Beautiful Stara Zagora, in Central Bulgaria, is known for its straight boulevards and the linden trees that line them. It is an important national center and culturally, the city has long been a major spot for the whole of the country. Many poets, such as Geo Milev, had their roots in the region. Besides, Stara Zagora featured the first opera house outside of Sofia. It is a very pleasant city to spend a couple of days in, it might surprise visitors with its colourful buildings and the linden trees that change their colours as the seasons pass. While strolling the center on a sunny day, you can’t help but notice the young crowd. Stara Zagora is a laid-back and cool city. Besides, its roots are ancient and it is one of Europe’s oldest cities – even older than Plovdiv.
As Stara Zagora is located at the crossroads of several civilisations, many have left their prints on the city. The Thracians, Romans and Ottomans have inhabited Stara Zagora and therefore it went through several name changes. Stara Zagora can be roughly translated as ‘Old behind the mountains’, referring to the Stara Planina mountain chain north of the city. Prehistoric settlements lead back as far as the 6th millennium BC. Furthermore, the oldest copper mines in Europe were found nearby, dating back to the 5th millenium BC. Back then, considerable amounts of copper were extracted from 11 mines and it was then traded throughout Europe.
In more recent history, 14.500 people lost their lives during the Russo-Turkish War. The far larger Turkish forces took over Stara Zagora and the city was burnt down and destroyed. A hundred years later, Stara Zagora still survived the way it had thousands of years. The Defenders of Stara Zagora Memorial was built to remember those who sacrificed themselves in the battles and perished in the following destruction. The huge monument was built at the exact spot of the defenders’ post. The structure depicts a Russian officer and six Bulgarian volunteers, representing the six units joining the Russians forces.
If you’d like to explore this historic city with long boulevards and the many cafes, do spend at least a night to catch its atmosphere. Spend some time in the parks, the beautiful linden trees spread a spring aroma around the center. Walk to the monument and explore some other neighbourhoods along the way. If time permits, there’s a large park on a hilly terrain right north of the city. This park features a zoo and a summer theatre as well. These hills shelter the city from cold northern winds in winter, making a winter stay quite pleasant as well. Its micro climate makes for long springs and falls and bearable summers that are a bit cooler than in the rest of the country. Plenty of hotels can be found around the center. Stara Zagora mostly caters business visitors and has a couple of large business hotels. They are good and comfortable and should not cost more than in any other large Bulgarian city. Lonely Planet has a list of the most popular hotels in Stara Zagora, including some nice, small-scale accommodations.
Lovers of beer might know the city of the famous brands Ariana, Stolichno and above all Zagorka. The brewery organises tours after a reservation by phone (00359) (0) 800 11 330). More information on Zagorka Tour’s website, which is now in maintenance. As Stara Zagora has a central location, it is easy to reach from Plovdiv, Ruse, the southeast and even Turkey. From Sofia, taking a train will cost you far more time than a bus. If you decide to take a bus, there are several leaving daily from the Central Bus Station (Website in Cyrillic script). Need help planning a trip? Do not hesitate to reach out!