With an area of 110 993 sq m and a population of 7 888 600, Bulgaria is one of the smallest countries in the Old continent, but due to its geographical position on the crossroads between the West and the East, Bulgaria played a significant role in the region of the Balkan Peninsula and Europe.
The old world cultures of Thracia, Greece and Rome settled and built towns and cities in what is now Bulgaria, followed by the proto-Bulgarians and the Turks. The greatest builders were the Romans and then the Byzantines. Most often the towns they built were successors of older settlements.
The Turks created a small number of new towns, though this was done mainly with a view to turning Bulgaria into a military-feudal controlled land. During the 15th to 17th centuries, upsurge in Bulgarian crafts was observed. Numerous one-room workshops, storehouses for grain, and taverns were built, bringing new economic life.
After the liberation from the Turks, a great number of these buildings disappeared from the towns. However, some of the most picturesque buildings, bringing a unique character to the different towns, have been preserved: Banya Bashi and Buyuk mosques in Sofia, the mosque in Plovdiv on Dzhoumaya Square, and the largest mosque in Bulgaria, the Tumbul mosque in Shoumen.
During the same period, the architecture of the Bulgarian Revival predominated in the towns and cities, based upon the designs of architectural, art and woodcarving schools in Tryana, Samokov and Bansko. Even now, many houses in the Revival villages and towns of Kotel, Koprivshtitsa, Tryavna, Plovdiv, Bansko, Troyan, Asenovgrad, Gabrovo, Teteven, Samokov and Sliven are very well preserved and almost in their original form.
After the liberation from the Ottoman Yoke at the end of the 19th century, the towns in Bulgaria began to revive, growing bigger and getting modernized. In the bigger towns and especially in those near the water borders such as Rouse, Svishtov, Varna and Bourgas, European architecture forced its way. Famous architects such as Alberto Tsoki created buildings and monuments, thus bringing the spirit of the ‘modern’ European' style. Unfortunately, during the 1st and 2nd World Wars some of these pearls of architecture were partially damaged or completely destroyed. However, those that survived have been well kept and maintained.
During the last century, due to the development of enterprises, factories, mines and other factors, a great number of existing towns became industrial centers, while small villages grew into towns. Many of these towns and villages have a rich and significant history and have been officially recognized as architectural reserves and museum towns.