Nestled between the Sredna Gora mountains, 91 kilometers east of Sofia, is the town of Panagyurishte. This town in the province of Pazardzhik. Even-though the town of Panagyurishte is usually overshadowed by the near historic town of Koprivshtitsa, the map of Panagyurishte has its fair share of historical sites and places worth your visit.
Brief History of Panagyurishte
The existence of civilization in the area has been recorded since the Antiquity, with the testimony of more than 300 monuments including necropolises, settlements, fortresses, military camps and road construction installations. During the Iron Age, a Thracian tribe by the name of Velikokoylaleti resided in the area. A part of the Odrysian Kingdom was located in the same area in the 4th and 5th centuries BC. The famous Panagyurishte Golden Treasure, discovered in 1949 is the most beautifully crafted pieces of history representing that era.
There was a mention of a settlement near the modern town during the Middle Ages and the fortress of Krasen south of the current location. The remains of the fortress exist on the south slopes of the Sredna Gora mountains, evidence of the once administrative and cultural importance it once held before it was conquered and set on fire by the Ottomans in the 14th century.
Following the Bulgarian-Ottoman Wars, a large portion of the population had to relocate hence moving to the current location of Panagyurishte. The town witnessed several waves of refugees from surrounding towns during different periods of time during and after the Ottoman reign. Most notably the refugees coming from the village of Asenevtsi near Sliven and the people of several Macedonian cities such as Debar and Kostur after rebellions against the Ottomans in the 15th century.
Known as Otlukköy under Ottoman rule, the region of Panagyurishte was a settlement which derived its name from the fair that took place on the banks of the Luda Yana River which divides the town. Residents had some privileges under Ottoman rule since the area had the status of a voynuk settlement. This important economic development was reached the first half of the 19th century.
Panagyurishte is known for being the heart of the rebellion against the Ottomans, as the city is known for the being the center of the April Uprising in 1876. Becoming the capital of the Fourth Revolutionary District paved the way for being the heart of the rebellion. The short-lived period of freedom of 10 days was savagely suppressed by the Ottomans and the town was destroyed and almost entirely burnt down.
Getting to Panagyurishte
This historic hub east of the Bulgarian capital can be reached through different means of road transport. A very accommodating website to find and compare trips and prices is Rome2rio.
- By train: The train from the Sofia Central Station will take you to Plovdiv, from which you can board another train that will take you to Panagyurishte. The entirety of the two trips is just a bit over 6 hours long. Traveling by train is the most comfortable and convenient means to transportation.
There’s a train from Sofia to Plovdiv every hour. While the trains from Plovdiv to Panagyurishte run three times a day. Both train tickets range about 10 Euros in price.
- By bus: There are two routes through which you can reach Panagyurishte by bus from Sofia.
Bus through Plovdiv: The bus ride of almost 5 hours and 15 minutes will have you taking two bus rides; from Sofia to Plovdiv and from there to Panagyuristhe. The sum of the two bus tickets is about 15 Euros. It’s worth noting that only one bus leaves from Plovdiv to Panagyurishte a day while there’s a bus leaving from Sofia to Plovdiv every hour.
Bus through Pazardzhik: A bus leaves from Sofia to Pazardzhik four times a day while a bus from Pazardzhik leaves to Panagyurishte every hour. The almost 6 hours ride tickets cost around 15 Euros.
- By taxi: For the cost of about 90 Euros, you can take the trip from Sofia to Panagyurishte in less than two hours by taxi. Several taxi renting companies offer trips to take you such as 1euro.bg.
- By car: Feel like taking a road trip for a couple of hours and driving to your destination, there’s no problem. With the cost of less then 20 Euros for fuel, you can rent a car from one of the car rental companies near the Sofia Airport for 16 Euros per day. A good site for finding and comparing car prices is Rentalcars.
Where to stay in Panagyurishte?
Time in Panagyurishte is often observed as a one-day trip from Sofia or the closer Plovdiv. Except that Panagyurishte is full of relaxing hotels and guest houses where you can book several days to better enjoy the sights, soak in the atmosphere and give the local cuisine a try. Here’s a recommendation of some of the best places to stay in Panagyurishte.
- Djudjeva Kyshta Hotel: Rated as exceptional, the array of services offered by the hotel is varied and can be enjoyed for a mere 36 Euros a night for the best deal. The hotel offers an airport transfer service as well.
- Park Hotel Asarel: With a relaxing view outside your window or terrace, you can get a double bedroom with free breakfast for a good deal of 46 Euros a night. Children under three years of age can stay for free. The restaurant at the hotel offers local, European and international cuisine.
- Esterra Vini Guest House: A standard double room can start at 32 Euros for a night, you can choose the layout that best suits you; a king bed or two single beds. A two-bedroom suit will start at 49 Euros a night.
- Kamengrad Hotel & Spa: This luxurious hotel will offer you a deluxe double room for 74 Euros per night. Many services can be enjoyed during your stay such as the spa and the sauna, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a family room are some of them. An airport transfer is also available.
What to see and do in Panagyurishte?
Although parts of the town suffered great damage after the April Uprising, the people of the town of Panagyurishte were survivors and rebuilt their homes. The town is known for the Apriltsi Memorial Complex among its churches and museums and old houses which survived the Ottoman attacks and were renovated.
- The Apriltsi Memorial Complex:
Commemorating the April Uprising of 1876, the complex was built in celebration of the uprising’s 100th anniversary in 1976. The complex above the town’s central square is built on the Manyovo Bardo hill which is known throughout history as being one of the main positions of the Bulgarian revolutionaries against the Ottomans.
The complex that dominates Panagyurishte’s skyline can be seen from almost every neighborhood in the town. It includes several figures carved of granite that encircle the entire building. It can be reached using stairs.
- Church of Saint George (St. Georgi):
This Bulgarian National Revival church is located to the north west of the central square of Panagyurishte. At the time it was built, it was considered to be one of Bulgaria’s most imposing churches. The church’s style of two belltowers is a unique style, not found very often in the whole of Bulgaria. St. Georgi is now the main church of Panagyurishte.
Named after the patron saint of Bulgaria, the church was built 1856 and 1860. The church has a large edifice with two symmetrical towers. The columns on the western façade used to be covered in frescoes but were destroyed by the Ottomans as they burned the city after the April Uprising.
Restoration works took place between 1878 and 1880.
- Church of the Holy Mother of God ( Bogoroditsa):
This church is located in the central part of the town of Panagyurishte, separating it from the central square by the town hall and the building of Chitalishte Videlina. Close to the church’s current location, an older church; St. Theodore, was built.
The St. Theodore church was the oldest church in Panagyurishte, it was built in the middle of the 16th century. The church consisted of a single nave edifice which is now connected to the new larger church. St. Theodore was destroyed by the Ottomans at the beginning of the 19th century and was later restored between 1808 and 1809.
Construction of the Church of the Holy Mother of God began in 1818 near the southern wall of the old building and was finished in 1823. With a larger building than the old church, the new one had a single nave with a colonnade. The new church was inaugurated by Bishop Dionisius of Plovdiv, just as he was the one ordering the restoration works on the old church.
The Church of the Holy Mother of God had painters from the famous Samokov school decorate its interior. The beautifully crafted interior was destroyed when the Ottomans burned the town of Panagyurishte during the April Uprising of 1876. After the Liberation of Bulgaria, the church was restored between 1878 and 1880. The latest renovation works on the church in 2003 resulted in the domes getting covered with gold plates.
- The Panagyurishte Museum of History:
Located in the center of the city, the museum began as a collection in the Videlina Community Center in 1943. The collection was moved to its own building in 1964 which included a reconstructed 19th century marketplace.
In 1986, the museum became a part of a complex that now includes the Dudekov House, the Ethnographic Collection, the Sinya Hadzhidimitrov House, the Ivan Duhovnik House, the Raiyna Knyaginya Residence Museum, the Panagyurishte Golden Treasures Exhibition, the Tutev House, the Lekov House and the Marin Drinov House.
The Museum of History is divided into sections dedicated to Archeology, Ethnography, Bulgaria from the 15th to the 19th centuries, Contemporary Bulgaria and Natural History.
One of the museum’s most important exhibitions is the one dedicated to the 1876 April Uprising and is divided into three sections. The Hall of Weapons of the April Revolution, the Hall of the April Revolution and the Hall of Liberation. The nationally important artifacts in these halls explain the city’s struggle to break free from the Ottoman rule and the role and sacrifices the town of Panagyurishte paid as a price for freedom.
Another important exhibition is the one containing the Panagyurishte Golden Treasure. Consisting of 9 vessels with a combined weight of 6,164 kilograms of gold, these artifacts were discovered in 1949. The original golden artifacts are often shown in different museums around the world and are currently on display in the National Historical Museum in Sofia.
The reconstruction of the Panagyurishte 19th century marketplace is an exhibition of the regional handicrafts. Exhibitions showing homespun woolen goods, production of items from goat’s hair, works of goldsmiths and coppersmiths and rug making.
The museum also houses a research library of over 6,000 volumes in different fields such as historical manuscripts, periodical literature and financial records.
Three brothers; Pavel, Petko and Michail Deikov came across something shiny as they were processing a new layer of clay at the region of the Merul tile factory near the town’s railway station. The collection consisted of a phial and eight rhytons, one shaped like an amphora and the rest like heads of women or animals, they dated back to the end of the 4th century BC and the beginning of the 3rd century BC.
The priceless collection was an extraordinary find, due to its originality and the fact they weighted over 6,146 kilograms of gold. The treasure is the centerpiece of the Thracian Art Collection of the Plovdiv Regional Historical Museum, the National Museum of History in Sofia and the Panagyurishte History Museum. There are three replicas of the treasure that go on display in these museums who the originals are lent to international museums.
- House-Museum of Rayna Knyaginya:
Rayna Knyaginya was known as the Queen of the Bulgarians, was a Bulgarian teacher and revolutionary born in in 1856 in Panagyurishte. Rayna is famous for sewing the flag of the April Uprising of 1876. On the day of the uprising, she waved the flag along with Georgi Benkovski after which she was captured and imprisoned by the Ottoman forces.
For the 25th commemoration of the uprising, Rayna sewed three copies of the original flag, two of which survived until today with the third destroyed during the Second World War bombing of Sofia. Rayna Knyaginya died in 1917 at the age of 61.
The House-Museum of Rayna Knyaginya opened its doors in 1950. The house where the national heroin was born takes you back to the time she was born and raised. Among the artifacts in the museum is a reproduction of the April Uprising flag which Rayna reproduced in 1901; the first official celebration of the uprising.
In the courtyard of the house there’s a marble sculpture of the uprising flag with its remains stored beneath it. The house of Rayna Knyaginya was donated by her heirs to the Municipality of Panagyurishte in 1992.
- Panagyurski Kolonii – The Colony of Panagyurishte:
This mountain resort village is popular among both tourists and locals of Panagyurishte. About 15 kilometers to the north of Panagyurishte, it is located in the Sredna Gora mountain. The majority of the people of Panagyurishte own summer houses there which were built in the 1930s though people from all over Bulgaria own houses there as well.
The summer houses were designed to be inhabited during the summer and remain closed during the cold winter season. There’s a tourist hostel, few restaurants and cafés and a ski resort. The colony is the perfect place for skiing, getting out of the city hectic life and for children to explore the different species of berries and mushrooms and wild life.
This architectural and historical museum showcases the culture and way of life of the Bulgarian people in the period of the Bulgarian National Revival. The 1856 building is a Plovdiv-style building with symmetric construction. The house was owned by the trader Petar Dudekov who was killed during the suppression of the April Uprising.
The museum consists of two floors. The first floor displays objects from everyday life such as traditional craft items, fireplace equipment, cooking utensils and traditional costumes. While the second floor houses luxurious items and furniture including formal national clothes.
Located 7 kilometers north-west of Panagyurishte, this is where the plan of the April Uprising was discussed and approved by delegates from all over the province. Representatives of the Fourth Revolutionary District took to the woods around the Panagyurishte headquarters to discuss their plans.
The monument at Oborishte Locality was erected in 1923 to honor the First Great National Assembly that sparked the April Uprising.
Where to eat in Panagyurishte (Vegetarian Friendly Restuarants)
When on vacation it’s always good to opt for local restaurants rather than ordering room service all the time. There are several places in Panagyurishte where you can enjoy the atmosphere and where quality food is a guarantee.
This restaurant is ranked the first among tourists visiting Panagyurishte. The steakhouse and barbeque style restaurant opens at 10 am and closes at 11 pm. It’s great to eat on the outside set tables during the warm seasons of the year.
The traditional restaurant décor will help you sink more into the culture. The waiters are also dressed in traditional Bulgarian costumes. The menu is full with traditional Bulgarian dishes alongside European ones as well. The price range is from 2.50 Euros to 8 Euros.
This pizza-serving restaurant is where you’ll have the best pizza you can imagine. The service is quick and all used ingredients are fresh. The restaurant also serves other traditional Italian dishes such as pasta and lasagna dishes. Prices range from 3 Euros to 10 Euros.
This place is perfect for a visit with the family, the service portions are big and enough for the whole family. Many of the dishes served are Italian and is open from 9 am to 10 pm. You might just walk into a birthday celebration as it’s the perfect spot for celebrations.
This barbeque-style restaurant is another vegetarian friendly option in Panagyurishte. Prices range from 2 Euros to 10 Euros. A must- visit if you’re ever in town, the food is delicious and service isn’t late despite the busy tables.
If you fancy getting away from city life, take some time off your vacation in Sofia and come and spend some days in Panagyurishte. You’ll surely relax, enjoy the town views and most importantly delicious food and drinks will await you in whichever place you choose to eat.