Bolyarska house (or the Byzantine house) is situated in the eastern part of Melnik in ten minutes from the centre of the town. It is a monument of Bulgarian medieval housing architecture of national value and is the oldest Byzantine building preserved in the Balkans.
The Bolyarska house was built in the first half of the 13-th century, at a time when Melnik was the capital of the principality of despot Alexius Slav. Initially it was built as his residence. As a part of despot Slav’s fortress Bolyarska house held an important strategic position in the first level of defence of the fortress, and played the role of the central zone of the external part of the town.
During the next centuries the building was reconstructed several times. During the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance it was the most richly furnished house in Melnik and its area. Courtyards were paved with marble slabs, there were fountains with marble statues, the floors in halls and rooms were covered with mosaics, walls were richly painted, and windows had coloured glass.
It is known that Bolyarska house was inhabited untill the beginning of the 20-th century. However, today there are only impressive ruins left from it. The facade and the internal transverse dividing walls as well as the facade walls of the tower with a big cellar are almost completely preserved. There is also a remarkable brick decoration on the main facade and on the walls of the tower. Such decorative figures from bricks are a good example of the Bulgarian medeival picturesque style of architecture. During the archaeological excavations there were the owner’s house, water reservoir and a small church dated the beginning of the 13-th century found close to the tower.
There was a time when Melnik's wine was a privilege of the top party elite in Bulgaria and the former Soviet Union.