Home TravelsBulgaria Rose Festival in Kazanlak – what you need to know (2024)

Rose Festival in Kazanlak – what you need to know (2024)

19 minutes read

The Rose Festival in Kazanlak is one of the biggest festivals in Bulgaria in general and certainly one of the most attractive events in May. Over the years we have been there multiple times, in different formats. Sometimes just to watch the rose picking. Another time we go to enjoy the whole colourful event, with the parade, cultural activities, a rosé wine festival and what not. And since the culmination of the Rose Festival 2024 is approaching, we decided to write a short orientation article on what to expect if you have never been there.

A little history about the Rose Festival

The Rose Festival is a tradition with over 120 years of history. For the first time celebrations dedicated to the Bulgarian rose in the region were organized in 1903. Rich exhibitions of roses and other flowers were organized, hikes to Shipka Monastery were held, and specially issued postcards for the occasion were sold. After the launch of the Sub-Balkan Railway, themed trains and special discounted tickets were released for the holiday, which encouraged citizens from all over Bulgaria to visit Kazanlak. From the very beginning, the celebration was organized on the last weekend of May, which is also the season of the blooming of the roses. And so for decades the festival has become one of the most recognizable and beloved Bulgarian holidays.

The Rose Festival today – 2024.

The modern format of the Rose Festival is very colourful, attractive and quite large-scale. The festive programme starts at the beginning of May and lasts about a month. This year it started on 7 May with various exhibitions, art atteliers, theatre performances, concerts. Literally every day in May in Kazanlak happens some interesting event, which is thematic and in the calendar of the Rose Festival. If you are interested, you can see the full calendar on the site on Municipality of Kazanlak.

The calendar is very colourful, but for us personally several events stand out as highlights and not surprisingly attract the most interest. We’re sure you’ll want to pay attention to them too.

Ritual rose picking in the villages near Kazanlak

Almost every Saturday and Sunday of May you can witness a ritual rose picking (Rozober) in a village near Kazanlak. It usually includes a folklore program, songs and dances, colorful dancers in folk costumes and many opportunities for beautiful photos.

Information about the time and place can be found again in the calendar of events on the municipality website. The events usually start in the morning around 8 – 9 am because the roses are picked early, ideally at sunrise, while there is dew on them to protect the rose oil and make it easier to extract. No one will make you get up at sunrise for the ritual rose harvest, but be aware that this is how it is done.

Rose picking (Rozober) in Kazanlak

Note that the Rosober ritual in the villages is paid. The rituals are not in the village itself, but on the rose fields nearby. Go early, there are a lot of people.

On 25 May 2024, Saturday at 9:30 am. ritualat rose picking will be in the village of Kanchevo.

26 May 2024, Sunday at 9:30 ritual rose picking in Rozovo village.

On 1 June 2024, Saturday at 9:30 ritual rose picking in village Yasenovo.

2 June 2024, Sunday at 9:30 the ritual of rose picking is near Kazanlak.

Rose boiling ritual

In the Rose Museum and in the Ethnographic Complex “Kulata” (both places start at 11am on Saturday and Sunday 25 and 26 May, 1 and 2 June 2024. ), you can witness a traditional rose-boiling ritual to learn how exactly the precious rose oil is produced. These events usually have a paid admission, but the price is not high and it is interesting.

Rosé Wine Festival – Rose wine expo XIII edition

In 2024 Rose wine expo XIII edition will be held on the 1st and 2nd of June, Saturday and Sunday

It is normally held in “Iskra – 1860” theater house, as well as around it, because there are always many exhibitors and even more willing to taste the best rosés of Bulgaria. You will find other wines too, but the focus is on rosé. For this festival, it is important to know that it is free entry, but for that reason quite well attended and at times crowded. It’s more of a “let’s have fun together” type of thing than doing any serious wine tasting. But we like it because it’s always nice to taste a lot of Bulgarian wines in one place and talk to winemakers, visitors and friends.

Tip: at the festival there are no offered proper wine glasses, you may find some branded glasses for sale but quite basic. If, like us, you’re a bit wacky on the subject, you can bring your own wine glass. Otherwise, you “enjoy” wine in disposable plastic cups, which in our humble opinion is neither beautiful, nor ecological or pleasant.

Tip: If you are looking for a visit to a wine cellar and interesting wine tasting, you can organise a tasting in the Better Half wine tasting room in the village of Zmejovo. There you can stay in the beautiful Villa Yana.

Street of Crafts

From the “Iskra – 1860” theater, all the way to the central square and along the alleys of the whole park you will find numerous stalls with craft items for sale. There you can find everything from food and drink, to handmade jewellery, ceramics and homeware, cosmetics with roses and without roses. There is also no shortage of stands with products that are not Bulgarian at all, meaning balloons and plastic toys, which children always stick to. But let’s not focus on that. There are also many artisans and producers of rose oil, rose water, rose cosmetics, rose syrups, rose juices and jams and such things that we personally appreciate and sometimes buy.

“The Bread of Bulgarians” – a competition exhibition of Bulgarian bread and traditional dishes

In 2024, it will be held on the evening of June 1 at Rosarium Park. Local producers and artisans of food, mostly breads, gather there, and it is also attractive.

Choosing the Queen Rose

For the citizens of Kazanlak, especially the younger ones, this traditional beauty contest is especially important. Every year a Queen Rose is elected. It is usually a young lady who becomes the ambassador of the festival and the Bulgarian rose around the world for the coming year. In 2024. Queen of the Rose is Nedelina Nedelcheva.

The show „Coronation of the Queen Rose“ 2024 will be held on Sevtopolis square on 31 May, Friday, at 20:30Afterwards starts a concert of Bulgarian duo Argirovi Brothers.

Festive parade

This is probably the climax of the Rose Festival and takes place on the last Sunday of the festival, this year on 2 June. Dance troupes, folklore groups, actors, all kinds of artistic formations, masquerade costumes and even puppeteers parade through the city centre. Colourful outfits, singing and dancing and throwing rose petals all the way – this is what the parade usually looks like. And quite customary, all the residents and visitors of the city line up on both sides to enjoy it. If you don’t want to be in the crowd, special reserved seating tickets are also available for sale.

“KAZANLAK-MEZI” – Festival of Balkan Culture and Culinary Arts

This event takes place in the last week of May above the Sevtopolis stadium and includes a variety of activities suggesting all-round fun. Meaning concerts of famous (pop-folk) artists, DJs, grill-beer, amusement park, children’s workshops, patriotic games and many more types of attractions. We’re writing this with the disclaimer that we’ve never attended this event, but if you’re into those, be aware that it is also there.

“Concerts at the Train Station” – a traveling festival featuring “X-R@y” and “Wikeda” bands

It starts on 31 May at 16:00. at Kazanlak railway station, where you can enjoy the music of “X-R@y” and “Wikeda”. A vintage train will also arrive at the station.

Tips on how to have a good time at the Rose Festival

The last 3 days of the festival (this year 31 May, 1 and 2 June) are the most intense in terms of events and if you don’t live in the region, it’s best to plan your stay for the whole weekend from Friday to Sunday. This way, you’ll go to the events you’re most interested in, and you’ll have somewhere to rest if you find the events too intensive.

We usually go on Saturdays without the kids and on Sundays with the kids. We take Saturday for the wine festival and try to go as early as possible – at the opening hour, when it is quieter. In the late afternoon it gets quite crowded. Then we sneak off to have a coffee, a snack or just a stroll down Street of Crafts.

On Sunday we take the kids and go together so they can enjoy the colourful festivities and watch the parade together. We always buy some tiaras, hairpins and other decorations with roses, it is an emotion for the kids.

More around Kazanlak

If it’s your first time in the region, there’s plenty to see, but even if it’s not your first time, you may not have managed to see it all. Here we are in the Valley of Roses and Thracian Kings, so we strongly recommend you to visit some of the Thracian tombs nearby. We have an article about the Thracian tombs Helvetia, Griffons and Shushmanets, but you can also visit the one located in the very town on Kazanlak. It is in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Moreover, you can visit Ostrusha (which was reopened in 2024 after restoration) and Golyamata Kosmatka.

You can also visit Stara Zagora, extremely beautiful city in the spring with all the linden trees and greenery.

Where to stay in Kazanlak

Mind that finding a place to stay in Kazanlak in the last minute is a mirage, but you have some chance in Stara Zagora, which is about 40 km or 30 minutes by car. Better check on Booking what is available.

Booking.com Booking.com

Or if you want to take a holiday with mineral pools and SPA, the options are town of Pavel Banya (25km and takes about 30 minutes), in the village of Ovoshtnik , where it is Kings’ Valley Medical & Spa Hotel 6km from Kazanlak (10 minutes) and in village of Yagoda in the direction of Stara Zagora, 20km – about 20 minutes.

Our favourite place, but not budget at all, is Villa Yana.

Where to eat in Kazanlak

One of our favourite palces is restaurant Meraki and this year they have thematic menu with roses, created by chef Nikolay Petreliyski. Reserve your seats in advance. Right next to the Iskra Museum, the “Iskra1860” .

Another place we go sometimes is restaurant Marcon , which is more like Italian cuisine and generally pleasant. It’s the largest among the ones we have mentions so it’s your best chance to find a table (but still it’s recommended to book in advance). It is located somewhere in the middle between the centre (Sevtopolis Square) and Rosarium Park (where the Rose Museum is).

The place for coffee is Specialty Place 23, they also have wonderful desserts. They serve the perfect coffee here, there is no better in the region. And the desserts are homemade – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. You can also buy specialty coffee. It is located south of Seutopolis Square.

Giorgio – Italian Bakery – another place for fast food which we recommend. Located at the north-west end of the Rosarium Park, the Rose Museum is also in the park.

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