The "Baba vida" fortress

The “Baba Vida” Fortress is more than 2,000 years old, going through various construction periods. It is the only fully preserved medieval castle in Bulgaria, which played both the role of a defensive facility and a ruler’s castle. The fortress lays on the coast of the largest bend of the Danube River, in the northeastern part of Vidin. It is the oldest medieval castle that is still well preserved to this day. Its durability is a result of the two big defensive walls, in the shape of two concentric quadrangles with an irregular shape. Originally built as a Roman fortress in the third century, the most preserved part of it is the base of the eastern corner tower.

Legend has it that a great Bulgarian boyar once lived, who ruled a large area of land from the Carpathians to the Balkan Mountains. After his death, his three daughters, Vida, Kula and Gamza, divided his possessions. The two younger sisters – Kula (who’s land’s  capital was the Bulgarian town of the same name) and Gamza (with Gamzigrad as the capital of her land, today’s Gamzigrad in Serbia), rushed into marriage. They had no luck with their husbands who lightly squandered their father’s inheritance.Watching the failed marriages of her younger sisters, the oldest one , Vida, rejected all marriage proposals and was left alone for the rest of her life. Under her leadership, a castle was built in which she lived for the rest of her life, successfully defending her citizens and lands from foreign attacks. As a token of gratitude after her death, the people of this area gave the castle her name – “Baba Vida” or “Babini Vidini towers”

This was what the legend states and here is what the facts state:

– The total area of ​​the fortress is about 5 decares (9.5 decares with the protective moat), as its width is about 65 m and its length is 80 m. It is constructed in an irregular quadrangular shape. Each side is about 70 meters long. The corners of the castle point to the four directions of the world.

– It relies on two walls. The inner one is taller and thicker and protects the living area. It has 9 towers, 4 of which are angular. The outer one is lower, with 2 towers. An outer courtyard is formed between the two walls.

– The castle-fortress is accessible only from the north, where the entrance tower is situated. From there you enter the first courtyard. It is surrounded by a protective moat with a width of 12 m and a depth of 6 m, over which in the past a wooden drawbridge was used to pass over. The was moat filled with water from the Danube. Now the bridge is made of stone and the moat is dried up.

– The fortress was built on the remains of the ancient city of Bononia. In its place stood the ancient Roman fortress of the same name from the III century.

– It is believed that the first construction activities for the medieval fortress date back to the end of the First Bulgarian Kingdom, as the construction of the medieval castle began in the second half of the tenth century, but it wasn’t until the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (late twelfth – fourteenth century) that  most of the significant construction was carried out.

– According to some sources, in 1003 the fortress underwent an 8-month siege by Byzantine troops led by Emperor Basil II, which eventually ended in favor of the Byzantines. Besides that defeat, the fortress was not taken by force any other time, which brought her the fame of impregnability.

– During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, the fortress was the most important one in all of Northwestern Bulgaria. The last Bulgarian king before the fall of Bulgaria under Ottoman rule – Ivan Sratsimir, who ruled the Vidin kingdom (1324 – 1397), used it as a feudal castle. This is when the biggest expansions were done and many internal walls and towers were built. Back then the Bulgarian towers ended with ridges – similar to the fortress walls.

– The Sratsimir Tower was built in the XIII-XIV century and is the most preserved part of the medieval Bulgarian period. It is 16 meters high, on its walls there is a lot of brick ornaments – rosettes and bowls, which are still in good condition. It is believed that one of them is the inscription “Shishman” (assumption made by Ivan Velkov in the middle of the twentieth century). Near this tower is the secret exit of the castle. The tunnel of the fortress was used mainly to move artillery cannons to the upper part of the fortress. Unlike now, in the past this tunnel was not covered with cobblestones.


– After the Liberation (1878), access to the Baba Vida fortress was severely restricted and even banned because it was used for military purposes.

– The first excavations in the fortress took place  from 1956 to 1962 and revealed remains from the Roman, Byzantine, Early Bulgarian, Late Bulgarian and Ottoman eras. The base of a chapel from the 13th-14th century have also been discovered.

– “Baba Vida” opened its doors for visitors in 1958, as there is now also a museum in the fortress. In 1964 the medieval castle was declared a cultural monument of national importance.

– Currently, two of the towers are available for visiting. All around the castle  you can see objects from everyday life from those times. Scenes from life in the medieval castle are recreated in some rooms. There is also a prison in the fortress, while in the old torture chambers the authentic appearance is preserved and interesting instruments for torture are on display. The figures of an executioner and a prisoner, with which tourists are often photographed, are something to look out for. On one of the terraces there are cannons and gallows exposed.

– As it is one of the well preserved medieval defense facilities in Bulgaria, the place is often a part of the decor of numerous historical films.

– In the fortress you can find the summer theater of Vidin, which hosts concerts, theater performances and more.

– Cards, souvenirs and information materials can be purchased from the fortress as a souvenir. It has been declared one of the 100 national tourist sites. It is a monument you certainly have to visit!