Blagoevgrad is a vibrant, modern town, with some 20 000 students attending the American University in Bulgaria and the SouthWest University. The town has a distinctly Mediterranean feel, a cafe culture and a rich cultural life. Along Todor Aleksandrov street and its many little side streets there are numerous cafes, pizzerias, fast-food restaurants, a couple of Irish bars, and many shops selling a variety of goods. The historical Varosha area is comprised of preserved 19th century houses built around the studios and workshops.
Rila monastery, arguably the most beautiful in Bulgaria, is recognized by UNESCO as part of the World Cultural Heritage.
It was founded in 1335, burned down in 1833, but was rebuilt with public donations with the work continuing until 1961. The unique architecture, the monastery church painted with scenes from rural life and Orthodox iconography and containing an iconostasis almost 10 metres wide covered with intricate carvings and gold leaf cannot fail to impress. Here the heart of Tsar Boris lies buried beneath a simple wooden cross. The monastery contains an ethnographic collection and the museum has a treasury that includes precious icons, medieval gospels and other treasures. Also, here you can marvel at the famous Raphail Cross carved by the monk Raphail, which took him 12 years using only a fine needle and eventually cost him his eyesight!