After taking a look at all the interesting things Bulgaria’s capital - Sofia offers (you can read more about that here), we’re taking a trip to another amazing city - Plovdiv. This is a city that is more than 8000 years old, with its history being traced back to the Neolithic era. This has created an incredible opportunity for us to see Roman stadiums, neolithic findings, century old churches, but also have some coffee in a modern restaurant and dive deep into the city’s vibrant artistic personality. The city’s history and culture is so incredibly rich, it’s worth its own TV Series. There are truly some amazing things to be seen there, and today I’m going to tell you some of them. Keep in mind that these suggestions are not sorted in any way. Each recommendation has its own qualities that make it worth visiting in our opinion – and hopefully there’s something in here for everyone!
1) Ancient Theatre
The first thing on our list will send you back thousands of years. The ancient theater of Philippopolis is one of the best preserved in the world. It was constructed during the rule of the Roman emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus (98-117) AD, and uncovered with the archeological findings from the 80s. It is also not only used as a tourist attraction, but has an important spot in the modern cultural life of Plovdiv as well. This incredible piece of history still hosts many performances for more than 3 000 spectators to this day. Operas, plays, concerts and other events are a regular occurrence there. You can easily buy a ticket and watch a show in this beautiful and incredibly ancient theater. If you want to take some incredible photos, you should come earlier during the day, as there are not that many people visiting at that time.
2) Roman Stadium
Next we have the Roman Stadium, which also is a very interesting artifact of the past. It was built during Emperor Hadrian’s reign in the 2nd century AD. Right now, you can see this piece of history while taking a stroll down Plovdiv’s main street. In the past, this used to be a massive stadium that could seat up to 30 000 people, and was 240 m (787ft) long, and 50 m (164 ft) wide. Now, only a part of it has been restored. You can look at it, as well as take a seat where thousands of years ago many others were sitting. It is used as a tourist attraction today, and it is an incredible part of the city’s atmosphere of a modern, yet incredibly ancient place.
3) Plovdiv Old Town
This next point on the list is more of a collection of things to do and see. The Architecural and Historical Reserve “Old Plovdiv” (also called “Old Town”) covers a total area of 35 km² and combines many fascinating sights. There, you can experience the spirit of Antiquity, as well as the Middle Ages and the Bulgarian Renaissance. A walk there is definitely a must if you’re visiting the city, since this place has an atmosphere of its own and will offer you an incredibly rich Bulgarian experience. You can take a seat at a local café, try the national cuisine in the cozy restaurants, explore museums, have a look at traditional Bulgarian handicrafts like making knives, knitting and many more. The houses in this district carry the distinct Bulgarian Renaissance architecture and style and are incredibly beautiful. Overall, this place is definitely worth checking out. It has so much of Bulgaria’s beauty, history and culture gathered together, that it would be a shame to miss out on. Since it’s a lot to cover, I’m only going to be mentioning one or two things that can be seen in this district, but taking a stroll on your own will uncover many exciting experiences.
4) Regional Ethnographic Museum
This museum can be found in the Old Town district. It is currently hosted in one of the most beautiful houses there, and offers a direct connection to Bulgarian tradition. The house itself was built in 1847 by a master-builder and has an incredibly picturesque facade. The inside is as impressive as the outside however, and you can not only view the incredibly beautiful and preserved architecture, but also the interior design, which is still representative of how Bulgarians used to arrange their household more than 150 years ago. You can view furniture, old musical instruments, textile, craft tools, agricultural tools and many, many more interesting objects. No matter if you just want to take an incredible Instagram picture, or you want to dive in to this nation’s incredibly rich history, this is a place that is definitely worth your time.
5) Asen’s Fortress
This is a bit further away and is a perfect destination for a day trip. With a car, you only need to drive 30 minutes to reach this incredible piece of history near Asenovgrad. The area has been in use since V - IV century BC by the ancient Thracians, Romans, Byzantines and of course - Bulgarians. Most of the architecture that we see today dates back to the Bulgarian ruler Tsar Ivan Asen II, who renovated the fortress in 1231, and that is why it carries its name. This place offers not only an incredible historical experience, but the view to the beautiful Rhodope mountains is truly incredible. Overall, if you have the time to spend, this is definitely a day trip worth making.
6) Visit the Hills of Plovdiv
Plovdiv is known as the city of seven hills, but as the years went on, there were only six of them left. The seventh, Markovo Tepe, was destroyed in the early twentieth century, with its stone being used to pave many of the city's streets. These hills offer incredible natural beauty, a taste of modern life, incredible views and much more. They are incredibly symbolical of Plovdiv’s bright culture and atmosphere.
The largest, most remote one is Youth Hill. There, you can find a large park, with a mini railway for children. Second is Bunardzhika or Liberators Hill, on the top of which you can find monuments of the Russian liberators. Right in the center of modern Plovdiv, you can find Sahat Tepe or Danov Hill, which is called the clock hill. This is because of its clock tower, dating back to the 17th century and built around an earlier Roman sundial found there. The last three hills are a part of the Old Plovdiv reserve and are called Dzhambaz, Taksim and Nebet Tepe. They are also the reason for the Roman name of the city, which was Trimontium (Three hills).
7) Take a walk along the “Glavna” (Main) street (Knyaz Alexander I)
This is the main street in the city centre, which is locally called “Glavnata”. It is the largest pedestrian street in Europe, as not even bicycles are allowed on this street. It connects many of Plovdiv’s main sights, as well as giving many opportunities for a bite to eat. The street also ends with a nice park, where you can sit down and enjoy the atmosphere of this ancient, yet modern city. The park also has a lovely fountain, called locally the “Singing fountain”, because of the music that is being played there and the nice light show to be enjoyed. It combines incredible architecture with history, as well as nature and modern life. This is the street you’ll most likely be walking on to get to many of this town’s sites.
This is the artistic neighborhood of Plovdiv. It plays host to the town’s modern vibe, has incredible trendy restaurants and a Bohemian atmosphere. The streets of this district (with Kapana translating to “the Trap” in Bulgarian) emerged over 5 centuries ago as a craftsman’s center. The streets still carry names of traditional Bulgarian crafts’. It hosts incredible graffiti art, which make for incredible Instagram pictures, as well as café’s, art shops and much more. If you make it there for the Kapana Festival, which is hosted two times a year, you can also be able to buy original crafts such as jewelry, paintings and much more from Bulgarian artists all over the world. It is incredibly near to the Old Town district, so you should definitely come check this neighborhood out.
9) The Rowing Canal
The Rowing Canal is a sports facility, but also used by locals for jogging, riding a bike or just taking a walk. This is the largest facility of this kind in the Balkans, as the channel is 2 200 meters long(ca. 7217 ft), 120 meters(393ft) wide and three meters(9ft) deep. Its location is right next to the Recreation and Culture Park. You can watch a truly incredible sunset here, and spend some time just enjoying the weather and atmosphere.
10) Check out the beautiful Bachkovo Monastery
This monastery is also an incredible part of Bulgaria’s history. Located near Asenovgrad, you can easily combine seeing this Monastery with your excursion to Asen’s Fortress. The monastery was founded in 1083, with different parts of it being constructed later on. It is an incredible view into Bulgaria’s history and religious significance, as it hosts some very old frescoes. A very interesting icon you can see there is from 1311, called the Holy Mother of God”, and it is believed to have miraculous properties. It is an incredible place, hidden away in the mountain and offering an incredible window into the past.
If you find yourself arriving pre-check-in or post-check-out, you can store your luggage in Plovdiv with Bounce. Bounce is an app every traveler should have on their phone. They have thousands of luggage storage locations in most major cities worldwide where you can instantly leave your bags for a low daily rate.
Plovdiv is a very large city, so there is definitely much more to do and experience. I encourage you to venture out on your own and see what other lovely sights you can find. The locals are also very friendly and you can find vibrant nightlife, so however you want to spend your time - you can find what you like. It combines nature, history and city life perfectly, so it will definitely be a place you can enjoy.
If you have the time, there are many amazing things you can do in and around Plovdiv. Here are a few options below:
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