When you think of the oldest inhabited cities of the world, which cities do you think of? Plovdiv probably never crosses your mind. And yet, you may be surprised to learn that Plovdiv is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, and this history can be seen pretty much wherever you look. Plovdiv is also Bulgaria’s second largest city and is a vibrant, fun place to visit. During the day you can enjoy the sights and the city’s coffee culture, while by night you can let your hair down and experience the restaurants, bars and clubs. There is something for everyone here, so keep reading to see how best to spend your one day in Plovdiv.
The busiest time when it comes to tourists in Plovdiv is the summer months of June through September. These months are also the hottest with temperatures usually in the low 30s Celsius, but this can sometimes climb all the way up to 40 degrees!
The winter months of November to March are the quietest months, but they can be bitterly cold. Temperatures are on average around zero or below zero degrees Celsius during this period.
So, the best time to visit Plovdiv is during the spring or autumn months when tourism is not at its peak and the temperatures climb to pleasant 15 to 20 degrees Celsius.
The first fact is the one alluded to in the introduction concerning how long Plovdiv has been a continuously inhabited city. You see, this place has been inhabited since at least 4,000 B.C. during the time of the Thracians. Therefore, Plovdiv is in the top 10 oldest inhabited cities in the world!
Plovdiv’s ancient theatre of Philippopolis is one of the best preserved Roman theatres in the world. Incredibly, the theatre is still used today for music and theatre events! Interestingly, the theatre was only discovered in the 1970s by accident due to a landslide. It is also one of the main sights in the city.
Plovdiv is sometimes also called the city of the seven hills because it was founded at the bottom of the seven surrounding hills. Today, however, there are no longer seven hills left, which can be confusing for visitors.
One Day in Plovdiv Itinerary
Welcome to Plovdiv, an amazing city whose history is bound to leave you wanting more! Here, you will walk the streets through quite literally thousands of years of history and hear some truly jaw-dropping facts and stories. So, a day in Plovdiv is always going to be an interesting one – follow this itinerary to make the most of your time here!
The first thing on our list is the Roman Stadium. Back in the day, this place was able to host 30,000 spectators, and that was nearly 2,000 years ago! Today, the main body of the stadium runs under the main street of Plovdiv. One section of the place is visible, however, and is located halfway down the main pedestrian street.
The ancient theatre of Philippopolis is a must to visit. Whether you take the tour which costs a few Leva or if you decide to gaze at the theatre without stepping inside, it’s an amazing sight. This is a theatre that dates back to the Roman age and can hold 5,000 spectators. Its preservation is amongst the best of this type in the world – as a matter of fact, it’s still used for theatre and music productions today!
The theatre is only a short walk from the main pedestrian street in the city. From the Roman Stadium turn off the main street onto Saborna Street which runs behind the Mosque. After walking around 100 meters you will see a fork in the road to the right (there is one to the left before this but you can ignore that one), take the right fork in the road off Saborna Street. This road is the Mitropolit Paisiy Road. Follow the road down and as it curves to the left continue to follow this route. After around 100 meters there is a left turn onto Tsar Ivailo Street. Take this turn and after a few meters you will see the theatre.
A visit to Plovdiv is not complete without visiting Plovdiv Old Town. It is lined with smaller cobbled streets that wind around houses in the beautiful Bulgarian Renaissance-style architecture. Each house has its own style and all are worth the visit. There is a number of churches, art galleries and museums in the area.
To get to Plovdiv Old Town, walk down Tsar Ivailo Street to Mitropolit Paisiy Road and turn left. Take the first right onto Stoyan Chalakov street and continue as it joins Saborna Street. After 250 meters you are in Plovdiv’s Old Town.
Back in the main street and food is probably on your mind, if you haven’t found something on your way here.
Walk down the main street by turning right onto the main street from Saborna Street for around 50 meters or so and you will find a number of street food vendors. One is called Alex food, and hereyou can buy pizza and other easy foods at low cost. We recommend the Duner, it’s the Bulgarian take on a Doner. A small flatbread that wraps around meat, mayo sauce, fries and more. It is very tasty.
Now back in the center, why not take a walk up the pedestrian street past the Roman Stadium? Here you can enjoy the atmosphere whilst checking out shops and maybe stop at one of the cafes for a drink. Raffys Cafe just past McDonald’s, by the fountain, is a good option.
At the end of the main street, you will start to approach a white building with Post written on it. Just before it, you will see a walkway, a short walk down here will take you to a complex of Roman ruins.
You can explore them a little, but note that there is a green space opposite to that. This is the Tsar Simeon Garden, the city park which offers a wonderful calm walk if you choose.
Whilst in the old town, we suggest a visit to Nebet Tepe, one of Plovdiv’s ancient hills that still remains. You can walk around the hill, visit the ruins of the Puldin Fortress and admire the amazing view of the city from a high vantage point.
To get here you continue walking down Saborna Street from where you arrived in the old town. After just under 200 meters you are at the Nebet Tepe.
When you have finished this cultural journey it’s a short walk back to the main street. Walk back down Saborna Street for 700 meters or so and you are back on the main street at the Roman Stadium.
For an evening meal, there are many options for restaurants in Plovdiv. One low-cost and enjoyable option is Happy Bar and Grill. It is a Bulgarian restaurant chain with a good menu to cater to all tastes. The crispy cheese bites are definitely a recommendation.
If your looking for a drink and a great atmosphere at the end of the day, then the bar called No Sense is a good place to be. It is open until 4 am, plays an eclectic mix of great music and has a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Residence City Garden
Veliko Tarnovo, str 19, Plovdiv Center, 4000 Plovdiv
Probably the best luxurious stay in Plovdiv is the one provided by Residence City Garden. Not only is this hotel incredibly beautiful, but it also has a wonderful garden. Some rooms have a view of it, but all rooms are exceptionally well designed and equipped, so you will enjoy every second of your stay here. Furthermore, the location of the hotel is also fantastic, with many of the city’s most important sights being close by. A top-tier hotel in every sense!
Best Western Premier Plovdiv Hills
Brezovsko Shose Str.; No: 127 , 4003 Plovdiv
An excellent value for a four-star hotel, Best Western Premier Plovdiv Hills offers a great view to its guests, as well as access to a fitness center. There is also a nice bar to enjoy here, and airport transfers can be easily arranged. The rooms are exceptionally well equipped, with everything from slippers to a deposit box readily available. In fact, some rooms even come with a kitchenette! On top of that, pets are allowed, too.
23, G. Benkovski, Plovdiv Center, 4000 Plovdiv
If you are looking for a place to stay, then Hotel Dafi is a great choice. Now, Hotel Dafi is a three-star hotel located in the center of the city, mere minutes away from the pedestrian street and the Roman theatre, perfect for exploring the city. It also offers an airport shuttle service and free parking if you travel by car. The rooms are immaculate, comfortable and of a good size with the helpful staff being the icing on the cake. A wonderful place to stay!
Konstantin Stoilov № 9 етаж 1, ап. 1, Plovdiv Center, 4000 Plovdiv
Need a pleasant affordable stay? We would recommend Pijama Hostel, located right in the heart of the city, on a side road a hundred meters or so from the main pedestrian street. The hostel has bunk beds in a mixed dormitory at a very low cost or a slightly more expensive small double room for those who want a bit of privacy. All rooms have a kettle, and there’s a shared lounge and a shared kitchen for all the guests.
If you are looking for a day trip to see more of Bulgaria after enjoying Plovdiv, then there is a lot on offer. We would recommend a trip to the Asen’s Fortress and Bachkovo Monastery, and this can even be a half-day trip if you are short on time. In any case, the choices are numerous, and here’s what you really should consider.
Asen’s Fortress is a fortress that dates back to the 11th century with more recent additions dating from the 13th century. A lot of the fortress lies in ruin, but the best-preserved section is the Church of the Holy Mother of God dating from around the late 12th century.
The Bachkovo Monastery was founded back in the 11th century. Whilst much of what remains of it doesn’t date back to the 11th century, the largest part dates back to the 15th century. Fascinatingly, the monastery is still active today and is a must-visit.
For those who have some extra energy to burn, there is a beautiful waterfall not far from the monastery. The waterfall is 15 meters high and naturally formed, and it takes about 20 minutes to reach it on foot.
You can join a tour company that provides trips to the monastery and fortress including picking you up from your hotel. Plovdiv Trips provides this tour as a half-day tour, and if you opt for a full day, ti will include the Wonderful Bridges.
If you want to make the trip yourself, then you can take the bus to Bachkovo Village from Plovdiv central station – the buses run every 30 minutes. It takes about 40 minutes and has only one stop at Asenovgrad on the way. Once at Bachkovo, it’s about 1.5 kilometers to the monastery. But there is a busy road to cross without any pedestrian crossing, so we suggest taking a taxi from Bachkovo Village to the monastery.
The Asen’s Fortress is on the way back to Asenovgrad which requires getting a taxi to Bachkovo, taking the bus to Asenovgrad and then getting a taxi to the fortress as there is not a pedestrian path to walk there. We suggest getting a taxi from the monastery to the fortress. This is about 10 kilometers. Once you have visited the fortress, you can get a taxi back to Asenovgrad and from the bus station get the bus back to Plovdiv.
A day trip to the capital Sofia is always recommended, there is so much to do and see. You can reach it by bus or by train in under three hours if you don’t have a car, and the city really is worth visiting. Fascinating architecture, rich culture, and excellent nightlife are just some of the reasons to visit. A day in Sofia is a day well spent!
Not all restaurants and shops will offer the ability to pay with a bank card. There are a few ATM machines in the center, the best two to use are the DSK (ДСК) ATM opposite the Mosque near the Roman Stadium ”Äncient Stadium of Philipopolis” and the Unicredit Bulbank ATM a hundred meters further down the pedestrian road towards the Tsar Simeon Garden on the left side.
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.
Guy Marlow works in travel and has a huge love for Bulgaria, spending a few months each year exploring the country. This love created www.discoverbulgaria.net a place to explore where to visit and what to do in Bulgaria. You can also find Discover Bulgaria on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/discoverbulgaria_/