26 interesting facts about Bulgaria

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The most interesting facts about Bulgaria, from Europe’s oldest country and city to the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet.

Interesting facts about Bulgaria include its historic monuments like Tsarevets Fortress pictured here
Interesting facts about Bulgaria include its historic monuments (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Bulgaria
Population: 6.8 million 
Area: 110,879 sq km
Capital city: Sofia
Major languages: Bulgarian, Turkish, Romani
Major religions: Eastern Orthodox, Muslim
Time zone: UTC+2 (Eastern European Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Bulgaria

1. Bulgaria is a country in Southeastern Europe bordering Greece, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

2. Archaeological evidence suggests Bulgaria has been inhabited since at least the Middle Paleolithic Period (Old Stone Age) from 100,000 to 40,000 BC.
– Source: Britannica

A map of Bulgaria and its bordering countries
A map of Bulgaria (Shutterstock)

3. The modern Bulgarian state was founded in 681, making it one of the oldest countries in Europe.
– Source: Britannica

4. Bulgaria was the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet which was created in the 890s. It is now used in dozens of Slavonic languages.
– Source: BBC News

5. From 1018 to 1185, Bulgaria was part of the Byzantine empire and then, from 1396, it was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 500 years.
– Source: BBC News

Bulgaria's flag flying against a blue sky
Bulgaria’s flag (Shutterstock)

6. Adopted in 1990, Bulgaria’s flag is made up of three horizontal stripes of white, green and red. The white represents peace, love and freedom, the green represents the agricultural landscape and the red stands for the struggle for independence and military courage.
– Source: Britannica

7. During the First World War (1914-18), Bulgaria fought alongside the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary and Germany). 100,000 Bulgarian soldiers died – the most severe per capita loss of any country involved in the war.
– Source: Britannica

8. Yoghurt may have been invented in Bulgaria 4,000 years ago when nomadic tribes carried their milk in animal skins which caused bacteria to grow, fermentation and eventually, yoghurt. This is impossible to confirm but Bulgaria definitely played a critical role in introducing yoghurt to the West and turning it into a popular and commercial product.
– Source: BBC Travel

A bowl of traditional Bulgarian yoghurt and honey
Bulgaria is famous for its yoghurt (Shutterstock)

9. After the Second World War, Bulgaria became a Communist state and a satellite of the USSR until its collapse in 1991.
– Source: BBC News

10. In 1992, Zhelyu Zhelev became Bulgaria’s first democratically elected head of state (in 1990, he had been elected by the new National Assembly).
– Source: The Independent

11. Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, is the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe. It has been occupied by humans for over 8,000 years.
– Source: Rough Guides, BBC Travel

The ancient ruins of the Roman amphitheatre Philippoúpolis in Plovdiv
Plovdiv is thought to be Europe’s oldest city (Shutterstock)

12. Bulgaria is named after the Bulgar tribes who settled in the region in the 7th century.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

13. Bulgaria has some of Europe’s most dangerous roads with 10.2 estimated deaths per 100,000 people.
– Source: World Health Organization

14. The Nestinarstvo fire-dancing festival in Bulgaria sees participants walk and dance barefoot on burning embers as part of a ritual to ensure the well-being and fertility of the village.
– Source: UNESCO

Fire dancers on burning coals in Bulgaria
Fire dancers in Bulgaria (Shutterstock)

15. Bulgaria has the world’s 12th cheapest internet and Europe’s sixth cheapest. The average price of a monthly broadband package is just $10.67 USD.
– Source: Cable

16. Bulgarians are the world’s 10th biggest drinkers. The average Bulgarian consumes 12.65 litres of pure alcohol per person per year.
– Source: World Bank, Our World in Data

17. Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, was named after the Sveta Sofia Church, one of the capital’s oldest churches, which dates back to the 4th century AD.
– Source: Lonely Planet, CIA World Fact Book

Wide shot of the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral lit up at night seen from above
The Aleksander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia (Shutterstock)

18. One of Bulgaria’s most famous landmarks is the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, an enormous church built between 1882 and 1912. The church was built in honour of 200,000 Russians who died fighting for Bulgarian independence during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.
– Source: Lonely Planet

19. Bulgaria is one of the countries least impacted by terrorism, recording neither a terror attack nor death from terrorism in the last five years.
– Source: Global Terrorism Index 2022

20. The UNESCO-listed Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo are a collection of churches, chapels, monasteries and cells carved into a network of caves dug by hermits. They were constructed during the 12th century with murals, including a Last Supper scene, added in the 14th.
– Source: UNESCO, Lonely Planet

Inside one of the Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo showing murals on the walls
The Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo (Shutterstock)

21. Bulgaria’s UNESCO-listed Pirin National Park is famous for its 176 lakes, waterfalls, caves and coniferous forests. It’s also home to 45 mammal species, including bears, wolves and jackals, 159 bird species, eight species of amphibians, 11 species of reptiles and six fish species.
– Source: UNESCO, Lonely Planet

22. Bulgaria is the world’s fastest-shrinking country. Its population was around 9 million in the late-1980s, but it fell to below 7 million in 2018. It is predicted to fall below 6 million in the next 50 years.
– Source: BBC Worklife

23. Formed over 230 million years, the Belogradchik Rocks are famous for resembling people, animals and objects. Adam and Eve, the Bear, the Camel, the Monks, the Mushroom and the Shepherd Boy are just some of the named natural formations which reach up to 200m (656ft) high.
– Source: UNESCO, Atlas Obscura

The Belogradchik Rocks
The Belogradchik Rocks (Shutterstock)

24. In 1978, writer Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian defector and anti-Communist, died after being injected with poison from the tip of an umbrella by Bulgarian secret agents in London.
– Source: The Guardian

25. One of Bulgaria’s most unusual buildings is the Buzludzha Monument, better known as “Bulgaria’s UFO”. The now-abandoned facility was constructed in the 1970s and served as the seat of the Bulgarian Socialist Party until communism was abandoned in 1990.
– Source: CNN, National Geographic

The Buzludzha Monument stands atop a hill in Bulgaria
The Buzludzha Monument (Shutterstock)

26. Bulgaria has had one Nobel Prize winner. The 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Elias Canetti “for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power.”
– Source: Nobel Prize

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Bulgaria using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.