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Explore History and Culture in Kyustendil Bulgaria

Kyustendil is a town in southwestern Bulgaria, situated in the Struma River valley at the foot of the Osogov Mountains. It is one of the oldest settlements in the country, with a history that spans over eight millennia. Kyustendil is also known for its mineral springs, orchards, and cultural monuments, which make it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

The history of Kyustendil is rich and diverse, as it reflects the influences of various civilizations and empires that ruled the region. The town was founded by the Thracians as a fortified settlement, and later became an important Roman town called Pautalia, or Ulpia Pautalia. During the Middle Ages, Kyustendil was part of the Bulgarian, Byzantine, and Serbian states, and was known as Velbuzhd. In the 14th century, it became the capital of a short-lived independent principality under Constantine Dragash. After the Ottoman conquest, the town was renamed Kyustendil, and remained under Turkish rule until the 19th century. Kyustendil played a significant role in the Bulgarian National Revival and the liberation struggles against the Ottoman Empire.

The culture of Kyustendil is a blend of traditions, customs, and arts from different periods and peoples. The town has a rich architectural and artistic heritage, which includes ancient Roman baths, medieval churches and fortresses, Ottoman mosques and baths, and neoclassical buildings. The town is also the birthplace or residence of many famous Bulgarian figures, such as the painter Vladimir Dimitrov – The Master, the revolutionary Ilyo Voyvoda, and the politician Dimitar Peshev. Kyustendil is a center of education, trade, and crafts, and hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year.

17 Great Places to visit in Kyustendil Bulgaria

Pirgos Tower

Pirgos Tower (or Pirkova Tower) is a medieval defensive tower located next to the Roman Baths in Kyustendil, a city in southwestern Bulgaria. The tower was built in the 15th or 16th century, during the Ottoman rule of the region. The tower has four floors, including a warehouse, living quarters, and an armory. The tower is a cultural monument of national importance, and a tourist attraction.

Vladimir Dimitrov “The Master” Art Gallery

The Vladimir Dimitrov “The Master” Art Gallery is a museum dedicated to the works of one of the most prominent Bulgarian painters of the 20th century. The gallery displays more than 100 masterpieces by the artist, who is known for his expressive and colorful style, inspired by the rural life and folklore of his native region. The gallery also hosts exhibitions of other Bulgarian and foreign artists, as well as cultural events and educational programs. The gallery is located in a former mosque, next to the Roman Baths, in the historical and architectural complex of Kyustendil. The gallery is a must-see for anyone interested in the art and culture of Bulgaria.

Iron Bridge

The Iron Bridge is a historic bridge that crosses the Banshtitsa River in Kyustendil, connecting the railway station with the center of the city. The bridge was designed by the architect Rudolf Fisher and built in 1909, during the Bulgarian National Revival. The bridge features four white stone statues of female figures in different postures, sculpted by Lyuben Dimitrov. The bridge is a cultural landmark and a popular spot for tourists and locals.

Academician Yordan Ivanov Regional History Museum

The Academician Yordan Ivanov Regional History Museum in Kyustendil is one of the oldest museums in Bulgaria, founded in 1897. The museum showcases the rich and diverse heritage of Kyustendil and its region, from prehistoric times to the present day. The museum has various collections and expositions, covering archaeology, numismatics, ethnology, folklore, Bulgarian history, and cultural monuments. The museum also hosts cultural events and educational programs, and publishes scientific works. The museum is located in the historical and architectural complex of Kyustendil, next to the Roman Baths and Pirgos Tower.

Krum Kyulyavkov Drama Theatre

The Krum Kyulyavkov Drama Theatre is a modern building that hosts various cultural events and performances in Kyustendil. The theatre was founded in 1873, but it moved to its current location in 1978. The theatre has a rectangular shape, with large windows and a marble facade. The theatre has a capacity of 400 seats, and a repertoire that includes plays, concerts, and festivals

Dervish Baths

The Dervish Baths are a medieval Turkish public bath built in 1566. The bath has a number sign and two inscriptions made of red bricks on the outer facade, indicating the dates of construction and repairs. The bath is made of stone and brick, and has a dome and a fountain. The bath operated for more than 400 years, until 1992. The Dervish baths are a designated architectural monument of national significance.

Ahmed Bey Mosque

The Ahmed Bey Mosque is a 15th century Ottoman mosque located in the center of Kyustendil. It is also known as the “Indzhili” (Christian) Mosque, because some legends say it was built on the foundation of a medieval Bulgarian church. The mosque has a dome, a fountain, and brick decoration typical of Bulgarian architecture. The minaret was removed after an earthquake in 1904. Today the mosque is a cultural monument and museum exhibit hall.

Kyustendil City Hall

The Kyustendil City Hall is a red neoclassical building that dominates the Velbazhd Square in the center of the city. It was designed by the Viennese architect Friedrich Grünanger and built at the end of the 19th century. It originally served as a teacher training school, then as a high school, and later as a courthouse. In 1931, it became the first courthouse in Bulgaria.

Chifte Baths

The Chifte Baths are a public bath in the central part of Kyustendil, built on the foundations of a late medieval Turkish bath. The original Turkish bath was built in 1489 by Sulejman Pasha on the foundations of Pautalia Asclepion, a Roman healing center. The current bath was renovated in 1910, with a modern urban architecture and six pools. The bath is supplied with hot mineral water, and offers spa treatments, physiotherapy, and massage.

Pautalia Roman Baths

The Pautalia Roman Baths are ancient public bath dating back to the 2nd century CE. They are part of a large complex called the asclepion, which was a center for healing and worship of the god Asclepius. The baths are one of the most significant monuments from Roman times in Bulgaria, and the second largest baths after those in Odessos, present-day Varna. The baths have six rooms with a heating system, and a vaulted corridor system, all below present ground level. The therms are a cultural monument of national importance and a tourist attraction1

Fatih Mehmet Mosque

The Fatih Mehmet Mosque is a 15th century Ottoman mosque located in the center of Kyustendil. The mosque is named after Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople. The mosque was built by a famous builder, Haradzhi Kara Mehmed bin Ali, using stone and brick. The mosque has a hexagonal minaret, a dome, and a fountain. The mosque is a cultural monument of national importance, but does not function as a place of worship.

Rainmaker Steps

The Rainmaker Steps are a set of stone stairs that lead to the Hisarlaka Fortress, a medieval citadel on a hill overlooking Kyustendil. The steps are named after a local legend that says that whoever climbs them will bring rain to the city. The steps are decorated with colorful mosaics and sculptures of salamanders, which are the symbol of Kyustendil. The steps offer a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding mountains. The steps are a popular attraction for tourists and locals who enjoy walking and the outdoors.

Hisarlaka Fortress

Hisarlaka Fortress is an ancient and medieval fortress occupying a hill 2 km. southeast of the Kyustendi city center. The fortress was built by the Romans around 400 AD, and was later used by both the Bulgarians and the Ottomans. The fortress has a polygonal shape, with high walls and towers. The fortress was the administrative and religious center of the region for many centuries, until it was partially destroyed by the Ottomans in the 15th century. The fortress is now a cultural monument and a tourist attraction.

Kyustendil Zoo

The Kyustendil Zoo is a small zoo located in the Hisarlaka park, close to the Hisarlaka fortress. The zoo has more than 50 animals, most of which are native to Bulgarian lands, such as bears, wolves, deer, and foxes. The zoo also has some exotic species, such as monkeys, parrots, and peacocks. The zoo is a popular attraction for children and families, who can enjoy the natural environment and learn more about the wildlife. The zoo is open every day from 09:00-17:00.

Medieval Church of St. George

The Medieval Church of St. George is a 10th or 11th century Eastern Orthodox church in Kyustendil. The church has a cross-in-square design, with a dome, three apses, and six pillars. The church features some of the oldest frescoes in Bulgaria, dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries. The church also has a secret tunnel that connects it to the nearby Roman Baths. The church is a cultural monument of national importance and a tourist attraction.

Dimitar Peshev House Museum

The Dimitar Peshev House Museum is dedicated to the life and deeds of Dimitar Peshev, a Bulgarian politician and human rights activist. Peshev was born in Kyustendil in 1894 and became the Deputy Speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly during World War II. In 1943, he publicly opposed the planned deportations of Bulgarian Jews to the Nazi death camps, and helped save over 48,000 lives. The house and museum display personal belongings, documents, photos, and awards of Peshev, as well as exhibits about the history of the Bulgarian Jewish community. The Dimitar Peshev House Museum is a monument of culture and a place of remembrance for the Bulgarian Holocaust hero.

Ilyo Voyvoda House Museum

The Ilyo Voyvoda House Museum is a museum preserving the memory and legacy of Ilyo Voyvoda, a legendary Bulgarian revolutionary and hero. The museum is located in the house where Ilyo Voyvoda lived from 1878 to his death in 1898. The museum displays personal belongings, documents, photos, and awards of Ilyo Voyvoda, as well as exhibits about the history of the Bulgarian liberation struggles. The museum also has a library, a conference hall, and a memorial park.