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Blagoevgrad (Bulgarian: Благоевград, pronounced blah-GO-ev-grahd) is the largest city in the mountainous south-western corner of Bulgaria (pop. 70 000), at the foot of the Rila mountain, close to the border with with North Macedonia, 90 km (56 mi) south of the capital Sofia. It's the administrative center of Blagoevgrad Province and one of the gateways to Rila.


The central square in 2010
Presentation of the Mother of God Church
Streets of the Varosha neighborhood
Map of Blagoevgrad

Blagoevgrad lies in the valley of the Struma river that separates the rugged Rila and Pirin ranges from the mountains on the western border. Blagoevgrad Province (Oblast) extends from the city itself all the way down to the border with Greece, 80 km (50 mi) to the south. It covers the southern slopes of Rila and the whole of Pirin, including Bansko, Razlog and Gotse Delchev in the mountains and Sandanski, Petrich and Melnik down the Struma Valley. The oblast also mostly overlaps with Pirin Macedonia, the Bulgarian part of Macedonia - the historical-geographic region that was the cause of much bloodshed in the 20th century and political bickering in the 21st. The fifth-longest river in Bulgaria, Struma, runs a few kilometres west of the city, but one of its tributaries flows right through Blagoevgrad - the small Bistritsa.

Under Ottoman reign, Blagoevgrad was a small, rural town. After the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1878, it was left outside of the newly created Principality of Bulgaria, remaining a part of the Ottoman Empire until the First Balkan War (1913). Afterwards, its population swelled with Bulgarian refugees from the rest of Macedonia and the settlement started quickly developing economically. Until the mid-20th century, it was known as Gorna Dzhumaya - "Upper Dzhumaya" (from Turkish 'Cuma' meaning "Friday [market]" or "gathering"). In 1949, soon after gaining power, the Communist regime renamed the place to "Blagoevgrad" - "Blagoev's city", after Dimitar Blagoev (1856-1924), the founding leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party. It's one of the few Bulgarian cities that chose to retain their ideologically-related names (the other notable one is Dimitrovgrad, in Haskovo Province).

In the 1980s, Blagoevgrad's central square was overhauled and many institutions were moved in new buildings in the fashionable at the time modernist-futurist style. Thankfully, unlike elsewhere (e.g. Shumen) the work was completed before the fall of the regime. In 1991, one of the first private universities in the country was established in Blagoevgrad - the American University in Bulgaria, an American-style liberal arts university (though both the Bulgarian and the US governments played a major role in its founding). Ironically, its main building became the former Communist Party headquarters, the so-called "House of the Party" in the centre of the city. Blagoevgrad is also the home of the state-run South-Western University, which explains the slightly-above-than-average proportion of young people in a city of this size.

Get in


The closest airport is in Sofia (SOF IATA).

By rail


Blagoevgrad is a major stop on the railway line that runs through the length of the Struma Valley, connecting Sofia with the Kulata/Promachonas crossing at the border with Greece. As a result, there are multiple daily trains from Sofia (2-2¾ hr), Pernik (1-1½ hr) and Dupnitsa (30-45 min) in the north. Rail travel from Kyustendil without getting into Sofia is also possible, but it requires an awkward change at Radomir (totally 3½ to 4 hr).

From the southern direction, most direct trains start from Petrich (less than 2 hr), passing through Sandanski (about 1 hr) and Simitli (about 20 min). From Kulata, there are a couple of direct trains (less than 2 hr), as well as several daily runs of a commuter train that allows getting on the Petrich train at the General Todorov stop.

  • 1 Railway Station. A four-lane boulevard leads directly north-east to the central square (Sts. Cyril and Methodius Blvd). It's a 15-minute walk, there's even a bicycle lane.

By bus

  • 2 Central Bus Station (Централна автогара, Tsentralna Avtogara).

By car


Get around


The website of Blagoevgrad's public transport is surprisingly modern for a Bulgarian city of its size - it has an English version and a route planner; you can download it as a smartphone app. There are seven bus lines (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12). Of interest to travellers are mostly the last two, as both can be used to get downtown from the railway and bus stations. Bus 12 also reaches the outskirts of the forested Bachinovo Park on the northern edge of the city. Tickets are bought in the bus; as of 2024, a ticket costs 1.20 лв.

Public parking in the city centre is organized in the way common in Bulgaria - a "blue zone" (sinya zona) where you can (or have to...) pay by sending an SMS to a toll number.

Much of the city centre has been converted to pedestrian streets that form a ring of sorts - starting from the main square, a network of small streets follows to the east of it, then at the large pedestrian bridge the city's main commercial street (Todor Alexandrov Str) turns back, running parallel to the river until it ends at the south end of the small city park, which in turn stretches north to the main square.


  • 1 Georgi Izmirliev Square. The central pedestrian square of the city, surrounded by Communist-era architecture. There are fountains and several monuments. On the western side is the former House of the Party (now facilities of the two city universities); on the north side are the regional theatre and the Municipality building; on the south side is one of the city parks and the Regional Administration building; to the east the square transitions into a network of small pedestrian streets with many businesses. Along them to the north-east is the smaller Macedonia Sqr.
    • Monument to Dimitar Blagoev (between the Theatre and the Municipality buildings). Communist-era monument of the namesake of the city.
  • Macedonia Square - another pedestrian square. Includes another 1980s building with an interesting façade that houses the local Opera and a chitalishte (cultural centre). To the east, another pedestrian bridge with benches leads to the History Museum and the Varosha Quarter.
    • 2 Monument to Gotse Delchev. Full-height statue on a pedestal. Georgi "Gotse" Delchev (1872-1903) was a Bulgarian Macedonian revolutionary who fought for the liberation of the region from the Ottoman Empire. He's celebrated as a hero in both Bulgaria and North Macedonia and subject to much bickering about his national identity and ideas. Echoes of his turbulent fate followed him even after his death - initially buried in the small village where he fell, his body was repeatedly moved, first to Xanthi, then Plovdiv, Sofia, and finally Skopje. Monument to Gotse Delchev (Blagoevgrad) (Q108554655) on Wikidata
  • 3 Regional History Museum (Регионален исторически музей), ul. "Rila" 1 (behind a small park across the river from Macedonia Sqr, via the northern pedestrian bridge). M-F: 09:00-18:00; Sa-Su: 09:30-18:00. Exhibits range from prehistory and Antiquity to the bloody "Macedonian struggles" of the early 20th century, as well as the obligatory ethnographic collection of 19th century peasant costumes and folk crafts. There's also a natural history collection with minerals and bird taxidermy. Free on Mondays. Otherwise - adults: 4 лв, students and pensioners: 2 лв, children to 7 yr: free. Guided tour in "foreign language" (presumably incl. English) of the Museum, a house-museum, the Varosha quarter and the church: 30 лв.
  • Varosha quarter - a neighbourhood of preserved and restored 19th century houses.
    • 4 Presentation of the Mother of God Church (Църква "Въведение Богородично", Vavedenie Bogorodichno). Eastern Orthodox church, built during the National Revival period, in the 1840s. Listed as a national monument of culture. Metropolitan church (Q20500983) on Wikidata
    • Memorial of the Delchev Family - mosaics rather than statues. Commemorates Gotse Delchev's family, including his parents and siblings (who also took part in revolutionary activities)
  • 5 Zoo. Small zoo dating back to the Communist regime. Free?.


  • Football: Pirin play soccer in First League, the top tier. Their Stadion Hristo Botev (capacity 11,000) is 1 km north of town centre.
  • Hiking
  • Rafting: a popular site is on the river Struma in the picturesque Kresna Gorge, near the village of Kresna halfway between Blagoevgrad and Sandanski.
  • Organized rafting trips on Struma, between late March and October. 60 лв per person.




  • 1 Pizzeria RoccA (south-western side of the large roundabout on the boulevard that connects the railway station with the central square). Family-friendly modern pizza place.
  • 2 Mehana Vodenitsata (Механа "Воденицата") (in the forested Bachinovo Park north-east of the city, close to the park's pond). As the name suggests ("The Watermill"), it's a casual restaurant decorated in "traditional" Bulgarian style and serving the standard dishes for such establishments. Next to it there's a "zoo" (a few enclosures with small animals and peafowl), and it's also close to the park's playground.


  • 1 Underground (easy to miss door under a London Underground sign, sandwiched between two souvenir shops). 23:00-05:00 (open Th-Sa). Small music club in the basement of an old residential building. Apparently they don't play chalga.



Once the pride of Blagoevgrad, the Communist-era multi-storey grand hotel Alen Mak (Scarlet Poppy) has been defunct for years, but it still looms over the main square like a monument to 1980s architecture and the failures of privatization. The niche has been filled by a number of modern hotels, often built on the outskirts of the city, and smaller family-run enterprises in refurbished older buildings.

  • 1 Family Hotel Kartala (Хотер "Картала"), ul. "Vasil Aprilov" 22. Check-in: after 13:00, check-out: 12:00-12:30. Small family-run 2-star hotel. A very residential-looking building on a quiet residential street close to the city centre. Cash payment only? Double (two single beds): 55 лв, triple (double+single bed): 70 лв, apartment (double+single+sofa): 78 лв; optional breakfast: 5 лв.
  • 2 Spa Hotel Ezerets (Спа хотел "Езерец"). Expensive 4-star hotel on the outskirts of the city. Indoor and outdoor pools fed by a hot mineral water spring at 33 °C (91 °F), sauna, etc.
  • 3 Hotel Park Bachinovo (Хотел "Парк Бачиново") (3 km (1.9 mi) north-east of the city, at the end of the forested Bachinovo Park). Modern 3-star hotel in the foothills of the mountain. Various relaxation amenities - sauna, jacuzzi, etc. On the road to the Kartala ski resort. Double/twin: 125 лв, triple (double+single bed): 155 лв, family suite (2 bedrooms, double bed + two single): 175 лв.





Go next

  • Dupnitsa to the north, and then:
    • the capital Sofia further north, or
    • to the east, the northern slopes of Rila, including Samokov and the Borovets resort, or
    • to the west, Kyustendil, the mountainous region of Kraishte and the Osogovo Mountain
  • to the east, through Predela Pass: the mountain resorts in the Razlog Valley where Rila, Pirin and the Rhodopes meet, including Bansko
  • Delčevo in North Macedonia across the border to the west
  • to the south, Sandanski and Melnik under the slopes of Pirin, Petrich with its mystics and hot springs, and Serres across the border with Greece
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