“Let’s meet in the centre” is the official Bulgarian tourism slogan of these 4 cities from the Gabrovo region. Of course, one of them is Gabrovo and I visited it during the Bulgarian road trip from a few weeks ago. Here’s what to do in Gabrovo, Bulgaria.
Gabrovo is part of the 4-day road trip in Bulgaria and please read the entire itinerary as well as what you can do in the other towns nearby!
Gabrovo region has the capital in Gabrovo, the largest city of the Gabrovo region in Bulgaria. These 4 towns are also known as the Bulgarian Revival towns and that’s because a lot of their history has to do with the formation of Bulgaria as we know it today.
So let’s talk about Gabrovo.
Gabrovo is the industrial and educational centre of the region and of the Revival period. The Gabrovians proud themselves with their humour and history.
Between the XIX and XX centuries, Gabrovo got the nickname of “Bulgarian Manchester” due to its industrial boom. Here’s also the place where the modern Bulgarian education was founded after the Bulgarian Revival. And the first light bulb was lit up in Gabrovo.
So what is left today in Gabrovo? And what to do in Gabrovo, Bulgaria as a tourist?
I will tell you what I’ve seen there and hopefully, I will convince you to give it a chance.
As part of the trip, I didn’t spend the night in Gabrovo, but there are many accommodation options in Gabrovo, as it’s the largest town in the area.
How to get to Gabrovo, Bulgaria?
Gabrovo is less than 1h drive from Veliko Tarnovo, which is a major city in Bulgaria. If you plan to arrive by plane in Sofia, then you can take a bus to Veliko Tarnovo or directly to Gabrovo or you can rent a car.
As always I suggest renting a car. That way you can move around these small towns and see more than the things in the city centre. From my experience, you need a car in Eastern Europe. Public transport isn’t always the best. Trust me, I’m from Romania.
If you are flying to Bucharest, then you will need to take a bunch busses to get to Gabrovo. Again, just rent a car at the airport, or you can arrange for a pick up with a Bulgarian company.
I recommend using busradar.com to check out bus connections to Gabrovo.
Interactive Museum of Industry
As I said, Gabrovo is known for its industry, and you can discover it by visiting the Interactive Museum of Industry in Gabrovo.
This is the first interactive museum in Bulgaria and it does a wonderful job guiding its visitors on an interactive journey in time. The lovely digital guide is present on all the 3 floors of the museum and it gave me a clear understanding of what was happening in Bulgaria in the Industrial age, Socialism and in the present times.
Also, each period has interactive exhibits, which are fun for adults and children as well. I have to say, it’s a cool museum.
Dechko’s house used to be a merchant house. It was built in 1835 and it is an example of Balkan Revival architecture.
The presentation of the house is again interactive, and they use virtual reality to show how people used to live there. Simply put, it is the city everyday life from the end of the XIX century.
House of Humor and Satire
Gabrovians are known to be proud and funny people. That’s why they built up the House of Humour and Satire as a museum to display the local anecdotes and ironies. It stands under the motto “The world lasts because it laughs”.
The museum is rather big and requires at least 2h if you want to properly see it. They have a permanent exhibition which explains the roots of Gabrovian humour and portrait Gabrovians as stingy people.
Most are just jokes, while others are inspired by people. Of course, these habits of people apply not just to the locals from Gabrovo, but to people from all over the world.
The museum has also a temporary exhibition which changes every 6 months, where artists from all over the world can display their art.
At the last floor, memories from the soviet times can be found, an exhibition of the Gabrovo Humour Carnaval and “The Sin”.
This last exhibition consists of a copy of murals from local churches which depict human vices and weakness and how they are punished by the devil. I have never seen anything like this and it is worth a visit.
Gabrovo hosts an international festival of humour and satire each year on the third week of May, which is full of events and exhibitions from Bulgaria and from other countries as well.
Open-Air Ethnographic Museum ETAR
Only 8km from the centre of Gabrovo, you will find Etar open-air museum. I stated before how much I like open-air museums, but this one is a bit more special.
The old houses also host craftsmen who are demonstrating their crafts and selling them to the visitors.
On Christmas Eve, the museum hosts a traditional event called Koleduvane. Unmarried men dress up in traditional Bulgarian costumes, sing Christmas carols and offer kravai (a special bread) to housewives.
After visiting the open-air museum, just 4 km away from it, is the Sokolski Monastery. It is free to visit, and the church is gorgeous. I am not religious, but it’s worth a visit, to check out the icons and paintings of the church and the view from the monastery.
In the yard, a stone fountain caught my interest. It is a fountain with eight sides and each side has a fountain. This also was built by the master Kolyu Ficheto, the famous Bulgarian master born in Dryanovo. I’ve written more about him in my article about Dryanovo, Bulgaria.
This monastery is a nun monastery, but at the moment there is only one nun living there. The monastery also rents out rooms for guests and they all seemed in good condition, from the outside.
What else to do around Gabrovo, Bulgaria
There are other places nearby Gabrovo that were recommended, but I haven’t got the chance to check out (yet). I will mention a few things about what to do around Gabrovo, Bulgaria, in case you are around and need some suggestions.
Bozhentsi Architectural and Historical Reserve
This is a small village, only 16 km away from Gabrovo. Bulgarians love it, and they come here for the delightful XIX century village architecture. They say it is a picturesque village from the Revival period, surrounded by beautiful hikes. This is the place to go if you want to dive deeper into the way of life of Bulgarians in the Bulgarian Revival time.
If you plan to visit Tryavna, then you can hike from there to Bozhentsi, as it’s only a couple of km away and the trail is beautiful.
Traditions: They also host traditional customs like the Lazaruvane. The Lazaruvane is an on Bulgarian custom performed 8 days before Easter to welcome spring. It is performed by young girls who are transforming into women and the tradition says that whoever took part in Lazaruvane, is ready to get married.
Highlights: Baba Rayna house, Doncho Popov house, St. Prorok Illiya church, the Old school and the New school.
Uzana is a ski resort situated only 20km from Gabrovo. This is a great place to visit all year round because there you can do mountain biking, hikes and you can ski in the winter. Also two national park start here: Central Balkan National Park and Balgarka Natural Park.
I hope I have convinced you to visit Gabrovo, if you are around the area, or if you are interested in discovering more about the Revival period in Bulgaria, the world capital or humour or simply to relax while admiring the picturesque Bulgarian countryside.