Known as the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Europe, Plovdiv is one of the best cities to visit in Bulgaria. The city’s rich and versified history dates all the way back to the 6th millennium BC. Throughout the years, various tribes and nations called the territories of Plovdiv their home. That is one of the main reasons why the city is so colorful and vibrant, culturally and traditionally diverse that visitors are often completely impressed by it. Once you pay a visit to Plovdiv, you will definitely want to come back and experience even more! If you are still in doubt, keep reading as I have prepared the ultimate travel guide to Plovdiv.
How to Get to Plovdiv
Before we dive straight into the main attractions and reasons why you should start planning a trip to Plovdiv as soon as possible, let’s go through how to get there! Situated approximately 140 km away from the capital city of Bulgaria – Sofia, Plovdiv is an easy day trip for those who only have limited amount of time. If you are planning a longer trip to Bulgaria, though, you should definitely consider staying overnight, in order to fully immerse yourself into the unique, charming atmosphere of Plovdiv.
Located along the banks of one of the largest rivers in Europe – Maritsa, Plovdiv is at the heart of the Upper Thracian Plain of Bulgaria. Visitors can catch a bus from Sofia Central Bus Station to Plovdiv, which runs almost every hour and get ready for a journey of about 2 hours. If you are looking for a more romantic and slightly old-fashioned way of traveling, you can also take one of the direct trains from Sofia to Plovdiv, which take about 2 and a half hours. If you are already planning on renting a car, you can easily reach the city in just one hour following the A1 highway. Just keep in mind that parking can be a challenge in Plovdiv with its narrow winding streets.
Getting around Plovdiv is also quite easy. Not only is walking one of the easiest ways to navigate your way around, but it is also a fantastic way to fully immerse yourself into the charming vibe of the city.
Places to Visit
Now that you are well prepared and aware how to get to Plovdiv, next on my travel guide to Plovdiv, I am covering some of the best places to visit in the city.
Plovdiv Old Town
The Ancient part of the city, is definitely the one that deserves your attention the most. Considered the city’s architectural and historical reserve, you will feel like you are visiting an open-air museum when strolling down the narrow cobblestone streets of Plovdiv. With numerous famous Bulgarian writers and poets, who called Plovdiv their home at least once in their lifetime, visitors will definitely find inspiration and creativity while admiring the colorful old houses. Do not just admire the outside, though, many of these buildings have been transformed into museums, shops and restaurants, which are hiding peaceful and picturesque courtyards to be found only once you take a step inside. We went into one to taste some of their rose liquors, it was so good we took a few bottles home with us. Greek ruins are still be excavated, this city has so many ruins and one of the most notable is the fantastic Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis.
As you are strolling down the winding alleys, you will inevitably find yourself at the heart of the old town of Plovdiv. Right there, visitors will find the spectacular Roman Stadium dating back to the 2nd century AD. With a total capacity of 30,000 spectators, the Stadium of Philippopolis is among the biggest preserved Roman coliseums on the Balkans. The H&M store has glass rooms in the basement where you can see the colosseum well.
Kapana is another tourist attraction, worth visiting when in Plovdiv. Often referred to as the creative district of the city, Kapana is a trendy, art location filled with vibrant and colorful restaurants, bars and shops. Its name, as well as its story is quite extraordinary. Kapana means “the trap” and this neighborhood was a perishing run-down area, which did not receive much attention until a few years ago. Currently, however, almost all narrow cobblestone alleys are pedestrianized, lined with local galleries, studios and art spaces. While, visitors should definitely try some of the delicious meals in one of the small boho restaurants in the area, it is the vibe of Kapana which is worth experiencing. Just allow yourself to get lost in between the alleys and spend some time people watching, you will immediately notice the colorful streets filled with happy people and vibrant life.
European Capital of Culture 2019
To finish off my travel guide to Plovdiv, it is impossible not to mention that Plovdiv was awarded the European Capital of Culture in 2019 together with Matera, Italy. It’s the endless program of ongoing cultural events, music concerts, art exhibits and traditional cultural shows, which helped Plovdiv win the title among many other European cities. Nothing has changed since; the city never stops to demonstrate its creativity and atmosphere and visitors can find a huge variety of free events throughout the year.
If you want to catch a glimpse of the Bulgarian culture, history and traditions, while diving into a world of modern art and creativity, Plovdiv is the place for you. Start packing and I hope you will use my travel guide to Plovdiv to plan the ultimate trip.