Things to Do in Plovdiv: Bulgaria’s City of Hills
Plovdiv is Bulgaria’s second largest city, located in the southern central part of the country. The city was named Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2019 and provides a significant contrast with Sofia. It has an old town with uneven cobbled streets and Ottoman-style architecture, as well as a modern city centre with a hipster area full of street art, cafes and restaurants. Plovdiv is very often visited as a day trip from Sofia, but if you have more time, stay a while. This was our favourite place in Bulgaria, and I would thoroughly recommend you stay for at least two days to explore all the things to do in Plovdiv.
Things to Do in Plovdiv: Bulgaria’s City of Hills
A Little Bit of Background on Plovdiv
Plovdiv is understood to be one of Europe’s oldest cities at 8,000 years old. Originally a Thracian settlement, the city was conquered by Philip II of Macedon and named Philippopolis in his honour. The city has since been part of the Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian and Ottoman Empires. Within the Ottoman Empire, southern Bulgaria was split into a separate, autonomous region known as East Rumelia, with Plovdiv as its capital. The reunification of East Rumelia into Bulgaria occurred in 1885.
Amphitheatre ruins in front of the mosque
How to Get To Plovdiv
Plovdiv Airport (PDV) has some direct flights to Europe – Ireland, UK and Germany. Otherwise a connecting flight from Sofia airport is the next best option.
Plovdiv is very well connected by bus and train to the rest of the country as well as neighbouring countries.
These are the bus/train journeys we got in and out of Plovdiv.
Sofia to Plovdiv bus: cost 14 BGN and took about two hours, leaving Sofia at 12:10.
Plovdiv to Sofia train: cost 8.3 BGN and took about three hours, leaving Plovdiv at 11:20.
Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv train: cost 13.7 BGN and took five hours, leaving Plovdiv at 07:15.
Plovdiv to Istanbul night bus: cost 30 BGN and took five and a half hours, leaving Plovdiv at 00:30.
Head to the Top of Plovdiv’s Hills
Plovdiv old town sits on three hills, and the extension of the city includes another three. All will give a different perspective on the city and none of them are a particularly strenuous walk. You could probably reach the top of each one from their base within thirty minutes.
Dzhendem Tepe and Bunardzhika Tepe will take about twenty or thirty minutes to get to the top while Sahat Tepe will only take about ten minutes. Taksim Tepe, Dzhambaz Tepe, Nebet Tepe (also known as Trimontium) are all located within the old town.
Plovdiv city views
Explore the Old Town
Wander the cobbles to discover all the traditional Ottoman-style buildings. Make sure you don’t miss the ancient theatre of Philippopolis and the archway in the old city wall.
Ancient theatre of Philippopolis
Spot the ‘Gossip Rooms’ Around the Old Town
These are small rooms built into walls that overlook the main walkways around the old town. These were used by the rich so that they could keep themselves entertained by people watching. Essentially the ancient version of social media!
Wander the Kapana District
Kapana, literally meaning trap, used to be a district where crafts were sold. To bring this part of the city alive again, real effort has been put into to turn it into an art space. You will find street art everywhere, hipster cafes, live music, art galleries. This is the place to be in Plovdiv.
See St Konstantin and Elena Church and its Tower
This church has beautiful artwork at the entrance way and a striking tower out the front surrounded by the green leaves. This is recognised as one of the oldest churches in Plovdiv, the current church was built in 1832, but the site itself has had a religious building since the 4th century.
Intricate murals all along the church facade
Admire the Luxury Buildings of Ethnographic Museum and Hindliyan House
Both are ornately decorated on the inside and out. You can walk around the courtyard of both for free, but there is a fee to enter both (and an extra fee to take photos at Hindliyan), so we politely declined and just took photos from the outside which are spectacular anyway. If you have been inside, let me know how it is.
See the Ruins of the Roman Forum
You can see different parts of the forum all around the city. The ruins appear to run underneath the entire city, but because of the buildings in place at the moment, the full extent of the ruins obviously cannot be excavated. Head down to the end of town near the post office and the area near the mosque to see the best parts – H&M even has some ruins in their basement.
Coffee and Veggie Food Spots
Named after the mosque, this places serves THE best Turkish coffees. My favourite is the cardamom flavoured. Turkish coffees are served with a small glass of rose syrup (which makes it even better). The cafe also serves classic Turkish sweets like baklava and kadaif. They only accept cash here so keep that in mind.
Our favourite place in the whole of Plovdiv. Fully vegan everything. I love it when you find a restaurant that actually knows how to cook vegan food well. Try the tofu doner, the ‘this isn’t chicken’ curry, the mushroom meatballs with roasted potatoes and ajvar, avocado bruschetta, and the veggie burrito. (As you can tell, we went there many times!)
Just outside of the main city centre, this restaurant serves really tasty Armenian food. Order a salad, dips, the deep fried cheese, the garlic mushrooms (or two plates because these are amazing). Create an Armenian tapas and gorge yourself. Restaurant Yerevan only accepts cash.
Kasem Foods always seems to have a queue outside. They serve a MASSIVE falafel wrap full with chips, salad, pickles, mayo, chilli sauce, the works. There was so much food, I couldn’t eat it all (and that is saying something). Chris finished it off though. Dusty bin.
That really is a hefty falafel wrap!
Mekitsa is a Bulgarian dish often served at breakfast but can also be eaten throughout the day. It is essentially a big flat donut, and can be eaten plain or topped with sweet or savoury flavours. Try a classic fig jam or maybe mix things up with a chilli and cheese topping!
Mekitsa with chocolate
Have you been to Plovdiv? Is there anything that you would add to the list?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations or questions.
Thanks for reading!