Svilengrad (Bulgarian: Свиленград) is a border town in the Upper Thracian Plain in Bulgaria, close to the point where the national borders of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey meet. It's one of the most important border crossings in the country, and there are a few interesting places nearby.

Understand

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Mustafa Pasha's Bridge
 
Map of Svilengrad

Administratively, the municipality of Svilengrad is a part of Haskovo Province. The town is adjacent to two border checkpoints - Kaptian Andreevo/Kapıkule to Turkey (close to Edirne) and Kapitan Petko Voyvoda/Ormenio to Greece (Didymoteicho).

In the 16th century the Ottoman Empire built a large bridge over the Maritsa river, and a settlement formed around it. Despite a sizable Bulgarian population, after the Liberation War (1877-1878) the area remained outside of the newly created Bulgarian state. It was granted to Bulgaria only after the First Balkan War (1912-1913). Originally named after the bridge, the town was officially renamed to Svilengrad in 1913. The name literally means "Silk Town" or "Town of Silk", reflecting the local practice of silk farming - in the early 1930s, Svilengrad produced about a third of Bulgaria's silk output.

Svilengrad's disproportionate number of casinos is explained by the fact that gambling is banned in Turkey and Edirne is close across the border.

Get in

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By train

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One of the stops on international trains from Turkey (Istanbul-Sofia or Istanbul-Bucharest).

  • 1 Railway Station (ЖП гара, Zhe-Peh Garah). Svilengrad's train station is 5 km (3.1 mi) from the city centre, in the outlaying neighborhood (absorbed village) Kapitan Petko Voyvoda. Walking is not an option, as the road lacks sidewalks/pavements. Thankfully, Svilengrad's only bus line connects the station and the city. Buses run on an irregular schedule between 05:40 and 21:30.

By bus

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From Sofia: there's at least one daily direct bus (Central Bus Station); buses to Haskovo are more frequent, and there you can get some of the frequent local buses that go to Svilengrad.

  • 2 Bus Station (Автогара, Avtogara), ul. "Tsar Simeon Veliki" 55 (from the roundabout at the east end of the main street, follow the large street north-east to the next roundabout - bus station is on the left (west) side). A single-storey building. Like many places elsewhere in Bulgaria, it's shared with unrelated small businesses and each transport company has its own separate ticket office, so finding what you need may be confusing.

By car

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Two European Routes pass through Svilengrad - E80 (from Portugal through Southern Europe to Turkey) and E85 (Lithuania - Belarus - Ukraine - Romania - Bulgaria - Greece). It's also an end point of Bulgarian Motorway A4 ("Maritsa"), which runs to the north-west and merges into Motorway A1 ("Trakia", Sofia - Plovdiv - Burgas) east of Plovdiv.

Get around

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  • 1 Mustafa Pasha Bridge (Stariyat most, The Old Bridge). Completed in 1529.    
    • On the eastern side, there's an equestrian monument to General Nikola Ivanov (1861-1940), who lead the Bulgarian troops that liberated Svilengrad during the First Balkan War.
  • 2 History Museum.
  • Monument to the Fallen (in front of Hotel Svilena and the Municipality building) - a simple war memorial with name lists on its sides.

Drink

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Sleep

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A number of hotels and other accommodations, due to the border crossings.

  • 1 Hotel Svilena (Хотел "Свилена"), pl. "5-ti Oktomvri" 1 (the same Bulgaria Blvd as the main street, 5 min walk east of the pedestrian part). Renovated Communist-era hotel, with a decorative mosaic relief on the facade. 3 stars, close to the Municipality building, the Old Bridge and the west end of the main pedestrian street. Double: 87 лв, suite (double bed): 105 лв, double deluxe: 115 лв.
  • 2 Park Hotel Romantica (Парк Хотел "Романтика"), ul. "Dragan Tsankov" 4. Modern 4-star hotel overlooking the city park. Double/twin: 120 лв, double deluxe: 140 лв, etc.

Connect

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Nearby

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Ruins of the Mezek Fortress
 
Ruins of the Matochina Fortress

For some reason (remote border region?), two of the best preserved medieval fortress ruins in Bulgaria (with minimal restoration) are in Svilengrad Municipality.

Mezek

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A village 10 km (6.2 mi) west of Svilengrad.

  • 3 Mezek Fotress.    
  • Thracian domed tomb

Matochina

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Another village, named after the lemon balm herb (Melissa officinalis) in Bulgarian. 30 km (19 mi) west of Svilengrad, close to the border with Turkey. Hard to reach unless you have a car. Theoretically, it's possible to get there by bus from Svilengrad once a week (on Wednesday) - one leaves in the morning (07:00), another in the early afternoon (13:30), so you can go there with the first and return with the other. Matochina is the end point of the line and there's no accommodation in the village, so better not miss the return bus... Bus schedule in Bulgarian on the Svilengrad Municipality website, you can search for "Маточина".

  • 4 Matochina Fortress (Boukelon).    

Go next

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Routes through Svilengrad
Plovdiv ← Haskovo (Junction   N / S) ←  W   E    Kapitan Andreevo/Kapıkule → Edirne  


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