I’ve visited a lot of Bulgaria, but a visit to Melnik always eluded me. It was just a bit out of the way for most of the day trips I did, and I knew it deserved at least a weekend so that I could explore the thriving wine scene down in Melnik.
When it came time to decide where to spend a romantic weekend with my boyfriend for his birthday, we ended up deciding to finally visit Melnik, Bulgaria’s wine capital.
We had initially planned to visit a ski resort like Borovets or Bansko to enjoy some snow (my boyfriend is from Brazil and therefore snow to him is what a tennis ball is to a golden retriever: complete and utter crack). But since Bulgaria was having an abnormally warm and snowless winter, we ended up opting for lovely Melnik. While it wasn’t a winter wonderland, we had a fantastic, wine-filled trip and were so glad we chose to spend two nights there.
There wasn’t a ton of information on Melnik I could find before my trip, so I hope this guide to visiting Melnik, Bulgaria will be useful as I see this becoming a hotspot for Bulgaria’s booming wine tourism sector in the future.
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Here are the best things to do in Melnik, Bulgaria!
I recommend staying in Melnik for at least two nights if you can, but if you don’t have time for that, it is possible to do Melnik as a day trip from Sofia.
This tour includes transportation to and from Sofia, the wine museum, walking through Melnik, a visit to Rozhen monastery, lunch in Rozhen (at your expense), the Kordopulov house, and a guided tour of Villa Melnik, so it hits most of the highlights below.
Visit the Wine Museum
Melnik is best-known for being the heart of Bulgaria’s best wine region, and the town is synonymous with high-quality wine for many Bulgarians. While there are several wineries in the Melnik area, many of them are only accessible via car or on a wine tour. Not so for the wine museum in the heart of town!
If you want to try some delicious Melnik wines and get some insight into the wine-making process while in town, be sure to check out the cute wine museum located on the main street (which is really, frankly, the only street in Melnik).
For 5 leva (less than $3 USD), you can wander around the wine museum and have a degustation of four wines and one rakia. There are lots of artifacts related to the wine-making process, but unfortunately, the signage was only in Bulgarian so I wasn’t able to understand what the significance of the objects were.
After wandering around the wine museum for about 15 minutes, we headed into the cellar area for the degustation.
We tried one white wine (I believe it was some sort of misket, but I don’t remember the exact name) as well as three different local reds, before moving onto a rakia.
The wines were really tasty, so of course, I couldn’t help but leave with a bottle (OK, two). It was really fun because the man helping us with the degustation even let us bottle our own wine, sealing the cork and all!
Shop for cute souvenirs
There are so many adorable souvenir shops in Melnik offering a variety of Bulgarian souvenirs that are perfect to take home for a loved one back home. While of course, wine is the obvious souvenir choice, there are plenty of other souvenirs worth bringing back.
For a present for someone with a sweet tooth, you couldn’t do better than bringing back some local jams or honey. Other souvenirs you can find in Melnik include traditional pottery, kukeri figurines, typical kitsch like magnets and postcards, and jewelry.
Visit the 18th-century Kordopulov House
Bulgaria has plenty of museum houses, which are basically private homes that have been converted to museums that have been lovingly kept up over the centuries. The largest museum house in Bulgaria can be found in Melnik, which is interesting as the town of Melnik itself is really quite small.
The Kordopulov House was owned by a wealthy Greek trader, Manolis Kordopulos, as Melnik is located not far from the Greek border. The house was built in 1754 for wine production (hence its massive cellar, which you can explore on a visit). Its architecture blends the Bulgarian National Revival style with Venetian and Ottoman architecture trends, including Venetian stained glass windows on some of the upper floors, such as those seen in the picture above.
Below the Kordopulov House, you’ll find the ruins of a church which belonged to the house complex.
Visiting the Kordopulov House costs 3.50 leva (less than $2 USD) per person and includes a free taste of wine in the cellar at the end of the tour.
Eat tasty Bulgarian cuisine
I’ve been living in Bulgaria for over a year and hands down, I can say that my top two Bulgarian meals have both been in Melnik! There aren’t that many restaurants in Melnik, but those that are there are truly incredible and seriously serve up some incredible Bulgarian food.
The first night, we ate at Mencheva House and our meal was fantastic. We enjoyed sirene cheese baked in honey, sirene-stuffed peppers coated in breadcrumbs and covered in Bulgarian yogurt, gyuvech with sausage and cheese, and baked beans. Every single bite was delicious, but the cheese in honey and peppers in yogurt were obvious stand-outs.
Our second night, we were almost tempted to go back to Mencheva House as the meal had been so delicious but we decided to try another place and we were so glad that we did as our meal there was just as good, if not even better. We ate at Chavkova House and wow. We enjoyed chicken kavarma (a clay-pot cooked stew of peppers, onions, mushrooms, and chicken), ‘village-style’ potatoes (with dill, garlic, and grated sirene cheese), and another gyuvech stew with ham, egg, and cheese.
Visit the Rozhen Monastery
About a 10-minute drive from Melnik, you shouldn’t miss a visit to Rozhen Monastery while you’re in town. This beautiful monastery is the biggest monastery in the Pirin mountain range, located in Bulgaria’s southwest corner.
The monastery dates back to the medieval ages, with evidence of a grave as well as artifacts from the Byzantine empire dating back to the 13th century. The marble frieze of the church’s central gate is one of the oldest parts of the monastery complex, dating back to either the 13th or 14th century.
The church of the monastery was built sometime in the 1400s and its frescoes and walls were likely painted in the late 1500s. While fires ravaged much of the monastery in the 17th century, it was lovingly restored aided by wealthy Bulgarian benefactors over the next 100 years, finishing in 1732. It’s remained one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Melnik region since.
The monastery is free to visit, and no photographs are allowed inside the church.
Check out the Rozhen Pyramids
While at the monastery, don’t miss the 10-minute walk to the viewpoint over the Rozhen pyramids – one of the most beautiful formations in the area. Look for a sign that says Rozhen Pyramids in Cyrillic (Роженски пирамиди) – it’s on the upper path leading away from the monastery up the hill.
When you reach a fork in the path, continue towards the left rather than turning right – that’s how you’ll get to the path properly (we made a mistake and ended up schlepping through the mud for a bit unnecessarily!)
You’ll see a small bench area and that’s how you’ll know you’re almost there. The viewpoint here is incredible!
Visit a winery
Melnik is best known for its incredible wines and you can’t plan a trip here without visiting a winery, right? While you can definitely taste some wine at different cellars in the town of Melnik, nothing is better than drinking fine wines from some of Bulgaria’s best winemakers.
We made a stop at Villa Melnik, one of the most award-winning wineries in all of Bulgaria, and we were so happy we did.
They offer several levels of tours ranging from around 5 leva per person for a simple tour of the winery with a welcome drink to 30 leva per person for a tour of the vineyards, six tastings plus a welcome tasting, and tour of the winemaking facilities.
We opted for the 15 leva per person package which meant we got to try 5 wines plus a bonus tasting on the house from their Aplauz line, which are their premium wines. All six were truly delicious, but we especially loved their orange wine (a white wine vinified like a red with extended skin contact) and their Melnik 55. We couldn’t help but bring back two bottles, which were a great value at about 15 leva per bottle and truly some of the best Bulgarian wines I’ve tried.
Where to Stay in Melnik
Since we visited Melnik for my boyfriend’s birthday, I made sure to pick the best hotel in town – and all signs pointed to Manoleva House, which had a nearly perfect score (9.9/10) on Booking.com.
Our experience there matched that. Our room was fantastic: we booked the triple room and we had a huge double bed, a sofa-bed that we placed all our luggage on but which could have easily slept another person, an ensuite bathroom with a bathtub (!), a flatscreen TV, and a gorgeous view over the town of Melnik from our hillside location. The floors were heated and everything was super clean and cozy, with really beautiful decor and a warm, modern sensibility to it.
I mean, this was the view from our window:
The owner, Margarita, was incredibly helpful and kind during our stay, giving us recommendations and offering assistance with everything. The breakfast was fantastic and entirely homemade. One day we had mekitsa with jam and sirene — absolutely fantastic — and another time we tried the banitsa with yogurt. I had the poached eggs and bacon on the first day and they were incredible too!
I loved our stay at Manoleva House and highly recommend it to anyone else looking to visit Melnik for a special occasion. Check out reviews, prices, and availability here.
Bulgaria Travel Resources
If this will be your first time in Bulgaria, we have some resources to help make your first trip here a breeze. Check out our guide on how to plan your trip to Bulgaria, which goes over everything from visas to ground transportation to budgeting your trip.
You may also want to check out our overview of Balkan currency, which describes Bulgarian leva and what to tip in Bulgaria.
Finally, Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
No trip preparation is complete until you have a valid travel insurance policy. Bulgaria is a safe place to travel, but unexpected things can happen anywhere. You want to be able to get your stuff replaced if it’s lost or stolen, or if you get injured you while you’re enjoying hiking or taking a scenic drive throughout the region.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads.I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.