Plovdiv is the oldest inhabited city in Europe and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
So, how old is Plovdiv?
Evidence of a settlement goes back as far as 4000 BC, which is more than 6000 years ago! It started as a Thracian Settlement, then Plovdiv became part of the Roman Empire and later of the Ottoman Empire. There are many influences from all of these cultures in what is now the second-largest city in Bulgaria.
In 2019, Plovdiv was the European Capital of Culture. The event gave the city new clothes, and many of the buildings in the Old City were renovated for the occasion.
Top Things To Do in Plovdiv
The Old Town
The old part of Plovdiv has many things to discover, and it can be a destination on its own. Start from the fortress remains on the Nebet Tepe Hill, where locals come for photo sessions. Then, navigate to the Roman Theater on the other side of the Old City. You will come across all sorts of wonders on your way.
Small museums, cobblestone streets, painted houses, antique shops, churches, and amazing views are all a few steps away from each other.
The architecture in the old town is very different from other parts of the city, and you will surely like the stone gates and walls and the unique houses.
Although a small area, it will take you at least a couple of hours to explore the old city, so wear comfortable shoes to manage the cobblestone streets on these hills.
The Ancient Roman Theater
Still in the Old Town, you will find the Ancient Roman Theater of Plovdiv. The structure was built almost 2000 years ago and is still in use. Actually, when I visited the theater, they were preparing for a concert the next evening.
The Stadium of Philippopolis
The name of Philippopolis is the one Philip II of Macedon gave the city he conquered in the 4th century BC. You will come across the ancient name everywhere in Plovdiv.
The northern part of the Roman Stadium was discovered below the street surface in the Djumaya Square. Archaeologists excavated the area, and you can now visit the curved end of the very well preserved stadium. The stadium was 240 meters long, and most of it is now trapped below the main pedestrian street. However, there are a few shops along the street where you can actually descend to the lower level and see parts of the marble seats of the stadium. It could hold up to 30000 people for athletic events there.
The excavated part of the Stadium is free to visit. In addition, if you want to see more, some 3D movies are running a few times a day at the visitor center on the lower level that you can see for a small fee.
More about out the tickets for the main things to do in Plovdiv here.
Kapana is a mostly pedestrian district in Plovdiv, between the Old Town and the main pedestrian street in Plovdiv. The name means “the trap”, I’m not sure why. However, it has recently become a trendy part of Plovdiv. The streets are lined with terraces, cozy coffee shops, bars, arts and crafts shops. This is also the best area to eat in Plovdiv with a few great restaurants.
The Kapana district reminded me very much of the Ladadika neighborhood in Thessaloniki.
The Djumaya Mosque is in the main square of central Plovdiv. It is a beautiful brick building with 9 domes and a minaret at the northeast corner. You can enter and visit the Mosque outside of prayer times, and it’s well worth it. Keep in mind to respect the rules of a religious site. On the southwest corner, you will also find a solar watch.
I didn’t visit the museum, but I loved the building and its courtyard. It is a very pleasant place to rest after a long walk to discover every corner of the old town.
Still, I plan to visit Plovdiv again and I hope to see this museum too, mainly to see the interiors of this amazing building.
Philippopolis Art Gallery
This is one of the houses in the old town transformed into a small art gallery. I loved the interior of the house, the wooden ceilings, and the original furnishings more than the art itself.
The courtyard is now a small restaurant with white wrought iron furniture that looked very appealing.
A Hidden Gem – Sveta Marina Church
Hidden between two quiet streets, just below the Old Town, Sveta Marina is a beautiful orthodox church. It also features a unique wooden bell tower that you can see from the Roman Theater above.
Street Art in Plovdiv
One of the surprises Plovdiv had to offer was some great street art. Read more about it and also see some exquisite works in my post about the vibrant street art in Plovdiv.
The Roman Forum
At the end of the pedestrian street, you can see the remains of the Roman Forum of Ancient Philippopolis.
Tsar Simeon Gardens
Just behind the Roman Forum, you will find the city gardens, Tsar Simeon. It is a manicured park with beautiful fountains, a perfect place to enjoy some shadow in the summer. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, the Singing Fountains in the park throw a show of music and light at 21:30. Find a good spot to enjoy the show if you happen to be in Plovdiv on one of those days.
More Things to Do in Plovdiv
There are many other things to see and do in Plovdiv. You can visit the traditional houses in the Old Town, or the clock tower on Sahat Tepe. Also, try jogging along the Maritsa River, or a craft beer tour if you’re into that.
If you’re only in town for a short amount of time, a walking tour might be the best way to see at least a few of the many things that Plovdiv has to offer.
Where to Stay
I stayed in a cozy apartment on the other side of the Maritsa River on my first visit to Plovdiv. However, I found this beautiful apartment close to everything or this house if you are traveling with family or friends.
If you prefer a hotel, I also have two great options of hotels I stayed in:
–Orpheus Apartments & Rooms is a new, family operated boutique hotel. It feels luxurious and has an amazing terrace where you can have breakfast or a late-night drink.
–Villa Antica is very close to the pedestrian street and also to Kapana and the Old Town. It has large, comfortable rooms and a discount at Hemingway restaurant across the street too.
I hope I convinced you to visit the city. If you plan to visit Sofia, try to extend your stay to visit Plovdiv too, but if you have to choose, I’d go for Plovdiv.
Also, for a day trip or a great weekend idea, visit my Veliko Tarnovo post.
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Disclosure: Some of the above may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. However, I only recommend companies, activities, or products that I use myself.
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