The buzz around Plovdiv this year is huge. And not without reason. The city has been proudly named a European Capital of Culture for 2019, along with Matera in Italy.
I always recommend travellers to go to Plovdiv when they visit Bulgaria for the first time. The capital city – Sofia, is cool, but Plovdiv is more relaxed.
Furthermore, Plovdiv is more compact, has a distinct Old Town, better looking central pedestrian street (sorry, Vitoshka), an artistic neighbourhood with lots of arts & crafts shops, a river, and hills for a great sunset view over the city. Here are some travel tips and recommendations to enjoy Plovdiv:
Plovdiv travel tips
● From Sofia to Plovdiv with public transportation
By bus: There are buses almost 10 times per day departing from the Central Bus Station in Sofia to Plovdiv. The journey takes 2 h. You can check the bus schedules on the Sofia’s Central Bus Station’s website. The trip costs around 10 Leva.
By train: Trains are cheaper but a bit slower. They are also running around 10+ times per day. The train ride takes around 3 h. You can check the train schedules on the official Bulgarian State Railways’ website. The trip costs around 8 Leva.
● Get the Plovdiv City Card
The Plovdiv City Card gives you free access to 10 of the top museums, galleries, and other cultural sites in Plovdiv, as well as deals and discounts (such as free beer!) in various restaurants and shops.
The City Card is available for 24 or 72 hours. It is automatically activated when you use it for the first time. You can get the card as a QR code on your phone, via the mobile app, or at some of the locations in the city.
Learn more at their website: plovdivcitycard.com
● Learn some local slang
If you are headed to Plovdiv, it’s worth to learn one or two local words that can get you far in the city. The most useful slang you need is ‘aylyak’ – a word to describe the carefree and chill life that the Plovdiv inhabitants have. You can use it as a verb, a noun, whatever you feel like.
If you say ‘bicha aylyak’, that would mean “I’m chilling” but in a cool, Plovdiv’s way. Another popular slang word in the city is ‘maina’ – which is used instead of “bro”. Ex. “What’s up, maina”.
And if you say “I just want to bicha aylyak today, maina”, then you’re technically a local. 😉
● Tourist Info Centers in Plovdiv
In case you want to get more info and recommendations about your visit to Plovdiv, you can go to one of the three info centers:
- 1 Rayko Daskalov Str. / Roman Stadium square
- 1 D-r Stoyan Chomakov Str. /The Оld town
- Tcanko Lavrenov Str. /Roman stadium sq.
Things to see & do in Plovdiv
If you only have a day or a weekend in Plovdiv, here are some highlights of what is best to see and do in a short visit:
● Join the Free Plovdiv Tour
Free Plovdiv Tour is one of the many free tours in Bulgaria. Joining a free walking tour is one of my favourite activities to do in a new city. It’s a nice way to get to know the place in just a few hours, ask any questions you have, get recommendations for your next days from locals, and maybe meet some new friends for a coffee afterwards. The tour is donation based, so you can choose if and how much you want to tip the guide at the end.
When: May-Sept at 11 AM, Oct-April at 2 PM
Where: Municipality Building next to the central fountain
Duration: ~2,5 hours
● See the Kapana district
Kapana is the name of the creative district in the heart of Plovdiv. In recent years, many new artisans and craftsmen made it even more colorful. What I like about it is that you can find many cool cafes during the day and bars at night to “bichish aylyak”.
There is also a walking tour “Kapana Arts & Crafts District Tour” that runs every Saturday and Sunday, May-Sept at 11 AM, Oct-April at 2 PM. The price is 9 EUR (18 BGN) per person.
● Walk Around the Old Town
Probably the biggest advantage of Plovdiv over Sofia is its Old Town. Having an area where you can feel the ancient spirit of the city is what makes a visit to Plovdiv special. The Old Town is located on a hill, very close to the main central street. There are many galleries, museums, and souvenir shops. It is a place where you can see the traditional architecture from the National Revival era.
● The Ancient Theater
You’ve probably seen a photo of the Ancient Roman Theater of Plovdiv in every picture, advertisement or info page about the city. It’s the most iconic symbol of Plovdiv. It is said to be one of the best preserved ancient theaters in the world and is still in use for concerts, operas, and various other events.
Practical Info: 4 Tsar Ivayo str. The entrance for the Ancient Theater in Plovdiv is free with the Plovdiv City Card. Working hours: Apr-Oct: Daily 9:00-18:00; Nov-Mar: Daily 9:00-17:30.
● Balabanov House
Balabanov House is a house-museum, representing the life of wealthy merchants in Bulgaria from 19th century. The architecture from outside itself is impressive. On the first floor, you’ll see an exhibition of moments from the past and present history of Plovdiv and Bulgaria. The second floor is an impressive representation of a wealthy family house with Baroque furniture and carved wooden ceilings and walls.
Practical Info: 57 Konstantin Stoilov str. The entrance for the Balabanov House in Plovdiv is free with the Plovdiv City Card. Working hours: Apr-Oct: Daily 9:00-18:00; Nov-Mar: Daily 9:00-17:30.
● Stepan Hindilyan House
Another great example of the life of wealthy families in the 19th century in Plovdiv is the big blue Stepan Hindilyan House. It is the only house with a preserved bathroom with running hot and cold water. It is another nice house-museum to visit while you are in the Old Tow of Plovdiv.
Practical Info: 4 Artin Gidikov str. The entrance for the Hindilyan House in Plovdiv is free with the Plovdiv City Card. Working hours: Apr-Oct: Daily 9:00-18:00; Nov-Mar: Daily 9:00-17:30.
● Cultural center – museum Trakart
Located near the main street, the Trakart museum preserves and exhibits an impressive ancient Roman floor mosaic from the III-IV century. You can also see a permanent exhibition “Glass in the Ancient Art”, which traces the development of glass production for 9 centuries, as well as various ceramic objects and vessels of Eneolithic (copper age) and Neolithic (new stone age). The Trakart museum was one of the top places I visited in Plovdiv.
Practical Info: 89 Tsar boris III Obedinitel blvd., “Archaeological” underpass. The entrance for the Trakart museum in Plovdiv is free with the Plovdiv City Card. Working hours: Apr-Sept: Daily 9:00-19:00; Oct-Mar: Daily 10:00-18:00.
● Roman Stadium
A small part of the ancient Roman Stadium can be seen on the main street in Plovdiv, next to the mosque. It’s a nice photo spot and there are usually many open-air exhibitions happening around the stadium. It used to fit 30 000 spectators.
● Go for the view: Nebet tepe
Plovdiv is also referred to as “The city of the seven hills”. It was built at the foot of seven hills, called “tepeta”. One of them is Nebet tepe. You can reach it from the Old town, on the opposite side of the Ancient Theater. Nebet tepe gives you a nice panoramic view over Plovdiv which makes it one of the best spots for watching the sunset.
● Go for the view: Sahat tepe
Another one of those seven hills is Sahat tepe, located in the center of Plovdiv. You can reach it from the “Together 2019” sign you’ll see on the main street in the city. Sahat tepe is another spot where you can get a nice view over Plovdiv.
● Grab a memory: Love Plovdiv
Love Plovdiv movement started as an Instagram account highlighting moments from the city’s daily life. Now, it turned to a handmade souvenir shop in Kapana district. You can find cute postcards, magnets, calendars, and many other souvenirs with photos made by the owner – Mihaela.
Where to eat in Plovdiv
Coffee & Breakfast
- Hlebarnitsa Kapana is my favourite place for the morning coffee and breakfast, located in the Kapana district (20 Yoakim Gruev str., Facebook page).
Lunch & Dinner
- Smokini is one of my favouirite restaurants for lunch in Plovdiv, also offering vegan and vegetarian options. You can also check the daily lunch menu online (12 Otets Paisiy str., Website).
- Skaptobar Plovdiv is a cool burger place in Kapana. Once you finish your tasty meal, you can also stay for a bit to play a videogame there (24 Yoakim Gruev str., Website).
- Jagerhof is a Bavarian brewery offering a large variety of delicious meals. My favourites are the mushroom soup, the home-made ice cream, and of course, any of their craft beers (4 Saedinenie str., Website).
Plan your trip to Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Plovdiv Tourist Information
Day trips from Plovdiv:
This post was created in partnership with Kuker Inn and Plovdiv City Card.
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