Blagoevgrad, the city

Blagoevgrad
What to see and where to be when visiting Blagoevgrad.

thesquareWhen you google ‘Blagoevgrad’ pictures of this square pop up most of the time. Although it’s a nice square this city has got more to offer. Let me tell you about where to go and what to do when staying in Blagoevgrad.

What to see?

oldtownI would recommend the old town, known as Vitosha. It’s small, but beautiful. Typical Bulgarian houses, the orthodox church and English information signs next to the historical houses.
Location: Street Bistritsa, coordinates: 42.020905, 23.103846

thecrossIf you like a wide view over town go to the cross, which you can find on top of one of the mountains. You can go there by car (or taxi), but it’s also possible to walk there.
Location: ‘Krusta’, coordinates: 42.022648, 23.110600

 

Blagoevgrad has a park aswell, called Bachinovo. It’s situated on the north west side of the city and you can either walk there (a side walk next to the street, not recommended for big groups/families) or go there by car. It has a lake with swans and ducks, surrounded by a pedestrian, grass and trees. There’s a climbing parcour for kids, some restaurants, open air train sets, a kid’s zoo and a playground (next to restaurant ‘Vodenitsata’).
Location: ‘Park Bachinovo’, coordinates: 42.033928, 23.128031

The square from all the pictures is situated next to the old American University and the Drama Theater ‘Nikola Vaptsarov’. It has different fountains and benches and you can see the cross from there.
Location: square Georgi Izmirliev-Makedoncheto, coordinates: 42.021394, 23.096009

Regional museum of history, Blagoevgrad

Blagoevgrad has a Regional museum of History. A big, old building from communist times which has aged but with a big collection of pottery, jewelry, handcrafts, paintings, costumes, and also a 20th century collection, pictures and books.
Address: street Bistritsa 2, Varosha (Old town), coordinates: 42.020383, 23.102929

Where to eat?

mehana starata kushtaFor Bulgarian cuisine go to this restaurant in the center called ‘Mehana starata kushta‘ (restaurant ‘the old house’). Inside there are different corners and levels with tables and outside there’s a big terrace. They’ve got live music on friday and saturday night.

Address: Ivan Vazov street 7
coordinates: 42.022042, 23.102104

mehana vodenicataThere’s also a great restaurant next to the park Bachinovo, which is called ‘Mehana vodenitsata‘ (restaurant ‘the water mill’). This place is amazing, all in Bulgarian style, with a big terrace, a kid’s zoo and even a playground. They’ve got live music on friday and saturday night as well.

Address: http://wp.me/p5Pffi-bv
coordinates: 42.035296, 23.132712

raffyFor international cuisine go to Raffy, where they have pasta, sushi, ice cream and more. The prices are compared to other places a bit higher, but the food is delicious. Good to know: this place turns into a bar on friday and saturday night, playing louder music and serving cocktails.

Address: street Trakia 1
coordinates: 42.020546, 23.100677

largeAnother place with an international menu is Large. This is a small restaurant on the second floor where you can have pizza, meat, salad and much more. This is a place for the colder seasons, where you can warm up and have a good diner in a cozy environment.

Address: Hristo Tatarchev street 1
coordinates: 42.021159, 23.099641

Where to have a drink?

polcaFor a nice cup of coffee go to PolCa. This cute coffeebar was opened by a woman from Poland and one from Canada. Together they speak a lot of languages and make your coffee on the spot. They also have soup, sandwiches and sweets.

Address: street Krali Marko 10
coordinates: 42.016803, 23.097352

Also for drinks I can recommend Raffy. They’ve got coffee, soft drinks and cocktails. Go there when you want to have a break from shopping or before you go out.
Address: street Trakia 1, coordinates: 42.020546, 23.100677

For those who like going out, here are some of the places to go to:

cluboverzicht

What to do?

cinemaxThere’s a small cinema ‘Cinemax’ with one hall. You can watch English movies with Bulgarian subtitles there. Just make sure you don’t pick a Bulgarian or children’s movie, they might be in Bulgarian and hard to understand. Address: square Georgi Izmirliev – Makedoncheto 9, coordinates: 42.021198, 23.096955

bowlingFor those who like bowling; lucky you! There’s a bowling center called ‘Corona’ where you can bowl, play pool, have a drink or diner and let your kids play in the playground (inside and outside!). Address: square Georgi Izmirliev-Makedoncheto 1, coordinates: 42.020956, 23.096269

aquaparkIn the summer you can enjoy the outdoor swimming pool known as Aqua park. One big pool, one wave pool and multiple water slides. You can buy drinks, ice cream and fast food while enjoying the sun.
Address: street Katina i Nikola Haydukovi 74, coordinates: 42.027563, 23.108058

massagebaliYou can get a massage or go the sauna at Spa Center Bali. They’ve got classic, relax, oil and more massages, a fitness room, small indoor pool and different aroma therapies. Everything you need for a day of relaxing.
Address: boulevard Sveti Dimitar Solunski 20, coordinates: 42.015395, 23.082879

shoppingWhen you like shopping go the center of the city. The 2 biggest shopping streets meet at the mall with a big H&M. Street Todor Aleksandrov and street Dimitar Talev have a lot of clothing and shoe stores.
Address mall: street Todor Aleksandrov 2, coordinates: 42.020642, 23.100137

Where to sleep?

hotelfeniksHotel Fenix, a small hotel between the bus/train station and the center. On the first floor you can have your breakfast, diner and a drink, on the other floors are the rooms. The owner and some of the staff speak English and they can help you when needed.
Address: street Todor Alexandrov 78, coordinates: 42.015392, 23.090786

hotelkartalaAnother hotel, called hotel Kartala, is also an option. This is also a small hotel run by a family with narrow staircases to nice rooms. They are very welcoming but most of the staff only speak Bulgarian. Bring yourself a dictionary when staying here!
Address: street Vasil Aprilov 22, coordinates: 42.023710, 23.097852

The city of Blagoevgrad is close to the known Rila monastery. Read here how to get there and have the most out of it!

Howtohavethebestrilaexperience

 

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Tsari Mali Grad | Цари Мали Град

CariMaliGrad2

I had never heard of Tsari Mali Grad before when a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go there. That wasn’t hard to say no to! The view from the parking lot was already pretty, and that was only halfway the hill. I found out that it was opened in 2013, after archaeological excavations since 2007. Interesting how something like this can be hidden for centuries.

There are 2 ways to get to the fortress. There’s an ecopath and an elevator. We took the ecopath, which was beautiful. I must say, it’s quite a steep walk. We passed a family with a kid in a buggy, and well, I wouldn’t recommend that. After a 10 minute walk through forrest we arrived at the fortress. There’s a long rope bridge above the grass which you can walk to enter the fortress. It’s also possible to walk down the ecopath, for those with the buggy for example. Both will lead you to the entrance.

Once again the view is amazing. You can see far away, different villages and mountains. Beautiful. You can buy a ticket at the entrance, which costs 4 leva for adults and 2 for students and pensioners. Children under 7 are free. There’s a beautfiul clocktower, a church and the fortress itself, with an etnographic collection of coins, pottery  and handcrafts.

Address: Selo (village) Belchin, 2025 Samokov | Село Белчин, 2025 Самоков
Coordinates: 42.354653, 23.382602

howtogettotsarimaligradbetterHow to get there?
Take road 62 between Dupnica and Samokov. When coming from Dupnica take a left after 25 km. When coming from Samokov take a right after 12,5 km. After 2 km you’ll reach the village of Belchin. Take the second street left and follow this road until you’re at the restaurant and elevator. There’s a parking lot on the right.

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How to have the best ‘Rila’ experience

Howtohavethebestrilaexperience

I’ve been to the Rila monastery twice now. The first time I was amazed by the monastery, the church and the clocktower which are all amazing. But for me, when it comes to these places, I get supercurious about the things behind doors and ‘forbidden’ signs.

”How to buy the ticket that will get you in to the clock tower, the museum, the icon gallery, the guest rooms, the costume collection, the jewelry collection, the blanket/carpet collection and the old monastery kitchen.” Sounds good, right?

So, we went for the second time. After some walking around we saw a sign ‘icon gallery’. It wasn’t that impressive, but there was a lady who told us that we could buy all-in tickets at the museum. While having doubts about these tickets we went to the museum, and after a little Bulgarian chat we decided to buy the tickets for 18 leva p.p.

We went into the museum, which was really nice. It’s not so big, because it’s in a part of the monastery, but they had a beautiful collection with some Bulgarian and English information. After seeing the museum we went outside and somehow figured out that we could climb the clocktower with our tickets! Nice! We went inside and walked several stairs, crossing different floors with some paintings and old ‘hole’ toilets in the walls. From the highest floor you have a nice window view over the monastery from different corners.

When we were back down there was a woman who told us to come with her. We didn’t really know why but followed. She took us to the second floor of the monastery, which I thought was pretty exciting, and unlocked a door. That was the first of 4 or 5 guest rooms in traditional Bulgarian style from several areas in Bulgaria. Seats, carpet, paintings, ovens, a kitchen, closets and much more. Really beautiful.

After showing us these rooms she took us to the third floor (yay!) where she showed us a beautiful Bulgarian costume collection, also from different areas. Since my friend and I really like this and told her about it she started to sing a song for us. So sweet! There was also a jewelry collection and a room filled with carpets and blankets. Amazing.

After that she took us back downstairs and to another corner of the monastery. She told us we could take a look there as well and said goodbye. We were surprised once again, didn’t expect her to leave us. We thanked her and took a look in the old monastery kitchen with a gigantic pizza oven.

After seeing all this we decided to take a break and so we bought ourselves some delicious Mekitsi outside the monastery at the window shop in the building next to it. Mekitsi are typical Bulgarian fried pieces of dough. Jummy!

I had no idea about all these rooms and collections and I’m so glad the woman told us about the ticket! I feel like they’ve got great things, they just don’t know how to sell them.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures from the first and second floor, the rooms and the collections, which was understandable but a bit disappointing. The employees also didn’t speak English, which made it somewhat unclear sometimes. But if you want to see more than the church and the monastery view I can totally recommend this!

Want to know how to get there? Or looking for some more information about the monastery itself? Read more

Hostel Old Plovdiv

1359625375677408 This is a beautiful and cozy hostel in the center of the Old Town of Plovdiv. You’re surrounded by an ethnographic museum, the amfi theater, the top of the hill with an amazing view (watch a sunset there!), part of the ancient stadium, church of the holy mother of god, restaurants, shops with handmade products, the dzhumaya mosque and many more. Wander around in the old streets and take time to look around.

The hostel has several rooms, for 2,3 or 4 people. It’s also possible to have a single room, or to ask kindly for a room for 5. Each room has something special, unique bedframes and antique accessories. There’s even a room with an amazing painting on the wall. None of them have a bathroom, you can find those next to the hallway with the reception.

hostel-old-plovdiv     4

In the morning there’s a good breakfast, which you can eat outside in the garden. There’s also a ‘livingroom’ with a big baroque-ish couch and chairs. There’s a computer aswell.
The staff is great, they speak English and know a lot about the old town and Plovdiv. The staff I met was also great to hang out with in the garden! There’s always someone at the reception.

Adress: ulitsa ‘Chetvarti yanuari’ 3, 4000 Plovdiv | улица ‘Четвърти януари’ з
Coordinates: 42.149872, 24.752254

How to get there?
Walking from the shoppingstreet
Somewhere in the middle of the shopping street you find the mosque (pink), part of the ancient stadium and a little park(green).
Walk between de mosque and the park all the way up. Keep the church on your right. When you arrive on a little square go left. You will find the hostel at the left side.

Travelling with bus/taxi142557147495552/car
The busses stop at boulevard Tsar Boris III Obedinitel right after the tunnel. When you get out walk the stairs (red), with the tunnel on your right. Take the second street right, then a left and a right and you will find the hostel at the right side.

From the train/bus station (they’re pretty much next to each other) you can take bus 7, 20, 26 or shuttlebus2. You can buy bustickets in the bus. When with a car or taxi you can either stop at boulevard Tsar Boris III Obedinitel and walk the red route or follow the green line. Taxi’s will bring you halfway up there. There a possibility to park your car when you get on the ‘blue’ street, right before the church.

 

Rila monastery | Рилски манастир

rila2
I love monasteries. They make me curious. To enter you have to pass a gate and the walls don’t tell you what to expect. I’ve seen pictures of Rila, but it’s so big and beautiful! An orthodox church in the middle, with a clocktower next to it, surrounded by more than 300 cells for monks divided over 3 floors. There are many amazing story telling paintings, there’s a little drinking fountain, a tiny post office, a library and a museum. When you go in the church you’ll find yourself in this mysterious, historic, dark surrounding lit by candles.

68884033The largest active religious center in Bulgaria, that’s Rila monastery. It was founded in the 10th century, by Ivan Rilski’s followers after he passed away. He became a saint of the Bulgarian orthodox church and his grave became a pilgrimage for thousands of people. A fire destroyed the monastery in 1833, after which it was rebuild from 1834 until 1862.
The monastery got included to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1982 and is one of the biggest and most visited monasteries in the Balkan.

Rila_Monastery_20110712-110For those who love the peace and quiet that comes with religious places, think about when you will visit. You’re not the only one, and especially in the summer it can be more crowded.

Adress: 2643 Kyustendil
Coordinates: 42.132959, 23.339686

During my second visit I found out there’s a lot more to see! You can climb the clock tower, see some amazing collections (costumes, jewelry) and visit the museum. Click here to read more about how to buy this all-in ticket!

How to get there?
1425461472162422When you drive on the highway E79/1 between Dupnica and Blagoevgrad, take exit 107 to Kocherinovo and Rila. When you get on the 107 drive another 30,6 km. The monastery is much further than the town Rila, don’t get confused about this!

On your way to this monastery you’ll pass
Retromuseum Billy, with a messy but impressive collection antique. From cars to ceramics, sewing machines and horse saddles, they have it all!

Retromuseum ‘Billy’ | Вехтошарница ‘Шедьовъръ’

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This is what we saw out of our carwindows when we drove to Rila Monastery. We weren’t sure what it was, but it for sure made us curious. We decided to stop there on our way back, and I’m so glad we did!

We looked a little bit around, and thanks to the dog on the property a guy, Ivan, came to us. He told me that it’s a museum and got a piece paper with English information on it. There was a little statue with a glass bowl and some money in it. We could look around and decide for ourselves if and how much we wanted to pay.

Well, they’ve got sooo much! From many beautiful cars to old televisions, radios and turntables, motors, bikes, Singer sewingmachines, ceramics, horse saddles, irons, costumes and blankets.

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He told me he worked here as an employee, his boss, Valentin, has been collecting all this stuff for the next generations Bulgarians. We ended up in his ‘office’, filled with more collected little antique stuff. There I saw a big poster with Bulgarian costumes. I asked Valentin where it came from. He ended up getting parts of costumes out of a drawer behind him. They tried to tell me about a problem with flies which I didn’t understand at first. After some creative Bulgarian talk I understood them. ‘Ah, you mean those flies who have costumes for breakfast?’. Yes, they had moths in the costumes. And they had more. Ivan took us back to the first hall where he showed us a dresser full of beautiful costumes and boxes filled with blankets, aprons and socks. The moths had found them too.. The idea of saving all of this for next generations is beautiful, I’m just not so sure if some things will make it the way they are restored.

Adress: 107 126, 2640 Kocherinovo142546147216242
Coordinates: 42.092479, 23.070299

How to get there?
When you drive on the highway E79/1 between Dupnica and Blagoevgrad, take exit 107 to Kocherinov
o. When you’re about to leave Kocherinovo it’s on the left side.

– They don’t speak English.
+ They’re very polite and want so show you everything!