For its relatively small size and population, Bulgaria has a lot of cultural diversity. And while you may expect to find mystical Thracian burial sites, medieval Bulgarian and Byzantine castles or lavishly decorated Ottoman mosques, there are many places which look nothing like what you would think.
From a French-style summer palace to a former Czech village, here’s 6 places you would not believe are in Bulgaria. With tips to help you get there and see them yourself, of course!
1. French château?
No, it’s a Bulgarian seaside palace!
The Euxinograde palace near Varna was built in an 18th-century French château style for the Bulgarian royal family. With its mansard roof, intricate façade brickwork and charming clock tower, Euxinograde looks like it belongs in the UNESCO World Heritage Loire Valley of central France rather than on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Add the gorgeous park designed by the noted landscape architect Édouard André and the respected winery that’s part of the palace complex and you have a true piece of France in the Balkans.
- How to get there: The Euxinograde palace is a government property and can be visited after a prior booking via this e-mail. The complex lies just east of the seaside capital Varna and is accessible from there.
No, this is not an Italian town, but Bulgaria’s second-largest city, Plovdiv!
Founded some 6,000 years ago, Plovdiv shares an uncanny amount of similarities with Italy’s capital, Rome, with which it is twinned. Both cities are famously located on seven hills, though in Plovdiv’s case, one of those was destroyed and used as building material to pave the streets. Just like Rome, Plovdiv features copious heritage from the Roman Empire, including a well-preserved Ancient Roman theatre, a forum with an odeon, an antique stadium and an ancient aqueduct, among others.
Plovdiv, a captivating Balkan town, also remains an important centre of Roman Catholicism in Bulgaria, and the elegant Cathedral of Saint Louis impresses with its Italianate Baroque and Classicist design.
- How to get there: Plovdiv is on the Trakia motorway which links it with Sofia and Burgas. There’s an international airport serviced by Ryanair as well as extensive railway links to the rest of Bulgaria.