Ever since it was established on the Balkan Peninsula in the year of 681 Bulgaria has withstood foreign domination, invasions, uprisings and countless wars. And yet a great number of historical landmarks have managed to survive throughout the years, including medieval fortresses and other ancient façades. If you ever want to explore some of this Slavic country’s history and feast your eyes on architectural sites, check out the top 5 castles in Bulgaria, which stand out from the rest.
1. Tsarevets castle complex
Although all that remains of the palace on the Tsarevets hill nowadays is a bunch of ruins, the stronghold embedded into the hill is still standing tall. Constructed in the early 1100s in the former capital Veliko Tarnovo, the castle complex used to house around 400 residential buildings and numerous churches, monasteries and craftsman workshops.
Nowadays the complex is open for tourists all year round. Apart from the picturesque sceneries visitors can also enjoy instructive history tours, a light and sound show, and even an off-road jeep hill tour of the area. Back in 2017 the government decided to include a new attraction – a crime mystery adventure game similar to scavenger hunts in which participants need to collect clues and solve a number of riddles inside the complex.
2. Belogradchik Fortress
Apart from the stunning Belogradchik Rocks, which draw tourists from all over, another famous landmark in the Balkan Mountains is the Belogradchik Fortress – a stronghold built into the rocky mountain with walls that span up to the whopping 12 meters in height.
The medieval façade has played a key role of intrinsic importance on numerous occasions in wars between Bulgaria and Serbia, as well as the wars against the Ottoman Empire. Not only is this landmark an important historical and cultural monument, but it also offers delightful views from every single angle. It’s open for visitors seven days a week even during the winter, but if you happen to go there when the climate is warm, don’t forget to check out the Belogradchik Rocks and the local observatory.
3. Ravadinovo castle
Even though the Ravadinovo castle hasn’t played any historical role whatsoever, it’s still a gorgeous destination. Its construction started back in 1996 and today it’s one of the most popular attractions on the Bulgarian coastline. Often dubbed the Bulgarian Disney castle, Ravadinovo is a multi-award winner. The castle grounds currently house a wine cellar, art gallery, stables, chapel and zoo among a plethora of other attractions. In 2016 a replica of the Di Trevi fountain was added to the courtyard.
The fairytale castle was actually designed and partially built by the land owner himself, who initially wanted the façade to serve as a boutique hotel, but it eventually ended up being a sort of a theme park for local and foreign tourists.
4. Asen’s Fortress
During the Middle Ages the area around Asen’s Fortress served as a feudal castle. However, nowadays there are only some moderately preserved ruins that remind tourists of the once 12 meter high fortified walls that were originally built at some point in ancient Thracian time.
Out of all ruins that were excavated in the area the most well-preserved ones are the remains of an Eastern Orthodox church. It’s decorated with various murals and displays a traditional floor plan that was once popular among Byzantine and early Christian basilicas. The nearby town of Asenovgrad is named after the fortress, which in return was named after one of the most prominent Bulgarian rulers, despite being built long before his time.
5. Baba Vida
Baba Vida is believed to be the one and only entirely preserved castle in all of Bulgaria, and what makes this theory truly stunning is the fact that the construction was actually built back in the 10th century.
According to the legend, it was commissioned as a castle and a stronghold by the daughter of a former ruler, who decided to build a steady and safe home for herself and her people instead of marrying a noble and wasting her father’s fortune, unlike her two younger sisters. The last time it served as a defense mechanism was back in the late 18th century and nowadays it functions as a museum and a popular tourist destination.