So many great festivals in Bulgaria for you to enjoy. We just don’t know enough about them!
From rock to opera, to bagpipes, to film and the more traditional Bulgarian cultural offerings, there are festivals to enjoy year round in Bulgaria.
As well as festivals in Bulgaria, tourists can enjoy sea or ski vacations, city breaks, cultural, culinary, and adventure holidays in the sun. Bulgaria is also home to the European Capital of Culture 2019: Plovdiv.
Which seems a good start to our introduction to the festivals in Bulgaria.
European Capital of Culture 2019: Plovdiv
This is the year to visit Bulgaria, with festivals, concerts, and art and culture celebrations across the city to celebrate the European Capital of Culture. Fun activities take place all over Southern and Central Bulgaria – you can find out more about the Plovdiv 2019 celebrations here.
Dance Week, Architecture Week, Design Week: Plovdiv hosts them all!
1. KvARTal (September 16-18, 2023)
KvARTal Festival takes place in Sofia to celebrate the city’s 8000 years of history. The main action takes place in the square formed by the boulevards ‘Dondukov’, ‘Maria Louisa’, ‘Vassil Levski’ and ‘Slivnitsa’. The boulevards become a designated space for art and fun to show off the city’s dedication to culture.
2. Sofia Film Fest, Cinemania, Cinema and Food, Cinelibri et al (all year)
Bulgaria is home to many film festivals. As well as the ones listed above, there’s also IN THE PALACE International Short Film Festival and the World Festival of Animated Film.
In 2014 Sofia received the creative UNESCO title “’City of Film’, awarded to cities not only possessing the necessary infrastructure of studios and movie theatres, but also being known for caring about the development and preservation of their own cultural heritage.
Bulgaria’s film festivals are an important showcase for high-quality European film productions and co-productions.
3. Pernik’s Surva (to be confirmed for 2023)
Also known as the International Festival of Masquerade Games, Pernik’s Surva features more than 6000 ‘kukeri’, specially costumed to fight off evil spirits, take part in the majestic parade. Thousands of visitors enjoy the appeal of ancient pagan customs at this UNESCO site of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
4. International Bagpipe Contest (to be confirmed for 2023)
The International Bagpipe Contest in the village of Gela takes place in the scenic Rhodope Mountains (plenty of space to make some noise). More than 100 performers, including ones from Japan and Australia, test the natural acoustics of the location in front of thousands of visitors each year.
5. National Folklore Festival (July 22-29, 2023)
The National Folklore Festival of Rozhen is unique for the Balkans in its scale and mystical spirit. As such organisation is complex, the event happens only every other year, with the next one scheduled for July 2019.
More than 400 folklore singers and instrumentalists are expected to gather and perform authentic Bulgarian music which can rarely be heard anywhere else.
6. Nestinari Festival (June 3-4 annually)
The tradition of ‘nestinari’ or barefoot fire dancing is one of the oldest Bulgarian customs and is spectacular in its exclusivity and magical aesthetics. Only a few villages host it: Bulgari, Kosti and Brodilovo, traditionally around June 3-4.
The ritual, recognised by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009, is known for the hypnotic state that its performers slip into while dancing in the style of old Thracian traditions.
7. Meadows in the Mountains Festival (June 1-5, 2023)
‘Meadows in the Mountains’ is a young and bold dance music festival, taking place in the Rhodope Mountains.
The 3-day event is set in the Polkovnik Serafimovo village. The unparalleled nature is calling all adventurers and explorers to dive into its wild atmosphere and combine partying with exploring its treasures through trekking, horse riding and many more activities.
8. International Jazz Festival Bansko (to be confirmed for 2023)
Every August the biggest stars of European, American and Bulgarian jazz gather to create an amazing ambience of music and nature in Bansko. It’s the most popular event of the summer in Bulgaria, the entire Balkans even.
Bansko is a popular cheap winter ski destination so you can listen to jazz music by night and relax with spa and mineral springs by day. Sounds lush!
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9. Hills of Rock, Plovdiv (to be confirmed for 2023)
Hills of Rock is one of the biggest rock festivals in the Balkans. In 2019 Hills of Rock will be held from 28th till 30th of June at the Rowing Canal. Headliners include Garbage, Whitesnake and Disturbed. Get your black eyeliner on and get down there!
10.Opera Under the Stars (to be confirmed for 2023)
In the last two years Bulgarian opera has stepped out of the theatres and turned listening to classical music in the open air into a tradition. Opera Open Festival in Plovdiv is already established with its emotional international programme, set in the Ancient Theatre each June-July.
See, lots of weird and wonderful festivals in Bulgaria for you to try out!
For more information on Bulgaria, visit www.bulgariatravel.org.
This post is in collaboration with the Bulgaria Ministry and The Great Swap.