Taste the tradition:
11 free food festivals in Bulgaria
Big or small, Bulgarian food festivals all have something in common: they are carried out by locals with lots of love and genuine desire to preserve traditions and pass on cultural knowledge from the past into the present.
Culinary festivals are truly a journey into the flavors of Bulgaria. Every season has its food, fruits, vegetables, and meats. Every corner of Bulgaria has customs and practices that make them different from others. Food always brings people together and leaves lasting impressions of our culture, especially, when the people who make it prepare it with love.
In our list of food festivals in Bulgaria, we’ve gathered culinary events from every region of the country. At these celebrations, you will find local farmers and artisans presenting their best products that you can sample and purchase.
All of these food festivals are free to attend, just be sure to bring your appetite!
Festival of cherries
City of Kyustendil
End of June
The Festival of Cherries is a popular Bulgarian festival to celebrate the rich and fruitful bounty of the country. First held in Kyustendil in 1896, this festival brought the title of Motherland of Bulgarian Pomiculture to the town.
Since then, every year in June, the town hosts the festival and declares the beginning to the cherry harvesting season. Here, in the heart of the Orchard of Bulgaria, you can taste over 80 sorts of cherries ranging in sorts and flavors. Merchants are spread across the Kyustendil city garden with tables decked in fresh cherry fruit, decorations and ornaments hand-crafted from cherries, and homemade cherry goods.
More than a food festival, this event involves the entire community. People from Kyustendil and surrounding villages create various new inventions from cherries and showcase them at the festival. For example, a couple of years ago, a local community centre invented rocket fuel made entirely from cherry pits.
As in many other Bulgarian festivals, the Festival of Cherries holds a number of competitions, like one for the most beautiful table set-up and one for the juiciest cherry fruit. If you are a fan of the crimson fruit, this is an event you can’t miss!
City of Troyan
One thing you cannot go without trying in Bulgaria is the plum brandy and what better place to do so than the Bulgarian Plum Festival? The festival has been recognised and awarded as one of the best festivals in Europe and is loved by Bulgarians and tourists alike.
Nestled underneath the Central Balkan National Park is the quaint town of Troyan with its famous plum brandy, also known as rakia. Not for the faint hearted, this drink is a strong elixir that is sure to liven up any festival.
The whole town comes together at this festival, pouring glasses of homemade plum rakia and offering all sorts of delicacies made with plums. Sample bacon-wrapped plums, plum jam, plum bread, and more. You can also see demonstrations of the brewing and distillation process of rakia, and join in on workshops teaching traditional ceramics native to Troyan.
If you are a lover of strong spirits and are always up for a good time, Troyan’s plum festival is for you.
City of Sevlievo
Who says Bulgarians don’t celebrate Halloween? While there are no costumes or trick-or-treating at this festival, there is a whole lot of pumpkin!
The Pumpkin Festival takes place in the small town of Sevlievo right at the beginning of autumn. Like many other food festivals, this event celebrates the year’s harvest and producers from the area show off their biggest, smallest and weirdest pumpkins.
It’s worth noting that you should come hungry to this festival. Here, you can try a variety of pumpkin delicacies – from Bulgarian tikvenik (a sweet pumpkin pastry with walnuts) and honey-glazed roasted pumpkin to savory servings of beef risotto with pumpkin, pumpkin soup and a pumpkin take on the traditional Bulgarian spread, liutenitsa.
The main event of the festival is the “Pumpkin Party,” a parade through the city centre of Sevlievo. Pumpkin-packed parade floats drift through the streets with comedians, celebrities and musical acts onboard.
City of Kranevo
Fried sprats and beer are an essential part of every summer on the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea.
One of the newer food festivals in Bulgaria is the Sprat Festival held in the seaside town of Kranevo. If you love seafood and are visiting over the summer, this festival is a must!
The Sprat Festival was held for the first time in 2016 and has quickly gained popularity among Bulgarians and tourists alike. Aside from the fried sprats, you can also try freshly caught fish and mussels from the Black Sea.
Of course, what would a Bulgarian food festival be without some friendly competition? You can compete to eat the most sprats in a given time, or even dive into a sprat-filled pool to try to catch the small fish with your bare hands!
Even though the festival is held in the city of Kranevo, 20 kilometres from the main coastal city of Varna, in the previous years there’s been organized transport.
Fish and Mussel Festival
City of Kavarna
Another Bulgarian food festival dedicated to seafood – the fish and mussel festival in Kavarna. As the name suggests, this festival is focused around a Bulgarian seaside delicacy – mussels. Of course, there are plenty of fish and dishes to taste, as well.
For the little ones, there are activities organized by local craftsmen and chefs. For example, your kids can create fish and marine-themed figurines from natural materials, like seaweed and clay. There is also a musical program accompanying the entire festivity with local artists and Bulgarian celebrities.
In any case, if you are craving more mussels after this festival, we recommend you stop by a local favorite, the mussel farm Dalboka in Kavarna. Here, you can sample dozens of different dishes prepared with mussels. Whether you preferred them fried, steamed, or stuffed with rice – they’ve got it!
City of Razgrad
End of July
An invention and tradition Bulgarians treasure dearly is our yogurt.
If you take a look at the ingredients of any yogurt around the world, you will find one ingredient that unites them all – Lactobacillicus Bulgaricus. As the name suggests, this bacteria originates from Bulgaria and is essential to any yogurt recipe.
Every year in the city of Razgrad, yogurt-lovers from near and far come together to celebrate and preserve the Bulgarian tradition of yogurt-making. Try modern recipes made from cow milk, or traditional recipes made from goat or sheep milk. While the latter certainly have a stronger flavor, they come closer to the traditional recipes of Bulgarian yogurt, which was exclusively made from the milk of goats and sheep.
Bulgarians often combine dishes like moussaka or stuffed peppers with yogurt so if you want to eat like a true Bulgarian, try adding some home-made yogurt to your favourite Bulgarian dish.
Check out these tips for attending
food festivals in Bulgaria
The only thing you really need to attend Bulgarian food festivals is an appetite. However, we do recommend bringing a couple of things to make your experience as enjoyable as possible.
If you have allergies or dietary restrictions, make sure you plan ahead and ask vendors about the ingredients.
Also, be sure to bring cash. Few of these festival vendors will accept cards. Bring your own refillable water bottle and reusable cutlery to cut down on single-use plastics.
Finally, be brave! Many of these Bulgarian festivals will present you the opportunity to try something entirely new and unique, so don’t be shy and take a bite!
Plan ahead for allergies
Bring your own water
Have cash handy
Bring your own cutlery
Be brave and try new flavours
Work up an appetite
Practice basic food vocabulary
Festival of Turshia
City of Zlataritsa
We love our turshia so much – we had to dedicate a whole festival to it!
Turshia is Bulgarian term for anything that is pickled. During the cold winter months, Bulgarians pickle a variety of seasonal vegetables and snack on them as side dishes, or in combination with rakia. By far, the most popular version of turshia includes peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, and carrots and is called king’s turshia. The veggies are marinated for weeks to months in a savory mixture of oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and honey.
At the festival entirely dedicated to turshia, you can try traditional recipes with root vegetables. Or, you can challenge your taste buds and try pickled grapes, apples or persimmons. You can even exchange some local recipes with the avid picklers and try to make your own turshia.
Festival of Bacon and Mulled Rakia
Village of Apriltsi
End of February
Without a doubt, rakia is Bulgarians’ favorite spirit. Most often poured in the cold winter months, rakia is often combined with raw, salted pork fat. Sometimes, it’s grilled or baked and the taste is quite similar to bacon. Every February in the village of Apriltsi, you can warm up your soul and tickle your tastebuds with these Bulgarian winter essentials.
Traditionally, “grandma’s stew” is served at this festival – a dish prepared with 30 kilos of bacon, lots of eggs and leeks. Other treats for the guests include bacon skewers and bacon and bean soup. And let’s not forget about the rakia – the flavor complementing all of this salty, savory goodness.
As always, Bulgarian food tradition is coupled with traditional folkloric music. National dance ensembles and folk singers gather to commemorate the festival, as well.
Eat, drink, and be merry! After all, that’s what Bulgarian food festivals are all about.
Festival of Smilyan Beans
Village of Smilyan
End of october
Another food festival centered around a traditional food – the Smilyan bean. Beans are a popular staple of Bulgarian cuisine, but this variety is certainly the most popular. Differing with its size, color and rich flavor, the growth of this bean in the Rhodopes is traced back approximately 250 years. What’s more is that Smilyan beans have their own patent!
To mark the beginning of the festival, a “bullet” of beans is thrown from a makeshift cannon. Then, the festivities and feasting begin! Professional chefs and newbie cooks face off in two separate competitions for the best dishes featuring the infamous legume. Interactive games, friendly contests and music liven up the birthplace of this Bulgarian tradition.
Travel back in time and taste the traditional recipes that secured the fame of this bean sort at the Smilyan bean festival.
Festival of Tomatoes and Peppers
Village of Kurtovo Konare
Middle of September
While this festival might sound simplistic, it’s precisely the opposite. Tomatoes and peppers can be found in practically every Bulgarian food. Hence there is a whole festival dedicated to them. Don’t expect to be eating raw vegetables, though. Instead, you will be treated to dozens of traditional Bulgarian dishes, spreads and even desserts featuring these two local cuisine staples.
Right on the cusp of the tomato and pepper cultivation season, this festival celebrates the delicious flavors of Bulgarian agriculture. The highlight of this celebration is certainly the traditional Bulgarian liutenitsa. A spread combining both ripe tomatoes and roasted peppers, it’s a delectable speciality of our country. Countless dishes are prepared for this festival, including mish-mash, roasted peppers in tomato sauce, tomato soup, and more.
Savor the classic flavors of Bulgarian cuisine and discover the traditional dishes based around them. If you want to explore the region and local farms, check out our Plovdiv city guide.
Festival of Bread
City of Dobrich
End of September
What better way to connect with the locals than breaking bread?
In Dobrich, breaking bread is more than an expression, it is an annual tradition. Bakers from around the country come together at this food festival for bake-off competitions and to share their crafts with the community. Of course, visitors are the lucky ones here, as they can sample the variety of bread and sweets the bakers have prepared.
But you can do much more at this Bulgarian food festival than taste fresh-baked bread. Learn about the history of wheat and bread-making at the interactive exhibits, join a scavenger hunt at the local museum, and get your hands dirty by kneading a giant bread with the help of the other guests.
A final word
As you can tell, Bulgarians love their food and traditions. What’s even more inspiring is that we are committed to preserving cultural customs and sharing love.
No visit to Bulgaria is complete without trying at least one dish from our diverse cuisine. Luckily, these food festivals are free to attend and welcome people from all around the world. Instead of searching for traditional dishes at modern restaurants, why not go straight to the source of the dish and try its most authentic version?
If you need any more recommendations for Bulgarian food events, or if you have questions about how to attend the ones we’ve listed here – don’t hesitate to contact us! We will gladly answer your questions and point you in the right direction based on your food interests, or dietary preferences.
Festival location map