Plovdiv is a must for tourists. A sense of history here is unparalleled and there is much to see!
Plovdiv, the second biggest city in the country has one problem, the locals joke: it is too close to Sofia.
One and a half hour drive will take you to the City on the Hills, as Plovdiv is lovingly called. The distance of 150 km appears to be small enough to stunt present-day economic development and to suck away capable youth to the capital, a problem that has only been exasperated by incapable local governance.
The second largest Bulgarian city did not always live in the shadow of Sofia.
During the Bulgarian Revival, Plovdiv was one of the biggest cities on the Balkans and a vibrant commercial center.
Plovdiv’s Old Town where the fabulous houses of the super-rich Revival period merchants are lined up along steep cobbled streets is the lavish remain of that period.
The city was briefly a capital of the autonomous Ottoman region of Eastern Roumelia, a title it readily gave up for the cause of national unity in 1885 when Eastern Roumelia ceased to exist.
But Plovdiv’s history goes much further back.
In 340 BC the existing Thracian settlement was conquered by Philip of Macedon, the very capable father of the much more famous Alexander the Great. It was named Philippopolis i.e. the city of Phillip. The name, which is a mouthful, got chewed down to the present day Plovdiv.
Throughout antiquity Plovdiv remained an important Roman center in the region under the name Trimontium (the city on the 3 hills).
A perfectly preserved 2nd c Roman theatre was uncovered following a landslide in 1970’s and is now open for visitors and an occasional performance.
Plovdiv is also home to the early 14th c Dzhumaya Mosque, one of the oldest Ottoman religious buildings on the Balkans.
Check out the always busy main pedestrian street with shops and cafes and the remains of a 240 m long Roman stadium underneath it.
The Roman stadium is believed to have held 30 000 spectators
GETTING FROM SOFIA TO PLOVDIV
Regular buses and trains leave from the Central Train Station and the adjacent Central Bus Station during the day.
Distance: 150 km
Driving - 1h 30 min
Bus - 2 h
Train - 3 h
Tickets: 12-15 lv one way / 20-25 lv two-way
Note: The 2-way train ticket must be validated at Plovdiv’s Train station before boarding the return train.