Plovdiv is a city for history and culture lovers. Our Plovdiv travel guide covers everything from the quaint Old Town with cobbled streets and historic buildings to the modern high street, uncovered city centre ruins and gratified rock faces. Plovdiv is a city that’s both charming and modern.
We really embraced slow travel in Plovdiv – because it was such a perfect place for it. There are beautiful buildings and scenic spots to admire all around the city, museums to explore, winding cobbled streets to walk and quirky cafes to sip coffee in.
Plovdiv Travel Guide: Slow Travel Activities
We could hardly believe how much there actually is to do in Plovdiv. It’s really the kind of city where you need at least a couple of days to see the sights without rushing through.
Join a Free Walking Tour in Plovdiv
Like Sofia, there’s also a free walking tour of Plovdiv. We made the sensible decision to make this the very first thing that we did when we arrived in Plovdiv because we knew that it would help us get our bearings and fill us in on the history of the city. The tour covers everything from the graffiti at Sahat Hill to the Old Town.
Be the “I” in Plovdiv
Plovdiv has been named as a candidate for the European Capital of Culture 2019 and they were already getting excited about this, having erected a colourful “Plovdiv 2019” photo opp in the middle of the highstreet in anticipation.
Walk the Longest Pedestrian Street in Europe
At 1750m in length, Plovdiv boasts the longest pedestrian street in Europe, apparently beating Copenhagen’s. The partially excavated Roman Ruins are located at one end of the street, though much of the ruins still lies hidden underneath the high street. The street is lined with cafes, bars and shops, though the further out of town you walk the less exciting the route becomes.
Get Lost in Kapana – “The Trap”
Kapana district, known by locals as “The Trap,” is a hipster area of Plovdiv. The area is characterised by small, winding streets and beautiful cobblestones, flags criss-crossing the walkways and creative artwork on the walls, tall buildings with colourful exteriors, independent coffee shops and quirky crafts shops. Kapana has undergone a revival since Plovdiv has been named as a candidate for European Capital of Culture in 2019 and new coffee shops are popping up here all the time. We’re not entirely sure why it’s named “The Trap” but our guess is that it’s because you can so easily get trapped in the maze of streets, ambling around and enjoying coffee, with no idea what the time is.
Stop for Turkish Coffee at the Teahouse
Next to Plovdiv’s large mosque which was built during the Ottoman Empire is a beautiful, ornate wooden teahouse. It’s a popular place amongst locals and tourists for an afternoon sweet treat and coffee. The waitresses are really unfriendly but the place is unique and the coffee is strong.
Explore the Old Town
The Old Town is home to beautiful 19th century timber houses with tops overhanging. Historic walls run through the area and the cobbled paths wind down the hill towards the city centre.
Head Over to Plovdiv’s Ethnographic Museum
Our accommodation was right next to the very beautiful Ethnographic Museum, so we’d been eyeing it up since we arrived in Plovdiv. We knew that we wouldn’t have time to get around all the museums, so this one was our top priority. Inside the museum, you can find exhibits from Plovdiv’s agricultural past, as well as on crafts, fabrics and clothing, interiors and furnishings, musical instruments and religious items. We were so impressed by the expanse of interesting historical relics housed in the museum; don’t miss it if you’re travelling in Plovdiv.
Stop by the Roman Amphitheater
The ancient Roman theatre in Plovdiv was built in 98-117 AD and is still in use today. In the summer, the Roman theatre can hold up to 7000 spectators, who come to watch shows and performances. In the winter, the theatre is covered in snow, so you can just come to admire the architecture and the view.
Sunset on Nebet Hill
One of seven hills in Plovdiv, Nebet Hill was our favourite because it was such a beautiful spot for admiring the cityscape and watching the sunset. The remains of Plovdiv’s earliest settlements are located on the hill – but we couldn’t see them for all the snow when we were there. You can reach Nebet Hill through Plovdiv’s Old Town.
Taste Bulgaria Wine at Vino Culture
Learn about and sample Bulgarian wines at wine and tapas bar Vino Culture. The owner has an intimate knowledge of all of his wines, making this a really unqiue experience. We sampled some biodynamic red wines and munched on bruschetta and sundried tomatoes.
Outside the City: Day Trip to Bachkovo Monastery and Asen’s Fortress
No Plovdiv travel guide would be complete without mentioning day trips from the city. If you want to get out of the city for the day, then we’d definitely recommend exploring Bachkovo Monastery and Asen’s Fortress. These sights are quite close to each other, so you can combine them into one trip. We took a trip with a local guide, but we also read that you can take the bus from Plovdiv and then walk between these two areas if the weather is good. The monastery is about 30km from Plovdiv.
The Bachkovo Monastery is the second largest monastery in Bulgaria. It’s possibly the most picturesque place that we visited in Bulgaria and because it was the winter season, we were the only ones there (it was absolutely freezing in the Rhodope mountains, even though the winters here are meant to be mild!)
Just down the road from the Bachkovo monastery is Asen’s Fortress, set in the same stunning mountain range. The most well preserved part of the fortress is the Church of the Holy Mother of God, which was built in the 12th-13th century. The chapel is small and dusty with rows of chairs and very minimal decor. From the church, you can climb up the steps to look out over the valley.
The Best Hostel in Plovdiv
I’m convinced that we stayed in the best hostel in Plovdiv. I’d go as far as to say that Hostel Old Plovdiv is one of the best hostels that we’ve ever stayed in! The hostel is a charming, lovingly restored townhouse furnished with antiques from local antique shops. There are beautiful wooden floors and ceilings, wrought iron bed steads, singer sewing machines and paintings all over. Charming and antique are the words.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a welcoming sign with our names on it and friendly staff who showed us round. We were also on our vegan travel challenge during our stay in Plovdiv and the hostel were so accommodating that they even made us a vegan breakfast and specially brought in soy milk for us. Truly amazing.
Where to Eat in Plovdiv
Looking for places to eat in Plovdiv? Check out our guide to eating vegan in Plovdiv where we cover the city’s best vegan lunch and dinner spots.
Are you travelling to Plovdiv? Let us know how useful you found our Plovdiv travel guide.