With more than 70 centuries of history, Bulgaria’s second-largest city – Plovdiv is one of the oldest living settlements in the world! It is located only 130 km away from Sofia, and can easily be reached from the capital for less than 2 hours.
Plovdiv can be described as a crosspoint where the culture, the history, and the arts of the East meets and interact with that of the West. It was deservedly chosen to be the European capital of culture for 2019!
The 3 most visited areas – The Old Town, The main pedestrian street, and the Kapana creative district. All located in the city center, right next to each other. Most of the landmarks are within a walking distance, which makes the town easy to explore. One day of sightseeing is never going to be enough for such a destination as Plovdiv, but if you organize your time properly, it will be enough to explore all the main sights. Here are Plovdiv’s top tourist sights, which I would recommend to every first-time visitor:
Visit the Ancient Тheater of Philippopolis
Entrance fee: 5 leva (approximately 2.5 euros)
Plovdiv is home to one of the world’s best-preserved ancient theatres! The builders have used the natural curve between two of the city’s hills to create a real architectural masterpiece!
The theater once had 28 rows, 20 of which still remain. It can be observed from the outside but paying to enter it is worth it. You can take a walk around the rows, and even go to the scene, and the orchestra, where theatrical plays, cultural events, fights with animals, and probably also gladiator flights have taken place 20 centuries ago! It is a photogenic sight to take selfies and pictures.
The theater is located in the old town and dates back to the I century. Since being re-discovered in the late 1970’s, it has been used again for cultural events, and concerts, like other famous ancient sights, such as the Arena di Verona, and Arena Pula.
The place keeps its small secrets, some of which are unknown even for many of the locals. A few people know that an ancient game, similar to checkers (draughts) is carved in the marble of one of the rows, together with the names of the ancient town’s neighborhoods!
Other Roman sights, which could be seen in Plovdiv are the ruins of the Roman Forum, Odeon, and Stadium.
Explore the Revival Period houses of Plovdiv’s Old Town
The old town is famous for its Revival Period mansions, most of which were built in the XVIII, and XIX centuries. Houses, which deserve every visitor’s attention are:
The Kuyumdzhiev’s house – Entrance fee 6 levs (approximately 3 euros) Guided visit in English 10 leva (approximately 5 euros) more.
This beautiful house, which currently hosts the Ethnographic Museum is for sure one of the most spectacular Revival Period houses in Bulgaria and one of the top landmarks in town. It was constructed in the mid-XIX century, by a self-taught Bulgarian master only for mere 10 months period! As most of these huge houses at that period, this mansion was built for one main purpose – to impress! In the museum, you can see exhibits, and items from different periods: traditional Bulgarian costumes, musical instruments, agricultural tools, carpets, and many, many others. The entrance to the beautiful garden is free of charge.
Many of the Revival mansions in the old town host different exhibitions, or are used for cultural events. Right behind the Ethnographic museum, you will find two more architectural gems: House Georgiaigi, and House Nedkovich
An ancient city on Seven Hills
Just like Rome, and Lisbon, Plovdiv is also famous as the city on the seven hills, which dominate the urban landscape. Climbing on the top of at least one of these hills is a must-do experience!
Nebet Tepe hill is the place where Plovdiv was born more than 7000 years ago. It is located in the Old Town, close to the Ethnographic museum. Nebet Tepe is an archaeological reserve. It includes preserved fortress walls from different periods, ruins of a bastion, and a watchtower, and a huge, well-preserved water storage tank, built during the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 -1396)!
If the sky is clear, from the top of the hill, you will enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the city, and the surrounding area, including the Balkan Mountains, and the Rhodopes, which are famous as the birthplace of Orpheus!
Sahat Tepe or Clock-tower Hill also has a lot to offer. It can be easily reached from the main pedestrian street. On the top of that hill, which also has a status of a natural landmark due to it’s preserved natural flora and fauna, you will find an XVI-century clock tower, built during the Ottoman period.
Well, the truth is that nowadays, the hills are actually six, as the seventh one was used for a stone quarry, and has disappeared decades ago!
Get lost, and find yourself in Plovdiv’s art district
Plovdiv’s creative art district is named Kapana (or The Trap). It’s a favorite place for both the locals and the city’s visitors. The variety of handicraft shops, charming cozy bars, and restaurants make Kapana the perfect choice for spending part of your free time. Here you can taste everything from burgers, and craft beers, to traditional Bulgarian wines, and cuisine, surrounded by art and vibrant atmosphere!
Kapana is right next to the Old Town. It is a small and compact neighborhood, but the curvy narrow streets give the visitors a perspective of sheerness and a sense that they may get lost easily. Don’t worry, you wouldn’t. The story behind The Trap’s name is completely different.
A major event is the Kapana street fest, which is held every autumn.
Take a walk along with one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe.
Plovdiv’s main pedestrian street is for sure the liveliest place in town. Having a walk along it is a perfect choice, before saying goodbye to ancient Philippopolis.
Just like on The Champs Elysees, you can find everything you want. There are shops, traditional rose oil cosmetics, oriental sweets, gelato, and souvenirs, street musicians, and artists. Most of the buildings date back to the early XX century and combine different European architectural styles. A huge ancient stadium is buried under the street! The ruins of the rows could be well observed at the Dzhumaya square, right next to the Mosque,
Do not forget to look up from time to time, while walking, and to observe the beautifully decorated facades.
Traventuria’s tour of Plovdiv is a time-efficient way of exploring the city, while still having the time of your own to enjoy it. We offer also a trip combing Plovdiv with the Revival Town of Koprivshtitsa.