The 10 Best Bulgaria Landmarks

The ancient town of Nessebar is situated on a romantic rocky peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. The peninsula is 850 metres long and 300 metres wide. The town has a century-old history and it has preserved architectural monuments from all periods in its thousand year old existence. There are the remains of the Roman and Medieval walls, the Byzantine and Bulgarian churches and the old houses from 18th and 19th cc.

The town is proud of its churches. The church of St. Sofia, known as the Old Metropolitan church, and the church of Virgin Eleusa, situated on the northern shore, are three-isled basilicas dating back to the early Byzantine period from 5th to 6th cc. The church of St. John the Baptist from 11th c is distinguished for its cylinder dome and St. Stephen’s church is remarkable for its frescoes from 16th c.

Nessebar is the cultural treasury of Bulgaria. In 1956 it was declared “a museum-town, an archaeological and architectural reserve”. Because of its unique historic colour it was listed as a World Cultural Heritage Monument in 1983.T
  Rila Monastery is probably the most popular Bulgarian tourist site. It’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you have friends from abroad visiting. I will dare to be accused of blasphemy and even say that sometimes it feels a bit of a cliché. But there’s a reason for that – no surprise it’s one of the nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria. Words fail to describe this heavenly monument. Rising out of a forested valley in the Rila Mountains, Bulgaria’s most famous monastery has been a spiritual centre for 1000 years. Rila Monastery’s fortress-like complex engulfs 8800 sq m, and within its stone walls you’ll find remarkably colourful architecture and religious art. Visitors can’t fail to be struck by its elegant colonnades, archways striped in black, red and white, and the bright yellow domes of its main church, beneath which dance apocalyptic frescoes. All of this splendour, against a backdrop of mist-swirled mountains, has made Rila Monastery hugely popular among both pilgrims and curious visitors.

15 Facts About Rila Monastery

  The St.Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (hram-pametnik Sveti Aleksandar Nevski) is a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It was build in honor of Alexander II The Liberator and the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule. The construction of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral started in 1882 with official ceremony, but it was in fact built between 1904 and 1912. Following an old tradition, the names of all parliament members were put inside a metal box, which was build in the foundation. Constructed in Neo-Byzantine style, it is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world and serves as cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria. With 3170 sq.m. area, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral can accommodate over 5000 people. The interior is exquisitely ornamented with Italian marble, onyx from Brazil, alabaster and other rear minerals.  
This is one of the oldest European towns contemporary to Òroya and Mikena. It has been existing as a settlement about 8000 years ago, and became a town 3000 years ago during the Troyan war. There are very well preserved artifacts of the Bulgarian Revival architecture – a variety of archeological memorials from Thracian, Romanian and Medieval times. More ancient than Bulgaria itself, this singular city preserves vivid memories of its turbulent and dramatic fate. In 342 B.C. Philip 11 of Macedon conquered the Thracian town of Evmolpia leaving, it his name - Philippopolis. At the start of our millennium the Romans conquered Thrace and called the city Trimontium. During the 19 th century Bulgarian master builders erected the National Revival town of Plovdiv (the Old Town) with steep cobbled lanes, lovely houses with large bay windows and slender columns, latticed eaves and heavy oak gates, quiet green yards and rippling marble fountains. Every house here has its own style and atmosphere. Situated on three hills in the Thracian Plain, encircled by the slow running waters of the Maritsa River, Bulgaria’s second largest city today, Plovdiv has a 24 centuries long history and is one of the ancient crossroads between East and West. Landmarks remaining from Roman times include the Philippopolis Amphitheatre and the restored 2 nd century Antigue Theatre. The Ethnographic, the art galleries, churches and the street of folk arts and crafts are major landmarks of Old Plovdid. The Old Plovdiv on Trimontzium hill is famous of its National Revival architecture (from 18 th-19 th centuries).    
Old town Sozopol's romantic atmosphere with its narrow cobbled streets, houses with high fences on stone foundations with sun-dried brick walls and external wooden boarding, typical for the Black Sea school of architecture, make it a most enchanting and captivating place. This seaside resort, which has been spared the faith of many other Bulgarian coastal locations – to be buried under concrete and countless of stands selling Chinese-made souvenirs and cheap underwear, combines a breathtaking rocky shoreline, sandy beaches, historical sites, and cultural events. Time in Sozopol has different dimensions - fishermen are still seen catching what the Sea has to offer on wooden boats; older women sit in front of the picturesque houses, chatting, knitting, selling freshly picked figs, homemade jams and jellies, while almost everyone who decides to dig in the ground or to build something stumbles upon remnants from the past – clay vessels, ancient coins, wooden objects, little statues and much, much more.  
  The inescapable symbol of Veliko Târnovo, this reconstructed fortress dominates the skyline and is one of Bulgaria’s most beloved monuments. The former seat of the medieval tsars, it boasts the remains of more than 400 houses, 18 churches, the royal palace, an execution rock and more. Watch your step: there are lots of potholes, broken steps and unfenced drops. The fortress morphs into a psychedelic spectacle with a magnificent night-time Sound & Light Show. Tsarevets Museum-Reserve is located on Tsarevets Hill, which has been settled since time immemorial due to its strategic location. Thracians and Romans used it as a defensive position, but the Byzantines built the first significant fortress here between the 5th and 7th centuries AD. The fortress was rebuilt and fortified by the Slavs and Bulgars between the 8th and 10th centuries, and again by the Byzantines in the early 12th century. When Târnovgrad became the Second Bulgarian Empire’s capital, the fortress was truly magnificent, but with the Turkish invasion in 1393, it was sacked and destroyed. Tourists can thank the communists for returning it to a semblance of its former glory (although some archaeologists grumble about the faithfulness of the restoration).

The Ancient theatre of Philipoppol is one of the best-preserved ancient theatres in the World. It is located on the Southern slope of the Three Hills, in the saddle between Taksim and Dzhambaz tepe. Discovered by archaeologists from Plovdiv and reconstructed in the beginning of the 80s of XX century, the Ancient theatre of Philipoppol is among the most significant findings from the Roman period. Recently found and deciphered inscription on a monumental pedestal reveals that the theatre has been constructed in the 90s of I century A.D., when Philippolol was under the rulership of Titus Flavius Cotis – an heir of a Thracian Royal Dynasty, the high priest of the Tracian province, representative of the Metropolitan Court of Justice and a person in charge of the construction sites.

The open-air spectator’s area includes 28 concentric rows of marble seats, surrounding the stage– orchestra, which has the shape of a horseshoe with diameter 26.64 m. Apart from theatre performances, the venue was used for gladiatorial and hunting games, as well as a seat of the General Assembly of the Roman province of Thrace (Tracon koinon). It was in use until the end of IV century and had a capacity of about 6 000 spectators. There used to a lodge for the Emperor and other officials on the second row of seats above the archway.

The Belogradchik Rocks are marvelous rock-formations located south of city of Belogradchik. They were formed of varicoloured Triassic sandstones and conglomerates. The Belogradchik rocks form a 3 km wide and 30 kilometer long strip, and the rock formations reach some 200 meters in height. They were formed at the bottom of a sea as the product of compression (they began 230 million years ago as sediment at the bottom of a shallow sea) and then erosion over the last 45 million years. The rocks, made largely of limestone, also hold hundreds of caves, including Magura Cave where the bones of prehistoric species like cave bear or cave hyena have been discovered, as have cave paintings dating from 10,000 BC - 600 BC. Among two of the most famous and most curious legends surrounding the rocks are that of the Madonna and the Schoolgirl. In the legend of the Madonna, a beautiful nun falls in love with a man on a white horse, gets pregnant, is cast out by the monks and as she is leaving the nunnery, day turns to night and all, Madonna, monks, man on the white horse are turned to stone forming the rocks.    
“St. George” Rotunda Church is the oldest architectural monument in Sofia and the only building in good repair, intact to the roof, dated as far back as the Roman Empire. Its construction coincides with a moment of a remarkable flourishing of Serdika as one of the largest and most considerable Roman towns on the Balkan Peninsula. Since the very beginning it has been a building of a cult, probably a martyrion (a religious building devoted to a saint martyr. This opinion dominated over the supposition on a Roman Baths because of the hypocaust, being too high (1-1,20 m), while a height of  70 – 80 cm was necessary for the baths. This hypocaust served for ventilation and drainage of the floor. There aren’t any vestiges of a fireplace (prefurnium), necessary for baths’ building). The construction of the Rotunda is dated as far back as the beginning of the 4th century, from the time of Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) who sojourned in Serdica many times. He has been credited with the phrase: “Serdica – that is my Rome”. After the Edict of Milan in 313 that Emperor Constantine the Great promulgated Christianity as an allowed religion by, in the Roman Empire the Rotunda was transformed into a baptistery because of the mass conversion to Christianity. In 6th century, during the rule of Emperor Justinian the Great (527-565) the Rotunda was transformed from a baptistery into a church. The first ancient painting dates back from that time. Since the same time the church is supposed to have been bearing the name of St. Great Martyr Georgi, suffered in Asia Minor during the 3rd century, at the time of Emperor Diocletian (284-305). One of the religious councils, the one in Serdica (343 Serdica’s Councel), is connected with the church. A lot of bishops of the then East and West Christian world attended this Council. The Council confirmed the Nicaea symbol of faith, exculpated St. Athanasius of Alexandria and expelled the adherents to the Aryan heresy. The vault of the Rotunda has been destroyed twice. The fundamental assumptions were, as follows: an earthquake, because of the seismic region Sofia is located in, erosion or the military inroads of the Westgoths in the end of the 4th c. and of the Huns in the 5th c. when the architectural ensemble was heavily impaired, as well as in the 9th c. – during the siege of Krum.    
Aladzha Monastery is the most famous medieval cave monastery on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. It was inhabited by hermit monks during the XIII- XIV centuries. It was in the end of XIX century when the founders of the Bulgarian archaeology- Shkorpil brothers, Karel and Hermin, began to systematically study this Christian monument. In 1927, Aladzha Monastery was declared a public historical monument and in 1968 it was declared an architectural cultural monument of national significance. The monastery caves are hewn on two levels into an almost 40m high limestone rock. The first level consists of a monastery church, monastic cells, a dining premise and a kitchen, a small cemetery church, a crypt (bone-vault) and farm premises. The second level is a natural cave recess in the eastern end of which there is a monastery chapel. 600-700 m westwards from the Monastery there is a group of caves also known as the “Catacombs”. The items found by the archaeologists such as ceramics, coins, graffiti, etc., evidence that the Catacombs were inhabited during the early Christian Age (V-VI centuries). After the fall of Bulgaria under the Ottoman yoke in the end of  14th  century, Aladzha Monastery has gradually declined and it was probably around 15th – 16th  century when it was finally abandoned. The Christian name of the Monastery is unknown. The name “aladzha” (alaca) has a Persian – Arabian origin meaning “motley, bright”. At the beginning of the last century, K. Shkorpil wrote a legend according to which the patron of the monastery was St Spas (named after Christ the Saviour).  
  Natural phenomenon “Stone Forest” is better known with its Bulgarian name “Pobiti kamani” which could be translated as “stones beaten into the ground”. Seven large and several separate small groups are located on the north and south from the Beloslav Lake. These are numerous limestone pillars as high as 10 m, hollow or solid cylinders, truncated cones and single rocks and cliffs. The most famous and impressive is the group named “Center - South”. It is located 18 km west of Varna and numbered about 300 large and small columns, up to 6 m high, rising mainly south of the old road to the town of Devnya. Several hypotheses about the origin of the phenomenon have been developed. The scientists describe designing of the structures by mechanical acting of the environmental factors (sea waves, wind, rain) or precipitation of carbonate from infiltrated ground waters (stalactite mode of formation), coral complexes, algal bio constructed build-ups (bioherms), petrified forest and natural gas seepages so called "the bubbling reefs". We still cannot say which of these hypotheses give the best explanation of the origin, but the idea that they are human creation is excluded.