Arbanasi is a village in the province of Veliko Tarnovo (central northern Bulgaria) set on a high plateau near to the town of Veliko Tarnovo (four kilometres away). It’s a very pretty and quiet place to visit however the views of the picturesque traditional buildings are ruined by cars parked outside along the main road which saddened me. Tourists come here mainly to see the Church of the Nativity but this place has a lot more to offer and I do recommend taking a leisurely walk around, even visit the local museum and merchant’s house, we learned quite a bit more about Bulgarian traditions and we bumped into a few friendly locals, including this accordion player who welcomed me to dance as he played his music.
The settlement saw its bloom in the 17-18th c. when it grew into a wealthy crafts and trade hub. It was during that period that most of its gorgeous houses were erected. The oldest houses of Arbanasi are made entirely of stone and resemble tiny models of fortresses that cannot be seen anywhere else in Bulgaria.
Today Arbanasi is an architectural and museum reserve consisting of 80 residential houses and plentiful historical buildings.
The Church of the nativity is truly an historical monument. Established during the Turkish occupation, it had to have a low profile, not to overshadow the conquerors’ mosques. Therefore, the church is part dug underground and has a really low profile. The exterior is not much to look at, in fact it looks like a barn, although there is a small, old cemetery with ancient tombstones right in front of the entrance to the church. The contrast of this church with the surrounding, rather prosperous neighborhood is quite impressive. Entering the church, an entirely new universe opens up: every wall and ceiling is covered with brilliant, colorful frescoes, depicting multiple Bible stories, vignettes from the life of Jesus, the apostles, the saints, etc. It is truly an impressive collection of frescoes.
The main attraction being the Church of the Nativity brings people to this little village but in general this place is a lovely village to spend the afternoon in. Its quiet, quaint and easy to take a leisurely stroll around. I’d say this is a place for the older generation and for the history buffs more so than children, I think children might get bored. But as a whole, if you just want to go somewhere relaxing for a spot of lunch and to marvel at splendid art and architecture then do have a wonder over to Arbanasi. There are also hotels here so if you prefer to stay slightly outside of Veliko Tarnovo, sleepy Arbanasi could be an option.
Missed previous posts about Bulgaria? Click on the links below:
Day trip to Hotnitsa Falls
Day trip to the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration of God
Two days in Sofia
Day trip to Krushuna Falls
Living in & Visiting Veliko Tarnovo
Day trip to Emen Gorge
Day trip to: Etar Living Museum
Want to read other travel blog posts? Click on the links below:
3 weeks backpacking around Nepal
10 days traveling up the Dalmatian coast of Croatia & Montenegro
16 days touring around Morocco
4 day mini break in the Algarve, Portugal
5 days in Budapest and Vienna
Day trips and mini breaks around the UK