Why you should visit Shumen, Bulgaria

(Last Updated On: 06/10/2021)

The only reason why I’ve decided to visit Shumen in the first place was the spectacular Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, located on the hill above the city.

This masterpiece of modernish cubism architecture has enchanted me from the moment I’ve seen pictures of the concrete horse and Transformers-alike soldier and I knew this place is so insane, quirky and crazy that I have to see it!

I knew I had to include Shumen in my Bulgaria itinerary. And I wasn’t disappointed! The city quickly turned out to be one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria.

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Where is Shumen?

Shumen is the mid-size city with around a hundred thousand inhabitants, located in the north-east part of Bulgaria.

The city conveniently lies on the main railway line connecting the capital city Sofia with the main Black Sea harbor – Varna, making visiting Shumen rather easy. From Sofia, you will get here by train in just under 6 hours, from Varna – in 1,5 hours.

Shumen has also plenty of bus connections to nearby destinations, such as Ruse (on the border with Romania, not far from Bucharest) or one of the biggest Bulgaria attractions – Veliko Tarnovo.

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Short history of Shumen

The city was first mentioned in the 10th century. Some sources say that its name, Shumen, was given after the great Bulgarian emperor Simeon the Great.

The city was created on the trade route leading to Constantinople and was the last cradle to protect the Ottoman Empire from the Russian Empire.

In the 19th century, Shumen was an important center of the Bulgarian National Revival. This is where the Bulgarian theater performance took place (in 1813), that’s also was the first Bulgarian brewery was opened – “Shumensko pivo”.

Between 1950 and 1965 Shumen was briefly named “Kolarovgrad”, after Vasil Koralov, one of the communist leaders at that time, only to return to its previous name.

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Things to do in Shumen, Bulgaria

There are not too many things to do in Shumen but you will be easily entertained for a solid few hours there.

While my main reason to visit Shumen was the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, I was pleasantly surprised that there are actually more Shumen attractions to see. And I was even more surprised that there were no tourists around, not even local ones!

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

The Shumen Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

The Shumen Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria is a splendid, magnificent structure, built on the Ilchov Hill above Shumen. You don’t need to worry you won’t find it – it is clearly seen from all over the city and beyond (apparently on the clear day you can see it from some 30 kilometers away).

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

As the name indicates, the Shumen monument was created to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the creation of the Bulgarian state (the official date is 681 AD). This wasn’t the only structure that was built for this occasion.

Some of you might remember the weird, steel creature spooking in the central park in Sofia, next to the National Palace of Culture. To say it looked weird is a huge understatement – it was out of this world really and it didn’t make any sense.

Sadly, it was demolished so now the only real piece to commemorate the 1300 years of Bulgaria is the monument in Shumen.

Sofia monument

The now destroyed monument in Sofia

The decision to create the monument was made in 1977 but the works started only two years later and were finished in 1981, exactly 1300 years after the Bulgarian state was founded. The grand opening happened on 28th November 1981.

The monument is enormous, with so many details you need to reserve at least an hour to see it properly. It was designed in cubism style – more popular in art than architecture (everyone knows Picasso but how many cubist buildings can you name? You can actually find some good ones in Prague, Czech Republic) and that’s one of the things that make the monument unique.

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

On eight huge concrete blocks, you can see scenes from Bulgarian history between the 6th and 10th centuries. You will find here rulers of the country, including Simeon the Great, as well as saints (like Clement or Naum of Ohrid), aristocrats or warriors.

Some of the blocks are built at different angles, showing the development of the Bulgarian state. Another example of the development is in the language – you can see first runes (used by Proto-Bulgarians), then Glagolitic script and eventually Cyrillic language.

Shumen monument

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

You can also find here some details from the Bulgarian history, such as the fact that Christianity wasn’t joyfully welcomed (see the sad faces in the second part of the monument) or the golden era of Bulgaria at the time of Simeon the Great’s rule.

Three blocks are covered in the mosaic that apparently is the largest mosaic of that kind in Europe! As if the monument wasn’t impressive enough!

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Once you get to the monument you might feel all kinds of emotions – I did.

First, it was utter exhaustion but also the feeling of accomplishment – from the center, you need to walk up 1300 stairs (for 1300 years of the Bulgarian state!) to get to the monument. Let me tell you, that’s a lot, especially for someone who is so badly out of shape like I am. But once I caught my breath I was still speechless – this time because I was so very impressed with the monument.

No words, no pictures can describe how incredible structure it is. You might feel overwhelmed with it, after all the monument is huge but once you start noticing all the details, all the careful carvings made in the concrete you will be sure visiting Shumen and getting to the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria was the right decision.

This is truly one of the more unique things you will see in Bulgaria and Europe.

Shumen monument

Shumen monument

To get to the monument you can either walk up the 1300 stairs from the center (it’s around 200 meters in the elevation change) or take the taxi for some 10 levas/return (that’s what the lady in the hotel told me, I still chose the hard way to get there).

Apparently there is the entrance fee to the monument but you can get the ticket only when walking through the main gate. When entering the monument from the stairs you are free to explore the site. I wanted to pay for the ticket when leaving the place but the tickets’ window was closed.

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Other things to do in Shumen

Once you are done with the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria you might want to see other Shumen attractions.

From the monument, you can walk some 3 kilometers to the remnants of Shumen fortress. Once it was a very well developed citadel, its peak time happened in the 14th century.

After the Battle of Varna in 1444, won by Ottomans, the fortress fell into disrepair. Still, this is a significant place in Bulgarian history and it’s definitely worth to stop by here if you are in the area.

In the Shumen itself, you might like a very pleasant center, with numerous cafes, pedestrian areas, and charming art-nouveau buildings from the beginning of the 20th century (some of them are in a rather poor shape).

In some backstreets, you might find houses in Bulgarian revival style, maybe not as pretty as in Plovdiv or Koprivshtitsa, but still pleasant enough to see them.

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Fans of Soviet architecture will be happy to hear that, besides the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, there are a few other remnants of recent times, including unfinished Shumen Central City Square complex.

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

In Shumen, you can also see one of the few remaining mosques in Bulgaria – Tombul Mosque. It was built between 1740 and 1744, back when this area was under Ottoman rule, and currently, this is the largest mosque in Bulgaria and one of the largest in the Balkans. Sadly, when I arrived at the mosque it was closed but apparently inside you can see some beautiful paintings.

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Overall, Shumen might not be the most beautiful place in Bulgaria and it can not compete with Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv or Ruse. But sometimes it’s not only about monuments and Shumen is nice enough to spend here a nice and relaxing day (minus 1300 stairs, that was not relaxing at all).

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Madara Rider

While you are in Shumen you might want to visit another important place – Madara Rider, enlisted on UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 as a great example of early Bulgarian art.

The medieval rock relief from the 7th or 8th century is carved on the Madara Plateau, less than 20 kilometers from the city. It shows the rider on the horse, thrusting a spear into the lion, with a dog running behind the horse.

In the pool on the design of future Bulgarian Euro coins, Madara Rider won with over 25% votes. Now you can see it on the obverse of 1 to 50 stotinki coins issued in 1999 and 2000.

I was hoping to visit Madara Rider when I was in Shumen but sadly the schedules didn’t work in my favor, I would have been stuck in Madara for some 4 hours and would have missed my bus to Veliko Tarnovo.

I can recommend going there only if you are traveling by car as otherwise, it’s a bit too much of the hassle to get there. I left visiting Madara Rider for the next time, as I’m sure there will be next time!

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Is it worth to visit Shumen?

While for me Shumen, and especially the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, was an exceptional place I can imagine this is not the city for everyone. Bulgaria has much better attractions than Shumen.

But if you are in the area don’t miss the place. I don’t think you can see any quirkier monument than this one (I mean cubist concrete!), this is really one of a kind place!

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Visit Shumen Bulgaria

Travel resources

With over 15 years of independent traveling, I’ve learned which websites and services are the best when planning a trip. I always use and trust the following websites:

Money – My number one tip for everyone is to start using Revolut bank card to save money when traveling.

You get the card by mail within a few days and you can use it all over the world. You top up the card in the app on the phone, where you can also have accounts in different currencies and exchange money between them, for no extra fee and at very favorable rates.

Everything is super easy and fast, you only need an internet connection to manage your accounts in the app.

Revolut supports over 140 currencies and offers free withdrawal from ATMs all over the world. In the first 6 months I’ve used Revolut card in 12 countries (including Bulgaria) in 3 continents and had no issues at all. And I saved a lot of money in the exchange rates!

Click here to learn more about the service and order your own Revolut card!

Accommodation – I always book my accommodation through Booking.com.

They have really good deals (especially with their “Genius” program that you become a member of after few reservations) and in most of the cases, if your plans change, you can cancel the reservation without any extra costs.

I also value them for a really good customer service that I had to use a few times.

https://www.booking.com/index.html?aid=939565” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noskim noopener noreferrer”>Check the best deals on accommodation in Shumen here!

I stayed at Guest House Solo (9.1/10 on Booking) and can definitely recommend the place. It has a perfect location, right in the center of Shumen, room was clean and comfortable and the owners just the friendliest. Click here to see current rates and book the place.

Insurance – I never travel without the insurance as you never know what might happen on the road and better safe than sorry (I’ve learnt my lesson).

I can recommend World Nomads that offer the insurance dedicated to travelers just like you and me.

Click here to get the insurance policy for Bulgaria here.

Day tours – I do go for a day trips when I travel as often they are the most convenient way to see the place that saves you time and money.

I most often use Get Your Guide that offers a variety of tours all over the world. Click here to check all the best tours you can take during your travels!

Offline maps – For years I’ve been using MAPS.ME app and I can’t recommend it enough!

It’s free, works offline perfectly fine and saved me many times. You can easily transfer Google Maps with all the bookmarks to maps.me and use them offline wherever you are.

Click here to download it to your phone before your next trip!

For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:

  • If you don’t want to miss new posts and news from me click here to sign to my newsletter! You can also follow me on Bloglovin!
  • Join my Facebook group about Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former USSR and connect with fellow travellers and enthusiasts of these regions – just click here!
  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Bulgaria too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. If you like what you are reading and seeing here and would like to support me and my blog please consider using those links. It would be like getting me a virtual drink that you don’t have to pay for! Thanks!


Visit Shumen Bulgaria

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  • Reply
    27/08/2020 at 21:27

    Dear Kami,
    I discovered your blog several days ago and I am being exploring it very intensely since then. Thank you for the wonderful photos, reviews and travel tips!
    Shumen is the town where I lived in my childhood and school years, and I keep on returning there at least once every year. I think that you have successfully discovered the main attractions, and, of course, you have photographed and described them very skillfully.
    I must tell you that I was very glad to read that you liked the monument “Founders of the Bulgarian State”, a.k.a. “1300 Years of Bulgaria”. I like it very much as well. Unfortunately many people who live in Shumen think it is rough-looking and lacks art value. This monument is an example of so called “brutalist architecture” and in my opinion it has its beauty and the specific architecture style is very suitable to represent the stability of the Bulgarian state which has lasted 13 centuries. The Bulgarian government hired one the best architects, sculptors and artists of the time for the monument.
    I saw that you have visited Veliko Tarnovo as well. Did you know that the sculptors Krum Damyanov, Ivan Slavov and the architect Georgi Gechev, who creates this monument, are also authors of the Memorial of Asenevtsi in Veliko Turnovo (a sculpture group of four horse riders representing four of the most successful Bulgarian kings of the the Assenevtsi dynasty who ruled when Veliko Tarnovo was a capital, and a big sword standing upright in the middle).

    • Reply
      02/09/2020 at 07:57

      Thank you so much for your comment and kind words, Stanislava. I’m very glad you liked my article about Shumen. I really enjoyed the place, it was really pleasant and the monument was a real treat. I guess brutalism is still very controversial and some people need time to fully appreciate it but places like the monument in Shumen have a huge artistic value. I didn’t know about the architects of Veliko Tarnovo memorial! I saw the place but didn’t know who was behind it. Thank you for telling me :)

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