If Sunny Beach is Bulgaria‘s popular member of the family – the outgoing, extroverted cousin who talks over everyone at dinner. Then Sozopol is his cultured cousin – the nose-down-in-a-book member of the family. He keeps his elbows off the table, doesn’t talk with his mouth full, and is more likely to talk about the history of Christianity in Europe than his latest drunken escapade. If Sozopol seems more like your kind of guy, then you should pay him a visit. He’s chock-full of everything we’ve conveniently included in this post. Have at him!
Spookily Beautiful Churches
Image © stoyanh
Sozopol was Christianised early, even before the 5th century. This means that the town has an impressive collection of ancient religious buildings and iconostasis, totalling to around 20 churches in this relatively small space. The most popular with tourists is the Church of the Most Holy Mother, which sits so squat and humbly in the square that it could easily be missed. It’s one of the town’s oldest churches, with some of its most arresting iconography. Inside this quaint little place of worship, wooden carvings of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary adorn the walls. Its English Gothic architecture gives it that ancient and authentic edge, and it has now been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Image © poszto
Ravadinovo Castle has quickly become one of Sozopol‘s most flocked-to attractions. Possibly because its outrageous, almost mythical beauty juts out a bit compared to the discreetly pretty town. Nevertheless, it was designed to evoke a real-life fairytale fortress – and every tiny detail, down to the very last vine of ivy is a deliberate attempt at inspiring awe. Even its namesake is brashly beautiful – as Ravadinovo translates to ‘in love with the wind’ – whatever that means. Either way, it sounds pretty and that’s all that really matters here. The castle itself isn’t the only spectacle either. Its gardens are filled with the guffawing of peacocks and gossiping parrots, and flowers which perfume the air while black and white swans glide gently on the lake. Entry to this Balkan take on Disney is only €4.
A Town Steeped in Ancient History
Image © Ungvari Attila
Sozopol’s origins dates as far back as the Bronze Age, and its expansive history seems almost inconceivable to us now. However, it’s still left traces of an ancient world for us to find. You’re bound to stumble upon some olden-time trinkets even just on a stroll through the street. You can find anything from ancient coins to little statues which may even date back to the Bronze Age. For some guaranteed finds, head to the town’s Archaeological Museum, which features relics from John the Baptist, as well as the largest collection of antique ceramics in Bulgaria.
Outstandingly Tourist Friendly
Image © Pawel Szczepanski
As the oldest city on the Bulgarian Black Sea, the romance imbued in this fact alone brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Though it’s still relatively obscure compared to its Bulgarian counterparts, those who do come here are well taken care of. Since the city is split in two – in a sort of new/old world divide, you can decide just how much you’d like to be taken care of. The ‘New World’ of Sozopol is more tourist-friendly, as it’s beginning to fill with hotels and restaurants. However, the city has been able to build this modern infrastructure without compromising the city’s history and heritage.
Image © Anton Trotsenko
Sozopol’s beaches seem to stretch endlessly, and the waves of the Black Sea roll cleanly and calmly onto their thin golden sands. Perhaps the most notable of them is Central Beach – whose sands are wider and whiter than its brothers’, and far less crowded than his Sunny cousin’s! The gentle water makes Sozopol a particularly good spot for snorkelling and scuba diving, and the quieter ambiance makes it the opportune place for an idle beach day. All of its beaches are free to enter, but there’s a small charge for hiring chairs and parasols.
Adorable Old-World Vibes
Image © Anastasia Izofatova
You’ll feel yourself stepping back in time as you walk the cobbled streets of Sozopol. The buildings made of stone and wood which gild the roads date back to hundreds of years ago, but are magically maintained as though they were built recently as a historical tribute. More than 200 houses are preserved on the short, narrow alleys, most of which are uninhabited and only there for preservation purposes.