Because Bulgaria lies on a vital European crossroad, its history has inevitably been a string of battles and wars. Romans conquered Thracians, Bulgarians fought Byzantines, Ottomans fended off western crusaders, you name it. As a result, throughout the ages majestic castles and fortifications popped up throughout the Bulgarian lands.
1. Belogradchik Fortress
The Belogradchik Fortress, also known as Kaleto is an ancient fortress located on the north slopes of the Balkan Mountains, close to the northwestern Bulgarian town of Belogradchik.
The initial fortress was constructed during the Roman Empire, taking advantage of the natural rock formations in the area. Initially, the Belogradchik Fortress served for surveillance and not strictly defense. Bulgarian tsar of Vidin Ivan Stratsimir extended the old fortress in the 14th century, building fortified garrisons in front of the existing rock massifs. During Stratsimir’s rule, the Belogradchik Fortress became one of the most important strongholds in the region, second only to the tsar’s capital fortress of Vidin, Baba Vida.
During the Ottoman conquest of Bulgaria, the fortress was captured by the Ottomans in 1396.
2. Baba Vida
Baba Vida is a medieval fortress in Vidin in northwestern Bulgaria. It consists of two concentric curtain walls and nine towers of which three are preserved to their original full medieval height. The construction of the fortress began in the 10th century at the site of the Roman castell Bononia.
The fortress played a role during the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria, serving as a weapon warehouse and a prison, also as residence for Osman Pazvantoğlu.
3. Asen’s Fortress
Asen’s Fortress is a medieval castle in the Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains, 2 to 3 kilometres (1.2 to 1.9 mi) south of the town of Asenovgrad on a high rocky ridge on the banks of the Asenitsa River.
The earliest archaeological findings date from the time of the Thracians, the area of the fortress being also inhabited during the Ancient Roman and Early Byzantine period. The fortress gained importance in the Middle Ages, first mentioned in the statute of the Bachkovo Monastery as Petrich in the 11th century.
The Mezek Fortress is claimed to be among the best preserved Bulgarian medieval castles. It dates to the 11th century. Along with the discovery of adjacent Thracian tombs, it was studied by a team under archaeologist Bogdan Filov in 1931–1932. The castle has nine towers, five of which lie at the vulnerable south wall. The Mezek Fortress was built out of stone, with two decorative lines of bricks on the outside. It suffered some destruction around 1900, when stones from the fortress were used for the construction of Ottoman barracks in Svilengrad.
5. Tsarevets (fortress)
Tsarevets is a medieval stronghold located on a hill with the same name in Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria. Tsarevets is 206 metres (676 ft) above sea level. It served as the Second Bulgarian Empire’s primary fortress and strongest bulwark from 1185 to 1393, housing the royal and the patriarchal palaces. It has three entrances. The main entrance is located in the easternmost side of the hill. The castle complex is located in the centre, surrounded by an internal stone wall, two battle towers and two entrances – north and south. It consists of a throne hall, castle church and the king’s chamber. The restoration of the fortress Tsarevets began in 1930 and was completed in 1981 in honour of the 1300 anniversary from the establishment of the Bulgarian state.
6. Ovech fortress
During the Middle Ages Ovech was a key centre of the First Bulgarian Empire with an important monastery at the modern village of Ravna and a major scriptorium of the Preslav Literary School. During the Uprising of Ivaylo the rebel leader and subsequently emperor of Bulgaria Ivaylo defeated a 10,000-strong Byzantine army near the city in 1279. During the Second Bulgarian Empire Ovech was the seat of a metropolitan in the 14th century. Ovech was captured by the Ottomans in 1388 after a long siege.
7. The Evksinograd Residence
Тhe Evksinograd Residence is located at a distance of 8 kilometers north of Varna and lies on a 3-kilometer coastline in close proximity to the resort of St. Constantine and Helena. The complex used to be a royal summer residence for the monarchs who ruled Bulgaria after the liberation of the country from the Ottoman Dominion (1878) – Alexander Battenberg, Ferdinand and Boris the 3rd.
Prince Battenberg visited Varna in 1880 and he was welcomed at the monastery “St. Dimitar”, which was situated at the same place, where now the residence stands. The monarch liked the local nature so much, that two years later the Varna municipality bestowed him the monastery and its adjoining lands.
8. Vrana Palace
Vrana Palace is a former royal palace, located on the outskirts of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It is today the official residence of Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria and his wife Tsaritsa Margarita. While the Royal palace in the centre of Sofia (today the National Art Gallery and National Ethnographic Museum) served representative purposes and the Euxinograd palace near Varna was a summer residence, Vrana was the palace where the royal family of Bulgaria spent most of their time.
9. Tsarska Bistritsa
Tsarska Bistritsa is a former royal palace in southwestern Bulgaria, high in the Rila Mountains, just above the resort of Borovetsand near the banks of the Bistritsa River. Built between 1898 and 1914, it served as the hunting lodge of Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria and his son Boris III.
The hunting lodge was nationalized after 1945, when Bulgaria became a Communist state. The democratic changes of 1989 led to the controversial return of the palace to Simeon II, the last monarch of Bulgaria and afterwards a politician, in October 2002
10. Palace and Botanical Gardens of Balchik
The Balchik Palace is a palace in the Bulgarian Black Seatown and resort of Balchik in Southern Dobruja. The official name of the palace was the Quiet Nest Palace. It was constructed between 1926 and 1937, during the Romanian control of the region, for the needs of Queen Marie of Romania. The palace complex consists of a number of residential villas, a smoking hall, a wine cellar, a power station, a monastery, a holy spring, a chapel and many other buildings, as well as most notably a park that is today a state-run botanical garden. Balchik Palace is 17 metres (56 ft) above sea level