Plovdiv quickly became one of my favourite cities I’ve visited. Within a 10-minute radius it combines an ancient old town, modern main street and quirky colourful neighbourhood full of life. In our 3 days here we barely stopped exploring and enjoyed learning about it’s vibrant history, and it’s exciting future which they are eagerly preparing for.
Even the small Old Town contains an insane amount of variety of architecture, overlapping centuries of history together. A lot of restorations have happened very recently so we felt very lucky to see it all now. The main attraction is the Ancient Theatre which is nestled on the hill and looks over Plovdiv. It is surprisingly well preserved and sparkles white in the sun between it’s crumbling ruins.
You can buy a combined ticket which allows you to enter 5 attractions for only 5lv as a student. I can’t remember the adult price but it wasn’t much more. The Ancient Theatre is included and it was my favourite – you must go!
I would also recommend the free walking tour which takes you all around the old town and the rest of central Plovdiv and is very informative. Great tour.
The next biggest historical site in the Old Town is the fortress. It’s much older and therefore not as well preserved, but the views are second to none.
Throughout the Old Town you will se unique architecture from the Bulgarian Revival Period, which happened a few centuries after western Europe. These buildings appear ‘top heavy’, constructed mainly of wood and are colourfully painted with the addition of patterns and architectural details.
The combined ticket allows entrance to many of these houses, the most popular being Balabanov House which has the rooms set up how they would have been when it was built and also houses modern art.
Transitioning from Old to New
The architecture and streets change quickly from the modern parts of the city to the ancient areas, and yet nothing feels out of place or strange. The old and new intermingle effortlessly and you will find elements of both throughout the town. Plovdiv seems to have put a lot of effort into creating a ‘tourism centre’ for becoming the Capital of Culture 2019, and it works really well.
Modern Main Street
There is one very long street in Plovdiv that you will always find is the busiest. It’s full of shops, restaurants, bars, seating and is a beautiful mix of Italianate architecture and blooming flowers. It also happens to be built over the ancient Roman Stadium which is partly excavated and on show, and there is a lot of information about it along the way. It culminates in a stunning park which winds around ponds and fountains and puts on a bright light and water show every evening.
‘The Trap’ Neighbourhood
This is the area we stayed in and is situated minutes from both the old town and the main street. It also boasts loads of bars, cafes and restaurants so is buzzing throughout the day and night. This neighbourhood barely existed 5 years ago, but in preparation for 2019, they have really spruced it up, painting the buildings in different colours, putting up bunting everywhere and creating a small community of artists, tourists and locals. You will get lost in the winding streets – hence the name of it – but it’s a fun place that I would recommend staying in or at least having a wander round.
Art in Plovdiv
One of the things that unifies these different areas is the art that you will find everywhere. We’ve found street art to be a constant throughout Bulgaria, but particularly in Plovdiv which seems to be a centre for art.
The free walking tour has some really interesting stories about some of the street art.
Plovdiv has certainly been a highlight of our trip to Bulgaria and it is definitely worth a visit – particularly due to it being the Capital of Culture 2019! I hope it gets bigger and better because it deserves it.
Sorry for the ramble.
PS. Quick tip:
Take a walk to the Small Basilica. You can get to it from the park at the end of the main street. It’s a modern reconstruction of the ruins found on the site and you can see Roman mosaics and also modern art displayed. It shows a couple of videos about Plovdiv that are a great introduction to the city.
Again, it’s included in the combined attraction ticket.