Old Capitals of Great Bulgaria


The town of Serdika was founded 2,000 years BC by the Thracian tribe Serdi, who settled in the region around the hot mineral springs. In the 1st century AD, the town was conquered by the Romans, who appreciated the important and strategic location and the mineral springs. Serdika was the favorite town of the Roman emperor Konstantin the Great (306 – 337), who loved to say “Serdika is my Rome”. Namely Serdika was the place where the decision to move the capital of the East Roman Empire in Constantinople was taken, and until its construction, Konstantin reigned from Serdika. During the ruling of the emperors Mark Aurelius and Commodus around 175, Serdika was protected by a fortified wall with four gates with observation towers, looking at the four directions of the world.

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A second external fortified wall was constructed in the 5th – 6th century. The remains of the ancient fortress Serdika are presented in the underpass between the Presidency and the Council of Ministers in Sofia City. The paved main streets were leading to the city forum, which was situated under the present square Sveta Nedelya. Luxurious villas with sewerage, water-mains and paved streets were located in the region of Serdika subway station. The buildings of the Roman administration were situated in the southwest part of the fortress. During the archaeological excavations around the west gate, remains of residential buildings and public buildings, ceramics and other artifacts were found.
The central historical body of Sofia, which covers ancient Serdika and the medieval Sredets, was declared a historical and archaeological reservation by the State Gazette of 1976.

The legacy of ancient Trace and the Roman city of Serdica could be seen through glass domes in the underground open – air museum in the heart of the Bulgarian capital.

Veliko Tarnovo

Both Veliko Tarnovo hills – Tsarevets and Trapezitsa and the fortresses situated around them, represent the power and majesty of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185 – 1393). The fortress Tsarevets is nowadays one of the most visited landmarks in the country. The fortress complex includes the Royal Palace, the fortress wall, the Patriarchal church and Baldwin’s Tower, named after the Latin Emperor Baldwin of Flanders, captured during the Battle of Adrianople in 1205 by Tsar Kaloyan.

Medieval history emanates from Veliko Târnovo’s fortified walls and cobbled lanes. Veliko Târnovo has as its centrepiece the magnificent restored Tsarevets Fortress, citadel of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

Historic Târnovo is tucked into the dramatic bends of the Yantra River, clasped by an amphitheatre of forested hills. Bulgaria’s 19th-century National Revival splendour is easy to relive along historic lanes, similarly evocative is the handicraft market, Samovodska Charshiya, which retains much the same atmosphere it had two centuries ago.

Veliki Preslav

Veliki Preslav was the second Bulgarian capital. The town was founded in the 9th century by Prince Boris I (852-889) and in 893 his successor, Tsar Simeon I (893 – 927) named Preslav the new capital of Bulgaria as a symbol of a break with paganism and the embracing of the Christian religion.

The scale and magnificence of this Bulgarian capital can be seen even nowadays. Due to its beautiful architecture and many churches, Preslav was recognized as one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe.


Pliska was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire between 681 and 893 AD founded by Khan Asparukh. At its greatest extent, it had an area of 21.8 km² and was surrounded by earthen ramparts. A smaller stone fortification was built inside these ramparts and this contained a palace and buildings belonging to the aristocracy.

Pliska experienced nearly a century of growth before Emperor Nikephoros I’s campaign in 811 resulted in the burning of the royal residence in Pliska. Byzantines plundered the palace and town. Soon after, the invaders were driven out by Bulgarian Khan Krum .

In the 9th century, during the reign of Boris I, the pagan temples in Pliska began to be converted to Christian churches. In 886, Boris founded the Pliska Literary School which was moved to Preslav when Boris later relocated the capital.

During excavations in the first Bulgarian capital Pliska, archeologists found a unique object. It is made of bronze and it has a shape of a rosette with seven rays. Not only its form is remarkable. There are ancient Protobulgarian signs carved on it, so called runes.
The rosette represents ancient Bulgarian 12 year cyclical calendar, declared by UNESCO as one of the most precise calendars in the history of mankind. Runes in the outer circle are the signs of the five known planets in the ancient time together with the Sun and the Moon: Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter and Mercury. And in the inner circle are represented the runes of week days.
The most famous Bulgarian rune symbol- IYI is carved on the back of the rosette. This is the symbol of the Sun and expresses the religious ideas of Protobulgarians. Some researchers believe this is the sign of Bulgarian dynasty Dullo, who founded the Bulgarian state.