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Museums Towns & Villages in Bulgaria

There are some amazing towns in Bulgaria which have preserved the original atmosphere of the 19th-century Bulgarian Renaissance with their exquisite architecture. Their historic quarters take us back more than 100 years with their narrow, winding cobblestone streets, high stone walls hiding yards full of lovely flowers, and beautiful houses with brightly painted facades, sunlit verandas and fine wood-carved ceilings, cupboards and gates. In the past, these towns were centres of rebellion against foreign rule, the birthplaces of many Bulgarian heroes who fought for national liberation. Popularly known as “museum towns”, they are very much vibrant and alive even today.

Koprivshtitsa, a town nestled amid the green slopes of the Sredna Gora Mountains, is 126 km east of Sofia. It is a lovely ensemble of half-timbered houses painted in bright colours, with wooden verandas, bay-windows, pavilions and other features typical of 19th century Bulgarian architecture. The houses have spacious rooms, richly furnished with patterned hand-woven rugs, wood-carved ceilings and cupboards, various traditional copper and ceramic vessels, and other items.

Tryavna is a small town in Central Stara Planina (the Balkan Range) with more than 130 period houses. An old crafts centre, it is a byword for icon painting and woodcarving. Displaying flowers on their window-sills and in their yards, the houses boast splendid interiors decorated in traditional style and are most notable for their fine ceilings, usually featuring exquisitely carved suns in the middle. The old clock tower (built in 1814), a symbol of Tryavna, is still operational and displays the correct time.

Kotel and Zheravna, a small town and a village in the eastern part of Stara Planina, capture the eye and the imagination with theirtypical half-timbered houses, which are marvellously harmonious and beautiful: clean, symmetrical facades, eaves spread like bird’s wings, stylized plants and animals carved on wooden ceilings. Kotel is famous for its magnificent hand-woven carpets.

Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria. It is nestled among the slopes of Mount Pirin, encircled by hard-edged crags, screes and rounded sandstone cones. Its straggling main square and single street are lined with whitewashed stone houses on timber props, perched in tiers on the hills. Melnik’s houses are true masterpieces of the building craft and have deep, cool cellars that are perfect for ageing the red wine for which the town is also famous.

Shiroka Laka is a village located at the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, with streets paved with white flagstones, finely arched bridges, beautiful two- and three-storey houses with thick walls, symmetrical facades, and broad eaves. Shiroka Laka is home to one of Bulgaria’s best schools for folk music.

Other must-see towns and villages in Bulgaria include the villages of Bozhentsi in Stara Planina and Arbanassi near Veliko Turnovo, the town of Bansko, now a popular skiing resort at the foothills of Mount Pirin, and the seaside towns of Nessebar and Sozopol.