Bulgaria is a charming country, full of beautiful landscapes, amazing beaches, historic cities to explore, and generally a lot of things to do. It is also a destination with fabulous monuments, which elevate the country’s beauty even further.
Bulgaria’s most famous landmarks are historic buildings that reflect its long history and the different cultures that influenced it. Yet, Bulgaria is more than ancient history, so we will include some wonderful natural landmarks – nature has also created unforgettable places throughout the country.
So, we decided to compile a list of the Landmarks, we have invited some of our fellow bloggers to pitch in iconic Landmarks in Bulgaria.
15 Famous Landmarks In Bulgaria
#1 Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia
By Maggie Turansky from The World Was Here First
One of Bulgaria’s most iconic landmarks and certainly the most notable building in the capital of Bulgaria is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This grand Orthodox cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings to visit in the dynamic Bulgarian capital, and no visit to Sofia is complete without taking in its grandeur.
Considered to be the third-largest Orthodox cathedral in the world (coming in the right after the Romanian People’s Salvation Church in Bucharest and the Church of St Sava in Belgrade), the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is actually one of the fifty largest Christian churches in the entire world.
With construction originally beginning in 1882 and completed in 1912, the church was officially consecrated in 1924. Constructed in the Neo-Byzantine style and designed by architect Alexander Pomerantsev, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a truly spectacular building from the inside out. Noted for its impressive domes and beautiful facades, it can house 500 worshippers simultaneously.
So if you’re looking for an iconic landmark not to miss in Bulgaria, make sure to visit the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia.
#2 Boyana Church, Sofia
Located in Sofia’s outskirts, Boyana Church is a medieval orthodox church constructed in the late 10th century. The church has three major parts, the East wing is the original 10th-century construction, the central wing was added in the 13th, and the west wing was constructed much later, in the 19th century.
Inscribed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1979, it is famous mostly due to its 89 scenes with 240 human images depicted on the church walls. The frescoes date from the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, but the world fame comes from the 1259 ones, which are the exceptional achievements of medieval Bulgarian culture. UNESCO considers this site “one of the most complete and perfectly preserved monuments of East European medieval art.”
This Bulgarian landmark is very easy to reach, as it’s possible to use Sofia’s public transport to get there. Or if you have a car, you can simply drive there. This is a popular landmark with very limited daily tickets, so we strongly suggest you go early. During peak season, tickets sell out, and queues may be quite long.
#3 The Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis in Plovdiv
By Emily from Wander-Lush
Often cited as the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe, Plovdiv in southern-central Bulgaria is a history lover’s dream. Alongside its Bulgarian Revival Architecture, Plovdiv is known for being home to one of the country’s most recognizable landmarks: The Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis.
The theatre is located smack-bang in the middle of modern-day Plovdiv, itself around 2 hours by road from the capital, Sofia. It was constructed in the 1st century AD, and thanks to careful restorations, it is considered one of the best-preserved Roman theatres anywhere in the former empire.
In its heyday, the 28 rows of semi-circular marble seating could accommodate up to 7,000 spectators. The theatre was purpose-built for gladiatorial fights, and today, it still operates as a venue for live music and theatre. Following the hill’s natural form, the lower part of the complex features a stage with ornate pediments, porticoes, Ionic columns, and several noteworthy Byzantine and Greek inscriptions.
The theatre was excavated in the 1970s after a landslide revealed part of the concealed structure. It’s just one of Plovdiv’s Roman-era treasures: There’s also an ancient stadium and a forum in the city, although these are not nearly as well preserved.
Along with the theatre, these constitute Ancient Plovdiv, a Tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004.
#4 Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis in Plovdiv
By Alexa from 52 Perfect Days
The Stadium of Philippopolis is an ancient Roman stadium built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian and located in the town of Plovdiv. Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria and is located on the Maritsa river banks in the historical region of Thrace.
Plovdiv is Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city and is considered the cultural capital of Bulgaria. The old town has art galleries, museums, many cafes and restaurants, and the Roman Stadium of Philippopolis.
The Roman Stadium in Plovdiv was built in the 2nd century AD, during the Roman imperial period. It is among the largest and best-preserved buildings from the time of the Roman Empire in the Balkan peninsula.
The ancient remains in the stadium date between the 1st and the 4th centuries AD. The Roman Forum ruins can be found in Dzhumaya Square between the Boulevard Tsar Boris III and the Central Post building.
Based on the stadium architecture, historians believe games similar to the Pythian Games in Greece were held here as early as 214 AD. Events included sports, music, poetry, and art contests.
#5 Devetashka cave
By Raluca from Travel With A Spin
Around 170 km from Sofia is Devetashka Cave, the largest cave in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, just a small part of it is accessible to visitors. Road 301 will lead you just a few hundred meters from the main entrance. From there, a short dirt road will take one to the parking place.
The cave has been inhabited by humans for 70,000 years, since Paleolithic times. People shared the space with different animal species, and many have disappeared in the meantime. Reptiles, amphibians, birds, and 15 bat species still live here. Since it was declared a natural landmark, it is closed to the public during the bats’ breeding period in July and August.
What impresses visitors the most are the seven large windows on the rocky roof that let the sunlight in. The cave is crossed by an underground river that forms several small waterfalls and lakes. Due to the light and humidity, the floor of the spacious main hall is covered in lush greenery. It’s quite impressive, as you’re inside a cave. Devetashka cave was also used as a petrol warehouse by the military during the 20th century, but the tanks are now removed. However, one can still see their traces. The cavern was used for filming The Expendables 2 in 2011, which caused conflicts between the crew and the authorities. It was said that the cave suffered damage, and the bat’s population diminished for a few years afterward.
#6 Al Adzha Monastery
By Ucman Scher from Brown’ Boy Travel Boutique
Al Adzha monastery is human-made on multiple levels within a cave system. It is surrounded by a forest located north of Varna and a mere 3km from the Golden Sands Beach Resort. The taxi ride is quick, and you can easily explore this monastery in a couple of hours but come at a leisurely hour to experience the peace and serenity of the monastery and the surrounding forest.
The name Al Adzha comes from the Ottoman Turkish language, but the monastery, which is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, has been around for much longer, at least as early as the 12th century.
Surrounded by the forest, the locals still consider this place sacred. The monastery is carved in a vertical cliff at a staggering 25m height. During the summer, it is sometimes beautifully lit in the vending sand, and there are also small concerts here.
The monks made this place for quiet contemplation and paid tribute to their religion in the form of colorful murals (hence the name of Al Adzha). The murals have been lost with time, and only remnants remain of the colors. Walking around the monastery is quite soothing, but you should come prepared with sturdy shoes with a good grip and be prepared to bend through small doors and passageways. The top view is also beautiful, especially if you come in the latter half of the day.
#7 Melnik Pyramids
By Veronika from Travel Geekery
The Melnik Pyramids can be found North of Melnik town in Bulgaria, just on the foot of the Pirin mountain range in the Blavgoevgrad province. If traveling from Sofia, the best way to get there is to take a 4-hour bus that goes directly to Melnik daily at 2 pm.
While some of the pyramids line the northern side of the town, the highest concentration of the amazing rock formations can be found further North, just by the Rozhen Monastery. It’s walkable from Melnik – count with about an hour.
The unique shapes were created in the rock made of sandstone and clay, thanks to rainfall and erosion. A path leads to the top of the pyramids, so you can even walk on them! However, watch out for the edges since erosion is an ongoing process. The cone-shaped structures of all shades of orange to brown reach up to 100 meters in height.
The pyramids were declared a protected natural landmark in 1960. They attract a large number of visitors – foreign and local alike.
Melnik’s town is worth traveling for – it features a picturesque array of historical houses and the best red wine in Bulgaria. Having only 385 inhabitants, it’s officially Bulgaria’s smallest town.
#8 Rila Monastery
By Sarah Carter from A Social Nomad
One of nine UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bulgaria since 1983, Rila Monastery is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Bulgaria. UNESCO writes of Rila, ‘“It is the most important spiritual and literary center of the Bulgarian national revival, with an uninterrupted history from the Middle Ages until present times.” The Eastern Orthodox Monastery is located in the Rila Mountain range and was founded in the 10th century by St Ivan of Rila. There are currently around 60 monks in residence. Rila Monastery is one of Bulgaria’s most important monuments.
Thick stone walls protect the 8800 square meter complex with glorious colorful architecture and religious iconography. The black, red, and white striped archways and colonnades under the bright yellow domes are stunning. This is a stunning location to visit amongst the heavily treed Rila Mountains. It’s also worth making time to stay for lunch, local trout, and a glass of Bulgarian wine sitting at the restaurant by the river is a fabulous way to explore locally.
The easiest way to get to Rila Monastery is to drive, as the monastery really is in the mountains. On the Sofia Kulata road – exit at Kocherinovo village and a further 30 kilometers from there. There are also daily minibus shuttles from Sofia, which allow about 2 hours at the monastery and leave Sofia at 0930.
#9 Buzludzha Monument
By Julia Williams from The Cure for Curiosity
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path landmark in Bulgaria, Buzludzha Monument is it! Originally built in the 1970s by architect Georgi Stoilov, Buzludzha was used by the Communist Party as a remote meeting point between 1981 and 1990. Since then, it has been abandoned and fallen into disrepair, but that does not diminish its fascinating structure and history!
Visiting Buzludzha Monument can be a bit challenging as it is located a couple of hours outside of Veliko Tarnovo on a remote peak in the Balkan Mountains. You really need to either have your own vehicle or take a tour. You’ll know you’ve found it when you suddenly see a saucer-shaped, UFO-like structure rising from the mountaintops. This is Buzludzha.
Upon arrival at Buzludzha, stare in awe at the fascinating architecture, appreciate its gorgeous natural surroundings, and learn more about the communist past of the region. If you like to live on the edge, you can try to shimmy through a hole in the side of the building to explore the stunning interior.
Keep in mind that while Buzludzha has been gaining traction as a tourist attraction, it is an abandoned building, and entering it is a bit controversial and potentially dangerous. There may even be security guards to deter people from trying to enter. Nonetheless, the trek is well worth it to see this unique Bulgarian landmark!
#10 Monument in Shumen
By Kamila Napora from My Wanderlust
The monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria is one of the craziest monuments you will find in the country. It is located on Ilchov Hill above the town of Shumen, in the northeast part of Bulgaria, some 85 km away from Varna. As the name suggests, the monument was erected to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state’s creation in 1981 (the works on the monument took two years). This is a unique art masterpiece, designed in the cubism style, which was rather unusual for this monument.
The whole structure is huge and detailed, so reserve at least one hour to see it properly. There are eight massive concrete blocks where you can see scenes from Bulgarian history, including well-known rulers, aristocrats, and warriors. The blocks are standing at different angles, showing the country’s different development stages, the development of the language (from the first runes to the Cyrillic language) is also shown there. Some of the blocks are covered in the mosaic – the largest mosaic of that kind in Europe. To get to the monument, you can take a taxi or walk all the way up – there are 1300 steps (another symbolic part) leading to the monument from the center of Shumen.
#11 Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak
The Thracians inhabited the Balkans from the 2nd century BC, especially in the area that is nowadays Bulgaria. The Thracians were famous warrior people feared by the ancient Greeks and Romans. One of the most famous Thracians was the Gladiator Spartacus, who led a large slave uprising against the Roman Republic.
One of the most frequent footprints of the Thracians in Bulgaria is the Thracian tombs spread all over Bulgaria. The most famous tomb also UNESCO Heritage Site is the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak and the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari. These Thracian tombs are part of a large royal Thracian necropolis in the Valley of the Thracian Rulers in the Rose Valley.
The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak dates back to the 4th century BCE and is unique because the tomb’s interior is full of paintings. The tomb’s interior walls are decorated with murals of horses, a scene depicting the farewell of the groom and bride, the Thracian king and queen. The paintings are very well preserved, considering that they date back to the 4th century BCE.
To preserve the paintings and the Tomb, you are not allowed to visit the original Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, but it is possible to visit a full-size replica built. These Tombs are a relic of the past that you should definitely visit.
#12 Tsarevets Fortress
Tsarevets Fortress is a medieval fortress in the city of Veliko Tarnovo, in the north of Bulgaria. It is the most important fortress in Bulgaria and one of the most impressive in Europe.
A castle complex in the middle of the fortress was used to house the royal and patriarchal palaces between 1185 and 1393. Surrounding the castle is an internal stone wall and two battle towers. In the fortress city, there are several churches, remains of a monastery, and the Execution Rock, the site where the traitors were pushed into the Yantra River. Enclosing the city are the fortress walls that are 12m high and 10m thick, with three gates. The Yantra River outlines the fortress.
It is a remarkable medieval monument that will take you back in time. It is entertaining to visit, and overall it has breathtaking views of the hill, fortress castle, and river. It seems taken out of a fairy tale book.
#13 The Stone Desert
The Stone Desert, or Pobiti Kamani, is a desert of sand dunes and rock formations in Bulgaria near Varna. This is the only desert in Bulgaria and one of the few deserts in Europe. It is quite unique and strange due to the strange rock formations spread along the area.
The rock formations are stone columns, 5 to 7 meters high and 0,3 to 3 mt thick. They are hallowed inside and date back 50 million years. Their origin is still unknown, although there are several theories. Some believe they are a petrified forest; others say they were a coral complex, and there is a mythical version that says they are a place of cyclops.
Bulgaria classified The stone desert as a natural landmark in 1930 to preserve the rock formations. It is an extraordinary place that is well worth a visit. And it is easily reachable from Varna, only 20 km from the city.
#14 The Seven Rila Lakes
The seven Rila lakes are one of Bulgarian most famous natural landmarks. Located high in the Rila National Park mountains (the largest in Bulgaria), the lakes are all situated above 2000 meters high. The highest lake is at 2 535 meters, and the lowest at 2095.
This natural landmark is a top-rated hiking destination in summer, as it is possible to see all seven lakes in a relatively short hike of 8.5 km. The lakes and mountain views are astonishing, as the lakes are situated one above the other and are liked by small streams, which form tiny waterfalls and cascades.
Despite being close to the Rila Monastery, it is impossible to go from one to the other easily, as there are no direct roads. The easiest way to reach the lakes is by driving to the Pionerska hut. Once there, you must buy a ticket to the chair lift to take you to Rilski hut, close to the lakes. From there, you need to hike to explore the lakes and the area.
#15 Ancient Nesebar
Nesebar may well be the most famous tourist destination in Bulgaria. Located on a rocky island (turned into a peninsula) on the Black Sea, Nesebar is more than 3000 years old. Originally a Thracian settlement, it later became an important Greek colony, then Roman, Ottoman, and Bulgarian.
You can follow its amazing history by simply walking around and exploring the monuments lying around, including a wall from the Thracian fortifications, the Acropolis, the Apollo temple, the Stara Mitropolia Basilica, a middle ages fortress, and the wooden houses of the 19th century. It’s like walking through history. For all of this, it’s easy to understand why UNESCO declared Neseber a world heritage site in 1983.
The old town of Nesebar is right next to the most popular resort town in the black sea, Sunny Beach. Sunny Beach is well known for its night festivities, attracting thousands of people each year.
Did you enjoy this article? Have a look at our other Bulgaria posts!
- What is Bulgaria famous for?
- 15 amazing things to do in Bulgaria;
- Best day trips from Sofia;
- Best Bulgaria Beaches;
- What to eat in Bulgaria;
- 50 things you should know before traveling to Bulgaria;
* Cover photo by radoslavst via Depositphotos
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