Whilst filming the videos for this site, I have been lucky enough to travel to nearly every corner of Bulgaria. I’ve visited the usual tourist attractions but have also discovered some less well known places which, in my opinion, are certainly worth a visit.
So here is my list of the top five places in Bulgaria which you probably wouldn’t think of visiting.
Number five on the list is Dimitrovgrad, which is a relatively new town, having only been built at the end of the 1940’s. The town is named after the Communist Leader of the time, Georgi Dimitrov and it has the air of a fading once-grand communist city. In the centre there are large open spaces bordered with impressive apartment blocks. The new railway line to Istanbul runs through the city and the new road passes nearby.
Other attractions are the largest market in the Balkans – the Sunday market – and the many parks. The Maritsa river passes by on the northern edge of the city – strange that the city wasn’t built on the banks.
Haskovo, at number four, is only a stones throw from Dimitrovgrad and was a very pleasant surprise. The shopping centre of Haskovo is the main attraction here and it is centred around a very well kept garden. There are several pedestrian streets to explore and a great view of the city can be had if you climb up to the Monument of Virgin Mary which is claimed to be the tallest in the world.
There is quite a large Turkish population in Haskovo and consequently some good Turkish food on offer and also many modern and comfortable cafes where you can sit and sip a drink and watch the world go by.
Into the top three with a modern and interesting city – Pleven. Today, Pleven is an important industrial centre but is famous for the part it played in the ending of the Ottoman Empire. Until recently the city was the home of a huge Officer’s School – the building now housing the Pleven Regional Historical Museum. Pleven’s history makes it worth the visit but is by no means the only attraction here. The centre is a pleasant mixture of old and new buildings, churches and water fountains and on the day I was there, there was also a fair in residence.
The city is on the main line from Sofia to Bucharest and the E83 motorway passes just north of the city. There is a modern shopping centre and good public transport. It’s a small thing I know, but I was impressed that the bus stops had a modern system working which told you when the next bus would be arriving and where it was going.
Into the Wild West for my number two. Vidin frankly, is in the middle of nowhere but if you do find yourself up in the north western corner of Bulgaria, you could do much worse than spend some time in the city. The city centre has some well preserved old buildings, a cathedral and the remains of an old fort and a very beautiful ruined synogogue.
The main attraction for me though was the river promenade. Stretching for a few kilometres along the southern bank of the Danube is a very pleasant garden with shady walks and a not-so-shady walk up overlooking the river itself. It reminded me of the sea garden in Burgas – all in all, a very nice place for a stroll and a good place to stop for a bite to eat or a drink.
Dobrich gets my number one spot mainly I think, because I had so little expectations of the place. As you drive into Dobrich, there is nothing to suggest that this might be a nice place to spend the day – you pass the usual grim apartment blocks and a quite impressive monument to Khan Asparuh of the First Bulgarian Empire but the city’s charm is only revealed when you get out into the centre.
As with most Bulgarian towns and cities, there is a pedestrianised centre which is home to the large municipal buildings and shops and cafes and restaurants and it is pleasant, but nothing out of the ordinary. There are some pretty buildings in ‘old dobrich’, but the real attraction for me was the City Park. It has to be the best-kept Park that I have seen in Bulgaria – there is a kids area, lakes, a rose garden and some terraced rock gardens – and of course plenty of places to stop for a drink or an ice cream.
If you are having a holiday up on the northern Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria, take a half day out and make the short trip over to Dobrich – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.