Bulgaria highlights tour

BALCHIK

The picturesque resort sprawls scenically along hilly terraces descending from the Dobruja plateau to the sea. Balchik Ridge, in Antarctica, is named after the town.The currently unused Balchik Airfield is envisaged to be prepared for low-cost airlines, especially from Russia. Famous Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet wrote his well-known poem “Mavi Liman” (The Blue Port) in Balchik.

Balchik Palace

The official name of the palace situated 17 metres above sea level was the Quiet Nest Palace. It was constructed between 1926 and 1937, during the Romanian control of the region, for the needs of Queen Marie of Romania. The large green area of the palace complex consists of residential villas, a smoking hall, a wine cellar, a power station, a monastery, a holy spring, a chapel and many other buildings, as well as most notably a park that is today a state-run botanical garden. A guided walking tour of the complex will take you to the most interesting buildings, will show you the prettiest view to the sea and the world of the Queen Maria. Francis Ford Coppola spent 11 days at the Balchik palace shooting scenes of Youth Without Youth.

VARNA

Bulgaria’s third city and maritime capital, Varna is the most interesting and cosmopolitan town on the Black Sea coast. A combination of port city, naval base and seaside resort, it’s packed with history yet thoroughly modern, with an enormous park and a lengthy beach to lounge on. In the city centre you’ll find Bulgaria’s largest Roman baths complex and its finest archaeological museum, as well as a lively cultural and restaurant scene.

Archaeological Museum

Exhibits at this vast museum, the best of its kind in Bulgaria, include 6000-year-old bangles, necklaces and earrings said to be the oldest worked gold found in the world. You’ll also find Roman surgical implements, Hellenistic tombstones and touching oddments including a marble plaque listing, in Greek, the names of the city’s school graduates for AD 221. All of the exhibits are helpfully signposted in English, with excellent explanatory text. There’s a large collection of icons on the second floor.

Roman Thermae

The well-preserved ruins of Varna’s 2nd-century-AD Roman Thermae are the largest in Bulgaria and the fourth-largest of its kind in Europe. Visitors are allowed to clamber around the various chambers of the bath complex and admire surviving pieces of the advanced floor- and water-heating systems. The baths survived in their original form for only a century or two before the complex was abandoned. It was too costly to maintain as the empire began to decline.

Primorski Park

Established in 1878, this large and attractive green space, overlooking the sea, stretches for about 8 km and is said to be the largest of its kind in Europe. It’s full of promenading families and old ladies knitting lace in summer, and there’s always something going on. In addition to greenery and views, the park is home to the city’s aquarium, zoo park and planetarium.

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin

Varna’s cathedral (1886) is topped with golden onion domes. Note the murals (painted in 1950) and colourful stained-glass windows, though you’ll have to pay 5 lv if you want to take photos inside.

Natural History Museum

The museum presents the flora and fauna of the Black Sea region, divided into sections representing the area’s geology, botany, vertebrates and invertebrates. Kids will enjoy the collection of creepy crawlies, such as spiders and scorpions. The museum is located in the northern part of Primorski Park, opposite the Palace of Culture and Sport.

National Naval Museum

The National Naval Museum hosts several galleries of model ships and uniforms. Anchors, artillery and helicopters can be seen rusting quietly in the grounds at the back, while the revered warship Druzki, which torpedoed a Turkish cruiser during the First Balkan War in 1912, is embedded in concrete outside.

St. Michael the Archangel Church

Not found on the map so if you wish to visit it kindly ask for directions at hotel front-desk
St Michael the Archangel Church was founded in 1865 and is historically significant as the first place where religious services were given in Bulgarian. The building also contained Varna’s first school. The church is small and badly lit, but there are some fine wooden icons.

Sveti Nikolai Church

The pretty Sveti Nikolai Church, right in the city centre, is worth a visit for its saintly murals. It’s always busy and is a popular venue for weddings.

PLISKA

Maintained by Shumen Regional Museum of History, Pliska National Historical and Architectural Reserve is one of the country’s 100 most important tourist destinations. Pliska was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire, from 681-893, the location being chosen because the valley surrounded by plateaus appealed to proto-Bulgarians as a favorable place to pasture their herds and it was at the intersection of major thoroughfares. The first structures at Pliska were made of wood. It is thought that the first stone structure was the palace of Han Krum dating from the end of the 8th century and beginning of the 9th century. In 811, the capital was razed by the Byzantine Emperor Nikifor. The imperial compound at Pliska was rebuilt during the reign of Omurtag.

When Bulgaria accepted Christianity in 864 under King Boris I, Pliska’s pagan temples were rebuilt as Christian churches and new churches were built. The most impressive of those was the Great Basilica, remains of which you can still see today. In 889, King Boris established a monastery, and its first prelate was the king’s oldest son Vladimir (Rasate), blinded and imprisioned in a dungeon when he attempted to re-introduce paganism. In 893, when Simeon I assumed the throne moving the capital from Pliska to Preslav, Pliska lost its administrative and political importance becoming again an agricultural center. The city was particularly devastated by a massive invasion in 1048-1049.

Today visitors can still visit the protected site of Eastern Gate, once the main entrance to the castle. About 1.5 km from the Gate is the Great Basilica. Tourists can also walk through the Imperial Palace, as the Omurtag Palace is called. Also in the vicinity is the so-called “Small Palace”. Everywhere there are fragments of ornamental building blocks topped with cornices, along with baths aquaducts, and cisterns. The museum located at the northeastern corner of the palace displays artifacts discovered in the region.

NESEBAR

Sunny Beach Nesebar Centre - Romania and Bulgaria private tourWith a treasure of attractions, Nessebar is a strong contender of historical sites, cultural attractions and a trekking destination. Visit the ancient Church of the Holy Archangels Michael And Gabriel or St Stephen’s Church to spend some peaceful time. Get drenched in the beauty of art by visiting Art Gallery Jivotnoto. Go trekking all your way to Cape Emine or buy gifts from J-Craft Jewellery Shop. Enjoy some booze at the unusually designed Eco Bar or the Original Bulgarian Wine Shop. Other must see attractions also include Church of the Holy Survivor, Church of Christ Pantocrator and Nesebar Archaeological Museum.

Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel

A small medieval eastern orthodox church built in the late 13th century, the Church of Holy Archangels and Michael and Gabriel is the perfect way to witness Nesebar’s rich history. Highlights include: signature red and white layered construction, medieval design, well-preserved paintings on the walls. Take a walk inside the church to get close with the art, the history and the stories which all add an intrinsic charm to the place.

Eco Bar

A bar which looks like a cave from outside but opens into a beautiful bar that offers the perfect ambiance to unwind after a tough day of exploring the city. Beautiful greenery, amazing menu, good drinks, great coffee, a waterfall and stalactites let you take a breath to take in the amazing sights that the city has to offer. The ECO bar is a must if you are looking for a ‘cave-man’ experience !

Nesebar Archaeological Museum

Get to know about the rich history of Nesebar – its civilizations, kingdoms, rulers and more by taking a stroll through Nesebar Archaeological Museum. The displays are translated into English and make for a knowledgeable experience. Highlights include: ancient pottery items, gold jewelry, virtual chariot ride. The museum consists of artifacts from its Greek, Ottoman and Tharian civilizations.

St. Stephen’s Church

A medieval Orthodox church, turned into a museum is not uncommon in Nesebar. But St. Stephen’s Church only adds to the city’s sea of historic churches. The church cannot be dated back precisely even though the oldest part of the church is said to be built in the 11th century ! Take a walk along yet another of Nesebar’s fantastic church ruins with signature basilica-like architecture and observe the wall paintings. Highlights include: 258 mural paintings. More than 1,000 figures are depicted in the paintings painted by 3 artists over different centuries.

Church of Christ Pantocrator

A non-consecrated church, the Church of Christ Pantocrator is perhaps the most beautiful one in the city. Built between the 13th and 14th century, the church gets its name from the Greek name for ‘God’. Highlights include: beautiful Byzantine architecture, non consecrated technique of building by bricks called ‘Opus Mixtum’, art gallery accommodated within the church. Yet another of the city’s historic chapters, the church is a must when in the city.

Art Gallery Ji’votnoto

If you are looking for a place to buy some unique jewellery or simple gifts for loved ones back home, then head to the Ji’votnoto Art Gallery. Highlights include: unique jeweler designs including semi-precious stones, art items including paintings and showpieces. If you are not into buying art pieces, this place is great for window shopping !

Original Bulgarian Wine Shop

A small shop well hidden in the streets of Old town Nesebar, the Original Bulgarian Wine Shop is a treat for wine lovers ! Take a walk inside to taste and buy some good and budget wine while you explore the old town. You will be sure to walk out with a bottle or two. Highlights include: Ice Wine and Merlot.

Church of St. John Aliturgetos

A church dedicated to St. John, the place is mostly ruins of the most iconic church in the city. Built in the 14th century, do notice the church’s construction in layered, colored stones which give it its characteristic look. The story of a man dying here followed by only limited services organized at the church, is not uncommon. The earthquake of 1913 has left its mark on the building but not compromised on its appeal. The place is a pleasure to walk around.

J-Craft Jewellery Shop

A small intimate shop flooded with silver jewelry is a rare sight in Nesebar and J-Craft Jewelry Shop is as unique as the city itself ! Take a stroll around the shop to be amazed by unique handmade jewelry which incorporates semiprecious stones like calcite, agates, turquoise to name a few ! A must if you love art, jewelry or simply want to buy a unique gift for loved ones back home ! If you are travelling on a tight budget, the place is still a perfect way to spend an hour or so admiring the designs.

PLOVDIV

Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria and one of the oldest towns in Europe. It was inhabited by the Thracians, Romans, Goths, Slavs, and Ottomans whose traces have turned the town into a museum. The city was once the meeting point of 2 ancient transportation routes.
Meander back in time in the Old Town of Plovdiv.
The Ancient Plovdiv Architectural Reserve is of special interest. Brilliant examples of the Bulgarian National Revival Period are preserved here.
The most remarkable sight is the ancient Roman theatre, accidentally ‘discovered’ after a landslide exposed the site in the early 1970s. You can sit among the ruins of the ancient Roman Theater and feel the atmosphere of the extinct world. This is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters on earth ! Built in the 2nd century BC during the reign of Trajanus, the theatre seats about 6,000 people and is now back in use.
From here, wander up to the site of the former hilltop fortress of Nebet Tepe, where you can enjoy excellent views of the city.
Head back down to visit the 15th-century Dzhumaya Mosque, still in use today.
Traditional craft workshops – Embark on an aimless wander through Plovdiv’s narrow alleyways to see traditional coppersmiths, farriers and potters at work, or browse through the myriads of antique shops lining the streets.
Later make sure you indulge in the local cuisine, famed for its grilled meats and vegetables on skewers.

SOFIA

Bulgaria’s laid-back capital is a cosmopolitan city with wide tree-lined boulevards and pleasant parks. The city claims to be Europe’s second oldest at 7,000 years, though it was only first mentioned by name in documents 2,700 years ago. Sofia reflects remnants from various periods of occupation, including Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and even Soviet. Alongside Communist-style architecture and beautiful Orthodox churches, construction works frequently uncover Roman remains, so it is perfectly normal to walk past Roman brickwork that has been incorporated into a pedestrian underpass. Uncover the sites and history of Sofia – learning about its imperial occupations from ancient Greeks and Romans to the Soviets of the modern era.
Compare age-old places of worship in Sofia. The most important religious buildings are: the Mosque, the Synagogue, St. Joseph Catholic church, and the Orthodox churches of St. Nedelya, St. Petka, St. Sophia. Visit also St. George Rotunda, one of the oldest fully preserved churches in Europe dating from 4th century AD. And step inside the Crypt of the gold-domed St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral with the best collection of icons in Bulgaria.
Admire the former Royal Palace (Vrana Park), the National Theatre, the Mineral Baths (Regional History Museum of Sofia), the Parliament (National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria), the statue of Tsar Liberator, and the Sofia University.
Get to know the city with a stroll to the city gardens or try your first delicious banitsa pastry. Browse around the cured meats and cheese of the Central Market Hall (Tsentralni Hali).
You might want to sate your cultural curiosity at the National History Museum.
Discover artifacts from the many empires of old that have occupied the city at the National Archaeological Museum.
Or get cultural at the National Art Gallery.

Romania & Bulgaria private car tour

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