Bulgaria was not what I’d expected. But to be honest, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I definitely wasn’t expecting to love it as much as we did! We fell in love with the country and want you to as well! Here’s why you should visit Bulgaria!
When we first mentioned our travel plans, people either asked “where?” and then “why?!?” I didn’t have a great explanation for them, other than “why not?” But after spending some time in Bulgaria, I’d love to meet those people again and be able to share with them what made Bulgaria so amazing.
Honestly, I could go on and on – and some of the reasons may seem odd, like the fact that there were large recycle containers all over. On every street. Quite a refreshing change from most of the other countries in South Eastern Europe that we have visited.
So I’ll try and narrow it down and give you our top reasons on why you should visit Bulgaria.
Bulgaria has History!
Between the Thracians, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Ottomans, there’s loads of history in Bulgaria. Each has left their own unique mark, making Bulgaria the country it is today. Monasteries, roman ruins, fortresses, ancient churches and other historical monuments are dotted throughout the country. And Bulgarians are very proud of their history – just ask any local and they will tell you stories that have been passed down for generations!
And Fantastic Scenery
Although we didn’t make it to the Black Sea, the beaches in Bulgaria are supposed to be amazing. Many Europeans visit the sunny beaches for their holidays.
The mountain ranges are also well known for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. If you’re not a sports fan, they’re also just fantastic to look it!
Anywhere you go, the sure to be amazed by the scenery around you.
Also, Great Food…
Food in Bulgaria is amazing. That in itself is a great reason why you should visit Bulgaria! Fresh, local and filling, what more can you ask for?
Rakia, yogurt and shopska salad are probably the best known food in Bulgaria.
As in many Eastern European countries, meat such as pork, beef and even sometimes lamb, is found on every menu.
Kebapche are grilled sausages without the skin, and Satch is a hot plate with meat and vegetables.
Try them all!
I’m not going to lie – their coffee/espresso is REALLY good too. And available anywhere. Including little vending machines on the street – I was a little dubious of those but they were great! And there was one just outside our apartment door!
and Good Prices!
Bulgaria isn’t on the tourist radar yet, and as such, prices are still pretty cheap. Bulgarians use their own currency which is the lev.
Prices for everything are very inexpensive compared to the rest of Europe – food, accommodations, even housing are much less than other countries.
A meal for us (one adult, two kids, including wine) was just under $25CAD (€17 or $18USD).
A local taxi within town runs about $3CAD (€2 or $2.25USD) and buses between cities are pretty inexpensive as well.
A local beer costs about $1.50CAD (€1 or $1.12USD) and a mid-range bottle of wine – Bulgaria has great wine! – is about $7CAD (€4.50 or $5USD).
Bulgaria is Easy to Get Around
Transportation in Bulgaria is fairly reliable. If you rent a car, be aware that road signs are written in Cyrillic (as are most maps) and may make navigating a bit tricky!
Buses and trains are easy to use. The best place to get information on schedules and prices (in English) is the local tourist offices. Buses tend to be a bit cheaper than trains, but they can be large coach-style buses or smaller buses (without air conditioning!).
Many people, especially the younger generation, will speak enough English to help you out and let you know where your stop is.
We took both the bus and the train, and loved the train – although it may have taken slightly longer. The trains are never as full as the buses so you have a bit more room to spread out.
Bulgaria is Very Kid Friendly
Everywhere we went, and I mean everywhere, people were so helpful and accommodating to kids. The boys quickly became used to people just reaching down and touching their hair, or getting down on their level to say hi.
Many times, strangers would offer to help carry one of their suitcases, or even just hold a hand down the stairs. At first the boys were a little hesitant, but we quickly realized that was just the way people were here. Locals were always trying to give them an extra little treat as well!
Aside from the people, the places were very kid friendly as well.
Many restaurants or cafes had little slides or swings for the kids as well. There were even some restaurants that had complete kids areas, so that parents could enjoy their meal alone.
Often called the “City of Tsars” and known for the large Tsarevets fortress with its’ fantastic light show, Veliko Tarnovo is worth a visit. The city is built on three hills, with the Yantra River running through the centre of town. The houses are built into the sides of the hills, making for some picturesque views and adventurous walks on the staircases that lead to the streets above and below. The Old Town is small and walkable, with most of the historic places no further than a 20 minute walk away.
The fortress is definitely worth a visit! Located at the end of the Old Town, it’s easy to walk to. You can walk in and around the fortress itself, along the walls and climb the stairs in the centre to see the cathedral at the top.
During the summer, the Sound and Light show happens every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. Through the rest of the year, it runs a few times a month – check the schedule here.
Plovdiv was the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Formerly the capital city of Bulgaria and one of the oldest cities in Europe, it has its’ share of culture and history. With the Roman Amphitheatre, coliseum ruins, numerous art galleries, museums, cafes and restaurants, many people consider Plovdiv the cultural capital of Bulgaria.
Plovdiv is Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and one of the oldest cities in the world, making it a history-lovers’ dream. Roman ruins are found throughout the city, including underneath some stores like H&M and a portion of the old coliseum has been excavated and is open for exploration on the main pedestrian street. Nebet Tepe (one of the seven hills in the city), is home to more ruins and a fantastic place to watch the sunset.
The Old Town is small and compact, which makes it easy to walk around and see the sights. The streets are lined with stores, restaurants and cafes, providing a welcome place to take a break and enjoy the atmosphere of the city.
Tucked away in the Rila Mountains, the highest mountain range in Bulgaria AND the Balkans, the Rila Monastery is a popular place to visit in Bulgaria. In fact, people come from all over the world to visit Bulgaria, just to see the Rila Monastery.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Rila Monastery is a complex of buildings, but the most well-known is the main church. Distinctly painted with red and white stripes, the church is covered with paintings and frescoes that show Biblical stories. It’s an awe-inspiring place and pictures don’t do it justice!
Nearby the Rila Monastery, you’ll also find the Seven Rila Lakes, which are a group of glacial lakes in the Rila National Park and a popular place to hike.
Sofia is the capital city and largest city in Bulgaria. The airport is located just outside the city and any international flights will land here.
An interesting mix of old and new, Sofia has Ottoman mosques and Soviet architecture, but is also sprinkled with green parks and many gardens. The Old Town is home to numerous museums and churches, including Aleksander Nevski Cathedral which is one of the most recognizable symbols in Sofia. The President’s Building is close by, with an hourly changing of the guard. The building surrounds a courtyard filled with ruins and an old church. Roman ruins are also found around the Serdika metro station and are still being excavated, but parts are open to walk through.
Sofia also has a large pedestrian street, lined with shops, cafes and restaurants. Locals are more plentiful than tourists, which makes your visit feel more authentic rather than touristy.
Bulgaria is a well-kept secret. Well, maybe not so much a secret anymore, but it’s definitely off the radar of most people, and that in itself is one of the reasons you should visit Bulgaria!
Now that you’ve got an idea of why we loved Bulgaria, why don’t you go and see for yourself?