A favourite place for Bulgarians, Plovdiv is said to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in Europe. Evidence in life since the 6th millennium BC was found here. For most of its history in Western Europe it was called Philippopolis, because it was invaded by Philip of Macedon in the 4th century BC. The town was originally a Thracian settlement, but later it was invaded by different tribes and people – Persians, Greeks, Romans, etc. The latter have probably left the biggest mark on the city, which you can see anywhere in Plovdiv. Also Plovdiv is situated on seven hills (in Bulgarian: tepeta), therefore it is often called The city of the seven hills. And for me it is the Rome of Bulgaria.
Plovdiv is situated in the fertile Upper Thracian Plain on the two banks of Maritsa River. It lies in the skirts of the breathtakingly beautiful Rhodopes Mountains. It is the second biggest city in Bulgaria and is only 100 km away from the capital Sofia.
And quite possibly Plovdiv is the most beautiful city in the country.
The centre is always full of life, with locals chilling around and tourists looking for ancient history in every corner. The main street is a pedestrian one with shops and cafes here and there. It leads to what once was the Roman stadium, where excavations and restorations are being made. The stadium was modeled after the one in Delphi during the reign of Hadrian and was one of the most important public places. You can enjoy a short 3D movie about the stadium and the events held there.
The Old Town
Adjacent next to the Main street, the Old town of Plovdiv sends you back in the days of Bulgarian Renaissance. And no, it has nothing to do with the European one, Leonardo da Vinci and others. The Bulgarian Renaissance took place much more later, in the late 18th and 19th centuries when our people started fighting for freedom and independence from the Ottoman Empire. Anyway, the old town’s street are narrow and paved, with classic Bulgarian houses. Never seen one of these?
Traditional Bulgarian houses look all like this, painted in different colours, some bigger, others smaller. They look beautiful, don’t they?
The 7 Hills
Originally the city was situated on 3 hills. This is known as the Trimontium. On one of the hills, Nebet tepe, pottery and everyday life objects from as early as the end of 4th millennium BC were found. On top of the same one Nebet tepe you can see the ruins of what once was a fortress. It was actually the first settlement here and inside the fortress are the remains of a temple and a palace. And from the top you can have a look to the whole city and the rest of the hills.
The 7 hills of Plovdiv are a favourite spot for both locals and tourists. They are especially beautiful in winter, but are also perfect to sit at on a warm summer evening.
View from Nebet tepe
View from Nebet tepe
The Ancient Roman Theatre
This is probably the most famous thing in the city. People visit it every day and it is gradually being restored. The theatre is the best-known monument from the Antiquity in Bulgaria. It was built in the 90s of the 1st century A.D. during the reign of emperor Domitian and could accommodate up to 7 ooo people! Situated between two of the three original hills, the ancient theatre is still being used as a venue for concerts and different events.
This is a neighbourhood in the heart of the city, which first originated as a place for craftsmen. Nowadays it is a beloved destination for everyone. Kapana is a place for art of all kinds. You can find galleries, shops for handmade goods and plenty of fancy cafes/bars/etc. Lots of fests are also held there.
Plovdiv is a treasure in the heart of the Balkans
Of course, there are many more things and places to see. After all, there are about 200 archaeological sites in the city. Make sure to save some time for the Tsar Simeon’s garden – one of the most fascinating parks I have ever been to! It starts near the central post office and the Odeon, and gives the beginning of the main street. At the end of the park are the newly built singing fountains. Also near the Odeon and the post office you can see the remains of the ancient Roman Forum, dating back to the rule of Vespasian.
Plovdiv really deserves all the hype it gets. Strolling down the main street or some of the old narrow ones you can feel the magical atmosphere of this ancient and modern city. With centuries of history around every corner and a contemporary lifestyle, Plovdiv is definitely worth one’s time even if it’s for a few hours!