The town of Sliven (population 110 240 people, 270 m above sea level) is situated in the eastern part of Gornotrakiyska Valley at the immediate foot of Sliven Balkan (Eastern Balkan Range). Sliven is located 270 km east of Sofia, 28 km northwest of Yambol, 70 km northeast of Stara Zagora, 75 km east of Kazanlak and 114 km west of Bourgas. Sliven municipality is one of the biggest in the country. Its territory is 1366 sq. km and it comprises of 48 settlements. Its population is 148 000 people, 110 000 of whom live in Sliven.The town is situated on the international highway Е-773 which connects Sofia with Bourgas. Sliven is only 110 km away from the biggest commercial port of Bulgaria - Bourgas. Alongside with this road route, there is a railroad.
Sliven is situated at the foot of the unique rock massif "Sinite Kamani" (Blue Stones), very close to mineral springs. The town is famous for its clean fresh air, clean water sources, mild winter and cool summer. Sliven is the only Bulgarian town that has never changed its Slavonic name, though it is one of the oldest settlements in Europe. Here lived Thracians, Romans, Slavs, and Ancient Greeks. The first Roman settlement on this place - Tuida (3rd century BC) was a famous trade centre. Sliven was mentioned as a big town for the first time in 1153 by the Arab traveller Idrisi.
The east part of the Balkan Range (Stara Planina), where the town is situated is cut by passages which are very important for the communications between northern and southern Bulgaria. There is an airport with the necessary facilities for passengers and cargo service. The beautiful nature, mineral water springs and the numerous cultural and historical monuments are an important part of the biggest potential opportunities of Sliven in the sphere of international tourism. The park "Sinite Kamani" (Blue Stones) comprises of about 7 thousand hectares and it is the third biggest in Bulgaria after Pirin and Vitosha. Apart the fact that it is extremely picturesque, the region is remarkable with the preserved in its boundaries rare vegetative and animal species, some of which are under the protection of the country and Europe. The nearest and the most frequently visited part - Karandila - can be reached by a lift line.
Sliven is a town with cultural traditions starting from the epoch of the National Revival, with significant contribution in the cultural treasure of the country. Three state Cultural Institutes work in Sliven - a Drama Theatre, a Puppet Theatre and a National Museum of the textile industry. The Municipal professional cultural institutes are: History Museum, Art Gallery, Folk Song and Dance Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, Universal scientific library and community centres, some of which have over a 100-year history.
Most probably the name of Sliven derives from the location of the town, i.e. fusion of the field and the mountain as well as the three rivers Asenovska, Selishka and Novoselska. The town sprang up in the period VII-X century on an old military road from the Danube River to the mountain pass Vratnik (Zhelezni Vrata) in the Balkan Mountain to Tzarigrad. Idrisi, an Arabian geographer was the first one to give information about the town in 1153, calling it Istilifunos. Later it became known with the following names – Silimno, Slivno, and during the Ottoman rule – Islimie, Islivne. Father Paisiy mentioned it for the first time as Sliven in his "Istoria Slavianobalgarska" (Slavonic and Bulgarian History).
During the first decades of the Ottoman rule Sliven enjoyed the privilege of being a town where people were rearing falcons and guarding the Balkan passes. It also gained popularity for the weaving of the woolen material called "kebe". In 1828 there were about 20 000 inhabitants in the town but after Sliven was liberated from Turkish yoke in the Russian-Turkish War more than 15 000 Bulgarians from the region left with the withdrawing Russian soldiers and settled to live in Romania, Bessarabia and South Russia. In 1872 the population of Sliven was 25 000 inhabitants.
Sliven grew as a crafts and trading centre, making use of the waterpower of the rivers running close by. The craft of the homespun cloth making was best developed. More than 400 trades would annually visit the town to buy thousands of meters of woolen material. The craft of rifle making came second in importance. In 1836 the first textile factory in Bulgaria was built in Sliven, that of Dobri Zhelyazkov. It was a three-storey building with 20 spinning machines, 6 mechanical looms and 500 workers. Traders from Turkey, Poland and Hungary would come to the annual fair in Sliven. Nowadays the building of the factory is declared a monument of culture with national significance. During the Revival period Sliven became famous as "the town of the hundred chieftains" – Indzhe, Zlati, Kara Sabi, Radoi, Hristo, Konda, Hadji Dimitar, Panaiot Hitov, Taniu Voevoda and many others. Georgi Ikonomov, one of the apostles of April Rebellion, was born in the town, so were Sava Dobroplodni, Dr. Ivan Seliminski and Dobri Chintulov. After the liberation the textile industry continued to develop and shape the economic image of the town.
When visiting Sliven one should call on the History Museum, the Museum for Renaissance Art where a permanent exposition of Renaissance works and masterpieces is arranged. Hadji Dimitar Museum-house is situated in the southwestern part of the town and comprises a complex of several buildings restored during different periods of time. It includes the native home with its interior, the inn and the rest of the farmhouses. The 19th century Sliven Lifestyle Museum is lodged in a building from 1813 having a very interesting architecture. Modern Bulgarian art is on display in Sirak Skitnik Art Gallery.
The monument of Hadji Dimitar was built in 1935 in the centre of the town. The figure of the legendary leader stands on a rectangular column. At the foot of the monument in special niches one can see the busts of other outstanding renaissance people from Sliven.
The historical elm tree approximately 600 years old is located in the centre of Sliven and has probably witnessed many of the events in the history of the town. There are a lot of Christian temples in Sliven, most outstanding of all church St. Dimitar, situated in the centre of the town.
From Sliven there are regular bus lines to the towns of Yambol, Nova Zagora, Karnobat, Aitos, Bourgas, Elena, and Veliko Tarnovo and to the smaller villages and settlement in the district. The town is a major railway station on the main railway line Sofia – Karlovo – Bourgas. There is a well-arranged bus and trolley transport in Sliven. The seat-lift station located in the northern part of the town, immediately at the foot of the mountain will take up to more than 600 m everyone who is willing to roam the Sliven Balkan.
The mountain place Karandila is located northeast of Sliven, among century-old forests. Here one will discover National Park Sini Kamani, where there are many interesting rock formations such as Halkata (the Ring). The area offers excellent opportunities for rest, sports and tourism. There are ski-tracks with two ski tag lines, a football field and a lake. Karandila is a departure point for a number of well-marked tourist and eco-trails. The mineral baths of Sliven are situated only 12 km southwest of Sliven, in the village of Zlati Voivoda, near the road to Nova Zagora. People use the mineral water of the balneology centre to cure diseases of the locomotory system, peripheral nerve system, stomach, intestines, liver and gall-bladder. Aglikina Polyana is 38 km northwest of Sliven, in Elena Balkan. It is a historical area that entered the Bulgarian national history as the most popular gathering place of chieftains. It is a wide meadow surrounded by venerable oak and beech trees.