Bulgaria is one of the most under-estimated tourist spots in Europe. Growing up as a Bulgarian in America, I was very used to most people asking “Bulgaria? What’s that?” Despite it’s small size and relatively unknown nature, Bulgaria has a vast and rich history and culture. Since I am not exactly a tourist in my home country, I didn’t hit all the best tourist spots in Bulgaria. Instead, I compiled some photos from Plovdiv, my birth place and European Cultural Capital in 2019, as well as a few from Pamporovo, Shipka, and Bachkovo.
One of my favorite things about Plovdiv (and most European cities in general) is how much of a walking city it is. In Plovdiv, there is a wide boulevard that runs about 2 miles long and is referred to as “Glavnata.” Glavnata is lined with various assortments of restaurants, cafes, shops, and art galleries. This is the go-to meeting place for locals, and is always filled with people. My favorite part is the design of the buildings, and the beautiful colors – they remind me of ice cream!
Leading off of the main boulevard is Old Town Plovdiv. The streets here are still authentic cobblestone and many of the buildings were built with red clay shingled roofs, as shown in the picture above. Many of these roofs extend past the end of the house, covering part of the street. This characteristic is reminiscent of the period during which the Ottoman Empire controlled Bulgaria. The people used these overhangs to move in secret through the streets at night.
Some of the larger homes in Old Town Plovdiv have been converted into museums. They all historically housed wealthier families, and the homes feature large walled-in courtyards, hand-painted walls and ceilings, and hand-carved ceilings in some rooms. The home pictured here has been turned into the Ethnographic Museum, but we also visited the Balabanov House, the House of Stephen Hindliyan, and the House of Nikola Nedkovich. We also visited the Zlatyu Boyadzhiev Gallery.
Towards the beginning of Old Town Plovdiv, there is a beautiful restaurant-garden named Philippopolis that has an entire tree growing inside of it! You can enjoy a delicious meal in an elegant and natural setting to the accompaniment of classical music. Start your meal in the traditional Bulgarian way, with a Shopska Salad and Rakiya (I recommend Slivenska Perla).
This beautiful, golden domed church is the Shipka Memorial Church which you pass on the way to the Shipka monument.
The inside of the church is even more stunning than the outside. It is ornately laden with gold and covered in still vivid painting.
The monument and the church both commemorate Bulgaria’s decisive battle over the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War. Both are located in the Balkan mountains, with the Shipka monument being built upon hundreds of steps that you have to climb to reach it. Because of it’s height and the large boulders and rocks that surround it, the view is well worth the climb even if you don’t know the historical importance of the site.
On the way up to Shipka, we always stop and get some buffalo yogurt with honey. This is a must-try!! It is absolutely delicious and is something I crave regularly in America, since I don’t have access to it.
The next three photos are all from Pamporovo, which is one of my favorite places in Bulgaria. Pamporovo is in the Balkan Mountains and is a popular ski spot in the winter. My family owns a villa there, and visiting during the summer is wonderful. The air is crisp and pleasant during the day, with the temperatures falling in the evening. It can get cold enough to see your breath at night on colder days in the summer. The views here are postcard-worthy and truly breath taking. You can see the people who live in the town herding their livestock or collecting certain flowers and herbs for tea. This is also where I tried milk straight from a cow (boiled first as is custom) for the first time!
On the way back from Pamporovo, we stopped in Bachkovo. Bachkovo is a town in the lower mountainous regions that my family frequents. We have a small villa here, which was built my great-grandfather, who lived in the nearby city Asenovgrad. My grandfather grew up The first image is the view over Bachkovo from the porch of the villa.
This last picture is from the Monastery at Bachkovo. The monasteries and churches in Bulgaria are breathtaking. This monastery holds a special place among my family, and we regularly visit it whenever we are home.
This is only a small glimpse of all that Bulgaria has to offer, and is not quite from a tourist perspective. If you’re looking for a new place for your next trip, I strongly suggest Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s beauty and rich history and culture makes it the perfect destination.