Old stone bridge near Ardino, Bulgaria in autumn

Things to do in  Bulgaria

Rockin’ in the Balkans

Bulgaria offers some of Europe’s best value for travelers. In this Balkan nation, you’ll find winter sports destinations like Bansko and Borovets, Black Sea hubs like Burgas and Sunny Beach, and tons of outdoorsy things to do, such as hiking the Seven Rila Lakes and Pirin National Park. Adding to Bulgaria’s attractions are cultural hot spots, including Thracian tombs, Roman ruins, and medieval churches—plus atmospheric old towns like Plovdiv and Nessebar and a splash of ancient wine culture. All this (and more) is why this diverse country keeps travelers coming back.

Top 15 attractions in Bulgaria

Rila Monastery

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Rila Monastery, Bulgaria’s largest religious structure, is the most visited site in the country. Its cobblestone courtyard, winding balconies, picturesque mountain views, and brightly colored frescos transport you to a place that is almost otherworldly. The fortress-like complex has been a spiritual center for more than 1,000 years.More

Boyana Church

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The UNESCO-listed Boyana Church is made up of three distinctive sections, which reflect the architectural styles of the 10th, 13th, and 19th century respectively. The Orthodox church is held in high esteem throughout Europe due to its collection of 89 hand-painted frescoes, which depict 240 individual figures in various religious scenes.More

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

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Sofia’s landmark cathedral was built to commemorate the lives lost in the Russo-Turkish War. Named after a 13th-century Russian prince, the Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral is a fine example of neo-Byzantine architecture and one of Sofia’s most recognizable symbols. The decadent interior features iconoclasts made from marble and onyx, while the crypt boasts Bulgaria’s largest collection of religious art.More

Varna Archaeological Museum

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Set in a grand 19th-century building, the Varna Archaeological Museum houses Bulgaria’s finest archaeology collection. Displays spread over 23,000 square feet (2,150 square meters) and run from Stone Age times to the 19th century. Highlights include some of the world’s oldest worked gold, dating back over 6,000 years.More

Plovdiv Old Town (Stari Grad)

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As the sixth oldest city in the world, Plovdiv, Bulgaria can trace its history back to 5,000 B.C. Visitors exploring Plovdiv Old Town (Stari Grad) will be able to experience some of that history for themselves, from the remains of the 2nd century Roman stadium that sit underneath the pedestrian mall in the town center to the 14th century Dzhumaya Mosque, the second oldest in Europe, to the rows of Bulgarian Revival houses that line the cobblestone streets of the Old Town.The highlight for many will be the 2nd century Plovdiv Roman Theater that sits on a hill on the edge of the Old Town and is still used for concerts and other performances. Other noteworthy sites include the Church of Sveta Bogoroditsa, the Church of St. Constantine and Elena, the State Gallery of Fine Arts, the Zlatyu Boyadjiev House, the Icon Gallery and the Ethnographical Museum, with more than 40,000 displays about life and culture in Plovdiv.More

Vitosha Mountain

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Just outside of Sofia, Vitosha Mountain reaches an impressive height of 7,513 feet (2,290 meters). As the Balkan’s oldest national park, Vitosha offers plenty to see and do throughout the year. The area surrounding the mountain is also home to the Boyana Waterfall and Duhlata Cave, and close to Pancharevo Lake, making it a favorite among nature lovers.More

Belogradchik Fortress (Kaleto)

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With its soaring central rock formations blending into the nearby Belogradchik Rocks, the Belogradchik Fortress (Kaleto Fortress) boasts a history dating back to Roman times. Most of what you see today, which includes courtyards, bunkers, and the photogenic encircling walls, was built by Ottoman architects during the 1830s.More

Bachkovo Monastery

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Founded in 1083, Bachkovo Monastery is one of the largest and most important pilgrimage sites in Bulgaria, and is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed monument. The historic monastery also boasts a magnificent setting, perched in the hills around Asenovgrad and overlooking the Chepelare River.More

Balchik Palace (Dvoreca)

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Also known as the Summer Palace of Queen Marie, Balchik Palace (Dvoreca) sits along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, together with a popular botanical garden. The palace was built for Queen Marie of Romania between 1926 and 1937, when Romania controlled the region. Designed by an Italian architect, the palace is part of a complex that includes several villas, a wine cellar, a monastery, a chapel and several other buildings. Buildings within the complex feature architectural elements inspired by a variety of cultures and religions, including a minaret, a Christian chapel, Thracian, Greek and Roman symbols, and a mix of Bulgarian, Gothic and Islamic designs. The palace rooms open to the public display original furnishings, as well as some local ancient artifacts and photographs of Queen Marie. The nearby botanical garden was established in 1940 and covers 65,000 square meters. It is home to 2000 plant species, including a collection of large cactus species, only the second of its kind in Europe.More

Ivan Vazov National Theatre

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Named after one of Bulgaria’s most esteemed writers, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre has been drawing audiences since 1907. The national theater is also the country’s largest and oldest, and is known for its productions, neoclassical architecture, and history. Cementing its status as a national icon, the theater’s colonnaded façade can be seen on 50-lev banknotes.More

Rozhen Monastery

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Nestled below cliffs in the Pirin Mountains, the Rozhen Monastery of the Nativity of the Mother of God boasts a heritage dating back to Byzantine times—although most of what you’ll see today is from the 18th century. Highlights include a 2-story ossuary, a miraculous icon, and a narthex (porch) with 16th-century frescoes.More

Rila Mountains

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The Rila Mountains offer outdoor enthusiasts a perfect playground for exploring Bulgaria’s highest peaks, along with glacial lakes, hot springs, four nature reserves, and the rugged, untouched landscapes of Rila National Park. The alpine region is also home to the UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery—a masterpiece of Bulgarian art and architecture.More

St. Sofia Church

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The core structure of St. Sofia Church, one of the oldest churches in the Bulgarian capital, dates back to the sixth century, although it has evolved over time. Excavations have revealed the remains of several earlier churches plus a Roman-era necropolis under and around the Byzantine basilica, and the site is now an underground museum.More

Sofia Synagogue

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Europe’s third largest synagogue was built in 1909 for Sofia’s Sephardi Jewish community. Based on the Leopoldstädter Tempel, Friedrich Grünanger’s design blends Venetian and Secessionist features with Moorish revival architecture. The synagogue is also home to Sofia’s Jewish Museum of History.More

Koprivshtitsa

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Also written Koprivshtica, the little riverside town of Koprivshtitsa is a living museum nestled in the foothills of the Sredna Mountains (Sredna Gora). Its history dates back to the 14th century, but the colorful and brightly lit merchants’ houses that decorate the town are from the Bulgarian Revival period, 500 years or so later.More
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All about Bulgaria

When to visit

If you want to hit the slopes without breaking the bank, Bulgaria is one of Europe’s top destinations for budget skiing—especially for beginners and intermediates. The winter sports season runs December through March, with everything from snowboarding to snowshoeing and skating on offer. But Bulgaria charms visitors in summer, too. The rose harvest brings festivals in May and June; parks and mountains are a hiker’s dream from May to September; and the Black Sea resorts bustle during July and August.

Getting around

From trains and Danube cruises to trams and bicycles, Bulgaria offers plenty of ways to get around. Trains are a scenic way to travel: The nation’s rail network links Bulgaria’s biggest cities and offers international connections to Turkey, Greece, Romania, the Balkans, and beyond. Buses cover much of the rest of the country, and hiring a car is affordable, although roads can be in poor repair. Cities are generally walkable with efficient public transit.

Traveler tips

Bulgaria has more to offer than just the cities of Plovdiv and Sofia. Don’t miss one of Bulgaria’s oldest, Veliko Tarnovo. This fortified town was built around a majestic fortress and was the Bulgarian Empire’s capital during medieval times. Food-oriented travelers will appreciate Bulgaria’s delicious yogurt. If you’re visiting in summer, eat like a local and try tarator, a cold yogurt soup with cucumber, garlic, walnuts, and dill.

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People Also Ask

What do people do in Bulgaria for fun?

During winter, ski resorts like Bansko and Borovets offer the full range of winter sports. You can even ski on Mt. Vitosha, just outside Sofia. In summer, Black Sea beaches deliver fun in the sun, whether from windsurfing, kiteboarding, parasailing, or scuba diving. Wine tastings are a Bulgarian attraction year-round.

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Is Bulgaria worth visiting?

Yes. Bulgarian visitors have many things to do, whether interests run to hiking or history, ski slopes, or sunbathing. It’s one of Europe’s favorite destinations for learning to ski, and the warmer months offer sandy beaches and spectacular hiking. The country also is home to 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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What is Bulgaria famous for?

History buffs know Bulgaria for the mysterious Thracian people, whose ancient tombs still dot the landscape. European travelers know it for beach vacations and winter sports trips. Its old cities are loaded with medieval churches, gorgeous frescoes, and other sights; and the Valley of Roses is famous for rose oil.

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Is Bulgaria a cheap country?

Yes. Bulgaria is an affordable country for travelers. Backpackers who are happy to sleep in dorm beds can spend the night in Bulgaria for as little as US$30 per day; international luxury hotels can cost less than US$150 per night.

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Do they speak English in Bulgaria?

That depends on whom you speak to! Most young people speak some English, particularly in popular resort towns. But, because of Bulgaria’s communist past, older Bulgarians are more likely to speak Russian or German than English. Bulgaria’s official language is Bulgarian, which uses a version of the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet.

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Can you use US dollars in Bulgaria?

No, you cannot use US dollars in Bulgaria. Although Bulgaria is in the European Union, it uses its own currency, the lev (BGN), which is pegged to the euro at a rate of roughly 2 euro to 1 lev. Any US dollars must be exchanged before you can use them.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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