baths had a unique heating mechanism using double floors and air pockets leading the hot air to the top of the building. The baths used mineral springs that are used to this day. Some of the buildings that are part of the bath complex are still buried under the surrounding streets. In the summertime, the baths are transformed into a summer theatre, and the site hosts concerts as well.
The Belogradchik fortress is one of the most well-preserved fortresses in Bulgaria. Historically, the fortress was initially used for observation purposes. Later on, it was fortified and played an important role in defense.
The last time it was used for military purposes was during the Serbian-Bulgarian War in 1885. Close by, there is a natural phenomenon called the Belogradchik rocks – rocks formed by erosion, wind, and temperature fluctuations. It’s an incredible site as the shapes of the rocks resemble animals, human figures, and mythical creatures, and these features are what individual rocks are named after. Over 100 caves are formed among the rock formations and the sand.
The Madara horseman is a silhouette cut in a rock 23 meters above ground near the Bulgarian village Madara. It is the only one of its kind in Europe from the Middle Ages and is a UNESCO heritage site. Today it is considered a symbol of the power of the First Bulgarian Empire. The surrounding writings are in Greek and describe political and cultural events in the relationship between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire.
Rock-Hewn Churches Near Ivanovo
The rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo are an incredible display of medieval architecture. Unlike traditional monasteries, the complex near Ivanovo consists of several small churches, chapels, and cells dug into the rocks at different heights above the valley of the Rusenski Lom River. Many of the XIII and XIV century murals have been restored and preserved despite the constant threat of erosion and collapse of the caves.
The Eastern Mound
The Eastern Mound is a Thracian gravesite consisting of a chariot of a Thracian warrior, two horses, and a dog. The number of artifacts found in the burial site led archaeologists to believe that the warrior was an aristocrat of high social status. It’s not uncommon to discover buried chariots from Thracian times. As a matter of fact, there are many such sites found in Bulgaria, although not so well preserved.
The Rila Monastery is the biggest Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. The complex was originally built in the 10th century by the hermit Ivan Rilski’s students while he was living in a cave nearby. It kept growing with the donations and support of Bulgarian rulers until the Ottomans destroyed it in the 15th century. It was rebuilt shortly after, once again, thanks to donations.
Later, in 1833, the monastery was destroyed again by a fire and rebuilt during the next 30 years. The Rila Monastery has been a monument of culture and the Bulgarian language for many ages and has been known to be a hideout for famous revolutionaries during Ottoman rule.
The monastery museum houses the famous Rafail’s cross – a wooden cross that took 12 years to create. It was made by a monk named Rafail. He used a whole piece of wood, and with fine burnings and magnifying lenses, he recreated 104 religious scenes and 650 miniature figures. Rafail kept working on his masterpiece until he lost his sight in 1802.
7 Rila Lakes
The 7 Rila lakes are probably the most famous natural landmark in Bulgaria. The seven glacial lakes are situated in the Rila mountain, one below the other, and are connected via small streams and waterfalls. Needless to say, the view from the topmost lake is incredible.
Each lake is named after one of its specific features. For example, the highest one is called “the Tear” due to its crystal-clear waters. The one below it is called “the Eye” due to its round shape, and so on. Sadly, tourism has been taking its toll on the surrounding landscape in recent years as reaching the lakes has been made incredibly easy, making the site very busy.
Perperikon is an antique stone complex in the Eastern Rhodope mountains dating from VI – V century BC. It’s believed that it was a sacred city in Thracian times. Perperikon is actually not the original name of the complex. It only became known as Perperikon during excavations in the XX-XXI century, but it was initially called Perperek. Later on, the city was occupied by Romans, goths, and Bulgarians. It is presently a remarkably well-preserved historical landmark and well worth visiting.
Magurata is one the most impressive and one of the most extensive cave systems in Bulgaria. According to research, the cave began forming around 15 million years ago. The stalactite and stalagmite formations found in Magurata are among the most impressive ones found in any cave in Bulgaria.
Other than the incredible rock formations, the cave is most famous for its prehistoric drawings dug into the cave walls and painted with guano. The drawings represent dancing male and female figures, hunters, masked men, stars, animals, plants, and tools—the drawings date from different eras. A late neolith calendar found in the cave is the earliest sun calendar located in Europe.
The Prohodna cave is probably the most famous cave in Bulgaria. The geological phenomenon, also known as “God’s Eyes,” is the longest cave tunnel in Bulgaria, with a length of 365 meters and a height of 56 meters. Its name comes from the two almost identical openings whose shape resembles the eyes on its roof formed by water erosion. The daylight entering through these openings creates an impressive effect inside the tunnel.
We hope that this list of the most famous landmarks in Bulgaria has been helpful and you now have more ideas on where to travel.