Bulgaria has the greatest number of historical and archaeological evidences in Europe after Greece and Italy - 36 culture reserves, 160 monasteries, some 40,000 monuments of history, 7 of which on the UNESCO world heritage list. There are numerous monuments left from seven civilizations: Prehistoric, Thracian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Islamic.
The lands of Bulgaria were settled some 1,3 millions of years ago (Early Paleolithic) - the earliest times of human presence in Europe! The Late Prehistory (6000-1000 BC) is one of the most fascinating periods for Bulgarian lands when men started to settle in permanent settlements and bring up plants and animals. An interesting fact is that "the prehistoric capital of Europe" – Кaranovo is now in the limits of Bulgaria. The discovery of the earliest processed gold in the world in the Varna Necropolis (5th millennium BC) changed many of our understandings for the humankind.
The first historically documented people in the Bulgarian lands are the Thracians – a mysterious people that has left us many unriddled puzzles. The lack of their own alphabet and letter is a reason why the ancient authors called them "barbarians". The Thracians have left many monuments from their presence some of which we can witness nowadays in the museums and maybe still a lot more unrevealed ones too.
The high developed civilizations of the Ancient World - the Greeks and Romans had a great influence upon the development of the native inhabitants on these lands. The new ideas in the architecture, art, religion and other spheres of life changed many concepts of the Thracian way of life. The urbanization model of the enormous Roman Empire (1st – 4th c. AD) lead very quickly to the building of new towns and road infrastructure.
The establishment of the Bulgarian State in the end of the 7th century had an extraordinary importance for Europe. Bulgaria in the period of 8-9th c. became the third power of the continent after the Byzantine Empire and the Kingdom of the Franks. The monumental architectural remains from the Bulgarian capitals and towns are evidence for the high developed material and spiritual culture.
Of all the numerous monuments – witnesses to the historic development of the Bulgarian State, seven are on the world heritage list under UNESCO auspices:
- Thracian tomb in Kazanlak /4th – 3rd c. BC/;
- Thracian tomb in the village of Sveshtari, near the town of Razgrad;
- Madara horseman /a rock relief of early 8th c. AD/;
- Boyana Church with valuable mural paintings of 1259 AD, reckoned masterpiece samples of European Medieval painting;
- Rock monasteries in Ivanovo, near the town of Rousse, dating back to 11th – 14th c. AD;
- Rila monastery – a wonderful piece of Bulgarian National Renaissance and East-Orthodox art;
- The old town in Nessebar.