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Europe's Hidden Gem For The Perfect Budget Escape

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Guest post written by Jessica Tsvetanova

Instagram: @jessxnova

Twitter: @novressi

Travelling is seen as a luxury for many. From making sure you have the time off to get away, to trying to save enough money to fund your perfect holiday... There is always a lot of stress involved when it comes to planning your next adventure abroad.

As a student, finding the perfect, budget-friendly trip has always come with its obstacles. The responsibility of finding the right hotel, plane tickets, and transportation can all become a little overwhelming. Of course, it always depends on what you're after. Busy nightlife? Scenic landscapes? Sea, sun, and sandy beaches? Everything?

Well, lucky for you, Europe does possess a country which always tops the list of being the cheapest holiday destination in Europe. In fact, its popularity has risen over the years and many are turning to the little country in the Balkans to get a taste of both the busy nightlife and the beautiful scenery.

So, what country am I talking about? Bulgaria.

I’m sure that many people have heard of Bulgaria, especially when looking at the last minute deals on any major holiday making website. What some may be unaware of is that Bulgaria is actually one of the oldest countries in Europe and it possesses many quirks and hidden spots that you can explore. From mountains, caves, busy cities, and vibrant beach resorts, Bulgaria has almost every box ticked.

Here is a list of places you should definitely visit!

1. Sofia Sofia became the capital of Bulgaria in 1879 but its history dates back almost 7000 years. Now, the city is full of bustling streets, busy cafes, restaurants, and shops.

The vibe is very chic yet old, imagine cobblestone streets with secret alleys and very tall buildings. The overall vibe is very casual but you can definitely see the leftover influences of communist times, especially in the architecture of some of the buildings.

Just like any other capital, Sofia is bustling with people at all times of the day and if you’re there travelling, you will have the benefit of seeing a variety of different people, cultures, and attractions that call this capital their home.

My top 5 must-visits:

1. Vitosha Okay, this is a mountain and honestly? The view is just too good to miss. Fortunately, for those of us who hate walking, there are lifts to the highest peak of the mountain. I have to recommend the lift down! As you descend from the top, you can see the whole of Sofia, it’s definitely something you cannot miss.

2. Vitosha Boulevard So, if you’re keen on a bit of shopping, Vitosha Boulevard is where you should head. You’ll find anything here; vintage shops, old book stores... honestly, anything. And, if you want to take a break from looking around the many retail shops, you can always stop for a drink at the numerous bars, restaurants and cafes which inhabit the boulevard.

3. Saint Alexander Nevski Cathedral If you are interested in more historic and cultural sight-seeing, this cathedral is a must-see. This is the main cathedral of the city and probably the most well-known in the country. It truly reflects the orthodox Christian religion of this part of Europe and it holds sentimental value for many. You’ll be mind-blown at the architecture and design inside.

4. Russian Church "Sveti Nikolay Mirlikiiski" This is on my list because if you go on the bottom floor of this church, you can visit the remains of Saint Archbishop Seraphim. Although this can be seen as a little creepy, a lot of people actually visit because they can go and write down a prayer or a wish and put it amongst the many wishes made by tourists and locals. St Nikolay (St. Nicholas) is named the miracle maker after all.

5. Sofia Zoo This is honestly just a fun one because who doesn’t love visiting zoos?

2. Veliko Tarnovo This place is a whole attraction in itself. As one of the oldest cities in Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo holds a lot of history in its land. It is also seen as the city of culture and it is filled with beautiful architecture and sculptures. As well as this, you will definitely see a lot of street artists, carpenters, and sculptors as many local businesses thrive off of tourism and their artistic capabilities.

One of my favourite things about this small town, as someone who has the worst case of having a sweet tooth and eating in general, is the array of restaurants which provide food which tastes home-made and plain amazing.

Tsarevets is probably the main attraction for people when they come to visit. Being a medieval kingdom, Tsarevets really opens one’s eyes into the rich history that Bulgaria possesses.

The walk-up is scenic and the view from the top is even more beautiful. A whole day spent here will undoubtedly be worthwhile.

There are tours available for very cheap and you can go up the tower to reach the highest point for as little as 2 leva (about £1).

Of course, the historic city is full of many tourist shops where you can buy souvenirs. However, I do recommend getting something which was hand-made by one of the local businesses. There’s nothing better than a little bit of personalisation.

Nonetheless, Veliko Tarnovo also has museums and other tourist activities. However, the old town is definitely a must-visit and deserves more attention due to the historic and cultural value it brings to the Bulgarian people.

3. Sunny Beach Sunny Beach has to be known for its nightlife. With many young Bulgarians and tourists heading there for a week away from reality, it’s no lie that this is the party city of the Black Sea coast. By day, the Bulgarian resort region is a lovely place for families too. The beach is usually close to most of the accommodation and the weather is heavenly, almost too hot sometimes but still, very worthwhile.

By night, the city is home to many nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and events. Live music is a very common occurrence in Bulgarian restaurants so you will definitely get to see or even do one of the many Bulgarian traditional dances (horos).

4. Nessebar Nessebar is situated beside Sunny Beach, a few minutes drive away. This is another popular resort region for holidaymakers and is more suitable for a family holiday. However, situated in Nessebar is its Old Town. Filled with small shops and restaurants, this little market situated in a historic location is a highlight for many people who come to visit. The atmosphere alone is exciting and at night, the place is even busier than it is during the day. It’s definitely a great place to spend a few hours and explore. Other than that, Nessebar has some great beaches. Its location allows for a great stroll where you can see out to sea and with it being a family destination, there are many activities for youngsters, like rides and street performers.

So, why should you travel to Bulgaria?

Well, the country takes pride in its historic heritage. As a small country, it is often forgotten but it is truly full of many beautiful landscapes and locations. I haven’t been everywhere there yet, but the places I’ve been to have been amazing.

Most importantly, travelling around Bulgaria, as well as other expenses, turn out really cheap for most foreigners. The currency there allows you to almost pay half of what you’d normally pay. As well as that, many people there are super friendly, especially young people. I’ve found that a lot of locals take interest in people from other countries and cultures.

Another thing which helps tourists is that many Bulgarians know English, so, you won’t be stuck not knowing how to communicate or worrying about learning new phrases. Even if you learn how to say ‘hello’, the locals will be impressed and happy that you made an effort.

Regardless, the country’s landscapes and landmarks are enough to make it a holiday destination that cannot be missed.

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