city in Western Bulgaria

Pernik (Bulgarian: Перник) is an industrial city in Central Western Bulgaria, close to the capital Sofia. It's of interest to travellers mainly for the underground Museum of Mining and the annual International Festival of Masquerade Games, a showcase of mummer-like folk traditions from Bulgaria and abroad.


Kukeri participating in the Surva festival
Ruins of the Krakra fortress
The Palace of Culture, built 1957
Monument to the medieval ruler Krakra Pernishki ('of Penik')
Church of St. George

With a population of about 70,000 in 2021, Pernik is the administrative centre of Pernik Oblast (Province/District), which extends from Pernik to the Serbian border, about 50 km (31 mi) to the west. It contains four much smaller towns: Radomir (the only one above 10,000 people), Breznik, Tran (with the scenic gorge of the river Erma), and Zemen.

Pernik lies in a valley surrounded by mountains from three sides: the relatively low Lyulin and Golo Bardo to the north and south, and Vitosha to the east, the same mountain that rises over the capital Sofia. Geographically, the Pernik Valley lies on the north-eastern corner of a broader area known as Kraishte, an uneven land of many low mountains and high valleys shared between Bulgaria and Serbia. The river Struma, the fifth longest in Bulgaria, flows through the city, though it's not very large yet as its source is nearby, on Vitosha.

The coal deposits around Pernik have been known for a long time, but industrial mining started only after the liberation of Bulgaria, in the 1890s. This lead to quick population increase and economic development as coal was followed by power stations and steel foundries. In 1929, the village was officially granted status of grad (town/city). A diverse set of factories opened through the 1930s and 40s, and industrial development intensified even further under the Communist regime - like in other countries, the regime was fond of heavy industry. At its peak in the mid-1980s, the population reached almost 95,000.

Like elsewhere in Bulgaria, the fall of communism was not kind to Pernik's economy. Nevertheless, the decline was not as pronounced as elsewhere in Bulgaria, because the proximity to Sofia (about 30 km (19 mi) by road) means that the citizens of Pernik can commute to the capital for work, education, or entertainment. This has lead to the emergence of a whole genre of jokes about the stereotypical "young man from Pernik", who wears a track suit, drives a second-hand Volkswagen Golf and likes to threaten people with a piece of angle iron (vinkel).

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Map of Pernik

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Get around

  • 1 Regional History Museum (Регионален исторически музей), 2 Fizkulturna Street. Daily 08:30-17:00. Prehistoric ceramics, urban life in the Middle Ages (with finds from the Krakra fortress), votive tiles of the Thracian horseman from the sanctuary in quarter Church, collection of icons, numismatic collection, fabrics, ceramics, English and Russian weapons from the anti-fascist struggle. There is a small lapidarium in front of the entrance to the museum.  
  • 2 Underground Mining Museum (Музей на минното дело), 2300 Fizkulturna Street, +359 882990222, . Houly tours. The exhibition presents the history of coal mining, from manual mining and the removal of coal with wooden carts and carts, through horse carriage to electric locomotives and mechanized coal mining complexes.  
  • 3 Krakra's Fortress (Пернишката крепост (Кракра)) (in the southwestern part of the town). Ruins of the 9th-century medieval fortress of Pernik on a small rocky plateau. The location of the fortress was of great strategic importance. It is associated with the name of the commander of the Krakra fortress (Krakra Pernishki), who led independent military actions against the Byzantine Empire.  
  • 4 Church of St. George (Свети Георги (Перник)), 10 Cherkovna Street (in the southwestern part of the town). Built in 1743.  
  • Palace of Culture – urban theater halls, orchestras, library, ensembles for folk songs and dances.
  • 5 Duhlata Cave. With input from the southern slopes of Vitosha Mountain is the longest cave in Bulgaria (17,600 m), and 53 m deep. A complex multi labyrinth system on 6 floors.    
  • Necropolis archaeological site — Thracian tribe Agrianes from 8th to 4th centuries BC – about 20 km south of Pernik to Struma motorway near the village of Dren. The necropolis was discovered in early 2012 during the excavation of the highway. It is a unique necropolis where gold Thracian treasures were discovered: breastplates, earrings, hairpins, jewellery and articles of silver and amber. They are stored in the Historical Museum of Pernik. The Thracian sanctuary was included in the ranking "The Wonders of Bulgaria" 2013.
  • Nightingale" hut in Golo Bardo, just above the city.
  • The Church of St. Ivan of Rila (Свети Иван Рилски). Built 1910-1920.
  • 6 Sacred pit of Garlo (near the village of Garlo). An archaeological site in Pernik District from the 11th century BCE where ancient deities of water,and underworld water resources, were worshipped.    
  • 7 Lyulin Mountain (to the north of Pernik on the road to the villages Divotino and Liulin). Divotinski Monastery "Holy Trinity" is located here.    
  • International Festival of Masquerade Games Surva — display of traditional folk games and customs with masks.
  • Mountain Golo Bardo, immediately above city Pernik. Golo Bardo separating Pernik and Radomir valleys, in which the nature reserve "Ostritsa".
  • Holy water area – karst spring "Living Water" is near Vitosha village Bosnek. From his fountain of happiness, according to tradition of the 17th century, drank only the righteous, but sinners refused.
  • "Nature Reserve "Ostritsa" is located on the slopes of Mount Ostritza in Golo Bardo Mountain. It is among the oldest protected areas in Bulgaria.












The Chapel of St. John and the Pchelina Reservoir

Radomir is a small town (pop. 13,000) close to Pernik, 10 km (6.2 mi) to the south-west as the crow flies, on the opposite side of the low mountain Golo Bardo. It's notable mostly for two things: as the junction station where the railway to Kyustendil merges in to the main line, and the role it played in Bulgarian history during World War I. After Bulgarian forces suffered a defeat in Macedonia, a disorderly retreat turned into a mutiny, which in turn became a soldier's uprising against the monarchy and the establishment of a Bulgarian republic was proclaimed in Radomir. The uprising was short-lived, but the general unrest about the outcome of the war lead to the abdication of the Tsar, Ferdinand, who left the throne to his son Boris III.

  • Buchaloto ("The Droner") — an 11-metre (36 ft) waterfall in a small park on the edge of town
  • History Museum — a Communism-era relic taking up the first floor of a residential building, almost entirely dedicated to the Soldiers' Uprising
  • Ruined Chapel of St. John — on a cliff overlooking Pchelina Reservoir, about 8 km (5.0 mi) from Radomir in a straight line, not far from the road to Zemen; accessible by road or train, though it requires some driving or hiking on dirt roads.

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