The Best Way to Round Off Your Plovdiv Bulgaria Experience
July 20, 2019
by Dawn Cowles
The southeast European country of Bulgaria is not one of the most well-known travel destinations, but if you decide to include it in your travel itinerary this year you’ll not be disappointed. It’s bordered by Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Greece and Turkey and has the Black Sea to the east. Bulgaria has fallen under the radar for many years, but things are slowly changing. Bulgaria’s coastline tends to be the most popular part for visitors but there are plenty of other interesting and fascinating spots to visit. The capital of this beautiful country is Sofia but there is another city popular with visitors, and that’s Plovdiv.
What is there to do in Plovdiv?
2019 has been an exciting year so far for Plovdiv, as it was named European Capital of Culture. Travel there now and you’ll get some great opportunities for exploring. One of its claims to fame is that it’s one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in Europe. There are countless opportunities to step back in time because it’s crammed with archaeological treasures. As well as thousands of years of history, the city also has a modern vibe with plenty of cultural festivals, cool bars, arty neighborhoods and relaxing eateries. Here are a few of the spots you might want to include in your itinerary:
Plovdiv Old Town
Spend a few hours wandering around Plovdiv Old Town and you’ll get to see some of the best preserved traditional architecture anywhere in southeastern Europe. If you’d like to know what a Balkan town would have looked like before the twentieth century here’s where you can find out. The Old Town is where the rich merchants, from Bulgaria, Greece and Armenia, built their homes and they have been lovingly restored. It’s possible to take a look inside some of them as they are now museum houses. If your time in the city is limited you should at least spend some time inside the ornate Kuyumdzhiev House, which is now home to the Ethnographic Museum.
There is an area of the city where new and old is able to come together seamlessly. The Karana district is right next to the center. It used to be the bazaar quarter but now its cobbled streets are home to artisan studios, craft shops, and contemporary discos, clubs and café-bars. Pay a visit to this area when the sun goes down and the place really comes alive.
If you’re spending a few days in Plovdiv and fancy a change of scenery, take a day trip out to the Bachkovo Monastery. Bulgaria is a very spiritual country and you’ll be able to feel it first hand when you visit the walled complex that includes two courtyards and a pair of exquisitely decorated churches. The surrounding area is equally magnificent as it’s surrounded by wooded slopes. Enjoy the beauty, peace and quiet along one of the nearby nature walks.
Bulgaria was occupied by the Ottomans and they left their mark on the architecture in Plovdiv and many of the country’s other cities. One prime example is the Dzhumaya Mosque, the only mosque left standing in Plovdiv. It dates back to 1363. There is no entrance fee but you will need to dress modestly.
A live music experience at the Roman Amphitheatre
Before you wend your way home, there’s one experience you really shouldn’t miss. No visit to Plovdiv is going to be complete if you don’t treat yourself to a live music event at the Roman Amphitheatre. In Roman times, Plovdiv was an important provincial hub, known as Philippopolis. It’s economic and cultural significance meant it was able to benefit from Roman construction and development. One such development was the theater, built between two hills and overlooking the city. It was originally built to hold audiences of between 5,000 and 7,000 people.
Uncovered after centuries of being buried
Sadly, the theatre was lost and quite literally buried, thanks to some of the country’s invaders and it wasn’t until a landslide in 1970 that it was rediscovered. A major archaeological excavation took place at this time and a layer of 4.5 meters of earth was removed. The restoration is considered to be one of the best achievements of the Bulgarian Conservation School. There are some very striking features that can still be seen. For example, municipal district names that were carved into benches. These let people know where they could sit. Some of the engravings that can still be seen provided evidence that it was used as a seat for the provincial assembly of Thracia.
A modern day experience not to be missed
The Amphitheatre can be enjoyed for free from several look-out points along Ulitsa Hemus and there is also a café/bar where you can sit and enjoy a cold beer and a plate of food. If you pay a visit during the day time you can pay an admission fee and take a much closer look around. However, the true magic of this sympathetically restored Roman Amphitheatre is best experienced in the evening when you can take your place on the marble benches and enjoy one of the many large-scale special events or concerts that are held here every year.
It’s worth mentioning that you might want to bring your own cushion, as marble is not the most comfortable of surfaces to be sat on for a couple of hours. Sensible footwear is also recommended as access to some of the seats can be a little treacherous in places.
The theatrre today is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Plovdiv. Thousands of people visit it every year. It also plays a huge part in the cultural life of the city, mainly due to the unique architecture and its amazing acoustics. In its restored condition it is able to accommodate up to 3,500 spectators and there have been some very famous names giving it their all on the stage. Big names that have graced the stage include Sting, Ian Anderson and Tom Jones. Upcoming events for the rest of the year include a performance of Swan Lake, Otello, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rigoletto and Rock the Opera at the beginning of September. Visit Plovdiv during the summer months and there’s nearly always something going on at least once a week.
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July 26, 2019
Sounds just as I remember it!! Would be helpful to learn easiest way to get there from most Southerly part of U.K.