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Buying Listed Property

Research indicates that overseas buyers are increasingly focusing on the important lifestyle issues like climate, culture and food - as well as practical issues such as affordable authentic property and cheap cost of living, thus turning to countries like Bulgaria.


With more and more bland new build developments springing up on the Black Sea coast, in the mountain resorts and the capital city, concern is growing that Bulgaria’s ‘green gold’, its cultural and natural heritage, is being sacrificed. Current buyers are not only concentrating on lifestyle but many buyers are now also preferring authentic properties in unique surroundings, rather than high rise blocks and over-development.

For those seeking these important lifestyle elements, combined with architecturally interesting houses, the question is where to buy safely? Where can the ‘green gold’ still be found?

The answer could be - in a ‘museum’ town or village - ticking all those lifestyle boxes plus location, location, location. Where the wealthier locals are also buying.


What is a museum town?

There are fourteen Museum Towns in Bulgaria which are ‘showcases’ for houses built in the National Revival style of the 18th and 19th Century. Yes, there are many ‘revival’ style houses dotted all over the country, but these are not in protected towns or villages. With Museum Towns, either the whole town or a particular designated part of it is protected from further and unsuitable construction containing special listed buildings and houses.

These are towns where the past seems to come alive and are full of beauty and architectural style. It is very strange how they have come to be called ‘Museum Towns’ as this would suggest a cheerless, colourless and dull atmosphere whereas this could not be further from the truth. The towns are lively, active and
inspiring places, full of life.

Narrow cobblestone lanes flanked by high stone walls surrounding the gardens of the houses are one of the things which you notice first when you arrive in a Museum Town. Most or all of the properties in these towns are classified as local monuments of culture, which is similar to the listed buildings status in England.



Some fifty years ago the National Institute for Monuments of Culture was established to look after and protect this heritage for future generations. Currently there are around 40,000 monuments of culture, with one half being archeological monuments and the other half being buildings, houses, architectural and artistic monuments. Most of these historic buildings are in private ownership.

Over the last decade the main threat to these wonderful properties has been the dramatic lack of necessary funds to maintain them, be that by the municipality or the private owner.

Most of these listed buildings are located in the very centre of small towns. There has been financial pressure to change the size, height and appearance of them, although such amendments are not permitted. Most of the problems are due to neglect and lack of maintenance of such wonderful buildings and the majority of properties to be found for sale in the Museum Towns need sympathetic renovation.



With regard to the architectural style, generally those listed properties which date from the earlier part of the National Revival period are single storey buildings made of wood. Later ones are usually two storeys high (some even three or four) and often stone at the base, then wood or adobe on the first and later floors. More often than not they are set in gardens surrounded by high stone walls with large heavy double gates. Having said this, each Museum Town has it’s own particular charm. The old quarter of Plovdiv for example (above) has symmetrical houses with colourful painted facades, bay and lattice windows, whereas Zheravna has predominantly wooden houses with huge eaves spreading like giant wings.

These houses were built by the emminent craftsmen of their time and each preserves its own spirit, carrying more than just the mark of an original architectural phenomenon as they present the history of a nation.