Things To See in Bulgaria
Things To See in Bulgaria
There is a great variety of historical, natural, religious and artistic sights to see in Bulgaria. Throughout the country there are remains from different eras and periods, societies and peoples, spiritual and artistic figures, creating a beautiful blend of ethnic culture full of unique traditions and rituals, combined with a sense of belonging to the movements that shaped the world as we know it today. The Bulgarian tourism movement, founded more than a hundred years ago, has promoted the recognition of all the sights that make up the special Bulgarian identity through the programme „100 Tourist Attractions in Bulgaria“, which includes most of Bulgaria’s „must-see“ attractions. Of course, the programme now includes more than 250 unique sights, but the names are still relevant today.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Old Town of Nessebar, Boyana Church, Madara Riding Stone Sculpture, Rila Monastery, Ivanovo Rock Church, Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari as historical sites and Pirin National Park, Srebarna Nature Reserve as natural sites.
The other great monasteries of Bulgaria that were centres of Bulgarian culture under Ottoman rule, such as the Bashkovo Monastery, the Troy Monastery, the Dryanovo Monastery, the Osenovlag Monastery, etc.
The natural creations in the Bulgarian mountains, which are a combination of amazement at the beauty of the natural forms and the exciting feeling of danger in front of the sharp ridges and deep gorges created only by wind and water. Among the most famous natural creations are the caves Dyavolsko Garlo (Bulgarian: Дяволското гърло, Devil’s Gorge), Ledenika (Bulgarian: Леденика, The Ice Cold), Magurata, whose walls are decorated with cave paintings, and Snezhanka (Bulgarian) : Снежанка, Snow White), the gorges of Trigrad and the river Erma, the rock phenomenon Chudnite Mostove (Bulgarian: Чудните мостове, The Wonder Bridges) and the natural pyramids near the town of Melnik and those near the village of Stob.
The still preserved medieval fortresses such as Tsarevets in Veliko Tarnovo, Baba Vida in Vidin, Tsari Mali Grad near Samokov, Samuil Fort near the village of Strumeshnica and Asenevtsi Fort near Asenovgrad.
The remains of the cities of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire in Sofia, Plovdiv, Nessebar, Sozopol, Razgrad and many other cities.
Historical architectural reserves such as the towns of Koprivshtitsa, Bozhentsi or Daskalolivnitsa in the city of Elena, the old town of Plovdiv, the Varosha district in Blagoevgrad and the Arbanasi district in Veliko Tarnovo.
The sacred sites of Perperikon and Rupite, the country’s many ancient and medieval churches and the tombs of the Thracian kings.
Sites of historical importance to the Bulgarian people, due to the actions of those who visited them, such as Mount Shipka, Mount Okolchitsa, the Oborishte region, the houses of Vasil Levski and Ivan Vazov, and the church of Batak, among many others.
There are many unique and interesting traditional rituals to be seen in Bulgarian culture, some of which have existed since pagan times and are still practised. Some of the most interesting rituals are:
- nestinarstvo – a fire ritual that originated in the villages of the Strandzha Mountains and consists of dancing barefoot on the embers of the solder. Originally it was practised in the square of some Strandzhan villages, but today it can be observed in many places in the country on the night of Saints Constantine and Helena – 3 vs. 4 July. It is a unique blend of Eastern Orthodox Christian beliefs and pagan rituals in the Strandzha Mountains.
- surva – a New Year ritual for good luck and healthy bonnets. It is practised by young children (up to 12 years old) on New Year’s Day by tapping older parents on the back with a survachka (a stick made of horn sticks decorated with wool, dried fruits and popcorn) and reciting a text for good luck.
- kukerstvo – a traditional Bulgarian ritual to drive away evil spirits. The ritual is performed by men wearing masks and grotesque clothing made of animal skins, horns and hooves, and belts with large bells. The men dance, make loud noises with the bells on their belts and thus chase away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest, health and good luck for the whole year. The ritual usually takes place on New Year’s Eve, when „the monsters are hiding“.
Cultural sightseeing in Bulgaria
Bulgaria is an old nation on the lands of which several empires have ruled throughout the centuries. Bulgaria was formerly a part of the Roman Empire, but for a lengthy period of time, this Orthodox nation was ruled by the Ottomans, who introduced Islam. Despite this, the Bulgarians managed to maintain their culture and heritage places. Today, they are dispersed around the country and are of particular interest to visitors since they allow them to explore remarkable remains and structures from ancient Rome, as well as temples of all religions and museums dedicated to socialism and the state’s history. While the most of them are focused in Sofia, exciting excursions await travellers in Varna, Plovdiv, and Burgas.
The National Historical Museum, founded in 1973, is one of the most important museums in Sofia and in the nation. Its collection has around 650 thousand exhibits of various types from a range of epochs: from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. The museum’s visitors will be able to see archaeological finds, coinage, daily items and interiors, ancient furniture, maps, and heraldry. The museum is organized into numerous sections for convenience, each dedicated to a distinct area of history. The biggest museum in the Balkans is the National Museum of Natural History. Over 400 stuffed animals and over 1200 stuffed birds from the area are on display. Fish, amphibians, current and fossilized creatures and birds, and minerals all have their own displays.
Another fascinating museum in Sofia is the Museum of Socialist Art, a division of the country’s National Art Gallery. The museum has a variety of exhibits relating to the socialist period. There are several statues and monuments commemorating communist leaders and people in the park next to the museum. The gallery contains photographs, while the video hall has documentaries on the Soviet era. In 1948, the national gallery was formed. Today, it houses over 50,000 exhibits, including photographs, paintings, graphics, and sculptures. The museum has works by both foreign and well-known Bulgarian writers.
Sofia also features a plethora of historical landmarks. The remains of the old ancient city of Serdika, established during the period of the Thracian monarchy, are located in the centre of the city. The oldest mention of settlements in this area dates all the way back to the eighth century BC. On the grounds of ancient Serdika stands Sofia’s oldest church, the Rotunda of St. George, which was erected in the fourth century in the heart of Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great’s home. The church was turned to a mosque after the Turkish conquest, but restorers were able to restore it to its original look. The Cathedral of St. Sophia, erected in the 18th century, is the Holy Week Cathedral. The Alexander Nevsky Temple-Monument is the country’s patriarchal cathedral, a spectacular structure that towers above the city and dwarfs all other structures.
Plovdiv has about 200 structures, the conservation of which is a governmental priority. Since antiquity, the city has maintained the remnants of the city forum, the historic theater with 3000 seats (fully restored), basilicas, temples, and walls. In the city center, remnants of the Thracian citadel may be seen, as are mosques and bathhouses from the days of Turkish domination. Varna is home to one of the country’s major archaeological museums, which was founded in the 18th century. Exhibits span the Paleolithic through the First Bulgarian State. The world’s oldest gold was discovered at the Varna necropolis.
The Assumption Cathedral, erected in the nineteenth century on the plaza of Cyril and Methodius, is Varna’s biggest church. The temple is very magnificent because to the many paintings and stained-glass windows. Burgas is home to the Ethnographic Museum, which is housed in a historic mansion previously owned by lawyer Brakolovoi. Among the exhibitions are traditional outfits, clothing, and household objects from around the country. Interestingly, the display covers a broad range of epochs. Burgas’s central area is likewise a true open-air museum. There are several historical and architectural landmarks on its area. Among these are residential buildings in the Art Nouveau style, as well as the Marine Park, which has monuments to important persons.