Plovdiv (Bulgarian: Пловдив) is the second-largest city in Bulgaria, and one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is located in the large plain between the Rhodope Mountains in the south of Bulgaria and the Balkan Range, or Old Mountains (Stara Planina) that runs through the center of Bulgaria. Both ranges are visible on clear days. The Maritsa River flows through the city on its way southeast before forming the Greek/Turkey border to the Aegean Sea.
Plovdiv is the oldest city in Europe, and has been inhabited ever since.
Plovdiv is an ancient city, with a history traced back to more than 8000 years. Originally it had seven tall hills, some of which were used for quarries. It was controlled by the Romans and was called Trimontium at that time (the Three Hills - as the city was much smaller in terms if area compared to today), and by Philip of Macedonia (father of Alexander the Great), lending the city another old name, Philipopolis. There is a statue of Philip in the centre today. During the long occupation by the Ottoman Empire, a large mosque was built, still present in the centre area as well. During Communist times, a statue of the unnamed Russian soldier was erected on one of the three main hills which overlooks the city.
When you are in Plovdiv, you can get help and more information about the city from one of the two Tourist information Centers in the city. The first one is located in the center of the city, right next to the post office; when arriving in the city via train or bus through "Ugh" or "Rhodopi" stations, this is one of the first buildings you'll come across in the city. The second one is located in the old city, on the main street (Saborna St), a littleaway from the etnographic museum and the Church of Saint Konstantin and Elena.
Tourist information centres can help you with all kinds of information including city maps, information about concerts, bus and train schedules, and finding a place to sleep. The staff are friendly.
Plovdiv has a small airport called Krumovo. Flights arriving from London and Milan/Bergamo has been started in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Scheduled flight from/to Frankfurt will start in October 2011.
Currently the only way to get to city centre from the airport is taking a taxi, which will set you back around 15 leva (around 7.50 euro).
There are many national and international trains from and to Plovdiv.
There are many daily trains to and from Sofia. Duration is from about two and a half hours for the express ones to four hours for the slow ones. There is also one daily train to/from Istanbul in Turkey which takes about 11 hours.
The A1 expressway/motorway connects Plovdiv westward to Sofia. It also extends a short distance to the east. This is one of two true expressways in the country (the other was built north from Sofia to communist leader Todor Zhivkov's birthplace). Other destinations require two-lane roads, such as the most direct route to Pleven, which is the somewhat adventurous Troyan pass road.
Plovdiv has 3 bus stations - "Ugh", "Sever", and "Rhodopi". There are many buses for cities all around Bulgaria and to some that are outside the country.
Buses run approximately hourly from Sofia, and are slightly faster than the trains.
There is no boat transportation to Plovdiv.
Taxis and buses are prevalent. Downtown has a large pedestrian zone. Taxis are (Summer 2010) as cheap if not cheaper than bus rides when split between 3-4 people in general. A 5-7km of traveled distance was charged at around 5lv (charge for km is 0.75 leva daily and 0.95 leva nightly); an average ride within the city costs around 3 leva. The taxi arrives in about 3-5min. Remember to order the Taxi from the companies that offer the best deals and wait for it. Generally taking the taxi that is already waiting will cost you more (sometimes upto 5-times more) avoid them or ask for flat price that fits you! Learn who offers best prices from the locals who often use taxis. Most of the taxicars has 4-digit numbers on them, remember some and use it if you need a car, for example: 6155, 6142, 9199 and so on.
As of summer 2011, if your taxi ride costs more than 5 leva, you are entitled to a 20% discount off the fare.
Public bus tickets cost 1 leva.
The old Plovdiv is compact and walkable, with the main downtown road blocked to car traffic. There is a good collection of Bulgarian revival buildings in use as museums, hotels, and restaurants etc. and is worth a visit if you have chance. The nearby Roman Amphitheater, discovered in the 1970's during a construction project, is part of the pedestrian zone, and typically has merchants selling art and other items nearby. Wander the cobblestone streets near the downtown to find the centuries old St. Marina church with a unique wooden tower, a mosque from the Ottoman Empire, and on the nearby hill the old town center. The old town center was walled, and has a famous gateway entrance. Nearby Puldin Restaurant has subterranean rooms where the old wall and historic artifacts can be seen. Continuing up the hill several older houses are now museums and the Roman amphitheater with an overlook of the town below is partially restored and still used for concerts and other occasions.
In the new center of the city, right before you go up into the old city, you will see the "Roman stadium", which dates back to the late 1st/early 2nd century. It had a capacity of 30,000 people; and as the Roman laws dictate that the city stadium should have seating for at least half the population, it summarily shows the town had 60,000 inhabitants during Roman times. In addition, the ancient theatre is capable of seating 6,000 people at once, and yes, as you already guessed, Roman laws were dictating that the theatres should accommodate one-tenth of the population at a time.
When you go to the other end of the predestrian street, next to the Tourist Information Center and the postoffice, you will see the Roman Odeon and Forum. The forum was to Romans what the city centres are to modern human. This one had three sides of 13 shops on each side, and a fourth one for the bank, library, and other institutions of this sort.
To the south of the city there is the Bachkovo Monastery, still in use. Farther into the Rhodope mountains one can find ski resorts and other natural attractions, such as the impressively narrow gorge and caves leading to Trigrad, not far from the mountainous Greek border.
Plovdiv offers many things to do, and most are easily walkable.
On one of the hills there is a kids train /don't worry it's not for kids/ that goues up into the hill and gets back down. It costs 1 lev and it's located on the Mladeshki hill. On the Bunardjik Hill you can see the monument of the uknown russian soldier - it's dedecated to all the russian soldiers who died in the russian-turkish war.
These are only some of the thing you can do in this maginisun city.
Free city tour
Yes, that's right — there is a free tour of the city every Wednesday. It starts at 9:30 from the tourist information center, which is located next to the post office. Tours are conducted in Bulgarian and English and by professional tour guides. It takes around one hour and half to two hours. Have yourself registered in advance — this has to be done until 5PM the previous day.
You can buy many different souvenirs from Bulgaria, that represents the country.
Bulgarian rose tend to be one of the most popular souvenirs from the country. You can buy all kinds of rose stuff — mostly cosmetics from soaps to shampoos, gels, oils, and perfumes.
Cutlery made of wood or clay might also be worthwhile to look for.
Or perhaps you might be looking for a painting or even a musical instrument?
Generally speaking eating in Plovdiv should be cheap for the westerner's pocket. Fast food is available and of high quality (in general).
There are McDonalds, KFC, Kastello, Verde and other popular restaurants.
Cheapest fast food could cost as little 0.50-1.00lv to 2-3lv and can be found along the main street. There are plenty of such places offering pizza, traditional food, and duners
There are some low-end restaurants that will be fairly affordable pay attention to the menu and think about 10-15lv for a full meal (salad, main course, dessert, drink(s)).
Paying more will probably get you a slightly better food than the options above but most of the cost will definitely go towards the overall experience. The priciest places are located in the old town, on top of the hill. Expect to pay a bit more say 20-30lv and above. There are also a few restaurants outside the center.
Club Zanzibar is the ideal place to drink in Plovdiv. It contains a stylish African interior Cocktail Bar which offers the best drinks in the city and at night time offers the largest nightclub in all of Plovdiv.
Generally speaking Plovdiv is a very safe place. Avoid the ghetto area and you will be very safe. Old town and the main street are generally very busy and safe. Parks during the day are safe avoid them at night unless you are with a larger company. Avoid picking a verbal fight with locals! Avoid wearing football shirts or scarves of the Plovdiv or Sofia-based football teams,especially on match days. Overall the city has improved in terms of safety over the past years.