Are you impressed with cities like Rome, Constantinople, and Athens? Do you like exploring ancient cultures and art? Maybe you have seen some of the most important European destinations and are looking for something new that will excite your interest. If so, you must have pondered whether Plovdiv is worth visiting because this is the cultural capital of a small scenic country of Bulgaria, known for its rich cultural heritage.
What to Expect in Plovdiv?
This historical town has been blessed with a moderate climate, surrounded by hills and its center settled on a river. When planning a visit to Plovdiv, it’s best to have it any time from June to August, as the days are very sunny and dry until mid-September. If you are someone who loves cold weather, you can have Plovdiv all to yourself, since the period between December and February is the slowest tourists-wise. You can also find very affordable prices in this period and the definite plus are the scenic winter hills surrounding this city.
Plovdiv is built on the seven hills (although today there are six of them), and these are the providers of some of the most scenic views of the city, especially at sunset. One of the best views can be found from the Nebet Tepe (Nebet Hill), which is part of the Old Town.
Being one of the oldest cities in Europe dating back to the 6th millennium BCE, Plovdiv is separated into two areas, the Old Town and the modern center.
The Old Town is settled on the three hills and presents a stunning Bulgarian renaissance. Narrow cobblestone paths are what has remained of the Byzantine walls and towers. Ottoman baths and mosques and asymmetrical houses are characteristic of the Old Town and are sure to take you back in history as you take the time to explore these mansions turned into amazing guesthouses and museums.
The brightly painted wooden houses have amazing ornamented windows, ceilings, and mosaic floors. These floors date as early as the 2nd century and were a common decoration in amphitheaters. They were rich in design, usually with big compositions inside them, and weren’t that rare to find in mansions, as the decoration of floors was most popular from the 3rd to 5th century.
The modern center of Plovdiv is definitely up to par with Sophia, the capital of Bulgaria, as it enables rich cultural experiences found in multiple opera houses, theatres, concerts of classical music and various social and cultural events. Sharing its place with Madena, Plovdiv is the European Capital of Culture for the year 2019. “Together’’ was Plovdiv’s official slogan as part of its bid to be the European Capital of Culture.
This slogan offers great significance in expressing culture and nurturing unity: “We firmly believe that the similarities between us – whether among the different groups in Plovdiv or the different cultures in Europe – are more than the features that separate us. And all our differences are actually the spices in our cultural and social life, which make it so amazing to live… Together.” The “Together” statue is located in the Main Street, Knyaz Alexander I, and offers a great opportunity for fun group photos.
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Things to Do in Plovdiv
Plovdiv is filled with numerous landmarks and some of the best points of the town are:
Ancient Roman Theatre
Located in Old Town, it is one of the world’s best-preserved ancient theatres, even though it was built by Romans nearly 2 000 years ago. The theater was damaged in the 5th century AD by Attila the Hun, and its restoration is one of the biggest achievements of the Bulgarian Conservation School. It is still in use today and hosts cultural events and concerts throughout the year.
Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis
In the heart of Plovdiv, you can also find one of the largest examples of Roman ruins in the Balkans, the Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis. Its condition isn’t as nearly as good as the Ancient Roman Theatre, but you can still see the remains of the stadium that once held up to 30 000 spectators. Both of these stadiums had special seats that were reserved for the high officials and its inscriptions can still be seen today.
Main Street (Knyaz Alexander I)
Main Street connects several sightseeing points and serves as the middle ground between the Kapana district and Old Town. Rich in various shops, boutiques and cafes, this pedestrian zone is perfect for a casual stroll or just sitting in some of the outdoor cafes, basking in the sun with a cold drink in your hand, a well-deserved break after sightseeing.
Kapana (literal translation: The Trap)
Close to Main Street, you will find yourself in some of the tangled little streets of the district Kapana. 5 centuries ago, this district was a center for craftsmanship, and as a result brought a series of unique street names like Kozhuharska (Leather Str), Zhelezarska (Iron Str) and Zlatarska (Gold Str).
This once-neglected district is now fully dedicated to experiencing different types of creativity, which can easily be done as the streets are rich with ateliers, galleries and interesting shops. A true mecca for tourists hungry for modern cultural content, there are numeral social events like festivals, concerts, exhibitions, and art installations. Young people can also find their share of various bars, pubs, and discos. Kapana can definitely provide a piece of something for everyone. Also, be sure to check out some of the amazing street art that can be found throughout Plovdiv!
Cultural Center-Museum Trakart
The major draw of this museum are the greatly preserved mosaics that once served as floor decorations in mansions and amphitheaters, but that doesn’t mean that the rest isn’t worth seeing. As one of the best museums in Bulgaria, it is also filled with various portraits, ceramics, figurines, glass art and more. It is definitely a focal point for any history lover visiting this city.
The Tsar Simeon’s Garden
Nature-loving tourists can find their piece of heaven in the Tsar Simeon’s Garden. Established in 1892, this garden presents a scenic landmark located in the central area of the town. Even though it is not so big, this garden is easy to walk around and still offers complete peace.
Whether someone wants to simply relax on some of the numerous benches, chill on the soft grass, or play chess on the slick marble tables, they surely need to make time to visit Tsar Simeon’s Garden. The focal point of this garden rich with fountains and iconic monuments is definitely the Singing fountain, built in the middle of the lake, a major attraction for both tourists and locals.
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Back to those picturesque ornamental decorated mansions located in the Old Town, and you will find the Klianti House, one of the oldest preserved residential buildings in Bulgaria. It was declared cultural heritage and has kept about 2/3 of its original appearance, serving today as an important cultural center. Everything in the Klianti residence is authentic and perfectly restored, with an exception of the handmade carpets, made to impeccably go along with the color of the frescoes.
Do we think Plovdiv is worth visiting? The answer is – absolutely! Rest assured that this town will make you fall in love with history and art all over again, and swipe you off your feet with its various cultural activities!