Looking for the best cities to visit in Bulgaria? As local experts who adore this country, we’re happy to share our tips with you. While we lead walking tours in Sofia and several opportunities for hiking adventures in the stunning mountains of Bulgaria, we don’t offer tours in all of these cities we’re recommending. But we’re always eager to share our insights and offer travel advice for visitors! You’re welcome to take a look at our private day tours in Bulgaria to see what we do offer, and always feel free to contact us if you’d like to create your own itinerary.
Now, let’s get into which cities to visit in Bulgaria and what you should do in each one…
1. Of Course, the Capital: Sofia!
We can’t make a list of the best cities in Bulgaria and start anywhere else but beautiful Sofia. The capital city’s motto is “Grows, but never ages”, which we love to highlight given the incredible history and vibrant culture of Sofia.
As one of Europe’s oldest cities, you can uncover around 7,000 years of history here in Sofia. From Roman origins to Ottoman influences to Soviet control, this city has seen so many empires through the ages. If you’re a history buff, you’ll love our Sofia’s Roman Past day tour where we delve into the early Roman days of the city.
Places to see in Sofia:
- Sofia Public Bathhouse
- Banya Bashi Mosque
- Roman ruins at Serdica metro station
- St. Petka Church
- Largo Plaza
- Roman East Gate
- St. George Rotunda
- Archaeological Museum
- National Theater
- Royal Palace
- Russian Church
- St. Sophia Basilica
- Alexander Nevski Cathedral
- Roman West Gate
- Northern defence tower
- Roman Arena
- Archaeological complex under St. Sophia Basilica
Just for the record, we stop at all of those points of interest between our Roman history tour and our Discover Sofia Sightseeing Tour. Come join us to see it all!
2. The City of the 7 Hills: Plovdiv
As the second-largest city in Bulgaria and one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2019, Plovdiv is certainly worth exploring! Having been continuously inhabited since the 6th Century, Plovdiv is a must-see for any history buff. Archaeology lovers will also enjoy a visit here, with ancient ruins aplenty to explore. You can learn more about Bulgarian wine with plenty of locales around the city highlighting local wineries.
Plovdiv is also an easy launching point for hiking trips! If you’re interested in multi-day hiking adventures in Bulgaria, we have a few itineraries that may interest you. Take a look at our tailor-made tours for more details.
Things to do in Plovdiv:
- See the Ruins of Eumolpias
- Check out the Roman Amphitheatre
- Visit the small Roman Basilica
- See the Roman Stadium and Aqueduct
- Marvel at the mosaics in the Eirene Residence
- Visit the Hindilyan House
- See where the earliest settlements were on Nebet Hill (Nebet Tepe)
- Check out the 60,000 coins at the Regional Archaeological Museum
- Learn about local peoples over the centuries at the Regional Ethnographic Museum
3. The Old Capital and City of Tsars: Veliko Tarnovo
Home to the Tsarevets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo was the former city of the Tsars and previously the capital of Bulgaria. Today, you should visit this central city for the fabulous fortress walls and charming character. Meandering the old cobblestone streets before popping into a cafe is the perfect way to spend a day in this city.
What to do in Veliko Tarnovo:
- Enjoy the views from the fortress walls
- Wander the rolling cobblestone streets in the Old Town
- Explore the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration of God
- Take photos at Gurko Street
- Check out the Asenova Gate
- Enjoy Baldwin’s Tower
- Grab a bite and/or have a drink at the 19th-century Hadji Nikoli Inn, now open for visitors as a complex including a restaurant, cafe, and wine bar
4. The City of Military History: Pleven
Pleven is known as an economic and cultural hub these days, but it’s also known for its military significance. Pleven is particularly known for its part in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, with lots of monuments around the city commemorating the Siege of Plevna.
What to see in Pleven:
- Learn about the Siege of Plevna at the Pleven Panorama
- See regional artwork at the Svetlin Rusev Donative Exhibition
- Learn at the Pleven Regional Historical Museum
- Honour the fallen at the St George the Conqueror Chapel Mausoleum
- Go to Skobelev Park
5. The Seaside Home of Gold: Varna
Varna is a popular destination for summertime fun, with plenty of festivals and outdoor events during the warmer months. With several golden-sand beaches and all the enjoyable beachside bars and cafes you’d expect, it’s easy to spend a leisurely day in Varna. Beyond the beaches, you can also see the world’s oldest gold treasure!
Things to do in Varna:
- Visit the Varna Archaeological Museum and see the Gold of Varna
- Learn at the National Maritime Museum
- Visit the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin
- Visit the Naval Museum to see a torpedo boat
- Enjoy the Baroque Opera
- Explore the Roman Baths
- Wander the beautiful Sea Garden
- Stroll the promenade
6. The Rose Capital: Kazanlak
The central town of Kazanlak is known as the Rose Capital of Bulgaria. Resting in the Valley of the Roses and the former home of Thracian Kings, Kazanlak is surrounded by beautiful scenery and filled with fascinating history.
If you’d like to explore this town with us, we visit Kazanlak during our Rose Valley Extravaganza Private Day Trip.
Things to see in Kazanlak:
- Visit the Rose Museum
- See and smell the famous Rosa Damascena
- Visit the Thracian tombs in the area (one is a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
- Explore Iskra Library, one of the oldest libraries in Bulgaria
- Most importantly, visit the History Museum of Kazanlak’s vault to see some of the most exquisite gold treasures of Antiquity
7. Visit Bulgaria’s “Little Vienna”: Ruse
This small city resting on the banks of the Danube River feels more akin to a Central European city than an Eastern European one. That’s why it’s sometimes called Little Vienna. The baroque and neoclassical architecture throughout the city attracts plenty of admiration and make this feel different from most other cities in Bulgaria.
What to do in Ruse:
- See the People’s Liberation Monument
- Check out the southern gate (Kunt Kapu) from the Ottoman Empire-era fortress
- Visit the Monastery of Saint Dimitar Basarbowski
- Just outside the city, visit the Orlova Chuka cave
- Spend the day hiking in Rusenski Lom Nature Park, just 10km outside the city
- Visit the rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo – a UNESCO site, a mere 15-minute drive from the city
- Stop by the National Transport Museum
So those are the best cities to visit in Bulgaria for a wide variety of interests. If you’re visiting and want a tour of Sofia, we’re happy to oblige! Take a look at our private day tours in Bulgaria so we can show you around our beautiful country. You can also reach out any time if you have any questions at all about travelling to Bulgaria.