8-day Itinerary For Bulgaria

Looking for a Bulgaria itinerary for a short break, including 3 destinations to visit, bucket list ideas, accommodation options and tips on train travel in Bulgaria? This short itinerary is suitable for all budgets and leaves plenty of room to do things your way. 

 

Recently I traveled through Bulgaria by train, a wonderful 9-day journey to picturesque places and whimsical woodlands. By the end of my trip, I was blown away by what the country had offered me: stunning scenery, friendly people and a very smooth travel experience.

When I planned my Bulgaria itinerary, I wanted to visit three very different cities, each within a 2 to 5-hour train ride from each other. I went there with few expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised with the Bulgarian culture, the beautiful cities and the breathtaking landscapes I’ve seen pass by through the train windows.

Although my journey was just a short break, I wanted to share with you how easy it is to get away from it all, without breaking the bank or giving up all your free days.  The Bulgaria itinerary below is just one way to take in a part of the country within a short period, you can add any other place to it, extend it or do it the other way around.

bulgaria itinerary
View from Hotel Anhea, Veliko Tarnovo

 

Transportation

Although I exclusively traveled by train, buses are faster, especially on long distances. Trains, however, are the cheapest way to get from A to B and are quite comfortable. Cashiers at train stations usually don’t speak English, but they’ll understand the city’s name. I usually wave my smartphone in their face with the destination and time of departure written out. And I always wonder why they’re so unfriendly towards me, haha.

You can get your exact schedule here.

 

Costs

Bulgaria is a very affordable country to travel through. Accommodation prices start from €6 if you’re willing to sleep in a dorm. I spent around €15 – €35 on a double room in a mid-range hotel or guesthouse, but I had to search well.

Food isn’t that expensive either, a 3-course meal in a mid-range restaurant will cost you around €10 – €20. Bulgaria is home to some amazing dishes and wines, so this might be the time to splurge a little.

bulgaria itinerary
Sofia

 

Money saving tips

The further you get from touristic areas, the more realistic the prices get. In Plovdiv I had a great dinner at a place that would’ve been a major tourist trap if it was located in the touristic parts of the city center. Everything was just so Bulgarian themed, with dishes larger than any dish I’ve ever seen in Eastern Europe, and that’s saying a lot!

Bakeries have a great, inexpensive range of lunch and breakfast products and some even have seating options. The smaller shops at the metro and train stations are great for getting a big slice of pizza or other delicious pastries as well.

To make sure I’d eat my greens, I’d order a delicious and inexpensive, Bulgarian salad with every meal. My favorite is the famous Shopska salad, made of seasonal vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes and bell peppers and delicious Bulgarian cheese.

 

 

8-day Bulgaria Itinerary

 

bulgaria itinerary

Plovdiv  (1 – 3 nights)

Why visit?

Plovdiv is the perfect city to escape to from busy Sofia. Whether you’re into history, architecture or sipping cocktails, you’ll manage to entertain yourself here. Plovdiv is a very charming and green city and many Bulgarians come here on holiday as well. The town square is filled with people from the early afternoon until way after midnight.

 

On your bucket list

  • Visit ancient Plovdiv through the magnificent Roman Theatre, forum or stadium, which are scattered all over the city center.
  • Sit yourself down on Knyaz Alexander I street for food, drinks and people watching.
  • Try to escape from the Kapana neighborhood, alias the trap.
  • Discover the cobblestoned open air museum that is Old Town.

bulgaria itinerary

Where to sleep

Hipster Guest Rooms

€€ Guesthouse Maison21

€€€ Hotel Evmolpia

 

How to get there

Your journey starts off in Sofia, where you’ll take the train to Plovdiv. Depending on your time of arrival you can either choose to stay the night and leave for Plovdiv the next morning, or travel there at once.

Take the metro to the main train station. On Sofia Central Station, take the time to buy tickets and find the right track, the train station is HUGE! Whenever you look lost, people will come up to you to help. Although they’re incredibly friendly, they will expect some money when they get you where you need to go. Kindly tell them you don’t need their help.

To get tickets to Plovdiv from Sofia Central Station, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can get them at the offices/ desks from where the train departs. You actually have to get down one floor to buy the tickets.

Read more: A first time visitors’ guide to Plovdiv.

 

bulgaria itinerary

Veliko Tarnovo (1 – 3 nights)

Why visit?

Altough the Tsarevets fortress is the number one reason why people from all over the world visit Veliko Tarnovo, the city itself is just as interesting. Just the view of all the tiny houses, stacked upon each other, is worth putting this place in your Bulgaria itinerary. Having a drink or two can be done best from one of the terrace bars, overlooking the city and river.

 

On your bucket list

  • Wander through Tsarevets Fortress to discover the history of Veliko Tarnovo.
  • Stroll alongside the river to admire the view.
  • Taking one of the nearby hiking routes.
  • Eat at Shtastliveca, only the best restaurant in Veliko Tarnovo

bulgaria itinerary

Where to sleep

Rooster Hostel

€€ Anhea Guest House

€€€ Le Rendevouz Apartment

 

How to get there

From Plovdiv the train takes you to Veliko Tarnovo in about 3 hours. From the station you can either take a taxi (although many seem unofficial) or a bus. Make sure you have small change with you.

bulgaria itinerary

Sofia – 2 nights

Why visit?

Some love it, others just don’t get it; Sofia is a bit Soviet, mixed with a modern, hipster vibe. But don’t let some fancy burger places fool you, Sofia offers lots of interesting buildings and historic sites for those into a little bit of background information. Tall majestic buildings alongside grand boulevards and Soviet statues make a walk through the city an interesting and almost overwhelming experience.

 

On your bucket list

  • A visit to the Alexander Nevski Cathedral
  • Shopping or sipping cocktails at Vitosha boulevard.
  • Hiking on Mt. Vistosha.
  • Have a delicious burger at Skaptoburger.

bulgaria itinerary

Where to sleep

Peter Pan Hostel

€€ Santa Sofia

€€€ Guest House Flora

€€€€ Grand Hotel Sofia

 

How to get there

Take a bus or train from Veliko Tarnovo to Gorna Oryahovitsa, from there you can take a direct train to Sofia. The whole journey will be around 5 hours of mountain views.

 

Are you staying in Bulgaria longer? This Bulgaria itinerary is just a glimpse of what the country has to offer. You might want to add a visit to the Rila lakes and monastery, Melnik, the infamous Black Sea and so many other of Bulgaria’s great surprises. Let me know your favorite place by leaving comment below!

 

 

This post contains affiliate links. I make a tiny bit of commission when you book through these links (at no extra cost for you!). If you want to support this website, this is a great way to do so. As always, all of my opinions are of my own.

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Ray
    September 26, 2017 at 22:19

    Hi Rose,

    Really good travelog, well done. The only thing missing is pics of the food and a mention for vegan options. HappyCow.com is a vegan’s life-saver.

    How do you find the people in Bulgaria, when I meet them in Berlin they’re usually very friendly and hospitable. Are you coming to Berlin, let me know if you need accommodation and a guide.

    Thanks again for such a well thought out site.

    Ray

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      September 28, 2017 at 12:19

      Hey Ray,

      Thanks so much! I’m missing food pics too, I’m way too shy to take photos of my food whenever I eat out.

      The people in Bulgaria were incredibly friendly and hospitable indeed. I was also impressed by the level of English spoken throughout the country, which was nice but unexpected.

      Will keep your invitation in mind, thanks! 🙂
      Rose

  • Reply
    Jon
    September 30, 2017 at 09:38

    Good article – I notice you give the Black Sea resorts a wide berth!
    I’ve only been once, and for the only time in my life, it was a package deal to a modern hotel in the new part of Nesebar, on the coast. (The old town, on a peninsula linked by a narrow causeway) is stunning. Protected by UNESCO world heritage status with lots of old churches being restored and fine old traditional houses.
    I guess I was daunted by all the Cyrillic writing everywhere – not my strongest suit! 😉
    I got a bus into Burgas, which was great, but didn’t do the country justice at all.
    Still, could have been worse – I could have ended up at Sunny Beach a few km along the coast!?
    Anyway, I also adored the Shopska salad, widely available throughout Balkan nations, Bulgarian gin is superb – and really well presented in bars, and the smell of roasting chickens day and night in little roadside brick-built grills – yumm!
    Would love to see Plovdiv and Sofia, so will bookmark your post…just in case. Take care.

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      September 30, 2017 at 13:35

      Hey Jon,

      Thanks so much! I haven’t been to the coast yet and to be honest, I’m a little afraid to do so. I’ve heard about Sunny beach and it sounds like the most horrible place on the face of the earth. Also, I’ve been to the Romanian part of the Black Sea coast, it wasn’t good either. I’m willing to try but I’m not enthousiastic about it, haha! I’m sure there are many places on the coast that have nothing to do with the mass tourism though.

      I loved the Cyrillic writing! My boyfriend is into translating, so I guess it’s easy for me to navigate anyway.

      Hope you get to visit the other cities soon!
      Rose

      • Reply
        Jon
        September 30, 2017 at 16:29

        Varna sounds like a great city – one I really should have visited but there you go.
        I was staying roughly half way between Varna and Burgas.
        But I’m with you, give me history and architecture ahead of cocktails and beach umbrellas!

  • Reply
    Yoanna Kalova
    October 11, 2017 at 12:57

    I see you have chosen the most popular cities in Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv and the capital Sofia. In my opinion within 8 days you can visit also Bansko (Pirin mountain, south Bulgaria) or Rouse (north Bulgaria, Danube river) or the valley of the Bulgarian roses and Thracian Kings – you can overnight in Kazanlak. Actually Kazanlak is on the way when travelling from Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv.

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      October 11, 2017 at 20:13

      Hi Yoanna! Yes, I chose them as a first-time expedition. Thank you so much for all the recommendations tho, I can’t wait to go back and visit them all! 🙂

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