Even with a small population of nearly 80,000 inhabitants, Blagoevgrad is still the largest city in the south-west of Bulgaria, the administrative centre of its municipality and capital of the province of the same name. As well as a key cultural city, it is also saturated in natural beauty as it lies at the foot of the Rila Mountains and on the banks of the Blagoevgradski Bistritsa River. Only 90 kilometres from the country’s capital, Sofia, it is a perfect travel location offering the best of Bulgarian culture, nature and heritage with a buzzing nightlife, urban energy and old town history.
Although Blagoevgrad is a small city, it has a vibrant energy as a student town, and its historic location allows visitors to easily soak up the atmosphere of the place by appreciating the constant beautiful architecture and relaxing in the many cafes. The town centre contains a diverse selection of entertainment, from traditional restaurants to opera performances to some of the best nightlife opportunities in Bulgaria, with many bars and clubs accommodating the student population. For a break from the culture of the city, visitors can easily escape into nature, with beautiful parklands within the town and larger nature trails close by, such as the Seven Lakes of Rila, or any features of the mountains and valley. There are two popular ski resorts near the city, and many hiking possibilities and smaller walks where visitors can explore the local parks Bachinovo or Skaptopara, which are known for their leafy pathways and peaceful surroundings.
The central transport points in Blagoevgrad are the main train station and the main bus station, which stand beside each other. Visitors can easily travel to the city from throughout Bulgaria by train, as it is on the line from Sofia to Kulata. Once in the city itself, it is quite easy to walk to the centre and visitors can rent a car to explore the surrounding area.
The first occupation of the land that is now Blagoevgrad dates back to 300 BC, as a small settlement called Scaptopara that was known for its hot springs and eventually conquered by the Roman Empire. The town later fell under Ottoman rule before it became integrated into the Bulgarian state, although it was still very small by the 1900s, with a population of only 6,440 people. It grew in popularity and importance throughout the 20th Century and was named Blagoevgrad in 1950.