Ruse is located on the banks of the River Danube the natural border between Romania and Northern Bulgaria.
To emphasize its European influences the city is often referred to as the ‘Little Vienna of Bulgaria’ due to its architectural style buildings. Furthermore Ruse is the 5th largest and one of the most beautiful cities in Bulgaria.
Another key point is that it is only 75 kms south of Romania’s capital city of Bucharest, 309 kms from the capital Sofia and 100 kms north of Veliko Tarnovo.
This once Thracian settlement is already one of the top 100 tourist sites in Bulgaria. Also most of the things to see are located in or near the centre.
In particular much investment has been poured into Ruse making it one of Bulgaria’s hot spots and many added attractions for visitors to enjoy.
I haven’t counted them all, but there is said to be 260 monuments around the city!
Without a doubt Ruse is a perfect place for walking.
Certainly a stroll through the parks and along the banks of the Danube and back to the centre of the old town can easily pass a couple of hours.
Additionally the paved pedestrian streets in the centre of Ruse are adorned with great examples of 19th and 20th century Neo-Baroque and Rococo classical style buildings.
As can be seen the buildings were influenced by Italian, Austrian, German and Bulgarian architects which all add to the charm and ambience of your Ruse visit.
Brief History of Ruse & Influence of the River Danube
Without a doubt one of Europe’s greatest rivers, the River Danube has had a great significance throughout the history of Ruse’s development.
The mighty Danube winds its way along the borders of Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia Romania Bulgaria, Moldova and the Ukraine before reaching the Black Sea.
The Black sea then leads down through the Bosporus to the Aegean and into the Mediterranean.
It’s easy to understand, not only the strategic importance, but also the cultural influence a mighty river with so many bordering countries can make to a city.
Significantly the Romans in the 1st century AD established a fortress in Ruse. It became an important Naval base as well as a port for trade.
During this time the military settlement was called ‘Seksaginta Pristis’ (the port of sixty ships). As a result the remains of the Roman settlement which was destroyed around 650 AD by invading Gothic and Slavic tribes, can be visited in the north-west part of the city. Thereupon It lies on a small hill near the bank of the River Danube.
During 1595 Ruse was destroyed by the Ottoman army in reaction to a failed attempt of liberation by a Bulgarian army led by ‘Michael the Brave’
The city was rebuilt during the following years and became known as ‘Ruscuk’ or Little Ruse. It expanded once more into a fortress town and grew into one of the most important Ottoman cities on the Danube.
Today, Ruse still remains a very important port for international trade.
Things to see and do in Ruse
Liberty Square Ruse.
In the centre of the town is Svoboda or ‘Libery Square’ this square has 12 other streets leading from it. Each one a delight to discover.
Additionally the Liberty monument in the centre of the park is that of a female holding a sword. As can be seen She is pointing northwards from which the liberators of Bulgaria arrived. On the base of the monument are two lions. One is depicted throwing off the shackles of slavery while the second lion is guarding Bulgaria’s liberty.
The statue was built in 1909 by the Italian sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi. Hence it has gained significance as one of the city’s symbols, and now forms a part of its coat of arms.
Ruse Opera House
This magnificent and colourful building stands alongside Liberty square and was built in 1949. From time to time it is used for classical ballets and orchestral performances.
On another side of the square stands the court house which was built on the site of the old fish market
As well as the trees, beautiful flowers and water fountains, Liberty square is a wonderful place to enjoy a meal at the many affordable restaurants that surround the park.
Ruse Eco Museum
Situated along Alexandrovska street, the main paved area through the centre of Ruse is the first eco museum in Bulgaria and is spread over 4 floors. It was opened in 2014 and since then is a popular attraction.
Visitors can see fossils of prehistoric mammals. Three-dimensional replicas of nature landscapes and also exhibited in the museum is the largest freshwater aquarium in Bulgaria. There is also a scale model of a woolly mammoth.
The Regional Historical Museum
This is another significant place to visit with many fascinating exhibits. Among them is the Borovsko Thracian Treasure. A set of five silver ritual vessels dating back to the 4th century BC.
The Kaliopa House.
The interior represents that of a rich persons home from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The beautiful wall-paintings on the second floor were made by the Austrian painter Charles Schausberg.
The first grand piano, imported into Bulgaria from Vienna can also be seen here.
St Paul of the cross Cathedral Ruse
The Roman Catholic cathedral of St Paul of the Cross is without doubt a very beautiful church and is one of Ruse’s important landmarks and very popular with tourists.
Built in 1890 by Italian architect Valentino, the cathedral is an example of Gothic Revival architecture.
The interior is decorated with sculptures and stained glass windows
The pipe organ installed in 1907 is the only one of its kind with a pneumatic action in Southeastern Europe. It was produced by the Voit company from Karlsruhe,Germany. It has two manuals and 13 stops.
The instrument was damaged by the 1977 Bucharest earthquake and it was fully restored in 2004.
THE EXECUTION OF BISHOP EUGENE BOSSILKOV
In the early of days of communism the regime under Stalin set out to destroy religious institutions and beliefs.
During 1952 Eugene Bossilkov was the Bishop of Nicopolis at this time and Ruse cathedral was his diocese or jurisdiction. He was arrested for, a conspiracy to subvert communism.
After suffering physical and mental torture a ‘political show trial’ was staged with dubious evidence of seized weapons. Eugene was found guilty and was killed by firing squad in a Sofia prison. His body was thrown into a mass grave and was never recovered.
After many years of those supporters who believed he should be canonized, Pope John Paul II declared Bishop Eugene “Blessed” on March 15, 1998.
The Ruse National Museum of Transport is the only one in Bulgaria and is situated on the banks of the River Danube at the far side of the city park. About a 10 minute walk from the centre.
It is housed in the building of the first railway station in Bulgaria. It was built in 1866 at the request of the investors of the Orient express.
Among the most interesting exponents of the museum are the coaches of the Tsars Ferdinand (1887 – 1918) and Boris ІІІ (1918 – 1943), also the saloon coach of Sultan Abdul Aziz (1830 – 1876).
The entrance fee is not expensive and you get a guide. The tour lasts about 30 minutes. It may look deserted when you find the building, but just knock on the door to attract someone’s attention.
Here is a link to the Ruse Transport Museum
Pantheon for National Hero’s
For those who are interested in Bulgarian revolutionaries and the fight for Bulgaria’s freedom.
The Pantheon of National Hero’s was built in 1978 to commemorate the 100 years anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.
It houses the remains of 453 activists.
Men from the Ruse area, those who participated in the April uprising of 1876 and soldiers from the Russo-Turkish war of 1876-1878.
It was built on the former site of the All Saints church. Local legend has it that anyone who participated in the demolition of the old church would die a horrible death.
UNESCO Rock Monasteries Near Ruse
These monasteries have been carved and sculpted from the rock face of the cliffs overlooking the Lom River and are a fascinating place and well worth the visit if you are in Ruse. There is a small entrance fee to the monasteries.
St Dimitrius Rock Monastery
Slightly south of Ruse near to the small town of Basarbovo in the valley Rusenski Lom is the Rock monastery of St Dimitrius Basarbovksi.
The monastery was built during the 2nd Bulgarian Empire and is the only ‘active’ rock monastery in Bulgaria.
The Rock Churches of Ivanovo
Only twenty two kilometres south from Ruse in the area of Rusenski Lom Nature Park is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The ‘Rock churches of Ivanovo.
This rock medieval monastery complex was built between the 12th and 14th centuries. It is world famous for its painted murals upon its walls depicting scenes from the Bible.
The city is a host of multiple cultural events such as the Ruse Carnival, the March Music Days, the Autumn Days of Arts and Science.
Ruse is also famous for;
- 1864 – the first printing office in Bulgaria.
- 1867 – the first railway line linking Ruse and Varna, was launched into operation.
- 1881 – the first steel ship in Bulgaria was built.
- 1883 – the first weather station was opened.
- 1897 – the first movie projection. The second was a month later in the capital Sofia.
- 1927 – the first sock-making factory in Bulgaria opened in Ruse. “Fazan” and it still exists today.
Ruse- Romania Border crossing.
The building of the ‘ Ruse-Giurgiu Friendship bridge over the River Danube in 1954 opened the first rail and road (and foot crossing) border into Romania. Anyone travelling to Bucharest airport can now easily travel the 75 kms South to enter Bulgaria and visit Ruse.