Stara Zagora is one of the biggest towns in the country, with a population of 156 445 inhabitants. It is situated by the southern slopes of Sredna Gora Mountain, 197 m above the sea level. The town is located 231 km east of Sofia, 90 km northeast of Plovdiv, and 70 km southwest of Sliven. It is a strategic crossroad between East and West, North and South. Apart from being one of the most ancient towns in Bulgaria it is a big and important industrial and cultural centre.
Mostly due to its central position this town has a rich and interesting history. During the 6th century BC, it was a major Thracian settlement called Beroe. In the 2nd century, not far from Beroe the Romans set up the town Ulpia Augusta Trayana. At the beginning of the 6th AD century the town was destroyed later on to be populated by incoming Slavic tribes, who named it Vereya. During the 9th century, the town became an important military, strategic and cultural centre of a vast district under the name Boruy.
After conquering it, the Turks nameD it Eski HiSsar (old castle), and some time later gave it another name Eski Zagra (the fertile place).
At the end of 50's of 19th century the Bulgarian name Jeleznik was given. In 1871 the name Stara Zagora was officially recognized.
During the Revival period Stara Zagora is an important business centre. The town was put to the torch and ruined during the liberation war.
After the Liberation the town was yet built once again. A rapid economic and cultural progress followed. The first provincial opera and radio was opened in Stara Zagora.
The town is commonly known as the "town of lime-trees and poets". It is the birthplace of the writers Georgi Bakalov, Kiril Hristov, Dimitar Podvarzachov, Nikolay Liliev, Veselin Hanchev, the famous opera singer Hristina Morfova, the painters Anton and Georgi Mitovi, Vasil Kostakiev, Mario Zekov, Atanas Mihov, Dimitar Gudzhenov.
The whole central part of the town is proclaimed archaeological reserve.
Bereket Hill is the biggest prehistoric settlement excavated in Bulgaria. Scientists have found the remains of 2 dwellings dated to the early neolith – the middle of the 6th millennium BC and they are the best preserved such finds in Europe.
The antique forum Augusta Trayana is one of the most monumental facilities built in the Roman city Augusta Trayana.
Late antiquity floorage mosaic – 4th century excavations of the guest room of a rich house is situated in the centre of Augusta Trayana.
Late antiquity municipal building with mosaics (4th-6th century) can be seen in the cash hall of the Central Post Office. "Hilendar Cloister is situated in the yard of St. Dimitar Church. The memorial complex "The defenders of Stara Zagora 1877" is a 50 meters tall monument erected in 1977.
Metodi Kusev Park (the Ayazmo) is a big, artificial green park arranged over the slopes of Sredna Gora in the northern part of the town.
Astronomic observatory and planetarium is located on the top floor of the High School for Foreign Languages "R. Rolane".
Museums and Theatres
The Municipal Museum of History – 11, Graf Ignatiev Str.
The house-museum "City life in the 19th century" is located in Hadzhiangelov House, built in 1883. The house-museum "Geo Milev" is a rich, modern, and well-arranged museum to visit. There are Drama Theatre, Opera House, Puppet Theatre.
The town maintains contacts with the other parts of the country by road and rail. There are regular bus lines from town to the most directions in the country. The major motorway Sofia – Plovdiv – Bourgas and the road from Ruse to Kardzhali cross Stara Zagora. Railway routes to Plovdiv, Sofia, Bourgas.
Stara Zagora Mineral Baths – a spa resort, is situated 15 km northwest of the town. It offers numerous opportunities for recreation and rest, boarding and entertainment. In the area Mechi Kladenetz there are old copper mines dating back to the 5th millennium BC. The resort village Yagoda is located 20 km north of Stara Zagora. Northeast of the town is the village Karanovo. A place of interest there is Karanovo Mound. The first inhabitants of the town date back to the end of the 7th and the beginning of 6th millenium BC. In the outskirts of the contemporary town, there are five prehistoric settlements from this time. During the 4th century BC there was a big ancient Thracian settlement famous with the name Beroe.
On the 5th October 1879 the first symbolic stone of the foundations of the restoration of Stara Zagora was placed, according to the plan of Lubor Bayer. Thus, the town turned to be the first Bulgarian postliberation town with contemporary architecture. A rapid economic and cultural progress followed. The first provincial opera and radio was opened in Stara Zagora. The town is full of organized musical and theatrical life.
Today Stara Zagora is one of the most modern contemporary towns of Bulgaria. It is an important industrial, cultural and education centre. There are a number of secondary schools, technical schools and specialized secondary schools, a lot of research and cultural institutes. Here is the Thracian University.