Earth : Europe : Balkans : Bulgaria : Northern Thrace : Plovdiv
Plovdiv is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in Europe, which is now located on six hills. The first Thracian settlement on Nebet hill has been dated back to 6, 000 BC. The firts inhabitors of the city are suppost to have been thracian tribes - bessi and odrisi. In 342 BC Philip of Macedon conquered the city and gave it the name Philippopolis ("phili" /sections/ and "polis" - city). In 12 AD the Romans started conquering the Thracian provinces on the territory which is nowadays Bulgaria. After the death of the thracian king Remetalk in 46 AD, Thracia was officially proclaimed a Roman province. During this period the city of Plovdiv was an important administrative center and soon afterwards it was proclaimed a Metropolitan city of the province Thracia. The city was called Trimontium (a city on three hills) but soon it regained its previous name Philippopolis.
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.
Today, Plovdiv is a famous tourist destination itself and also serves as a gateway to many other points of interest. Plovdiv is well-known for hosting the Plovdiv International Fair twice a year and for its ancient sites.
While 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, between post office building and Odeon; 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 center of the city. The second one is located in the old city, on the main street (Saborna St), a little bit before the Etnographic museum and the Church of Saint Konstantin and Elena. There is also an information window inside the train station with the tourist map taped to the wall next to it that you can take a picture of.
Tourist information centers can help you with all kinds of information including city maps, information about concerts, bus and train schedules, and finding a place to sleep. Many of the staff outside the info center in the old city don't speak much English so getting the information you need may be a challenge. There is also free wifi in bus stations and train stations.
International Plovdiv Airport is located next to the village of Krumovo, 15 km away from the city center (about 20 min by car). The airport is served by the low-cost flight company Ryanair, providing direct flights to London Stansted Airport and Frankfurt Haan. At the moment there are seasonal flights to Moskow Domodedovo Airport three times per week – on Monday, Friday and Sunday until March 29th 2016. Charter flights take place for the ski season, flying Monarch to London Gatwick, Yamal to Moskow Domodedovo and Donavia to Rostow na Don. The company Peagus runs flights to Izmir, Turkey.
Plovdiv International Airport is easily accessible by the following means of transport:
Sofia airport can be reached from Plovdiv via regular Plovdiv-Sofia bus departing from the Jug bus station (see below) and requesting a stop at IEC - Tsarigradsko Shose metro/subway station. From there, take metro four stops to the airport. Note that buses going from Sofia to Plovdiv do not stop at the metro station so it's only a viable option for returning from Plovdiv.
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. As of March 2013, the Istanbul train leaves from the Halkali station outside of Istanbul. The train leaves around 22:30 and there is not much easily accessible around Halkali station, so come prepared! Halkali can be reached by buses BN1 and BN2. Tickets plus reservations are around US$30.
You can check the timetable on bdz.bg
The railway station is located near the city center, it takes around 10-15 min walk to the centre.
Rail travel and ticketing in Bulgaria is unique. After buying a return trip ticket, before boarding the train on the return you have to obtain a stamp on your ticket at the cashier. Otherwise you will have to pay a fine to the conductor or be kicked off the train to get the stamp.
The A1 expressway/motorway connects Plovdiv westward to Sofia and eastward to Stara Zagora and Yambol. It is expected to be fully finished in 2013 and to connect Plovdiv to Burgas.
Plovdiv has 3 bus stations - "Jug"/("Yoog" ie South), "Sever", and "Rhodopi". There are many buses for cities all around Bulgaria and to some that are outside the country.
Jug station has an ATM located just outside so you can easily get local currency there if you're arriving by bus from abroad.
Buses run approximately hourly between Sofia and Jug station, and are slightly faster than the trains. Some may have free wifi. Price is 14 leva. The final stop for this bus is the Yug (south) station. Departure from Jug station to Sofia is exactly on the hour. Use the 'See' section for a map of the town.
Metro Turizm is a Turkish bus company that runs daily bus service to and from Istanbul in Turkey. Buses going from Plovdiv to Istanbul depart from Jug Station daily at 11:00, 14:00, 19:00, 22:30, and 01:00. The trip costs 40 leva (as of Aug 2013) and takes roughly 6 to 7 hours, depending upon the vagaries of traffic and the border crossing. Metro buses also depart daily for Bursa, Turkey at 19:00. A second bus line (Alpar) also has a daily bus from Jug Station to Istanbul that departs at 22:30.
There is no boat transportation to Plovdiv.
Taxis and buses are prevalent. Downtown has a large pedestrian zone.
Taxis (2015) prices are about 0.85 BGN/km. An average ride within the city costs about 4-5 BGN. 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, 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 taxi companies has 4-digit numbers on them, remember some and use it if you need a car, for example: 6665, 6155, 6142, 9199 and so on.
Beware of fake taxis that will do tricks to their counters. Keep an eye to the counter and if it starts going too fast, get off the car and threaten the driver with a police call.
Public bus tickets cost 1 BGN. Buses don't run very late, most of the lines close between 21-22 hr.
If you are driving your own car - beware! Plovdiv is one of the cities in Bulgaria with the highest rate of road accidents!
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 (at the street heading up into the old town) you will find 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--again, Roman laws dictated 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 post office, you will see the Roman Odeon and Forum. The forum was to Romans the downtown of today. 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.
Maps of Plovdiv can be printed or saved for offline use from the Visit Plovdiv website. http://www.plovdiv.bg/en/туристи-2/планирай-своето-пътуване/карти-и-брошури/
Plovdiv offers many things to do, and most are easily walkable.
On the Mladeshki there is a miniature train that can be ridden up and down. It costs 1 lev. On the Bunardjik Hill you can see the monument of the unknown russian soldier - it's dedecated to all the russian soldiers who died in the russian-turkish war.
You can buy many different souvenirs from Bulgaria that represent the country.
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), though make sure to try Bulgarian cuisine as well. Stewed meats, fresh salads and cheeses, and good local wine.
The 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 kebabs.There are McDonalds, KFC, Kastello, Verde and other popular restaurants.
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 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 are safe, but use common sense when walking trough them at night.
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.
If you are using public transport always keep an eye on your personal belongings. Pickpockets take advantage of overcrowded buses (like bus line 1, e.g.).
There are lots of beggars in the streets. If you are sitting on one of the many coffee shops in the center, you might encounter beggars or florists going trough the tables. They are people and individuals like everyone else which we must show human dignity and respect so politely decline and they will move on.
Also, if you walk down the Ivan Vazov str (the street that connects the bus/train station to the central square) it is very likely to meet beggars. A popular scam scheme is that the man will carry various documents "proving" that they need the money for some medical procedure. Those can be very convincing and heartbreaking. If someone tries to stop you there, it is better to avoid contact at all.
Bgrazpisanie.com is an excellent site for checking bus timings . It is useful to note down Bulgarian names of places as buses display their destination only in Cyrillic.
A small monastery up the valley from the nearby town of Bachkovo. Minibuses leave hourly (except for 12pm) from platform 1 (towards Smolyan. Bulgarian: Смолян) at the Rhodopi bus station (across the tracks from the train station, use the underpass) and the trip takes about 40 minutes. Tickets are 4 leva (as at Aug 2013) each and can be purchased from the driver. The monastery is small but has a lovely chapel and some paths for easy walks in the surrounding area. However, photography is not permitted. There is a fountain outside the monastery gate, as well as vendors selling jams, honey, and other Bulgarian souvenirs (such as gyuvech, traditional Bulgarian clay pot) though not all sellers are the actual producers.
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.
Located in Asenovgrad (Bulgarian: Асеновград), this can be done in conjunction with Bachkovo Monastery as they are only about 10 minutes / 10 km apart by bus/car. While it is also possible to walk from Bachkovo Monastery by foot, keep in mind that there is another 2 km hike from the foot of the hill to the entrance of the fortress. Magnificent views of the area and mountains from the top of the fortress.