The discovery of Tsari Mali Grad (which translates into English as ‘Tsar’s Little Town’) was made in 2007 near the village of Belchin, which is known in Bulgaria for its many therapeutic mineral springs. Dating from Roman times, the Tsari Mali Grad complex had laid forgotten underneath a forested area until it gradually reemerged from the ground on St Spas Hill above the village, when its awesome size and historical significance was appreciated.
At the center of the 10-acre archaeological site lay a vast Roman fort dating back to the rule of Emperor Valens between 364 and 378 AD; it had six watchtowers and walls that were over 400 meters (1,312 feet) in length. Over time, the fort expanded into a fortified town occupied between the fourth and seventh centuries by Thracian, Roman and Byzantine communities; there is also evidence of Thracian shrines, early Christian sanctuaries and the remains of a 15th-century church dedicated to the Ascension of Mary, indicating that the area was of special religious importance. The fort and the church have been painstakingly rebuilt and were opened to visitors in 2013; they are surrounded by spectacular hilly countryside covered in walking trails and can be reached by funicular or 20-minute walk uphill from Belchin.
Selo Belchin, 2025 Samokov. Open Tue–Sun 9am–5pm. Admission: adults 4 leva, children aged between seven–18 2 leva. Found 53 km (33 miles) south of Sofia, Tsari Mali Grad is best accessed by car along Routes 181 and 82.