Plovdiv - a capital of culture and history
November 11, 2018
by Tanya Klyasova
A city that has 8000 candles on its birthday cake. The European capital of culture for 2019. A place hosting some of the most wonderful fests you can ever attend. One of my favorite places to visit. Plovdiv is all this, and more.
A few facts
Plovdiv is one of the biggest cities of Bulgaria and amongst the most visited. It is located in the heart of the country and it is very easy to access (no more than two hours with a bus from Sofia). What is most significant about Plovdiv is its ancient history. Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians, Ottoman Turks… all these nations have conquered Plovdiv and inhabited it, which makes it one of the oldest cities in all Europe. Therefore, Plovdiv is a top destination for all history fans! But don’t think for a second Plovdiv is old-fashioned. Despite its age, it is also one of the most vibrant cities in the country, a true capital of culture, suggested by its motto – ‘Ancient and eternal’.
Things to see in Plovdiv
You cannot spend only one day in Plovdiv – there is just too much to see!
My favorite place is definitely the Old Town – an architectural and historical reserve of 19th century Bulgaria. I love wandering around the cobblestone streets and gaze at the colorful old houses, presenting the finest Bulgarian architecture. Many of them are now museums, restaurants, hostels or galleries, so you can experience first-hand how people lived two hundred years ago. The City Gallery is worth a visit – it exhibits unique paintings of Bulgarian artists from different time periods, and it is a piece of art itself.
While in the Old Town, I never miss the chance of going to Balabanov House – it hosts many artistic and literature events, so it is worth checking beforehand what’s on. Kuyumdzhioglu House is also exceptional – it belonged to a rich Bulgarian merchant, so it was very modern for its time and it is wonderfully preserved.
From this old Bulgarian neighborhood, Plovdiv can quickly take you to Ancient Greece as it has a preserved Ancient City. The Ancient Theatre there dates back to the 1st century AD, but it is still a grand monument to see. Even today, events are held on its site – opera, rock and folklore festivals that I would definitely recommend. The Roman Stadium and Odeon – the house of the city council of citizens – are also worth visiting.
And should you get tired of history, have a walk around The Regatta Venue and its beautiful rowing channel. It is surrounded by forest, the air is clean and fresh and you can spend a lazy afternoon walking around the channel. It is the perfect place for practicing sports, cycling and skating, but also for picnics and walks with friends. Couples shouldn’t miss the chance of leaving a locket on the Plovdiv bridge there to lock their love forever.
Best Places to Eat in Plovdiv
The first time I visited Plovdiv my main reason was, in fact, the food. Located in the center of the city, a minute away from the Central Post Office, there is a big cafeteria and gelateria called Afreddo. I would travel two hours by train from my home just to indulge on their special waffles – the best ones I have ever tried. In the cold, wintery Plovdiv, there is nothing better than visiting Afreddo and getting some hot, home-made waffles, covered with slices of bananas, home-made ice cream, almond flakes, and chocolate sauce. Could this get more perfect? Actually, yes. Afreddo serves delicious, strong Italian coffee. And if you’re not a fan of waffles, well, you can choose between a variety of cakes and pancakes that are just as good.
Of course, I would also recommend trying some traditional Bulgarian food. There are many local pubs end restaurants on the main street and in the Old City, so be sure to visit them.
Not to mention, there is a variety of bars, small cafès and fancy restaurants, so every taste can be satisfied. I personally recommend checking out Pavaj, Divaka, and Hemingway.
As I already mentioned, Plovdiv is the European capital of culture for 2019, a well-deserved title indeed, as the artistic life in the city is amazing. The highlight cultural event is, without a doubt, Kapana Fest. The fest is a remarkable celebration of arts – music stages, handcrafts bazar, literature events – Plovdiv breathes art in an out during the Kapana fest. Luckily, it is held several times per year, getting bigger and better with each time. It usually lasts for three days, but it will remain in your memories forever. ‘Kapana’ means ‘The Trap’ in Bulgarian, and the name couldn’t be more fitting – the fest will entrap you and you will have difficulties leaving, I can assure you.
However, something new is always happening in Plovdiv, so no matter when you visit, you will be pleasantly surprised by the numerous events and fests happening.
Top Hostels in Plovdiv
As it is a popular tourist destination, Plovdiv offers many hotels, hostels, and apartments where you can stay, with a considerable price range, so everybody can find something suitable. Do have a look at Guest House Old Plovdiv – it is a unique place to stay, built two hundred years ago and kept in wonderful condition by the polite and welcoming hosts. Check Best Rest Guest House also – it is an interesting mix between a hostel and guest house, it is new, cozy and modern.
The atmosphere in the Old Town makes it a pleasant place to stay during your visit. Sleeping in old houses with a rich history will help you truly experience and remember your holiday. However, be wary of tourists traps and overpricing – no place is perfect after all, even Plovdiv.
No matter where you stay, no matter what you manage to see and try, I can assure you – you will love Plovdiv, you will meet great people you will want to come back.