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  • Andy Honey

Uncovering the Charm of Plovdiv: 10 Irresistible Reasons to Explore Bulgaria's Historic Gem


a scenic view across the rooftops of plovdiv in bulgaria

Have you ever dreamt of stepping into a time capsule, where ancient history meets vibrant culture? Look no further than Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s hidden gem, where every cobblestone street whispers tales of centuries past.


Buckle up and get ready for an unforgettable journey through the charming city of Plovdiv!


Here are 10 reasons why you should pack your bags and head straight to this enchanting destination:


Key Takeaways:


- Plovdiv is a captivating blend of history, culture, and hospitality, offering travellers a truly immersive experience.


- The city's Old Town, artistic neighbourhoods, and culinary scene are not to be missed.


- With its affordability and warm hospitality, Plovdiv welcomes visitors with open arms.


- Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities for adventure amidst the city's stunning natural landscapes.


- From panoramic views to hidden gems, Plovdiv promises unforgettable moments at every turn.


1. Time Travel Galore:

Ever fantasised about wandering through the ages? Plovdiv, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, is your time travel machine! From Roman amphitheaters to Ottoman mosques and Thracian ruins, every corner tells a story. Get ready to lose yourself in the layers of history that Plovdiv lovingly preserves.


2. Old Town Magic:

Step into the heart of Plovdiv – its mesmerising Old Town. Marvel at the colourful Revival-era houses adorned with wooden balconies and blooming bougainvillea. As you stroll through its labyrinthine alleys, let the spirit of the past embrace you.


3. Artistic Haven:

Calling all art enthusiasts! Plovdiv isn’t just a historical treasure trove; it’s also a thriving artistic hub. Explore Kapana, the trendy neighbourhood bursting with galleries, street art, and artisanal shops. Get ready to be inspired by the creativity pulsating through every corner.


4. Culinary Delights:

Prepare your taste buds for a culinary rollercoaster! Plovdiv’s gastronomy scene is a delightful fusion of flavours, blending traditional Bulgarian dishes with modern twists. Indulge in mouthwatering banitsa (flaky pastry), savoury kebapche (grilled minced meat), and, of course, sip on some rakia to truly savour the local essence.


an antique shop in plovdiv, bulgaria

5. Thriving Cultural Scene:

Culture buffs, rejoice! Plovdiv boasts a dynamic cultural calendar, with festivals, concerts, and events happening year-round. Don’t miss the International Fair, the vibrant Night of Museums, or the pulsating vibes of the Plovdiv Jazz Fest. There’s never a dull moment in this city of culture!


6. Breathtaking Views:

For those seeking panoramic vistas, Plovdiv doesn’t disappoint. Climb up to Nebet Tepe, one of the city’s seven hills, and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the picturesque landscape below. As the sun sets behind the Rhodope Mountains, you’ll understand why Plovdiv is often called the “City of the Seven Hills.”


7. Warm Hospitality:

Bulgarians are renowned for their warmth and hospitality, and Plovdiv is no exception. Prepare to be welcomed with open arms and genuine smiles wherever you go. Engage in heartfelt conversations with locals, immerse yourself in their traditions, and make memories that will last a lifetime.


8. Affordability:

Good news for budget-conscious travellers! Plovdiv offers incredible value for money, making it the perfect destination for those looking to stretch their dollars without compromising on experiences. From accommodation to dining and activities, you’ll find that your wallet stretches further in this charming city.


9. Outdoor Adventures:

Plovdiv isn’t just about history and culture; it’s also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Embark on hiking trails in the Rhodope Mountains, explore the picturesque vineyards of the Thracian Valley, or unwind by the tranquil waters of the Maritsa River. The options for outdoor adventures are endless!


10. Hidden Gems Await:

Last but certainly not least, Plovdiv is a city of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s stumbling upon a quaint artisan workshop, finding a secret garden, or visiting a hidden cafe tucked away in the cobblestone streets, every moment in Plovdiv is filled with delightful surprises.


an historic building on the corner of a street next to a bar in plovdiv, bulgaria

Best Time to Visit Plovdiv, Bulgaria


The best time to visit Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is during the spring and autumn months, specifically from April to June and September to October.


Weather: During spring and autumn, Plovdiv experiences mild temperatures, making it pleasant for outdoor activities and sightseeing. The temperatures are comfortable, ranging from around 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F), ideal for exploring the city's historic sites, strolling through the Old Town, and enjoying outdoor cafes.


Crowds: Unlike the peak tourist season in summer, spring and autumn see fewer tourists, resulting in shorter lines at popular attractions and a more relaxed atmosphere overall. You'll have more space to explore the city without feeling overwhelmed by crowds, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in Plovdiv's charm.


Events and Festivals: Spring and autumn are also times when Plovdiv hosts various cultural events and festivals. From music concerts to art exhibitions and food festivals, there's always something happening in the city during these seasons. You can experience the vibrant cultural scene of Plovdiv while enjoying the favourable weather.


Scenic Beauty: The surrounding landscapes of Plovdiv are particularly stunning during spring and autumn. In spring, the countryside comes alive with colourful wildflowers and blossoming trees, while autumn paints the hillsides with vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold. The mild weather allows for scenic hikes and leisurely walks in nature.


Affordability: Travelling to Plovdiv during the shoulder seasons often means lower accommodation rates and better deals on flights and transportation. You can enjoy the city's attractions and amenities without breaking the bank, allowing for a more budget-friendly travel experience.


a church spire next to an old building in plovdiv, bulgaria

Overall, spring and autumn offer the perfect combination of pleasant weather, fewer crowds, cultural events, and scenic beauty, making them the best times to visit Plovdiv.


Travelling to Plovdiv, Bulgaria


By Air:

Plovdiv Airport (PDV): If you're flying domestically within Bulgaria or from select European cities, you can fly directly to Plovdiv Airport. It's located about 12 kilometres southeast of the city centre. However, please note that Plovdiv Airport has limited international flights, so you may need to consider alternative airports.

Sofia Airport (SOF): Sofia Airport is the largest airport in Bulgaria and serves as a major international gateway. From Sofia, you can easily reach Plovdiv by bus, train, or car. The distance between Sofia and Plovdiv is approximately 150 kilometres, and the journey takes around 2 hours by road.



By Train:

Domestic Trains: Plovdiv is well-connected to major cities in Bulgaria by train. The Central Railway Station in Plovdiv offers regular train services to Sofia, Burgas, Varna, and other destinations. The train journey from Sofia to Plovdiv takes around 2-3 hours, depending on the type of train.


By Bus:

Domestic and International Buses: Plovdiv has a central bus station (South Bus Station) located near the city centre, offering domestic and international bus services. You can find buses connecting Plovdiv to Sofia, Burgas, Varna, and other cities in Bulgaria, as well as international destinations in neighbouring countries like Greece, Turkey, and Serbia.


By Car:

Car Hire: If you prefer the flexibility of driving, you can rent a car and drive to Plovdiv. Bulgaria has a well-maintained road network, and the journey to Plovdiv from major cities like Sofia is relatively straightforward. Just make sure to familiarise yourself with Bulgarian traffic rules and regulations.



By Taxi or Ride-Sharing:

Local Taxis: Upon arrival in Plovdiv, you can easily hail a taxi or use ride-sharing apps to reach your accommodation or explore the city. Taxis are readily available at transportation hubs like the airport, train station, and bus station. Make sure to use licensed taxis and agree on the fare before starting your journey.


Key Takeaways:


- Plovdiv Airport offers limited international flights, so consider flying to Sofia Airport and then travelling to Plovdiv by train, bus, or car.


- The Central Railway Station and South Bus Station are the main transportation hubs in Plovdiv for train and bus services, respectively.


- Bulgaria has well-maintained roads, making self-driving a convenient option for reaching Plovdiv from major cities.


- When using taxis or ride-sharing, ensure to choose licensed providers and agree on the fare in advance.


No matter which mode of transportation you choose, traveling to Plovdiv promises to be a rewarding journey, with the city's rich history and vibrant culture awaiting your exploration.


 

Travel Tips


Before You Go:


Check Visa Requirements: Verify if you need a visa to enter Bulgaria based on your nationality. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned stay.


Currency: The currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN). While credit cards are widely accepted in Plovdiv, it's advisable to carry some cash for small purchases and in case you encounter establishments that only accept cash.


Language: Bulgarian is the official language, but many people in Plovdiv, especially in tourist areas, speak English. Learning a few basic Bulgarian phrases can enhance your experience and interactions with locals.


Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance to cover unexpected medical expenses, trip cancellations, or lost luggage during your visit to Plovdiv.



Getting Around:


Walking: Plovdiv's city centre and Old Town are best explored on foot. Wear comfortable shoes as you navigate the cobblestone streets and alleys, and be prepared for uphill walks due to the city's hilly terrain.


Public Transport: Plovdiv has an efficient public transportation system, including buses and trams, which can take you to various parts of the city and nearby attractions. Purchase tickets from kiosks or on board.


Renting a Bike: Consider renting a bike to explore Plovdiv's parks and riverside paths. It's a fun and eco-friendly way to see the city's sights at your own pace.


Safety and Health:


Emergency Numbers: Familiarise yourself with emergency contact numbers, including 112 for general emergencies, 150 for ambulance, and 166 for police.


Stay Hydrated: Plovdiv can get hot during the summer months, so stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially if you're exploring outdoor attractions or walking long distances.


Sun Protection: Protect yourself from the sun's rays by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses, particularly during peak daylight hours.


Safety Precautions: Plovdiv is generally a safe destination for travellers, but exercise caution in crowded areas and beware of pickpockets, especially in touristy areas and on public transportation.


Cultural Etiquette:


Respect Local Customs: Be mindful of Bulgarian customs and traditions, such as removing your shoes before entering someone's home and showing respect in religious sites.


Dress Code: Dress modestly when visiting religious sites or attending cultural events out of respect for local customs.


Greetings: When meeting someone new, a handshake is a common greeting in Bulgaria. Use polite language and avoid overly familiar gestures in formal settings.


a view of plovdiv in bulgaria with trees and mountians


My Recommendations for Budget Accommodation in Plovdiv


Guest Rooms Plovdiv - A rooftop terrace, coffee/tea in a common area and dry cleaning are available at this smoke-free guesthouse. WiFi in public areas is free. Other amenities include laundry facilities, a 24-hour front desk and multilingual staff. Housekeeping is available on request.


Plaza Hotel - A restaurant, a health club and a bar/lounge are available at this hotel. Free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Additionally, a snack bar/deli, a conference centre and a coffee shop/cafe are on-site.


A&M Hotel - Along with a bar/lounge, this smoke-free hotel has conference space and a garden. Free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Other amenities include a TV in a common area. Housekeeping is available on request.


Urban Hotel - Along with a restaurant, this hotel has a bar/lounge and a 24-hour business centre. Free buffet breakfast, free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Additionally, a conference centre, a coffee shop/cafe and concierge services are on-site. Change of towels is available on request.


Bright House - This smoke-free aparthotel features a rooftop terrace, massage/treatment rooms and a meeting room. WiFi in public areas is free. Other amenities include self parking, dry cleaning and laundry facilities. Each apartment boasts a fireplace and offers free WiFi and a kitchenette. Comforts include a Select Comfort bed and premium bedding, and guests will also find conveniences, such as a sofa bed and a sitting area.

Hotel

Rating

Parking

Price per Night (from)

3 Star

Free Offsite Parking

£27

3 Star

Parking Included

£45

3 Star

Parking Included

£47

3.5 Star

Parking Included

£48

N/A

20BGN Per Day

£50


Things to do When Exploring Plovdiv



Roman Stadium: Starting the tour from the Roman Stadium allows you to delve into the ancient history of Plovdiv. As one of the city's most significant archaeological sites, the well-preserved stadium offers insight into the Roman period and the grandeur of ancient sports events.


Dzhumaya Mosque: This brief stop at the Dzhumaya Mosque provides a glimpse into Plovdiv's Ottoman heritage. The mosque's elegant architecture and historical significance highlight the city's diverse cultural influences.


a wall with graffiti in plovdiv

Kapana District: While your visit to Kapana District may be brief, it offers a taste of Plovdiv's vibrant contemporary culture. The neighbourhood's charming streets, cafes, galleries, and shops provide a snapshot of modern urban life in the city.




Church of Saints Constantine and Helena: Continuing your tour at this historic church, you'll have the opportunity to explore one of Plovdiv's oldest religious landmarks. The church's ancient origins and architectural beauty make it a fascinating stop on your journey through the city.


Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis: Visiting this iconic amphitheater allows you to experience the grandeur of ancient Roman entertainment. The well-preserved theatre and its stunning backdrop provide a glimpse into Plovdiv's rich cultural heritage.


a scenic view of plovdiv

Ethnographic Museum: This visit to the Ethnographic Museum offers insight into Bulgarian traditions and craftsmanship. The museum's exhibits provide a deeper understanding of the country's cultural identity and artistic heritage.


Balabanov House: Exploring the Balabanov House allows you to admire the beauty of Plovdiv's traditional architecture. The well-preserved 19th-century house offers a glimpse into the city's historical wealth and cultural sophistication.


a woman taking a photo in a pink dress

The Forum of Philipopol :is the commercial, administrative and religious centre of ancient Plovdiv. The forum complex is located on an area of 20 ha and is the largest territory in Bulgaria. It was built during the time of Emperor Vespasian in the 1st century and was completed in the 2nd century.


The Signing Fountains:The unusual singing (musical) fountain on the lake in the lovely Tsar Simeon garden is a frequent meeting place for locals. You can watch the colourful light display accompanied by classical music during the summer months.




The Wonderful Bridges are a stunning set of natural wonders that have been carved from solid rock over millions of years. With breathtaking views of the rushing river below and unique rock formations, this is a destination unlike any other. The village of Kosovo is a peaceful and authentic corner of Bulgaria, with traditional homes, cobbled streets, and a strong sense of community.


Here, visitors can experience the charm of rural life and admire the well-preserved historical and cultural heritage of the village, and also enjoy the amazing Rhodope cuisine.


a temple in plovdiv

At 08:00 your guide will pick you up from your hotel and you will start a beautiful and scenic trip toward the highlight of the day- Wonderful Bridges. The Wonderful Bridges are a set of unique natural bridges formed over millions of years through the process of erosion. These bridges are located in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria and are considered to be some of the most stunning and unusual geological formations in Europe. Each bridge is carved from solid rock and is a result of the relentless action of water over time.


The bridges vary in size, shape, and height, but all have a natural beauty that is truly breathtaking. Some of the bridges are over 100 meters in height and span up to 50 meters across. The tallest and most famous bridge, known as the Eye Bridge, is a popular spot for tourists and is considered one of the most beautiful and impressive natural wonders in Bulgaria.


a view of lush green trees through an open archway

After we admire the mighty of Nature we will start our drive deeper into the mountain and our goal is to reach an amazingly beautiful small village where you will taste the culture and the unique cuisine of the Rhodope region. The village is known for its well-preserved historical and cultural heritage, with many of the traditional homes and buildings dating back several hundred years.


Visitors to Kosovo can admire the architecture and intricate details of the old homes, which are characterised by their wooden balconies and intricate carvings. After Kosovo, we will start our journey back to Plovdiv.


On the way, we can make a stop and visit the second biggest monastery in Bulgaria- Bachkovo monastery. Its story started in the XI century but is mostly famous for the burial sites of two Bulgarian heroes, responsible for saving the Jews during the Second World War in Bulgaria.


lush green trees and foliage in plovdiv

Despite the historical value of the place, the monastery is also very beautiful and it is surrounded by picturesque landscapes. Together, these destinations offer a unique and unforgettable experience that will leave you inspired and motivated. So join us on this day tour and discover the beauty and wonder of Bulgaria!




At 08:00 your guide will pick you up from your hotel and your journey will start. You will have around 2 hours drive until you reach the Valley of the Thracian kings. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to numerous Thracian tombs and burial mounds dating back to the 5th century BC.


As you travel to the site, imagine the grandeur and splendour of the Thracian civilisation that flourished in this region over 2,000 years ago. Envision the powerful kings and queens who were buried in these tombs, surrounded by their wealth and treasures.


a tomb within a stone walled building

Upon arrival, your highly educated guide will lead you on a tour of the site, bringing the history of the Thracians to life. You'll see the impressive 5 tombs, and learn about the customs and beliefs of this ancient civilization. As you explore the Valley of the Thracian Kings, you'll be struck by the beauty of the natural surroundings.


The valley is surrounded by lush green forests, offering a peaceful and serene setting for your visit. After exploring the Kazanlak region, we will continue our journey toward Stara Zagora where we will observe the layers of human history between the Stone age and modern times. But first, we will walk in the beautiful city centre where we will have lunch.


When we regain our strength we will start our exploration. Augusta Trayana was founded in the 2nd century AD and was an important centre for trade and culture. The city was named after the Roman emperor Trajan and was a thriving metropolis during the Roman Empire. You will walk on the original streets from those days and will see where the city council has gathered for its meetings.


mosaic of animals in perfect condition

We will visit the remains of a Roman house where you will see amazing mosaics in perfect condition, and will get the feeling of the way of living in the city in the days of the Roman empire. During your walk in Stara Zagora, your guide will show you a unique place- the Museum of Religions. It is situated in one of the oldest Mosques in the Balkans- Eski Mosque from the early XV century.


Our last stop of the day is the furthest that we will get back in time- to the Neolithic age. You will visit the ruins of 2 houses from those times. They were part of a big Neolithic settlement. These houses are one of the best-preserved prehistorical buildings in Europe.


The exposition will bring you back to the VII Millennium BC and your guide will do his best to explain who those people were and how they lived. In addition to the houses, you will also see, an archaeological collection of objects, related to the culture and the religion of the Stone age people, discovered in the Stone age settlements.




So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, lace up your walking shoes, and embark on a journey to Plovdiv – where every step is a discovery and every moment is a treasure!


Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links including Amazon products where I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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