Etâr Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

Top choice in Bulgaria

If ambling down cobbled lanes with a stick of halva in hand sounds like an agreeable foray into Bulgaria's past, a day in Etâr will delight. Nearly 50 shops and workshops cluster along the lanes of this historic complex, set between trees along a tributary of the Yantra River. Officially an open-air museum, Etâr feels like a movie set with its costumed performers and traditional handicrafts. The museum is on the Gabrovo–Shipka road, a 17km drive north from Shipka.

Etâr’s 19th-century National Revival–style buildings, gaily painted in peach and periwinkle blue, house the workshops of bakers, cartwrights, cobblers, furriers, glass workers, hatters, jewellers, leather workers, millers, potters, weavers and more. Yes, it's rather twee, but if you’re looking to take home a memento of bygone days in the Balkans, there are quality goods from silverware to pottery on sale. Some of the workshops are powered by water from a stream running through the complex; the Karadzheika Watermill dates to 1780.

Aside from shopping, it's possible to peer inside traditional cottages, watch an old sawmill and pause inside the Holy Epiphany Church, a replica of an 1868 temple in Radovtsi village.

Enter the complex either on the northern side (near the Hotel Stranopriemnitsa), at the central administration building, or on the far southern side, near the large car park. A multi-entry, one-day ticket is usually required, and guided tours (in English, French or German) are available for another 7 lv per person (minimum of five people).