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:

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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

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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

Beach bar Cubo | плажен бар Cubo

bar cubo varna4

This beach bar was recommended to me by the people from yo-ho-hostel and as soon as I entered I understood completely! This is one amazing beach bar. Thé place to go in the summer.

You can enjoy the weather while sitting in a chair in the sand, or find yourself one of the many cozy corners on the second floor with all sorts of furniture and decorations, sit at the bar and enjoy the music, dance on the beach when listening to a live performance or enjoy the view at sea.

I really love this place, I was there in the sumer and the vibe was amazing. Everyone was happy, enjoying the warm summer breeze (even at 2 in the morning!), listening to the music and having a good time. Have a coffee or tea, beer, wine or cocktail and dive in the ambiance.

bar cubo varna1When we went to find it we didn’t expect this street with bar walls and gates. Seen on a map it looks like a boulevard, and there is a boulevard next to this street, but it’s a street with beach bar fences. You can’t see the sea from the street. That disappointed me somehow, but when I entered the bar I understood. You step into this surrounding where you won’t notice the other bars or the street, just people having a good time and sea view.

The fences don’t last forever by the way, when you walk down the street with the seaside on your left you’ll find a part of the beach with view from the street. A good place for sunbathing and swimming, and close to the bar.

Address: close to Boulevard Primorski | булевард Приморски
Coordinates: 43.202297, 27.924058

How to get there?
Whether you’re coming from the E87/9, A2/E70 or A4, all the big road to Varna will cross in the center, in a T-cross next to the church of the assumption of the virgin (Black dot in the picture). There are plenty ways to go to Cubo, but I think this is an easy and lovely route there.

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From the church take the street across, on the left side of the clocktower. Walk in the direcion of the big pink building (the drama theater) and keep it on your right. You will see the New Yorker (clothing store) after 50 meters on your right.
When you’re next to the New Yorker take the street that goes slightly to the left, with the view on a small yellow building. Walk this street all the way until the asphalted ‘square’. There are 4 other streets, take the second on your left, the bigger street. Walk down this street until McDonald’s and then go right. You will walk to the park entrance. Keep walking in the same direction, towards the sea. You will see a boulevard with sea view, and another street next to it that’s lower. Take the stairs and then go right. Cubo is the first bar on your left.

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Mineral Baths, Sapareva Banya | Минерални бани, Сапарева Баня

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Sapareva Banya, a small town north of the Rila mountains, is known for it’s mineral water with a 103°C geyser in the center. A perfect place for mineral baths. There’s a great place called Aqua Club Kotvata that has it all. In- and outdoor baths with different temperatures up to 40°C, hot and cold. The view outside is amazing, with a mountain background. There’s also a sauna department.

From Oktober to March the place is open everyday from 06:30 to 20:00. From April to September it’s open from 09:00 to 21:30 and is closed on monday. I’m not completely sure about entrance prices, but according to their website it will cost you about 12 leva for an adult and 7 for children from 4-12 years old.

Best time to go there would be from October untill May. Don’t go there in the summer, especially when you don’t like crowded places.

Address: street Germaneya 38, 2650 Sapareva banya | улица Germania 38, 2650 Сапарева баня
Coordinates: 42.287945, 23.254253

How to get there
From Sofia: Drive on the E79 to Dupnica, south of Sofia. When you’re almost there take the exit to road 62, after the town Piperevo and before the town Kavakliya. Keep following road 6204 for 12 km. You will cross 3 other towns before entering Sapareva Banya. It will be on your left, after about 450 m when entering the town.

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From Dupnica (Blagoevgrad/Kyustendil): Drive to Dupnica. When you get on the E79 stay on this road until you see a viaduct. Stay right and take the exit, to the center. Take the second left, after a slight. left Follow this main road for about 2 km. Then take a right at the traffic lights to the 6204, going to Sapareva Banya. You will see a CBA supermarket on your left after about 100m. Keep following road 6204 for 12 km. You will cross 3 other towns before entering Sapareva Banya. It will be on your left, after about 450 m when entering the town.

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From Samokov (Pazardzhik/Plovdiv): Drive to Samokov. From there take road 62 to Dupnica. After 23,2 km take a left to road 6204. Follow this road for 5,6 km. You will find the baths on your right, about 450 m before leaving the town.

howtogettoakvaclubfromsamokov

Amphi theater | античен театър

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The amphi theater was build in the second century a.C. It has place for 7000 people and it’s amazing. Interesting fact: In the fifth century it got destroyed during an attack led by Attila the Hun. After that the theater was forgotten and abandoned and got covered with earth. It got rediscovered around 1970, when part of the theater was revealed after an earth quack. It got rebuild and reconstructed and is now open in the summer for concerts and performances. You can also visit and take a look around.

The view is amazing. When you sit down on one of the marble stone seats you can enjoy a performance with the best background ever. It’s really amazing.

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Want to go to a performance there? There are performances in the sumer and you can buy tickets in the city center, on the square with the fountain, close to McDonalds. There’s a Costa Coffee there, and across there’s a little white cottage with posters on the walls. They sell tickets for different performances, also the ones in amphi theater. It’s a little bit old style ticket selling and I don’t think they speak English, so here’s the Bulgarian phrase to buy tickets:

Mozhe li dve (2) bileti za … molja? Can I have 2 tickets for … please?

There’s an international folklore festival every summer with performances in the amphi theater. It’s the best and you can go for free! Probably around the end of July / beginning of August.

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Address: ulitsa Hemus | улица Хемус
Coordinates: 42.147490, 24.751233

How to get there?
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 the mosque and the park and take the street to the right of the church, going uphill. You will see a big yellow building, which is the academy of music and dance. Keep this building on your right. After the building there’s a little staircase, go there, and you will see a big gate and a terrace. Go to the gate and amaze yourself. The entrance for sightseeing is on the left.

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Asens fortress | Асенова крепост

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DSCN6055The remains of a fortress with a strategic location and a two-story church. That’s Asens Fortress. You can go there by car, although there are also people who prefer to walk there. At the entrance of the area the view is already incredible, and it only gets better. The stairs will lead you around the top of the hill towards the church. It’s also possible to walk the stone stairs up the hill from where you will have a wide view. Because after all that’s the reason the fortress was build here. I’ve never seen a church with 2 floors that are both open for public. The idea for the first floor was an ossuary, a place for graves, but it was never used this way. Now it’s some sort of mysterious ceremonial place, with chairs, candleholders and rock formations.

On the second floor you will find the main part of the church. The plaster isn’t what it used to be and the paintings aren’t intact, but it’s beautiful. With a little bit of luck the sun will shine through the windows which makes it magical. It’s a light, silent, bright, old place.

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The Thracians saw the potential of the location in the 5th century and build the first fortress. It was rebuild in times of the Roman Empire, as a defend against Slavics. When in hands of the Byzantines, the first tower was build. In 1204 the Crusaders took over, but not for long. In 1231 king Asen II led the expansion and rebuilding of the fortress. The fortress got his name, aswell as the city next to it, Asenovgrad (City of Asen). In times of the Ottomon Empire, Sultan Bayazid took over. After his death in 1402 and a short time of leadership by one of his sons the fortress was destroyed to make ure opponents of the throne wouldn’t take over and use it’s strategic location. Only the church was saved.

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howtogettoasensfortressHow to get there?
Drive to Asenovgrad on the 86. This road will lead you through the town. For those of you who love wedding dresses, make sure to keep your eyes wide open! When you see the river in front of you the road will bow to the right a little bit. You will have a rock formation on the right after which will be the exit to Asens fortress. There’s a brown sign on the left side of the main road that says ‘Asens fortress, 2 km, –>’. Follow this road, it will lead you to the entrance of the fortress. There’s a little parking lot behind the ‘office’ where they sell tickets, to get there follow to road until after the bend. It’s really close, you just have to know it! A ticket will cost you aroud 3 leva.

November – March
Wednesday – Sunday
10.00 am to 5.00 pm

April – November
Wednesday – Sunday
10.00 am to 6.00 pm

Closed Monday and Tuesday