20 Cities in Bulgaria

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Bulgaria has been a hidden gem but is now becoming a popular holiday destination. With golden beaches next to the Black Sea, a mountainous landscape and many historic sites, it’s not difficult to see why people are travelling to Bulgaria. Another advantage of visiting this country is that it is reasonably priced, much more so than the resorts along the Mediterranean.

The Bulgarian Black Sea coastline is 378 km (235 miles) long, and beaches cover around a third of this, 11 of them having a Blue Flag. You can still find quiet beaches but some have become more popular, not only for swimming and sunbathing but also for watersports.

History buffs will be in their element in Bulgaria. There are museums galore, over 100 monasteries, thousands of churches, historic castles and ancient ruins. The country is one of the world’s largest winemakers, producing about 145 million litres a year. Try to visit a winery during your stay. The national drink is Rakia, a clear spirit but be careful as the ABV can be anything between 40 and 95%!

The variety of food found in Bulgaria stands out. Being next to Turkey, a lot of their food is made with herbs and spices and has a distinct Middle Eastern taste. Influences have also been taken from Greece which is to the south of the country but the Bulgarians have put their twist on them. Their version of Greek moussaka is made with potatoes and pork mince rather than eggplant and lamb mince. Their famous salad, Shopska Salata, is like Greek Salad but grated sirene cheese is used instead of cubes of feta cheese.

Summers in Bulgaria are long and hot while autumn is usually pleasantly warm and is a popular time for people who want to tour historic sites and visit museums. Winters are long and cold, but because of the mountains, there are excellent skiing opportunities on offer. If you feel Bulgaria could be your holiday destination, read on. Here are 20 Bulgarian cities to get you started. 

Cities in Bulgaria

20 Bulgarian Cities To Visit

1- Sofia

Sofia: Small Group Walking Tour
Sofia is at the top of the list of cities in Bulgaria to explore.

Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and is in the western part of the country, close to the Vitosha Mountain, where you can hike in the summer and ski in the winter.

It is home to around 1.28 million people and like most capital cities, it is buzzing with life.

There is an excellent choice of restaurants, great shops, and a lively nightlife.

One of the main reasons for visiting Sofia is its historical significance and attractions.

In the centre of the city, you will find the remains of the Serdica Fort which was constructed in 2000 BC by the Thracians.

You can also see the Roman-Byzantine church of St George, built in the 4th century AD.

Over 80% of the Bulgarian population are Eastern Orthodox Christians, and churches in Sofia are plentiful.

If you only have time to visit one church, it should be The Saint Sofia Church. 

It is ornate and has a magnificent dome, but the real pull is the necropolis underneath the church.

You will see many ancient Roman tombs, some even having frescoes painted on them. 

There is a museum here as well.

You will see evidence of the other religions practised if you head to Sveta Nedelya Square where there is an Eastern Orthodox Church, a Catholic Church, a Jewish Synagogue, and an Islamic Mosque.

Museum-lovers will be in their element in Sofia.

Museums include the National Archaeological Museum, the National Art Gallery in the former Royal Palace, the Museum of Socialist Art, and the National History Museum, which houses some famous gold artefacts.

You should take a day trip from Sofia to Rila Monastery, 117 km (73 miles) away. It is the monastery dedicated to Saint Ivan of Rila and is the world’s most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery built in the 10th century and houses beautiful frescoes.

Recommended tours:

2- Varna

Varna: Guided VIP Tour
Varna is one of the big cities in Bulgaria.

Varna is the third-largest city in Bulgaria and one of the country’s tourist hotspots on the Black Sea coast in the north. 

It has beautiful beaches and there are even a couple of places where you can go surfing.

The best beach is Rapangi Beach because it is well-kept and doesn’t get too busy.

If you want a break from the beach, the town is full of history.

There are some ruins of Roman Baths to visit, Orthodox churches and monasteries, and museums such as the History Museum and the Archaeological Museum.

Walk along Kraybrezhna Aleya, a coastal path that goes by the beach past seafood restaurants, where cocktail bars and nightclubs open in the evening, and the place comes alive.

Most of these places close for the winter, as Varna is a summer resort.

Varna loves to host festivals and each year there is a music festival, a folklore festival, a jazz festival, and a ballet competition.

Recommended tour: Varna: Guided VIP Tour

3- Plovdiv

Plovdiv: 2 Hour Sightseeing Walking Tour
Plovdiv is one of the best cities to live in Bulgaria. It’s also an interesting place to explore on a trip.

Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria and sits on seven hills between the Rhodope Mountains and the Balkan range.

It is in the country’s south and is one of the oldest cities in Bulgaria that has been continuously inhabited.

It was founded in the 6th century BC and is a city for history lovers.

Plovdiv has been occupied by many races, including the Thracians, Macedons, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottoman Turks.

You can see these influences in the architecture throughout the city.

The Roman influence is evident; you can still see the ruins of the Roman Stadium, the Forum and the Eirene Residence.

The Roman Amphitheatre is still used as an open-air theatre.

The Old Town has cobblestone streets and brightly coloured National Revival houses.

It is built on three of the seven hills, and you get lovely views of the rest of the city from the Old Town.

The city is known for its artsy atmosphere, and you may be lucky enough to be there when there is an art or music festival on.

There are plenty of traditional Bulgarian eateries and international restaurants, such as Mexican, Italian, and Bavarian.

Nightlife is lively and especially popular with youngsters in their early 20s.

Recommended tours:

4- Burgas

aerial view of Burgas
Burgas is one of the 5 biggest cities in Bulgaria.

Burgas is on the Black Sea’s southeastern coast and is Bulgaria’s fourth-largest city.

Most of the beaches around Burgas are small and tucked into sandy bays with crystal clear and calm waters.

The Sea Garden, right next to the main beach, has a lovely promenade and well-kept gardens, fountains, playgrounds, tennis courts, cafes and a theatre.

It’s a lovely place to spend a couple of hours.

For those interested in learning about the area’s ancient history, head to the Archaeological Museum, where you will see artefacts from as far back as 1,600,000 BC to 1.600 BC.

Housed in the museum are tools, pottery, ritual items, and even the valuables found in the tomb of a Thracian princess.

If you want to shop ‘til you drop, head to Burgas Galleria, which is a three-storey shopping mall.

Here you will find both Bulgarian shops and international high-street stores and a food court on the second floor.

5- Veliko Tarnovo

Aerial View Of The Veliko Tarnovo And Tsarevets
Veliko Tarnovo is one of the amazing ancient cities in Bulgaria.

Veliko Tarnovo is in central Bulgaria and is one of Europe’s oldest cities.

If you are either a nature lover or are interested in the history of Bulgaria, you will have a fantastic holiday here.

22 km (13.6 miles) outside the city is the Emen Canyon which takes around two hours to walk.

It leads to a spectacular waterfall, 10 metres (32 feet) high.

86 km (54 miles) away from the city is the Devetashka Cave which is an enormous cave two km (1.2 miles) long.

It is an intricate network of tunnels with stalactites, stalagmites, and underground lakes.

The tunnels themselves measure seven km (4.3 miles) and you need to book a tour in advance to visit the caves.

The city of Veliko Tarnovo was the capital of Bulgaria between the 12th and 14th centuries.

The Yantra River flows through the city and the Stambolov Bridge takes you to the Asenevtsi Monument, which celebrates the power of the Medieval Bulgarians and from here, you get a beautiful view of the city.

Other city highlights include the King’s Castle, which was used when the city was the capital, and the Charshia Art Gallery, which focuses on arts and crafts.

There are museums in the city, such as the Regional History Museum, the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Illusions.

Recommended tour: From Sofia: Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanasi Tour with Transfer

6- Ruse

Pedestrian Street In The City Of Ruse In Bulgaria
Ruse is one of the top cities in Bulgaria.

Ruse is in the northeast of the country along the river Danube.

It has an Austrian feel due to its architecture and is known as ‘Little Vienna’ It is a city of firsts.

The first Bulgarian newspaper was printed here, the weather service was established here, and the first railway in Bulgaria was completed here.

It is also the largest port city in the country, so it wouldn’t be difficult to spend a whole week here and still not see everything.

It has 19 museums, including the Regional Historical Museum of Ruse.

Other highlights include the churches of Ivanovo, 20 km (12.4 miles) south of Ruse, which are little monasteries hewn out of rock, and the Sveta Troitsa Cathedral, built in the 17th century and houses many holy relics.

The Basarbovo Monastery is unique as it is entirely built inside caves.

Head to Freedom Square to see the Monument of Liberty, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.

Here, the architecture is of different styles and there are statues and fountains to be seen.

On the edges of the square are bars and restaurants.

It is lovely here after dark as many fountains and statues are lit up.

7- Shumen

View Of Shumen
Shumen is one of the cities in Bulgaria to visit for monuments and mosques.

Shumen is in the northeast of the county and is 88.6 km (53.4 miles) from Varna and would make a nice day trip.

The city’s highlight is the Shuman Monument on Ilchov Hill, which commemorates the 1300th anniversary of the creation of Bulgaria in 681 AD.

It is enormous, and you need at least an hour to see all of it.

It has been designed in the cubism style, which is quite unusual as cubism is generally used in paintings.

Eight concrete blocks are built at different angles, showing pictures from Bulgarian history between the 6th and 10th centuries.

Three of the blocks are covered in mosaics.

To get to the monument, you will need to climb 1,300 steps, representing the 1.300 years of Bulgaria.

Take a taxi if you don’t have the energy to climb the steps.

Shumen houses the largest mosque in Bulgaria, the Tombul Mosque, which is worth visiting for the beautiful paintings.

In the centre of the city, you will find restaurants and cafes.

Much of the area is pedestrianised.

Less than 20 km (12.4 miles) from Shuman is the Madara Rider, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is a rock relief from around the 8th century and depicts a man on a horse spearing a lion, with a dog running behind him.

8- Sozopol

A Romantic Escape to Sozopol: Bulgaria's Seaside Heaven
Sozopol is one of the best cities in Bulgaria for history lovers.

If you are looking for sea, sand, and watersports, you won’t go wrong with Sozopol.

Located on the southern coast of the Black Sea, the beaches are sandy, and holidaymakers enjoy swimming, sunbathing, scuba diving, windsurfing, water skiing, and sailing all day long.

It gets busy from June until September, but if you want somewhere quieter, you can always drive a little out of town and find a cosy cove.

Sozopol is one of the oldest cities in Bulgaria, its history going back 2,500 years.

You will find more than beach life here.

The Old Town is lovely, with narrow streets, churches, old houses, and authentic restaurants.

In 1974, it was given the prestigious honour of being an architectural and historical reserve.

Sozopol has an archaeological museum and an art gallery, and just outside the city is Ravadinovo Castle which is well worth visiting.

The castle is beautiful and, on the grounds, there is a waterpark, a lake with swans, and a zoo.

It’s an excellent place for the whole family.

If you are in the city at the end of the summer, you can enjoy the Apolonia Festival.

On offer are theatrical performances, films and open-air concerts.

Recommended tours:

9- Vratsa

Vratsa is the biggest city in the country’s northwest and is an excellent base for outdoor activities.

Just 10.5 km (6.5 miles) away is Vracansky Balkan National Park, which has more than 500 caves to explore.

In the park, you can cycle or even mountain climb; in winter, you can ski.

There are hotels, restaurants and cafes within the park.

It is the second-largest park in Bulgaria and is a haven for flora and fauna.

There are over 1,100 species of plants to be found as well as birds of prey, including the griffon vulture.

16 km (9,9 miles) from Vratsa is the Ledenika Cave which has stunning stalagmites and superb acoustics.

Because of this, concerts are held here.

If you want a day in the city, there are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and a few museums.

10- Pleven

Pleven is in the country’s north and is Bulgaria’s seventh most populous city.

It is known to be the city of museums, so if you are more interested in history and culture than beach life, this is the place for you.

The Regional History Museum is particularly spectacular as it has over 250,000 artefacts from ancient, Medieval, and more recent times.

There is even a collection of 25,000 old coins.

For a moving experience, visit the St George the Conqueror Chapel Mausoleum, built between 1903 and 1907 and dedicated to the Russian and Romanian soldiers who died during the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1877.

11- Stara Zagora

Stara Zagora is an ancient city in central Bulgaria, and while it is not considered a tourist destination, there is enough to experience for a day or two.

If you are staying in Plovdiv, drive there for a change of scenery 101.8 km (63 miles) away.

The Regional Museum of History is a must-see, as is the Neolithic Dwellings Museum, which houses the remains of a Neolithic house from the 7th century BC.

There is also an art gallery with over 4,000 artworks, a Museum of Religions, and a Museum of Beer.

The beer museum is housed in the Zagorka Brewery, and you can take a tour and then have a tasting.

You will find the ruins of a Roman Forum and an ancient main street close to the promenade.

12- Haskovo

Haskovo is a city in southern Bulgaria, near the Greek and Turkish borders 97 km (60 miles) from Plovdiv, and it would make a nice day trip.

The city is best known for its religious sites.

Climb the hill in the city just above the Jewish Quarter and see the monument dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As well as being able to admire the statue, you will get great views over the city.

The Haskovo Regional History Museum is worth spending an hour or two and houses over 120,000 artefacts from the region going as far back as prehistoric times.

Close to Haskovo, in the village of Uzundzkovo, you will find the Church of the Assumption, the largest rural church in the country.

It is worth visiting as it was restored in 2007 and has some beautiful stained-glass windows, icons and frescoes, and one of the largest iconostases in the country.

Haskovo has an excellent range of restaurants, including traditional Bulgarian, Mediterranean, Greek, Italian and Chinese.

13- Dobrich

Holy Trinity Church, Bulgaria
Dobrich is one of the best cities to visit in Bulgaria along the shores of the Black Sea.

Dobrich is in the northeastern part of the country.

It is 30 km (18.6 miles) from the Black Sea coast and resorts such as Golden Sands, the largest resort in the north.

If you are staying at the coast, Dobricht is a lovely place to go for a change of scenery.

Some museums in Dobrich are worth visiting, including the Old Dobrich Ethnographic Museum and the History Museum, which houses 163,000 exhibits, many from prehistoric times.

If you have children, they will enjoy the zoo with 350 animals from 70 species and more room for them than in other zoos in the country.

14- Sliven

Part Of Sliven City, Bulgaria
Sliven is in the top 20 largest cities in Bulgaria.

Sliven is in central Bulgaria in the foothills of the eastern Balkan Mountains, popular in the winter with skiers.

If you are here at other times of the year, there are plenty of museums to visit.

Check out the Regional History Museum, which houses artefacts dating back to the 7th century, and the Museum of Popular Customs.

Sliven is an excellent base to explore Blue Stones National Park, where you can see waterfalls, visit caves and marvel at the rocks that turn blue in certain lights.

The park is 38 km (23.6 miles) from Sliven.

15- Melnik

Full Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Melnik
Melnik may not be one of the major cities in Bulgaria (it’s actually a tiny town) but it’s a charming spot to visit.

In southwestern Bulgaria, Melnik is in the heart of Bulgaria’s best wine-producing area.

The region has plenty of wineries to visit for tours, wine tasting, and there is a wine museum in the city.

It is very cheap to go to the museum, and the entry fee includes a tour of the museum and tasting of four wines and a rakia.

You can buy a bottle of your favourite wine and even bottle it yourself!

If you only have time to visit one winery, it should be Villa Melnik which has won many awards for its wines.

It offers different tours ranging from a simple tasting to a tour of the vineyards and winemaking facilities and a tasting of six wines.

The emphasis on wine doesn’t stop here.

If you visit the 18th-century Kordopulov House Museum, which used to belong to a Greek trader who produced wine, you will get a free tasting.

A 10-minute drive from the city is Rozhen Monastery, the largest monastery in the Pirin Mountains.

It dates to the 13th century and has lovely 16th-century frescoes.

Recommended tour: Full-Day Tour to Rila Monastery and Melnik

16- Pernik

General View Of Inner Yard In Restored Montenegrin
Pernik is one of the best cities to visit in Bulgaria for medieval architecture. Pictured is the Montenegrin Monastery.

Pernik is 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Sofia and is a lovely place to go for a day trip.

Here you will find Kraka Fortress dating back to Medieval times.

You can tour the ruins, discover the secrets of the fortress and admire wonderful views of the area.

The fortress is not the only place where will find fantastic views. Another place to go is the Tower of Saint Dimitar.

There is a museum in the city, the Pernik History Museum which shows artefacts relating to the history of Pernik.

If you have time, visit the traditional village of Lomnitsa, close to Pernik, for pretty houses and shops selling handmade pottery and other homemade goods.

17- Yambol

If you are staying in Stara Zargora, Yambol makes a pleasant day trip to see something different 87 km (54 miles) away.

For military enthusiasts, The Museum of Combat Glory has an extensive collection of tanks, photos, documents, belongings, medals, decorations and other artefacts relating to the people who fought in the Balkan Wars and the two World Wars.

In Yambol’s Synagogue complex, you will find the George Papazoo Gallery, which displays artworks from both Bulgarian and international artists and a collection of religious icons.

If you enjoy a glass of wine or two, visit MarVin Vineyard for a tasting just outside the city.

18- Pazardzhik

Amazing Aerial Panorama From A Drone Of City Sofia With Stormy Clouds, Bulgaria
Pazardzhik is one of the mid-sized cities in Bulgaria beside a river.

Pazardzhik is on the banks of the beautiful river Maritsa, in the country’s south, 113 km (70 miles) from Sofia.

It is another city suitable for a day trip or maybe a weekend as there is enough to see to warrant a couple of days.

The Church of the Dormition houses impressive icons by master artists from the Debar School and wooden carvings showing scenes from the Bible.

The city has a History Museum with an exhibition about sport development in Bulgaria, an Ethnographic Museum and a Clock Tower.

Also worth visiting is the Konstantin Velichkov House Museum, the former home of Velichkov, a political activist and writer.

In the Stanislov Dospevski Gallery, you will see some of Dospevski’s spectacular icons.

The city has some beautiful squares where you can while away the hours over a coffee or wine.

19- Velingrad

Velingrad is known as Bulgaria’s spa resort and is in the country’s south.

It has an abundance of mineral waters, excellent hotels and a mild climate year-round.

Around 200,000 people come here yearly to take advantage of the 80 mineral springs.

There are many spas and treatment centres, and you are welcome whether you are trying to cure ailments or want to boost your health.

In the city, you will find the Velingrad Museum of History, which has more than 19,000 archaeological artefacts, icons, old, printed books, and even a whole exhibition dedicated to Easter eggs.

In the winter, you can come here for skiing.

20- Nessebar

The Road To The Old Town Of Nessebar In Bulgaria
Nessebar is one of the resort cities in Bulgaria.

Nessebar is a large resort on the Black Sea and is always busy during the summer.

There are two beaches bordering the Old Town, and a 10-minute drive takes you to Sunny Beach, which is 5 km (3.1 miles) long and has a golden beach.

There are many restaurants, cafes and bars here, and the nightlife is lively.

The Old Town of Nessebar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it has several old churches and historic buildings, including original 19th-century Bulgarian Revival houses.

The Old Town is on an island connected to the rest of the city by a causeway.

There are 40 monasteries and churches in the city of Nessebar.

The frescoes in the Church of the Holy Saviour are impressive and show scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

See the Black Madonna icon in the Church of the Dormition of Theotokos and the well-preserved frescoes and icons in St. Stephens Church.

Recommended tour: Nessebar: “FunForTwo”, adventure and city walk for couples

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Irena Nieslony was born in Windsor, England but now lives on the island of Crete, Greece, in a small village called Modi near the city of Chania. She has visited 32 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Her favourite country is Tanzania as she loves wildlife and was lucky enough to see ‘The Big Five”. She also loves Egypt, as ancient history intrigues her, the southern states of the US and the cities of Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans for music. She has a B.A. Honours degree in English and Drama from Westfield College, University of London. She has been writing for over 13 years and has 13 novels, 7 short stories and thousands of articles published.