This mountain town is famous for its revolutionary past and its beautiful and photogenic houses.

Koprivshtitsa is a place that deserves to be thoroughly explored – not just the house-museums, lovely as they are, but all the little alleyways.

There are stone water fountains (чешми) to discover, fascinating details such as door handles to notice, and a variety of unusual colours on the houses: deep blue, cinnamon brown, light blue, yellow and a wonderful dusty violet. There are monuments and statues, and in summer the hills all around are a sea of wild flowers and a source of wild strawberries, raspberries and other fruits.

Visitors should obtain a map from the tourist information centre or ticket offices on the main square for orientation.

What to see and do in Koprivshtitsa

The house museums

The town is the birthplace of several well-known Bulgarians. Some of the Koprivshtitsa House-Museums recount their lives and display artefacts connected with them. Each house has a special charm and, as they are scattered around the town, a visit to all of them gives you a good itinerary for a walk. A permanent exhibition by the Georgi Benkovski House-Museum, Koprivshtitsa – Educational Centre during the National Revival is included in the joint ticket.

Museum Lutova House Bulgaria by Dafinka Shutterstock
Lyutov House is arguably the finest of the town’s house museums © Dafinka, Shutterstock

The earliest houses, in a very simple style, were built of wood and only one storey. Most of these were destroyed in the 1793 attack by Kurdzhaliya. One example remains: the Pavlikenski House (not open to the public). Those built in the first half of the 19th century, of which the Benkovski House is a good example, were two-storeyed with a veranda and sturdy doors. In the second half of the century the houses were larger and much more lavish. They had many windows, elaborate carvings and decorated ornamental niches (alafrangas), following the Plovdiv tradition.

The most popular to visit are Oslekov House and Todor Kableshekov, while Lyutov House, on the other side of the river, is considered the pinnacle of Koprivshtitsa’s building achievements.

The churches

The town also has two churches. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, built in 1817, replaced the one burned down by Kurdzhaliya at the end of the 18th century. The icons and woodcarvings are by well-known craftsmen including Zahari Zograf. The iconostasis and pulpit are particularly elaborate. The church itself is inconspicuous, as the Ottomans required, and painted bright blue like many of the nearby houses to avoid drawing attention to itself. The prominent bell tower was added much later.

The so-called new church, built in 1844 and dedicated to Sv Nikolai, was funded by wealthy families in the town. Sv Nikolai is the patron saint of those who travel by sea or make long and hazardous journeys, so he was an obvious choice for the well-travelled merchants of Koprivshtitsa.

Getting to Koprivshtitsa

There are five passenger trains daily from Sofia to Koprivshtitsa (2hrs). From Burgas, there are two passenger trains daily to Klisura (41⁄2hrs; then 30mins by taxi to Koprivshtitsa), and from Plovdiv three passenger trains daily to Strelcha (11⁄2hrs; then 20mins by taxi). It is important to note that Koprivshtitsa’s station is 10km north from the town and that all trains are normally met by bus at the station.

There are buses from Pirdop (5 daily; 45mins) and Plovdiv (1 daily; 1hr). There are no buses from Sofia.

By car this is an easy day trip from Sofia or Plovdiv, or a nice diversion from the east–west route through the Valley of the Roses.