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Castles of Bulgaria: 10 most interesting historical places




Unlike the defense structures of Western Europe, castles of Bulgaria are mostly ancient fortresses. Some of them are so old that they date back to the times when the country has been forming under the influence of various empires – from the Thracian and Roman to the Byzantine and Ottoman. For centuries, these fortresses remind us what has Bulgaria experienced during its difficult history.

Baba Vida Castle

Also known as Babini Vidini Kuli Fortress, Baba Vida is one of the oldest and only fully preserved castle in the country. Built on the ruins of the ancient city of Bononia, it was the home of the last Bulgarian tsar, Ivan Sratsimir, before the state fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

Baba Vida Castle
Baba Vida Castle. Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis from Paleo Faliro, Athens, Greece., via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)
Baba Vida Castle
Baba Vida Castle. Photo: Спасимир, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)
Baba Vida Castle
Baba Vida Castle. Photo: Камен Ханджиев, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Castles of Bulgaria: Belogradchik Fortress (Belogradchik rocks)

Also known as Kaleto, this ancient fortress was built using natural rocky terrain formed 200 million years ago instead of some walls. More recently, during the Serbian-Bulgarian War of 1885, the fortress was used as a military facility, but today visitors can admire the imposing structure by walking through its three courtyards and defensive bunkers, and climbing the rock via stone stairs.

Belogradchik Fortress (Belogradchik rocks)
Belogradchik Fortress (Belogradchik rocks). Photo: Yanko Malinov, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Belogradchik Fortress (Belogradchik rocks)
Belogradchik Fortress (Belogradchik rocks). Photo: xgeorgo / pxhere (CC0)
Belogradchik Fortress (Belogradchik rocks)
Belogradchik Fortress (Belogradchik rocks). Photo: MemoryCatcher / pixabay (Pixabay License)

Fortress of Kaliakra

A fortification has been rising on this picturesque headland since at least the 4th century. Having undergone many changes and restorations, it stood until the 13th century. The golden age of the Kaliakra Fortress came in the second half of the 14th century, when it became the capital of Karvuna. Today, visitors can see the ruins of the fortress walls, a 4th-century bathhouse and a vaulted stone tomb. The museum, located in the cave, exhibits historical artifacts found on the territory of the complex.

Fortress of Kaliakra
Fortress of Kaliakra. Photo: Diego Delso, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Fortress of Kaliakra
Fortress of Kaliakra. Photo: Diego Delso, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Fortress of Kaliakra
Fortress of Kaliakra. Photo: Diego Delso, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Castles of Bulgaria: Asen’s fortress

Located in the Rhodope Mountains, Asen’s Fortress is an impressive medieval castle on top of a cliff. The citadel is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, which makes it almost impregnable. Archaeological finds in the area date back to Thracian times, and there is evidence that the ancient Romans lived here. However, the fortress itself belongs to the Middle Ages. Conquered by the armies of the Third Crusade, it underwent significant reconstruction in the 13th century. The complex fell into disrepair after the Ottoman conquest in the 14th century, and its only fully preserved building is the Church of the Holy Mother of God, dating from the 1100s and 1200s.

Asen's fortress
Asen’s fortress. Photo: Спасимир, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Asen's fortress
Asen’s fortress. Photo: Михал Орела, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)
Asen's fortress
Asen’s fortress. Photo: Kiril Kapustin, Wikipedia (CC BY 2.5)

Peristera Fortress

The history of Peristera, located on the hill of St. Petka, started when the Thracians built a sanctuary here. Over time, it became a citadel, which was surrounded by a wall 253 meters long with six towers. Today, this completely restored fortress is a luxurious 4-star hotel, but everyone can walk around the territory and visit the open-air museum and the south tower, which houses the museum.

Peristera Fortress
Peristera Fortress. Photo: Чигот, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Peristera Fortress
Peristera Fortress. Photo: Pgpanayotov, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Peristera Fortress
Peristera Fortress. Photo: Чигот, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Castles of Bulgaria: Shumen fortress

Originally, the ancient citadel was built by the Thracians about 3 thousand years ago, which makes it one of the oldest defensive structures in the country. Shumen Fortress was conquered, rebuilt and modified many times by Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians and Ottomans. It was an important stronghold during the First Bulgarian Empire, and later, during the Second Bulgarian Empire, it became the economic and cultural center of the state. Although the Ottomans plundered and set fire to it, this fortress, unlike many others, was not destroyed by them, but by the crusaders.

Shumen fortress
Shumen fortress. Photo: Feradz, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)
Shumen fortress
Shumen fortress. Photo: Mariya Yovcheva, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Shumen fortress
Shumen fortress. Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Ovech fortress

One of the oldest fortresses in the country was built by the Byzantines on the Kaleto mountain plateau in the 4th century and is shaped like a ship. Ovech Fortress was an important administrative and cultural center during the First and Second Bulgarian Kingdoms. It fell to the Ottomans in 1388 after a long siege and became a center of trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Ovech fortress
Ovech fortress. Photo: Иванка Вълчанова, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Ovech fortress
Ovech fortress. Photo: DILIN, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Castles of Bulgaria: Tsarevets Fortress

Tsarevets has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, and over time became an important Byzantine city. In the XII century, this fortified city was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The royal palace, 18 churches and 400 houses were surrounded by a powerful wall 1100 meters long.

Tsarevets Fortress
Tsarevets Fortress. Photo: ArvidO / pixabay (Pixabay License)
Tsarevets Fortress
Tsarevets Fortress. Photo: Dan Lundberg / flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Tsarevets Fortress
Tsarevets Fortress. Photo: LiyaA008, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Ravadinovo Castle

Known as “The Castle in Love with the Wind,” this unique fairy tale structure is the creation of the eccentric millionaire Georgi Kostadinov Tumpalov, who built it in just 20 years. The newest, most unusual and most extravagant castle in Bulgaria includes a small zoo, a winery, a summer cinema, an art gallery and a quest room. Without a doubt, this complex will delight the whole family!

Ravadinovo Castle
Ravadinovo Castle. Photo: YANBG, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Ravadinovo Castle
Ravadinovo Castle. Photo: pxhere (CC0)

Castles of Bulgaria: Fortress wall of Nessebar

Remains of the fortress wall on the northern side of the Nessebar peninsula are of great interest to those who want to see the best castles in Bulgaria. This is one of the oldest fortifications in the country and one of the many attractions of the charming ancient city on the Black Sea.

Fortress wall of Nessebar
Fortress wall of Nessebar. Photo: Philip Kromer / flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Fortress wall of Nessebar
Fortress wall of Nessebar. Photo: www.vacacionesbulgaria.com, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Fortress wall of Nessebar
Fortress wall of Nessebar. Photo: Alex Alishevskikh, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)