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Can you keep a secret? Not many people have clocked-on to the beauty of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city. Plovdiv is the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe and has passed through the hands of the Thracians, the Ancient Greeks, the Romans and many more. It’s ancient Old Town is packed with winding, cobbled paths and Roman ruins and cafes that spill out onto the streets. The enchanting town will have you wishing you could stay for longer. We’ve rounded up the top eight things to do in Plovdiv (you can thank us later):
1. Explore the Ancient Amphitheater
Plovdiv’s Amphitheatre sits saddled between two hills overlooking the ancient city below. The amphitheater was restored in the 20th-century and still has its original Roman seats, which were mainly used for official government meetings. However, don’t worry — the amphitheater wasn’t just politics and debates (yawn), it was also home to bloody gladiator fights. You can sit in one of the seats and imagine what it was like to watch a battle take place with a bloodthirsty crowd, roaring in delight in the surrounding stadium. Today, the amphitheater hosts live music concerts and performances. Be sure to catch a show during your stay.
2. See The Remains of the Roman Stadium
During the Roman era, Plovdiv was home to large sporting events, many of which took place in the Roman Stadium. The former stadium has since been buried under a modern street but you can still catch a glimpse of some of its original stones. There are a set of stairs you can walk down to find a screen with a movie showing the kind of events that took place during the Roman times.
3. Stroll Around the Old Town
As the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, Plovdiv has an undeniably rich history, and taking a walk around the Old Town will give you an insight into its past. The charming Old Town lies on top of three of the city’s hills. It has winding, cobbled streets and you can see parts of ancient walls dotted around the historic city center. If you want to find out more, sign up for one of the city’s free walking tours for a detailed insight into the town’s history.
4. Go Shopping on Knyaz Aleksander I
Knyaz Aleksander I is the city’s main street that runs from north to south, through the center of town. The street is packed with shops that are set in 19th and 20th-century buildings. Spend a relaxing afternoon strolling along the street, shopping, and drinking coffee or wine at one of the cafes that spill out onto the busy pavements.
5. Sample Bulgarian Cuisine
Locals claim that their cuisine is some of the finest in Europe, and we don’t blame them. Some of the dishes you simply have to try include: shkembe chorba (tripe soup), zelevi sarmi (cabbage leaves stuffed with a delicious mix of minced meat and rice) and guvech (a fragrant mix of vegetables and meat cooked in a clay pot).
6. Get a Bird’s Eye View
Plovdiv is home to several mountains and what better way to see the ancient city than from above? There are several hills to choose from. Our top picks include Nebet Tepe, a hill in Old Town offering stunning views of the city below, and Alyosha, where you’ll find a 36-foot statue of a Soviet soldier that was erected in 1957 to watch over the town.
7. Kickback in the Kapana Art District
Locals call Kapana ‘the trap’ thanks to its maze-like, narrow alleyways that will probably leave you lost or disorientated. Today, Kapana is a bustling, artistic quarter, filled with hipster bars and restaurants. It’s the city’s creative hub with walls splashed with colorful graffiti, as well as a range of art galleries. Head to Pavaj to sample modern Bulgarian cuisine or Barber & Cat if you fancy an artisanal cocktail.
8. Hit the Town
Bulgaria is known for its wild party scene and Plovdiv isn’t short of great clubs. Head to Chervilo Plovdiv for a traditional Bulgarian clubbing experience where you can dance the night away, or go to Piano Bar Gatsby for a more classy night.