In spite of the fact that Melnik is a quite small town, it has a long and rich history. It is not known when Melnik was founded. The first written sources where it was mentioned date back to XI century. According to the archeological excavations the first settlers in the area of modern Melnik were the Thracian
tribe Medi to which the legendary rebel Spartacus belonged. Centuries later the Ancient Romes lived there. The Ancient Roman bridge is still preserved in Melnik. The Slavs, who settled that territory later, named their settlement Melnik after the sandy formations surrounding the town from all sides (the word "mel" in bulgarian means "chalk").
In 1215 Melnik became the capital of an independent feudal principality ruled by Despot Alexius Slav. The ruins of Despot Slav’s fortress are visited by plenty of tourists nowadays.
Since Melnik was situated between the borders of Bulgaria and Byzantium its sovereignty has been changing a lot. During XI - XIV centuries the town has been owned by Bulgaria, Byzantium, Nicean Empire and even Serbia. Majestic Byzantine houses were used up to the beginning of the XX century.
Their ruins are still preserved in Melnik.
In 1935 Melnik falls in the power of Ottoman Empire. During the first centuries of Ottoman slavery the town is on the decline. The situation is getting better at the end of the XVIII and the beginning of the XIX centuries. Winemaking and tobacco production start to prosper. Wine of Melnik ("Melnishko vino") is exported all over Europe, mostly to England and Austria. The family of Kordopulos becomes the most popular merchant. Their house is still kept safe. Nowadays it is the Kordopulova House - the museum with an underground wine-cellar. At that time Melnik was crowded. It had more than 70 churches, there were 4 monasteries in the neighbourhood, and there were 3 male schools and one female
school in the town. Melnik was also famous for its big library.
In the second half of the XIX century the town starts to fall into decay little by little. The inhabitants move to Syar, Gorna Dzhumaya and to other locations all over Bulgaria.
When the Balkan War flares up in 1912 7 people from Melnik join the Makedono-Odrinsky forces and fight for liberation from the Turkish slavery. During the war 26 hostages from Melnik were killed by Ottoman forces close to Grozni Dol (it’s located south from the town).
Melnik was liberated from the Ottoman power on the 17th of October in 1912 by the detachment lead by Yane Sandanski. The most part of the town was destroyed.
In 1968 Melnik was declared a museum-town. Nowadays winemaking, tobacco producing and turizm are the main occupations of the local inhabitants.
Melnik is famous for its incredible red wine from Shiroka Melnishka. This is an old red grape variety that can grow only in southwestern Bulgaria near Melnik, Sandanski and Petrich in the valley of the Struma River. All attempts of it to be moved to other regions of Bulgaria or abroad were unsuccessful. This makes it a unique variety.