Sliven, in the Northern Thrace region of southeastern Bulgaria, is the eighth largest city in Bulgaria, with nearly 90,000 people as of 2011. The city sits below the famous rocky massif, Sinite Kamani (The Blue Rocks), and is known for being one of the windiest cities in Bulgaria. Surrounded by natural splendor, the three rivers--Asenokvska, Novoselska, and Manastirska--converge in the city. The city is famous for the Bulgarian Haiduts who fought against the Ottoman Turks during the 19th century.
The city features many pleasant cafés, a large outdoor produce market and pedestrian boulevard through the city center. Sliven is one of the few cities in Bulgaria which has large Boulevards and also beautiful landscape architecture. It also has a lot of flowers and trees giving the town the aroma of late spring perfume.
The town first sprang up in the between the 7th - 11th centuries. Idriss, an Arabian geographer, was the first to write about the town around 1153, calling it Intilifounos. Its name changed from Silimno to Slivno. In 1388, the Turks conquered the city and completely destroyed it. The Turks occupied the region until 1878 when Sliven was liberated during the Russian-Turkish war.
In modern times, Sliven grew as a town of crafts and trade, making use of the water power of its three rivers. It was an important center of the Bulgarian national revival after the defeat of the Turks. Indeed, many famous Bulgarians were born in Sliven, including Hadzi Dimitar, Dobri Chintulov and Ivan Seliminski. In 1836, the first woolen textile factor in Bulgaria was built in Sliven. Much of it's rich history is still preserved for tourist to see today.
Climate and geography
Sliven is situated in the sub-Balkan region and is approximately 100km from the Black Sea. The climate is mild with relatively warm summers, a long autumn, wet spring and mild winters. Temperatures average 23.2°C in the summer and 1.2°C in the winter. The "bora" wind blows almost 50% of the time in Sliven.
Sliven is on the Sofia-Burgas railway, with regular trains throughout Bulgaria. Traveling by train offers amazing views of the Bulgarian countryside. Daily trains run to Sofia, Burgas, Stara Zagora, Ruse, Plovdiv, Kazanlak and Varna.
The train station is located near the Nadezhda (надежда) neighborhood in the southern end of the city. The National Train's website is: http://bdz.bg/index-en.php [formerly dead link]
Sliven's small bus station offers regular service to all major cities and most regional villages. Several buses per day leave to Sofia (4½ hours), Plovdiv (3 hours) and Veliko Tarnovo (2 - 2½ hours). Hourly buses depart for Burgas (1½ hours) and Stara Zagora (1 hour).
The bus station is a few blocks south of the big Bila grocery store.
When traveling around Sliven, there are many ways of public transportation. They include: buses, trolleys and minibuses. They cover the main streets of the city. There are different bus lines running along different main boulevards. The main lines are: No. 116, No. 1, No. 20, No. 7, No. 4 and No. 12. Line No. 1 reaches the railway station and the bus station. The price of a single ticket is 0.8 leva.
Taxis are another convenient way to get around town. Fairs are generally cheap. Most people either call for a taxi or pick them up at the many taxi stands around the city.
Sliven is a small city and most places are easy to walk to. It is a flat city with wide sidewalks along the main streets. The city center is closed to cars and has a beautiful tree-line pedestrian street, with many cafes and shops. Some of the sidewalks are uneven and have holes in them, so it's important to pay attention. Pedestrians are usually respected by drivers, but it's important to watch out for the few crazy drivers.
- Hadji Dimitar, in the central square, is one of the unique symbols of the town, a testimony to his glorious heroism. Inaugurated in 1935 and restored in the early 1990s.
- Historical Museum Sliven The museum in the center of the city and has signs directing tourists to it. The museum features exhibits from modern history, archaeology and ethnography. The foundation work for the museum began as early as the Bulgarian National Revival when patriotic Bulgarians collected relics from the middle ages. Work began on the museum immediately following the liberation of the town from Ottoman rule with the assistance of the Moscow Ethnographic Society.
- Hadji Dimitar House The house belonged to Sliven's legendary rebel leader. the house is small and beautiful, featuring a wooden porch and architectural characteristics of the Renaissance.
- Dobri Chintulov House In the old Sliven neighborhood of Deli Balta sits the house where the distinguished poet, educated and church figure lived. The house was built in the 1980s by tow bothers, Ivan and Dobri Cintulovi. The house features the typical architecture of the period - an open, asymmetrical two-story wood house with beautiful verandah and balconies hanging above a cobbled yard. The house was completely restored in the 1970s and a museum exhibited was opened.
- Old Elm Tree The old elm tree near the city municipality is over 1,000 years old. It is relic from the Great Bulgarian forest which spread from the Rhodope Mountains to the Black Sea. The elms is featured on Sliven's coat of arms and is considered a national treasure protected under law. During the period of Ottoman rule many Bulgarian revolutionaries were hung from it's broad limbs.
- Byzantine Fortress Twidda- Lovers of ancient ruins can go and see the fortress Twidda. It is an original archaeological monument that dates back to the epoch of antiquity, a part of the fortification system along the Balkan Mountains, on the Hisarlaka hill to the northeast of Sliven. Tourists can enjoy a great view of the Blue Stones and the city. It played an important role in the defense of the Roman Empire and later in the Bulgarian Medieval Kingdom.
- The Town Clock One of the significant symbols of Sliven with a particular attractive presence. The construction of the new municipal building, above which soars the clock tower, was finished in 1936. Three years later the clock tower was completed. Today, the town clock measures the hours and reminds locals of the continuity and irreversibility of passing time.
- The Monument of the 7th cavalry regiment - Eagle Statue One of the symbols of Sliven is the monument dedicated to the glorious 7th cavalry regiment of Sliven which participated in the Balkan War, the Inter-ally war and World War One. It was a gift to the residents of the town and renovated in 1996.
In the summer months, many people go hiking and camping in the areas surrounding Sliven. There are also several pools that are open to the public for small charge. Pools include: Sports Palace Hotel, Hotel Imperia and the pool located in the city gardens.
Tsar Osvoboditel is the main commercial street of Sliven, running through the center. While the shops tend to be more expensive, tourists can find nice clothes, souvenirs, shoes, cosmetics and other things. Tourist can buy traditional Bulgarian souvenirs including Sliven's famous rugs and pots with traditional decorations.
"Point Burger" is a fast food restaurant similar to an American hamburger stand. It is near Bila.
Sliven's city center is full of cafes that serve a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Most are spacious indoor and outdoor seating and are affordable.
- Chervilo - nice outside setting, on the main walking street in the city center.
- Largo is the perfect combination between a day time cafe and a night time disco. It sits along the Eastern end of the main walking street.
- Shaklian - White Label on Alexsander Stramboliiski Blvd, the most beautiful and famous cafe in Sliven. There are two in town, serving good coffee and strong alcoholic drinks. They offer a range of food including hamburgers, pizza and doner. They also offer shakes and fresh fruit juice.
- Fashion Cafe is one of the most modern cafes in Sliven, down the main alley of center, near the oldest tree in Sliven Staria Briast. The Cafe is famous with its delicious pancakes.
- XO is near the city court office and many of the city's schools. It caters to students, but on at night features go-go dancers.
Moderno Moderno is Sliven's newest night club. Blasting Chalga music until odd hours, it is Sliven's largest night club. There is no cover charge on weekdays, but it costs around 3 leva on weekends. The club often features Bulgaria's top singers and performers. On weekend, it is important to call in advance and reserve a table (there is no charge for reservations). Bottle service ranges from 30 - 70 leva. On weekends, from 16:00-21:00, they often have a "children's disco" where kids can come dance and listen to music.
Imerpia Imperia is another chalga disco, next to Hotel Imerpia.
Sax Club is located in the city garden park, just east of the city center. It was renovated and features chalga music on weekends.
Hotel Brilliant is a modern three-star hotel in the eastern part of Sliven near the Sinite Kamani neighborhood.
Hotel St. Nicola is a stylish three-start hotel, at the entrance of town close to the Sofia-Burgas road.
Hotel Panorama along the road connecting Sliven with the S. Kamani National Park below the foothills of Karandila. It's 3 km from the city center.
Hotel Imperia (+359 44 667599) is near the Sinite Kamani National Park, about 15 minutes from the city center and 10 minutes to the Sliven-Karandila chairlift.
National Palace Hotel (+359 44 662929) is in the center of Sliven in a quiet architectural estate of "Dobri Jeliazkov Fabrikadjiata." It has beautiful double rooms, studios and apartments.
Hotel Sports Palace is next to the "Hadzhi Dimitar" Stadium and is less than a kilometer from the city center. The hotel has a professional hairdresser and beauty salon. The rooms offer spectacular views of Karandila's "Blue Rocks."
Hotel Mechta is in a lovely, modern building part of the Mechta complex with boasts a nice bistro and a petrol station.
Hotel Ricas is a modern hotel near the big Bila super market. It's about a 10 minutes walk from the bus station.
Hotel Toma is near the police station and offers excellent traditional Bulgarian food and music.
Almost every cafe in town has free WiFi. Some require a password, which the staff can provide. There are also several post offices around town. Postboxes are small and yellow.
Karandila and Nature Park Sinite Kamani
Karandila and Nature Park Sinite Kamani is a favorite walking destination for local people. This beautiful place offers fresh air and beautiful scenery. Aside from the winter months, locals go to Karandila on weekends and holidays. They bring food, drinks, games and spend a wonderful day up in the mountains. The roads can be crowded on a sunny Saturday.
There are two ways to get there by car, either through the peak "Bulgarian" or "Chukata." The first route takes the northern exit out of the cit, passing through the village of Selishteto. The road starts from the square in front of the Old Prison and Textile Museum and then winds through the mountains. From there, follow the signs to Karandila. The second route takes the eastern exit out of Sliven toward the village of Ichera.
The Blue Stones around Karandila feature rich vegetation and a variety of animals. The lay is of typical mountains with steep slopes and ravines, ranging between 200 - 1181 meters above sea level. The blue color comes from a specific moss growing on the rocks. The highest point is Mount Bulgaria and is easily accessed by tourists. The Halkata landmark is a naturally former rock arch or ring. Furthermore, the picturesque beech forest is a favorite among locals.
Kipilovo Katel Fortress Kipilovo Kate Fortress is on Mount Hissarluka, south of the village of Kipilovo. Today the fortress is an overgrown beech forest, which makes its detection more difficult for visitors. It is believed that the fortress was built in the late 6th century by the Byzantines and lasted until the Second Bulgarian State. Today, the walls are still 2.5 meters thick and 8-10 meters high. On the eastern end of the site, there is a well and three entrances are still preserved.
Zlata Mogila Funeral Mound The funeral mound of "Zlata Mogila" is located near the village of Sudievo, 8 km east of Nova Zagora off of the Sofia-Burgas road. It dates from Roman times and is one of the largest burial mounds in the region. Archaeological excavations have unearthed two chariots, skeletons of eight horses, a fully preserved bronze shield and other artifacts. It is thought that the mound belongs to a rich Thracian landowner buried in a tomb nearby.
St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker Church The church, located in the village of Jeravna, was built in 1834. The beautiful paintings inside were done by master painters Jordan Mihajlovic, Georgi and Gencho. Today the church keeps a rich exposition of icons from the nineteenth century, along with masterpieces from the Tryavna Art SChool.
Karanovska Settlement Mound Karanovska Settlement mound is in the northwestern edge of Karanovo (Sliven district). It was formed from the ruins of prehistoric settlements successively built on top of each other. The mound was inhabited by people living in Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages and is one of the largest mounds in Bulgaria. Along with flint, tools, brass and bones, the mound contained valuable clay tablets, which are thought by some scientists to have the oldest writing in Europe.