The City Under the Hills
Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s fascinating second-largest city, offers you more than enough reasons to visit and then keep going back for more. It is one of the most culturally vibrant places in southeastern Europe, with enough cultural festivals, arty neighborhoods and cool bars to keep today’s urban explorers more than happy.
Founded according to various estimates between 8000 and 6000 years ago, Plovdiv ranks right there among not only the oldest cities in Europe, but in the entire world. And this millennial history isn’t only on paper either – traces of Plovdiv’s ancient existence are to be found all over the place, from Ancient Roman theaters to Ottoman mosques.
Plovdiv is located on seven hills which perfect places for sport and cultural events. The romantic atmosphere of the city can be felt everywhere – whether enjoying Lake with the Singing fountains, or having a drink in an art cafeteria.
How to get there?
By plane :
International Plovdiv Airport is located next to the village of Krumovo, 15 km away from the city center (about 20 min by car). The airport is served by the low-cost flight company Ryanair, providing direct flights to London Stansted Airport and Frankfurt Haan.
Plovdiv International Airport is easily accessible by the following means of transport:
- By car – The trip is about 20-minutes-long. At the airport there is a paid parking area.
- By taxi – The price of going to the airport by taxi will be around 15 – 20 BGN (7.50 – 10 EU)
- By public shared shuttle – Plovdiv Airport is served by shuttle line №2.
- By private car transfer – a lot of rent-a-car companies in Plovdiv provide transfers to the airport, as well. The usual price of such service is about 20 BGN (10 EU).
Find flights here
There are many national and international trains from and to Plovdiv.
The railway station is located near the city center, it takes around 10-15 min walk to the centre. Rail travel and ticketing in Bulgaria is unique. Be careful because after buying a return trip ticket, before boarding the train on the return you have to obtain a stamp on your ticket at the cashier. Otherwise you will have to pay a fine to the conductor or be kicked off the train to get the stamp.
There are many buses for cities all around Bulgaria and to some that are outside the country.
What to do and see?
Old Town – The car-free cobblestone streets of old Plovdiv are a joy, where traditional homes blend with Plovdiv’s roman ruins. Most of the houses in this part of the city, particularly on Ulitsa Saborna, are half-timbered and some of the richer examples are painted in vivid colors.
Ancient theater – One of the world’s most intact Ancient theatres, this building is still in use almost 2000 years after it was constructed. There’s capacity for up to 7000 here and the structure cuts into the side of Taksim Tepe, one of Plovdiv’s six hills, and as you step down the slope towards the terraces the views of the city and the Rhodope Mountains behind are astounding. And if you are lucky enough you might catch an opera performance.
Plovdiv Roman Stadium – It sits beneath parts of Plovdiv’s Old Town and like the city’s Roman theater was only excavated in the 20th century. The best views can be had from Dzhumaya Square where you can look over the railings down to a large section of the stadium’s seating.
Alyosha Monument – This gigantic 36-foot statue of a Russian soldier can be seen across the ancient Bulgarian city of Plovdiv. Erected in 1957, it stands as a monument to the Red Army’s “liberation” of the city during World War II. The views from the top of the structure are unbeatable, and you’ll likely be the only one visiting. Climbing the weaving path to the top, the Roman amphitheater on an adjacent hill comes into view. Old town’s famous “Kapana” (The Trap) area is also visible, and looks like a labyrinth of winding cobblestone alleys from up above. Nowadays you can only see a small part of that stadium, but enough to understand.
Regional Ethnographic Museum –This beautiful house with its richly decorated Baroque facade once belonged to the rich trader Argir Kuyumdzhioglu. Nowadays it houses Plovdiv’s ethnographic museum. It is also the second largest specialized museum of this type in Bulgaria. It is an acknowledged scientific-educational institution and an attractive center for cultural tourism. Take time to sit down and enjoy the lush greenery and tranquility of the garden and imagine living in this magnificent property.
Mevlevi Hane – Mevlevi (Mavlevi) Hane is located in the Old Town and is defined as the only dervish monastery of this kind, which is actually Muslim. He belonged to the Persian religious community of the Order of the Dancing Dervishes or better known as “mavlevii”.
Church of St. Konstantin and Elena – This is Plovdiv’s oldest church and one of its most beloved. Admire marvellous frescoes and a colourful carved ceiling in the exterior colonnade, and a baroque-style Viennese iconostasis and religious art spanning the 15th to 18th centuries inside.
The Clock Tower- West of Three-hills rises Sahat tepe /Danov’s hill/ with its famous Clock Tower. The Tower can be reached from the Roman Stadium Square in 5-6 minutes walking. The earliest record of the Tower dates back to 1623.
Plovdiv Aviation Museum – It has an excellent collection of some 60 aircraft plus a small indoor exhibition area. There is little in English but the staff are very helpful and friendly.
Walk Plovdiv’s Hills – Plovdiv’s six hills rise like big humps from the body of the city. There used to be seven, but one, Markovo Tepe, was quarried for its syenite stone in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, most of the paving around Plovidv is made from this syenite, so if you walk the city streets you could say you’re walking on Markovo Tepe!
Balabanov House – One of Plovdiv’s most beautiful Bulgarian National Revival–era mansions, Balabanov House is an enjoyable way to experience old town nostalgia as well as contemporary art. The house was faithfully reconstructed in 19th-century style during the 1970s.
Tsar Simeon Garden – Plovdiv’s prettiest place to stroll, Tsar Simeon Garden was sculpted by Swiss architect Lucien Chevalas in 1892; he’s now lovingly referred to as the ‘minister of flowers’.
Cuisine and Nightlife:
Plovdiv is known for its laid-back, artsy atmosphere, and so are its restaurants. From traditional cuisine in amazing old houses in the Old Town to open-air gardens, Bavarian-style breweries, and even Mexican restaurants – Plovdiv offers a versatile menu of food venue options.
The best clubs and bars are located in the Kapana district or in the vicinity of the universities. Most places move outside in the summer months when the temperatures remain high throughout the night.
Where to stay?
Find out the best offers here.