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Why Plovdiv should be your next travel destination

I had this image about Bulgaria, that only small towns and ethnic villages – Veliko Tarnovo, Balcic, Sozopol, Nesebar, Arbanasi – or the natural sites scattered all over the country are worth visiting.

I was never keen on visiting any big city because I had traveled for work in Sofia twice, and I did not like it too much. What would a big city bring other than ugly communist buildings?

But Plovdiv, the second largest Bulgarian city, is a whole different world.


We knew only a thing or two about it, but we decided to give it a shot for our Bulgarian car trip and we discovered it is full of wonders!

Read more from our road trip to Bulgaria:

Road trip to Bulgaria mainland

Plovdiv will be European Capital city in 2019

This title along gives you hints there must be something special about it. It shares the title with Matera, a beautiful Italian town that we also visited.

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Plovdiv is the European Cultural Capital city of 2019

A mind blowing fact about Plovdiv

It is one of the oldest living cities in Europe, over 8000 years old, built by the Thracian people that populated the Balkan peninsula! They even claim to be older than Athens!

So it comes as no surprise there are many beautiful vestiges thousands of years old.  Surprisingly, most of them were discovered in the last half of the century only,  so the face of the town is still changing a lot even now.

Central Plovdiv is made of three parts:

First part – Main Town Square and the longest pedestrian street in Europe

The main town square with the Town Hall and the singing colored fountains is the starting point of the longest pedestrian street in Europe, 1700m long, ending with a colored bridge over the Maritza River.  The first part of this street is the most beautiful, it is bordered by good looking, pastel colored renaissance buildings and it’s the main shopping area.

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Close to the main Town Square, there are the remains of the Roman Forum (Ancient Philippopolis) and then not too far is a small but really nice and inexpensive museum, opened a few years ago, containing mosaics dating back to the Roman rule called The Cultural Center Trakart. Entrance is only 3 Leva.

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Roman Forum (Ancient Philippopolis)

It fascinates me how modern cities were build on top of the old settlements. This is perfectly showcased in Plovdiv by the huge Roman Stadium, buried under the main shopping street. 

Plovdiv was under Ottoman rule for half a millennium until 19th century, so there are a few oriental vestiges as well. The Dzhumaya Mosque, from 15th century is located near the Roman Stadium. There’s also a small pastry restaurant on one side, where you can have inexpensive Turkish sweets.

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Roman Stadium and Dzhumaya Mosque

Second part – The Kapana center, translated as “The Trap”

It used to consist of a few important and very animated commercial streets dating back to ottoman rule. Then in communist times, the quarter lost its importance and many buildings and small family businesses were closed. In recent years however it has been brought to life again, and many pubs and shops with handcrafted goods were opened.

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Kapana Quarter during Kapana Festival

This new fame is also due to the annual festival, Kapana Fest, that tries to revive the lost atmosphere. Without being aware of this festival, we got to Plovdiv in that exact weekend. We felt at first overwhelmed by the loud music shows, the crowds of people that were coming and going on the narrow streets, but it was fun in the same time to be part of it.

The Third part – The Historic Town – A UNESCO Site 

This is what I’d call the quintessence of Plovdiv, the heart and soul of the city! A really beautiful and unique place.

It lays on top of  3 of the 6 hills of Plovdiv – there used to be a total of 7 hills but one of them was razed to the grounds by local authorities to build the main city mall. Dear people, what are we doing to our Earth?!!!

The Revival Quarter is entirely made of colored, well preserved and decorated houses that seem to tangle to one another over the narrow cobblestone streets. Most of them date from the 19th century, built by wealthy commerciants.

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Revival Old Town
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Tangled houses in the Revival Quarter of the Historic Town

Nebet Tepe hill, one of the 3 hills in the old town has the ruins and stone walls of the ancient town, over 6000 years old and although is not the highest of the hills you get a spectacular view over the whole Plovdiv.

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Nebet Tepe hill and the ruins of the ancient city

The Roman Theater is the best kept and the most beautiful Roman vestige, used today for concerts due to its impeccable acoustics.

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It’s also very interesting how it was discovered, only 4 decades ago. On these grounds there used to be houses for living, but someday one of the owners made works to his backyard and found marble steps, he announced the authorities and this impressive theater was brought to life.

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The beautiful Roman Theater discovered by change only 4 decades ago

Other Travel Tips

I recommend you to take a guided tour of Plovdiv. We went with the Free Walking Tour of Plovdiv and the guide explained really nice the hot spots of the town inserting here and there some funny stories.

Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit, Summer gets way too hot.

I’m sure I convinced you to add Plovdiv among your next travel places. It’s a beautiful, inexpensive and fast developing Bulgarian Town with so many interesting sites.

June 2017

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30 thoughts on “Why Plovdiv should be your next travel destination

    1. It has some really interesting and beautiful vestiges dating to back to Roman empire rule. I was really surprised to see how many things you can do and see in Plovdiv. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. Julia, it’s been a few years since we’ve been to Plovdiv, but your post brought back some wonderful memories from our visit there: enjoying a picnic in a park, and celebrating my husband’s birthday by attending a performance at the Roman theater. I’d love to get back!

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    1. Happy Birthday to Husband! 🙂 I loved Plovdiv so much, and I only last year heard about it and then visited for the first time. One of my favorite Bulgarian cities. Thanks for your nice words :*

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    1. Yes, they have such a traditional beauty. I know, Plovdiv was like hiding in a shadow from the tourists but it has so much to offer. And i’m sure that being an European capital this year will make it more famous

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  2. I guess one has to do Plovdiv now because once 2019 hits, prices will skyrocket because of increased tourism. I love cities and towns with ancient history I can learn about and experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, so true! It was quite an affordable city last year. Starting this year probably it will become more expensive. And yes, walking around the historic center was like taking a stept back in time and we learned a lot of new things

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  3. I love visiting historic cities and Plovdiv seems like a great example of an old European city. If it is really more than 8000 years old then that is just amazing and the fact that they found so many beautiful ruins and preserved them so nicely throughout the city is really great.

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  4. I really didn’t know Plovdiv had so may Roman ruins, and well preserved! The Revival Quarter looks like my cup of tea, and inexpensive Turkish sweets? Count me in!

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  5. Great post on Plovidiv-a good friend of mine is from Bulgaria-immigrated when she was young. I’ll have to share this with her. The historic town is so charming and that Roman theatre! WOWZA!

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    1. Thanks:) would really be greatful if she would read it and let me know her opinion. Plovdiv is one of my favorite bulgarian towns that I have visited so far, along with Veliko Tarnovo:) Is your friend from any of them?

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  6. This is amazing and very eye-opening. Here, Bulgaria has still the rep of having been a cheap beach destination for the East European citizens – and eventually the cheap getting-wasted-at-the-Balaton-destination. Obviously, both don’t do it justice – Plovdiv looks amazing! I think that the Balkan countries will catch up sooner or later and become really great travel hot spots – so I probably should follow your steps pretty soon….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, in my opinion, there are a lot more nicer places to discover in Bulgaria inland, rather than on the sea side. I was not such a big fan of the sea side to be honest, because it was extremely crowded, and people were there only for the purpose of partying. In Plovdiv or Veliko Tarnovo, people were there to explore, to be amazed. If you mention visiting Bulgaria soon, I also invite you to discover my beautiful country, Romania 😉 It has lately been catching more and more attention from visitors and it’s worth exploring also, in my opinion.
      Thank you for your nice and honest comment.
      Julia

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  7. I haven’t been to Bulgaria or even heard of this place before but it does look fantastic! I like the Roman ruins in the middle. How awesome

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    1. Don’t worry, I haven’t heard about it either, until two years ago, and I live in Romania, that is a neighbor country to Bulgaria. But it’s a great city, and there are many nice places to see in Bulgaria. Also, in my home country Romania:) You should also plan a visit here, it’s really beautiful 😉

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