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Tryavna is one of those cities that everybody from Bulgaria knows about, but once you set foot outside of the borders of the country – nobody has heard of it. Even though it is not uncommon to see foreigners in the streets of Tryavna, they are mostly part of group tours, which go around the whole country and visit different tourist spots.
I am here to tell you about this hidden gem, tucked away in the embrace of the Balkan mountains, just waiting to be discovered. We will be covering the 22 best things to do in Tryavna, as well as some fun activities and day trip ideas, which are going to make you put the city on your list for your next visit here.
HOW TO GET TO TRYAVNA
Tryavna is conveniently situated in central Bulgaria – it takes roughly about 3 hours to get there from all the major cities around the country like Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. Oh, and it’s only 45 minutes away from Veliko Tarnovo. This makes Tryavna perfect for an in-between stop if you’re travelling around and you’ve decided to visit as many places as possible while you’re here.
Getting to Tryavna by bus is only possible from Sofia (and the nearest bigger city of Gabrovo), and the buses run two times daily with the company Union Ivkoni. A one-way ticket would cost you around 17 leva (~9 EUR), while a two-way ticket will set you back with around 27 leva (~14 EUR). The bus station in Tryavna is located less than 10 minutes away walking distance from the city centre, so there is no need to worry about finding your way from there.
Taking the trains in Bulgaria is a whole other experience on its own. Let’s just say that our trains have preserved its charm from the times of socialism and haven’t changed a bit since then. You can reach Tryavna by train from pretty much every major city in the country. Trains here are cheap as hell, but also slow as hell (it would take you between 5 and 7 hours to travel between Sofia and Tryavna). So unless you have all the time on your hands, I’d suggest experiencing the Bulgarian railways for a trip of a shorter distance. However, the train station is located next to the bus station, so again – pretty convenient.
THINGS TO DO IN TRYAVNA
Despite its modest size, there are quite a few things to keep you occupied while in Tryavna. May I introduce to you the 22 best things to do in Tryavna (and the surroundings). So take out your notebooks, and let’s get started.
1. Absorb the atmosphere of the Historic Centre
The city is so compact that pretty much everything on this list of things to see in Tryavna is located in the historic city centre. But before everything else, I’d like to point out one of the main things every person should do when visiting Bulgaria – just soaking up the atmosphere around you. Especially in a city like Tryavna, the old houses, cobbled streets and traditional vibes have been preserved so strongly, that it would be a shame not to allow yourself to get a real feeling of it.
2. The Clock Tower
Right in the very city centre you will find the picture perfect clock tower. Built in 1814, the tower still stands tall and has become the emblem of Tryavna. An interesting fact about it is that at exactly 22:00 o’clock every evening, you can hear a very famous Bulgarian poem, turned into a song, which is strongly associated with the city. The song “Nerazdelni” (“Inseparable”) by Pencho Slaveykov, has now become Tryavna’s anthem.
3. The Old Bridge
Next to the clock tower, you will find an old stone bridge built in 1844-1845 in a Roman style. The bridge, together with the clock tower, is the most photographed spot in Tryavna and the one you will see the most on brochures, guides etc. Not only does it make for great photos, but it also contributes to the ‘old-town ambience’ of the city centre.
4. The street of crafts
Continuing on from the clock tower and the bridge, you will soon find yourself in the famous street of crafts. The street Petko R. Slaveykov is known for its many small shops where local craftsmen sell their goods.
Tryavna is famous mostly for its icon painting school as well as many wood carving craftsmen.
5. Slaveykov’s School
Slaveykov’s School was amongst some of the very first secular schools opened in Bulgaria. The school has a very high historical value and it was very impressive for its time. It was built between 1836 and 1839 and it has been an education centre for ages.
6. The Church of St. Michael the Archangel
The church of St. Michael the Archangel is part of the national heritage list and is of great historical importance for the locals. It was rebuilt in 1819 over the foundations of an earlier church, which was previously destroyed. Its interior serves as a great example of the Tryavna school of woodcarving and icon painting.
7. The Asian and African Art Museum
If you’re a fan of Asian and African culture, this one is for you. The museum holds exhibitions of 2nd to 20th century ceremonial Buddhist and Hindu objects and African works of art.
8. Raykov’s House
Raykov’s house is an impressive example of the Tryavna architectural school and the way houses looked during the Bulgarian Revival period. It was built in 1846 and it’s also included in the national cultural heritage list.
9. Angel Kanchev House Museum
The Angel Kanchev House Museum is another house from the Bulgarian Revival period, built in the early 19th century. The house was named after Angel Kanchev – a prominent rebel against the Ottoman rule, who was born here. The exposition shows the way local people took part in the fights for national liberation at the time.
10. The Church of St. George
Another important landmark for the city of Tryavna is St. George Church, which was built between the years 1848 and 1852. An interesting fact is that the iconostasis and the icons inside were made by artists of the Tryavna Art School.
11. The Slaveykov’s House
The Slaveykov’s house was home to one of the greatest poets in Bulgarian history – Petko Slaveykov, and his wife Irina. They spent more than 20 years living in this exact house in the 19th century, where they also raised their seven children. One of their sons, Pencho Slaveykov, was another very famous Bulgarian poet. You can find a statue of both of them sitting on a bench in the centre of Sofia.
12. Daskalov’s House
Daskalov’s house, otherwise known as the woodcarving museum, is one of the top things to see in Tryavna. This house has an interesting story attached to it. Back in the 19th century, when finishing the final touches of the house, the master builder and his helper made a bet who can create a better wood decoration on the ceiling. This is considered the first competition of this sort in Bulgaria. To find out who won, you will have to visit the house. 😉
The place now serves as a museum for wood art and it has been put on the national heritage list.
13. Kalinchev’s House
In Kalinchev’s house you will find a painting collection from various Bulgarian artists from the end of the 20th century till today. In 2007, a contest inspired by the one in the Daskalov’s house was held among wood carving masters. As a result, the rooms on the upper floor were transformed thanks to all the masterpieces created during the competition. As a matter of fact, the whole house is filled with examples of traditional and modern local woodcarving.
Apart from being a museum, the Kalinchev’s house has been attracting tourists with its lovely restaurant. Here you will find a good mixture of local, traditional and national cuisine and possibly the widest variety of wine selection in the city.
14. Popangelov’s house
Built in the middle of the 18th century, the Popangelov’s house is considered the oldest house on the territory of Tryavna. It serves as a shelter for one of Bulgaria’s most famous fighters for liberation during the Ottoman rule – Vasil Levski. Visitors can still see the secret spots where Levski was hiding from the ottomans.
ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES TO DO IN AND AROUND TRYAVNA
15. Visit a traditional Bulgarian Restaurant
Walking around the city centre in the evening, there is no way you won’t hear some loud traditional Bulgarian music playing from various restaurants. This is, in fact, the way many locals enjoy having their dinner – eating traditional food, listening to live music and getting up to dance some traditional dances from time to time throughout the evening. For maximum Bulgarian experience, set aside a few hours to have dinner at either Tavern Old House, Balabanov’s House or any other place that catches your eye.
16. Taste beer, made with the local spice ‘chubritsa’
One of the must visit places in Tryavna, especially for beer lovers, is the local brewery. Luc’s is a Belgian owned brewery which produces live beer right next to the restaurant for immediate consumption. They do not sell their product anywhere, because bottling it up would take away from the taste and live beer cannot be transported and held in bottles for too long – this is what we learned from our tour around the brewery.
They offer four different types of beer, the recipes for which have been specially made for this exact brewery and for the taste buds and preferences of the locals. One thing astounded me the most. Their ‘dark’/’brown’ beer is made with one of the most popular Bulgarian spices – chubritsa, which is something I had never heard of or seen before. I am not gonna lie, the beer tasted phenomenal. As a non-beer drinker, I thoroughly enjoyed our beer tasting experience and Luc’s. My favourite kind, though, ended up being the fruit beer, which straight up tasted like peaches. The beer lovers in our group, however, much more preferred the ‘Blond’ and the ‘Amber’ beers.
17. Pamper yourself in a relax centre
Check out Hotel Kalina Palace’s relax centre, which offers delightful SPA procedures to its guests and other travellers. On the last day of my stay in Tryavna I had the chance to indulge in a lovely 50-minute whole body massage and it was the best ending of the trip. The centre also offers a salt room, a hydro-massage turbojet tub, tourmaline massage beds and much more. Check out their services and prices here.
18. Taste the local version of chocolate – Pestil
Locals have their own special sweet delight, which they like to call “Gabrovo chocolate”. You see, it’s not ‘Tryavna chocolate’, because it’s typical for the whole region around it, named after the biggest city Gabrovo.
Pestil is not really a chocolate though. It is made out of dried plums and its taste is sweet, mixed with a bit of sourness. Trying it by itself tastes good, but having it with a bit of walnuts brings the experience to a whole other level.
You can buy pestil at the local sweets shops, otherwise called ‘Shekerdzhiynitsa’. This local ‘chocolate’ also makes for a perfect gift/souvenir to bring back home. Don’t worry about it going bad – it usually lasts a few years!
19. Take a hike in the Balkan Mountains
The local tour company Gabrovo plus organises hikes, mountain bike adventures and whole few-day trips, making sure travellers get a great value for their money. I tried out one of their mountain bike excursions, which involved a bit of everything – hiking, mountain biking, delicious breaks during the day, learning about the history of the place, taking a local train and more. Prices start at just 6 leva (~3 EUR) per person. Make sure to check out their website and get in touch with them – you won’t regret it. Tours in Bulgarian and English are available!
DAY TRIPS FROM TRYAVNA
If you have an extra day on your hands and you’re wondering what else you can see in the surrounding areas, here are a few recommendations for day trips from Tryavna.
Only 25km away from Tryavna, you will find the ETAR – an open-air ethnographic museum, dedicated to preserving the Bulgarian Revival atmosphere alive and accessible to get to know for all its visitors. You can witness local craftsmen creating their works, you can see typical revival houses and architecture, you can even wash your carpets the way people back then used to do! (that is if you have a carpet with you.. And some people actually do it)
21. Sokolsky Monastery
The Sokolsky Monastery is situated less than 30 km away from Tryavna and only 4km away from the ETAR. If you’re already in the surroundings – definitely make your way to this beautiful place.
22. Bozhentsi village
Bozhentsi is an architectural and historical reserve, as well as a UNESCO cultural monument. Thanks to this the specific architecture style of the Bulgarian Revival period has been strongly preserved. There is even a ban that prohibits the construction of any buildings that do not fit with the village’s style.
There are a few ways of getting to Bozhentsi from Tryavna. If you want to go there by car, the main asphalt road is about 25 km. However, there is the possibility to walk there, as the village is less than 10km away when taking the hiking path.
Where to stay in Tryavna
Hotel Kalina Palace is the biggest hotel in and around Tryavna, offering a huge variety of activities. The hotel is located on a hill with a gorgeous view of Tryavna and the surrounding mountains. But don’t let this fool you – getting down to the city centre takes no longer than 10 minutes by foot.
The hotel also has a relax centre, offering a wide variety of procedures, as well as a fitness room and a pool. Visit their website or check them out on Booking for more information
Disclaimer: This post was created in partnership with Hotel Kalina Palace and Gabrovo Plus, thanks to their invitation to take part in a post trip in Tryavna. However, all views and opinions expressed in this article are totally my own!
This article is available also in Bulgarian.
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