Shumen Fortress Archaeological Preserve

Shumen Fortress in northeast Bulgaria is one of the most famous landmarks in Bulgaria and the Shumen region. The Shumen fortress is situated 3 km to the west of Shumen, on the Shumen Plateau. Extensive archaeological excavations and surveys show that the Shumen area was inhabited in the early Iron Age, in the 12th century BCE. The Shumen fortress was an important stronghold that played a key role in Bulgarian history, and at present functions as an open-air museum. An exposition is installed at the Shumen reserve that uses original artifacts to trace the earliest history of Shumen.

Shumen Fortress was probably originally built by the Thracians and was later completed and reconstructed by Romans, Byzantines, and Bulgarians. It is believed that the first fortification built in the place of present Shumen is 3200 years old, which makes it one of the oldest fortifications in Bulgaria. During the First Bulgarian Empire /680 AD – 1018 AD / the Shumen fortification played a crucial role due to its closeness to the old Bulgarian capitals of Pliska and Preslav. During the Second Bulgarian Empire /1185 – 1396 / the town of Shumen became an important economic and cultural center of the state. Conquered and destroyed many times, Shumen Fortress rose to new life and existed until 1444. Until the 15th century the town of Shumen was situated within the fortress that comprised a sophisticated compound of buildings and military equipment. The Shumen fortress continued its existence during the first years of the Ottoman rule and administration, and as per archaeological studies it wasn’t demolished by Ottomans when they conquered it. In 1444, however, the crusaders led by Vladislav Varnenchik (who reigned in the period 1434 – 1444) destroyed and burned the Shumen stronghold which led to its abandonment.

The remains of the Shumen fortress are perhaps some of the most thoroughly studied ancient remains on the territory of Bulgaria. Research provided important information about the way of life and the military customs of Bulgarians during the Middle Ages. The remains of 12 churches, as well as an ancient Roman bath, pottery, vessels, adornments and coins were found. Today Shumen Fortress is reborn as a popular tourist destination and its artifacts are exhibited as an open-air museum. Visitors of Shumen are provided with easy access to the remains thanks to the alleys and signs. Perhaps tourists are most attracted by the rebuilt tower of the fortress that offers a beautiful view of the town of Shumen and the Shumen Plateau Nature Park. Visitors can learn more about the Shumen fortress from guides on site. Lectures are given in Bulgarian, Russian, and English. Additional information materials such as books and brochures can be purchased from a small kiosk next to the fortress. The Shumen fortress is open for visitors all year round.

After many years of reconstruction, the Tombul mosque in Shumen which is the largest mosque in Bulgaria, truly looks impressive and wonderful. The Tombul mosque in Shumen features exceptional decoration from the 12th century and combines elements of the French Baroque and stones from demolished nearby Pliska site. Original painting that preserved its clear colors was discovered after the reconstruction works in the Tombul mosque started. The prayer room provides excellent acoustics thanks to hundreds of ceramics built in at the dome and walls of the Tombul mosque.