The National Ethnographic Museum is located in the city center, facing the City Garden and the National Theatre “Ivan Vazov” and it is one of the most popular sightseeing highlights in Sofia. This elegant building would hardly go unnoticed – today the Museum is housed in what was once the Royal Palace. This remarkable monument of culture is well preserved and has served different purposes through the years.
The building was originally erected as “konak”- the headquarters of the Ottoman police force. In this very building Bulgaria's most renowned national hero – Vassil Kunchev – Levski – was on trial, and held in prison right before he was publicly executed. The place of his death by hanging, once in the outskirts or town, today holds a monument of Vasil Levski. It's also located in the center of Sofia.
After the Liberation of Bulgaria the former ottoman building was redesigned and remodeled to fit for a new official residence of the royal family. It was the famous austrian architect Friedrich Grünanger, who worked mainly in Bulgaria at the time, who redesigned and built the three-storey east wing and thoroughly shaped the current appearance of the Palace back in 1893-1895.
Today the historic building from the end of the 19th century serves as home for the National Ethnographic Museum and the National Art Gallery. The Museum has more than 50000 items dedicated to the unique ethnic and cultural wealth of Bulgaria. There you can see fine examples of local traditional folk clothing, copper objects, ritual objects, goldsmith crafts, examples of woodcarving, agriculturalexhibition, ceramics, fabrics and typical Bulgarian embroideries, home furnishing, unique carpets and art from across the country and the different cultural and ethnographic regions. Having one of the richest collections on the Balkans, the Ethnographic Museum has shown many intriguing exhibitions in Bulgaria and abroad, independently or with help from other museums, universities and institutes. Take a look at the quintessential Bulgarian Folk Wearing depository in the museum. Local traditional clothing for holidays, feasts, ceremonial rites, weddings, but also for work, is one of the most unique and thus interesting examples of Bulgarian folk culture. The Ethnographic Museum is a cultural and educational center for students in Sofia schools and universities. The Museum's current building also serves as Ethnographic Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Science's (established in 1869) headquarters.