Why You Should Visit Shumen & Get Off The Beat Path In Bulgaria

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Written by Anya from Stop Going To Paris, who spent two months exploring Shumen. 

Shumen, Bulgaria, is the perfect city to experience authentic Bulgarian culture, away from the tourist bubble and traps. Check out my guide to the city and start planning your adventure!

Bulgaria Travel Blog_Why You Should Visit Shumen Bulgaria

One summer, I stayed in the Shumen area for months. During that time, I took part in archeological excavations in Veliki Preslav, the capital of the First Bulgarian Emp.

Then I went on to visit several cities in Bulgaria and neighboring places: Veliki Preslav and Shumen, of course, but also Madara, Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, Pliska, Varna, Sunny Beach & Nessebar, Athens, and Bucharest.

Shumen is a city located in northeastern Bulgaria, an hour away from Varna. It might not be the first city to pop up on a typical tourist itinerary, but that is precisely why it’s so special. It’s a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

See The Shumen Monument

In my opinion, it is the perfect city to experience authentic Bulgarian culture, away from the tourist bubble and traps. If you’re looking for a base for a few weeks, it’s the perfect spot: it is affordable, you can live like a local, and the cherry on top – for your following destinations, you’ll find easy bus trips to Romania, Greece, and Turkey.

Additionally, if you want to learn about the early days of the First Bulgarian Empire, the Shumen province is the place for that.

All in all, Shumen is a great place to visit in Bulgaria.

Best Time To Visit Shumen

Shumen is beautiful year-round, but the best time to visit is during the spring and summer, as it will allow you to enjoy the beautiful nature around the city.

Top Attractions In Shumen

You’ll find in this guide my suggestions for the best places to see and tourist attractions in Shumen:

  1. The 1300 Years of Bulgaria Monument
  2. The Madara Rider
  3. The Shumen Fortress
  4. The Rock Monasteries
  5. The Tombul Mosque
  6. The Bisena Cave

Things To Do In Shumen

1. 1300 Years Of Bulgaria Monument

A statue of a horse, an important landmark, stands proudly in front of a majestic building.

Let’s start with the most visited monument in Shumen and with the most famous monuments in the country.

The 1300 Years of Bulgaria monument, as you probably guessed, commemorates the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state. Born out of the brutalist movement, the monument retells the history of Bulgari in cubist and modernist designs, representing different periods over the last few centuries. The sheer size of the monument alone makes it an awe-inspiring sight, so worth the detour.

It’s located on the high Shumen Plateau, so be ready to climb to get to the monument.

A blue sky with Keyword SEO in the cloud.

The Plateau is also a beautiful park with many hiking trails, and it is the starting point for paragliding expeditions. If you ask me, it’s the perfect outdoor activity!

2. Madara National Historical & Archaeological Park

A carving on the side of a rock featuring separated SEO keywords.

A few kilometers east of Shumen, just a short drive away, is the Madara National Historical and Archaeological Park, in which you’ll find the Madara Fortress and Madara Rider (or Madara Horseman), depicting a knight triumphing over a lion directly carved on the Madara plateau, into a 100-m-high cliff.

This carving entered the UNESCO World Heritage list, as it is the only medieval rock art of its kind with no other parallel in Europe. The inscriptions around the rock relief retell important events of the First Empire and its ki,ngs Tervel, Kormi,sos, and Omurtag.

The park is also home to diverse landscapes, from forests and meadows to caves and waterfalls. There are endless opportunities to hike the Plateau, bike, and even bird-watch along the trails!

3. Shumen Fortress

Best Castles In Bulgaria - Remains Shumen Fortress Bulgaria

Perched on top of a hill overlooking the city, the Fortress is an important monument as well. It dates back to the early Middle Ages, around the 8th century,y and since it has been witness to many battles and sieges, its ruins are a site of interest and 100% worth a visit.

This beautiful place offers an intriguing peak into Bulgaria’s past and a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding countryside.

4. Tombul Mosque

Built in 1744, the Tombul Mosque is one of the largest and most beautiful Ottoman mosques in Bulgaria and a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.

The stunning interior and peaceful courtyard are perfect for a few hours of solace when you need them.

5. Biserna Cave

You would think visiting a cave is a somber affair. Well, not the Biserna Cave.

Thanks to the lights installed and the sparkly stalactite formations, the whole place is glowing. It’s certainly an interesting sight, with the stalactites dripping water, the underground river, and the echo that every noise makes.

6. Regional Historical Museum

This museum displays the rich history of Shumen and its province. It gives good insight into the power of the First Empire, with artifacts and items of interest from surrounding cities such as Veliki Preslav, Pliska, Madara, etc.

The entrance fee to the museum is around 2 to 3 euros.

7. Tasting The Local Cuisine

How To Make Bulgarian Banitsa

Shumen is the ideal city to taste authentic, local food Bulgarian food, as the city, for the most part, does not receive and does not cater to tourists. Having visited several cities in Bulgaria, I found that restaurants in Shumen are the closest you can get to my Bulgarian friends’ homemade food.

When you’re there, don’t forget to try the Banitsa, a filo pastry that you can eat for breakfast.

My personal favorite, Kavarma, is a meat stew slowly cooked to bring out the flavors. Absolutely fantastic; I highly recommend it.

If you’re brave, give Shkembe Chorba a try: it’s a soup made from tripe and flavored with garlic, vinegar, and chili – two years later, I’m still split on whether I regret eating it or not!

And during hot summer days, you will want to eat Tarator, a cold soup made from yogurt and cucumbers – kind of like Tzatziki but as a soup. One small note: make sure to ask for less salt as people there can make it quite salty, in my experience.

keywords A bowl of food on a woven mat.

Finally, you MUST try Rakia, the Bulgarian alcohol that will make your head turn. No journey to Bulgaria would be complete without testing it. If you can somehow get ahold of homemade Rakia – and you might, if you make friends in Shumen – even better!


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Day Trips And  Places To Visit Nearby

The great thing about Shumen is that it is a hub for buses and very well connected by train as well, so you have access to other great cities easily.

From there, I managed to reach other great destinations such as Varna, Veliko Tarnovo, Sunny Beach, Athens, and Bucharest.


Half an hour away from Shumen is Pliska, the first capital of the First Empire, where you can find the remains of the Grand Basilica, one of the largest early Christian churches in Europe.

Veliki Preslav

Veliki Preslav, the second capital of that same Empire, is also a mere 30 min away.

Fun fact! Veliki Preslav is where the Cyrillic alphabet was invented during the reign of Simeon The Great (one of the most prominent, if not THE most prominent, figure in Bulgaria’s history).

However, in my opinion, the most fun thing to visit in Veliki Preslav is the Kostadinov rock monastery, an ancient sanctuary directly carved into the cliffs.


Things to do in Varna - Cathedral

A popular coastal town, Varna is just an hour’s drive away.

During my trip, I found the Balchik Palace and Botanical Gardens to be ns the most interesting places to visit. The archeological museum of Varna also hosts the oldest gold treasure ever found.


Sunny Beach And Nessebar

Best Hotels In Nessebar, Bulgaria - South Beach

While I liked Varna, if you have limited time, I’d suggest skipping it to go straight to Sunny Beach and Nessebar. They are a bit further away (2 hours), so they act better as a weekend destination, but there you’ll find beautiful beaches, historical sites and fantastic nightlife.

Nesseba,r in particular,r is an under-appreciated treasure.

Veliko Tarnovo

Best Castles In Bulgaria - Bulgaria Travel Blog - Tsarevets Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo, which is located 2 hours away by train, is a gem, and so, so worth visiting.

It is one of the best places to see in Bulgaria. It is a historic town with a beautiful medieval center overlooking the river. It is also home to the Tsarevets Fortress and the Ascension Cathedral, one of the most interesting churches I’ve had the chance to visit.

Where To Stay In Shumen

A bedroom in Shumen, Bulgaria with a bed and a bedside table.
Photo Credit: Guesthouse Bulgarka

Shumen offers a range of accommodation options for every budget and preference.

I highly recommend Guest House Bulgarka, it is a bit further away from the city center, but that also means it is in the countryside. It is also very beautiful and atypical, and that’s why I recommend it.

For something more centrally located, Avenue is a great option.

Navigating Around Shumen

Getting around Shumen is easy, thanks to the city’s compact size and efficient public transport system.

I suggest renting a bike to get around and explore the surrounding area and take a few hours to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, observing the native flora and fauna, and enjoying the Bulgarian countryside.

Shumen FAQs & Travelers Tips

  • Know Some Bulgarian: in my experience, few people in Shumen speak English, so I would definitely make sure to learn a few sentences in Bulgarian, or at least have a good connection and a translating app on me at all times!
  • Lev Is The Currency: Bulgarians do not use euros; they use Lev. Change your money before the trip or use an international card like Wise.
  • Use The Tourist Information Center: you can always get up-to-date info in the tourist information center
  • Download A Bulgarian Taxi App: Uber is not available in Bulgaria, so you have to download a Bulgarian taxi app. TaxiMe is the one I used most often all over Bulgaria, and I found it efficient and convenient
  • Get A SIM Card: if you run out of internet data, you can easily get a SIM card with a certain amount of data; no ID or proof of residence is needed


What is the best time of year to visit Shumen?

The best time to visit Shumen is during the spring and summer to enjoy nature.

Can I get by with English in Shumen?

No, most people do not speak English in Shumen. Have your phone and internet on you at all times to translate, just in case.

What are the top attractions in Shumen?

The top Shumen attractions include the Shumen Fortress, the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, the Tombul Mosque, and the Madara Rider.

Are there good accommodation options in Shumen?

Yes, Shumen offers a lot of great accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses to more luxurious hotels.

How do I get to Shumen from Sofia?

Shumen is easily accessible from Sofia by road and rail. The journey by car takes about 4 hours, while trains and buses also offer regular services between the two cities.

Why Shumen Deserves A Spot On Your Travel List

A sizable structure adorned with abundant graffiti.

There are many things to do in Shumen, but above all; the city offers the opportunity to experience authentic Bulgarian culture in a way you won’t find in other tourist destinations.

It is also the perfect place to stay to organize day and weekend trips to these other popular spots that you definitely want to visit as well. We have to do both, after all!

All in all, Shumen is a great place to spend a few weeks wandering around, eating, exercising, using, and experiencing Bulgarian culture and history.


  1. great guide, i’ll put the city on my list. as a digital nomad i’m always looking for places to settle in

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