things to do in plovdiv

The Best Things to do in Plovdiv

Plovdiv and its famous hills have been inhabited for more than 8,000 years, making it one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. The Ancient Thracians ruled for a few thousand years before the Romans arrived and built a magnificent collection of monuments that are still being excavated in this Bulgarian city.  Plovdiv is Bulgaria’s second city and it’s a glorious place to visit.   Here’s a heads up on the best things to do in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

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Where to Stay in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

There are a host of places to stay in Plovdiv, Bulgaria – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, mid-range places to stay in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and budget accommodation in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Gallery 37, BW Premier Collection, Plovdiv:The Gallery 37 in Plovdiv is ideally located at the heart of Plovdiv, conveniently located just 15 meters away from the stunning Ancient Roman Amphitheatre. This five-star hotel in Plovdiv has rooms with pieces designed by renowned Bulgarian artists; these rooms include a flat-screen TV, mini-bar, a safe, and a private bathroom with bathrobes, a bidet, and slippers. This world-class Plovdiv hotel also offers breakfast, coffee in the in-hotel café, and a free parking space. Plovdiv’s Gallery 37 also boasts a terrace for guests to enjoy the views of the city and free WiFi. The Gallery 37 is a magnificent Plovdiv hotel where art and history blend, a perfect place to indulge when visiting Plovdiv. See room rates and availability here.

Boutique Guest House 7th Sense, Plovdiv: The Boutique Guest House 7th Sense is located right at the center of Plovdiv. Each room at Plovdiv’s Guest House 7th Sense is equipped with a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom with a shower, hairdryer, free toiletries air-conditioning, a seating area, sound-proofing, and iron/iron board while selected rooms have a balcony. This boutique guest house in Plovdiv has a shared lounge area, an airport shuttle (for a fee), daily housekeeping, and free WiFi throughout the accommodation. Plovdiv’s Boutique Guest House 7th Sense is an ideally located accommodation for easily exploring Plovdiv. Read more reviews and check room rates and availability here.

Plovdiv City Center Hotel, Plovdiv: The Plovdiv City Center Hotel is perfectly located at the heart of Plovdiv. This budget Plovdiv hotel has rooms that feature a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a kettle shower, a private bathroom with a shower and a hairdryer, a wardrobe, a desk, fridge, air-conditioning, and blackout curtains, and there is a balcony in selected rooms. This Plovdiv hotel also has a spacious terrace and a lobby bar that serves hot, alcoholic, soft drinks, fresh cocktails, and fresh juices. The Plovdiv City Center Hotel is a fantastic budget hotel in

The Best Things to do in Plovdiv

Explore Plovdiv Old Town

Traditional homes blend with Plovdiv’s Roman ruins on the car-free cobblestone streets of old Plovdiv.  And it gives some hint of what life was like in those days Did you know that Plovdiv is the world’s sixth-oldest city?

The Old Town of Plovdiv, which is built on three hills—Nebet Tepe, Taksim Tepe, and Dzhambaz Tepe—is home to the most historic ruins and architecture, as well as several excellent museums.

The majority of the houses in this area of town, particularly on Ulitsa Saborna, are half-timbered, with some of the more luxurious examples painted in vibrant colors. Take the House of Stepan Hindliyan, which is blue with delicate sgraffito (scratched) designs around its window frames and dates from the mid-1800s.  You can visit and see the lavish interior decorations of this lovely old house, as well as several others in Old Town. Stepan Hindliyan’s House murals took six months to paint by hand in just one room!

Old Town Plovdiv

Many of the Old Town’s Revival-period houses are now museums. If you have to pick three, Balabanov’s House, the Ethnographic Museum, and the History Museum are the most impressive. Aside from the houses, the Old Town is home to the famous Roman Amphitheater (more on that below), as well as some cafés and restaurants where you can rest your feet and small craft shops.

You get more information about the history of Old Plovdiv on this tour here.

Take a Walking Tour of Plovdiv

There have been sightseeing walking tours of Plovdiv, which have been a must-do activity for both locals and visitors since 2012.  The tours are entertaining as well as educational, and they are a great way to get your bearings in the city. Starting your visit to Bulgaria’s second-largest city with a general sightseeing Free Plovdiv Tour is a great way to get started. All of the major landmarks and monuments are included in the tour. Communication will not be an issue because the tour guides are also English speakers.   The tours cover Plovdiv’s fascinating 8000-year history in just 2 hours and visit over 20 different locations. Plovdiv is the place to be for those interested in street art! On the tour, you’ll see many of the sights on this list, including the Old Town and its Bulgarian National Revival architecture, the Roman Amphitheater, the Roman Stadium, and more, all while learning about Plovdiv’s 6,000-year history from locals.

These free tours run every day of the year, regardless of the weather. The tours run twice daily from May to September, at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and once daily from October to April, at 2 p.m. The free tour begins in front of the Municipality Building on Alexander I Knyaz Street (Main Street). There are also paid for options.

Finding it difficult to figure out which walking tour of Plovdiv to take? Or can’t find one to suit your time frames? Try this one!

Go to the Plovdiv Roman Amphitheater /Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis

The Ancient Amphitheater of Philippopolis is a must-see for anyone visiting Plovdiv.  It is stunning and if you’re interested in Ancient Roman architecture it’s an absolute must.  The theatre is between Jambaz Tepe and Taksim Tepe is the theater. It was constructed between 108 and 114 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Mark Ulpius Trajan.

It is the only preserved ancient theater building in Bulgaria and has been designated as an archeological monument. It is said that there was a temple dedicated to the Thracian goddess Bendis in this location before its construction.

Roman Ampitheater Plovdiv

Philippopolis’ Ancient Roman Theatre is one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in the world. You can honestly sit on one of the marble benches and be transported to Emperor Trajan’s reign at the beginning of the second century. The theatre evokes the spirit of ancient Rome with its 28 concentric rows of seats, interesting inscriptions, and magnificent statues.

Philippopolis, like all major cities in the Roman Empire’s territory, had a theatre. The theatre was built in the saddle between Taksim and Dzhambaz Tepes (Hills) on the southern slope of the three hills (Trimontium).

Today, as well as being a must-visit Plovdiv attraction it is also used for concerts and performances, with seating for approximately 5000 people. However, there’s something seriously magical about seeing your favorite band at the Ancient Theatre, and it’s a thousand times better than at a stadium – the sensation is much more spectacular! The theater costs 5 BGN to enter, but if you want to find out more, then it’s best to join a tour for the full history.

See the Medieval Hisar Kapia Gate in Plovdiv

One of Plovdiv’s symbols is the unique architectural and historical ensemble surrounding the eastern gate of the Acropolis fortress wall.  Hisar Kapia is a medieval gate in Plovdiv’s old town that is one of the city’s most well-known tourist attractions.  There has been a gate there since antiquity. There are foundations from the Roman period beneath the street pavement (cobblestone) (probably from the 2nd century AD). On the Three Hills, there is also evidence of topographic continuity.

Medieval Hsipar Gate Plovdiv

Plovdiv’s wealthy merchant’s built houses over the fortified walls on both sides of the Hisar Kapia Gate during Ottoman rule. The original medieval walls can still be found on the ground floors of these houses today.

The dominant medieval alteration of the 11-13th century determines the current appearance of the gate. Above the outer arch, a unique construction can be seen, which surrounds each stone with red bricks cemented with plaster – a characteristic of Bulgarian construction mastery during the Second Bulgarian Empire. This ensemble also includes the outdoor quadrangular tower beneath the altar of St. Konstantin and Elena Church. For many years, it was used as a crypt (ossuary).

Walkthrough the Roman Stadium in Plovdiv’s Centre

Because of its central location, the Roman Stadium in Plovdiv is one of those sights that you can’t miss!   That’s right there is a Roman stadium that lies beneath Plovdiv’s main street. That’s correct, an entire stadium. At the beginning of the second century AD, Emperor Hadrian ordered its construction.

The ruins of the Roman stadium, not to be confused with the amphitheater, can be found in the heart of Plovdiv. Only one of its sides is visible today, but the stadium actually runs all the way beneath the city’s main shopping street. Its size was so impressive that it could hold 30 000 people and three shows at the same time.

Roman stadium ruins in Plovdiv

This is where different events, such as the Pythian games, were held in ancient times, and it is one of the largest and best-preserved buildings from the time of Ancient Rome on the Balkan peninsula.  Unfortunately, only fragments of the structure can be seen today because the rest is buried beneath the main pedestrian street. You can watch a 3D movie about the stadium’s history by going down the stairs to the information center. The cost of the film is 6 BGN. This is yet another must-see in Plovdiv, don’t miss this out.

Hike Nebet Tepe in Plovdiv

After seeing the Ancient Theatre, take a hike up Nebet Tepe, one of Plovdiv’s famous hills (the city, like many others, was built on seven hills).  The highest hill in Plovdiv’s Old Town, Nebet Tepe, once housed the city’s fortress. Though only ruins of the structure remain today, it offers breathtaking views of Plovdiv below, demonstrating both the city’s old and new eras and why it was a strategic location for a fortress.

Nebet Tepe, however, is best known for its panoramic views of Plovdiv. Plovdiv is built on seven hills, similar to Rome. However, only six of them remain today. The seventh, Markovo Tepe, was destroyed, and the city’s streets were paved with syenite rocks.

Though it’s a great place to visit during the day when touring the Old Town, it’s also a great place to relax on a nice evening. Finding a spot on one of the fortress walls and enjoying a few snacks and beers while watching the sunset below the city is a popular pastime among Plovdiv residents.

Nebet Tepe Plovdiv

The Church of the Holy Mother of God, which is located on Nebet Tepe in the Old Town, is also one of Plovdiv’s most important churches. Since the 9th century, there’s been a church on this site, but it was destroyed by the Ottomans when they conquered Plovdiv in the late-14th century.

Nebet Tepe is easily accessible, and the short ‘hike’ uphills are well worth it. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset over the “city of the seven hills.” Please remember to clean up after yourself and that while it is technically illegal to consume alcohol in public in Plovdiv, this law is rarely enforced, so if you take a sundowner with you, please be aware.

Go to the Regional Ethnographic Museum in Plovdiv

If you’re looking for something to do in Plovdiv and are interested in its history, a visit to the Regional Ethnographic Museum is a great addition to your itinerary.  The Plovdiv Ethnographic Museum occupies a former private residence. The lovely 19th-century house once belonged to Argir Kuyumdzhioglu, a wealthy Plovdiv merchant.

Over 40,000 artifacts from Bulgarian folk culture over the centuries are on display. Traditional Bulgarian costumes, unique carpets, everyday utensils, and much more are on display. It’s a great place to go if you want to see what life was like two centuries ago.

This Old Town attraction is housed in another merchant’s house from the mid-nineteenth century, this one belonging to Argir Kuyumdzhioglu, a Bulgarian immigrant.  The ornate baroque sgraffito above the entrance and the undulating curves of the building’s roof will catch your eye as you enter. Over the centuries, the attraction has amassed over 40,000 items related to Bulgarian folk culture. Authentic musical instruments, fabrics, clothing, handicrafts, and farm tools are among the items on display.

This is an excellent stop to get a sense of what life was like in Plovdiv over the course of its 6,000-year history. Adults pay 6 BGN and students with a valid ID pay 2 BGN

Visit a House Museum in Plovdiv

If you enjoyed the Ethnographic Museum, one of the many other house museums in Plovdiv’s Old Town is likely to pique your interest.  What makes visiting a museum a good alternative activity? A house museum is unlike any other museum with a theme, such as an ethnographic or archeological museum. A house museum recreates the look of a private residence from Bulgaria’s Revival period. The owners of property in today’s Old Town in Plovdiv were extremely wealthy, and they all desired the most lavish and beautiful home possible.

Amazing things can be found inside such a stunning home, such as marble bathrooms, views from faraway travel painted on the walls, water fountains with rosewater, and spaces between floors, among other things. Visit one of these houses in Plovdiv; you don’t get the chance to see a house from the 1830s every day.  There are several houses to visit where you can see how wealthy merchants in Plovdiv lived in previous centuries.

The Balabanov House, the Kilanti House, and the Hindliyan House are among the house museums you’ll find here. All of these museums are housed in traditional Bulgarian Revival houses found throughout in the Old Town.

Balabanov House Plovdiv

Go to the Singing Fountains in Plovdiv

Tsar Simeon Garden is Plovdiv’s most beautiful garden. It’s a lovely spot for a stroll, especially on a hot summer day.  The Singing Fountains are the highlight of the park, aside from the beautiful flowers and trees that make it a small paradise. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 21:30, a piece of spectacular music and light show takes place, making the garden the ideal place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing.  Tsar Simeon’s Garden is a beautiful place to visit in any season.

Plovdiv hosted the First Bulgarian Agricultural and Industrial Exhibition with international participation in 1892, which has since been replaced by the Plovdiv Fair. The landscape architect Lucien Chevalas designed a new city garden for the opening of the exhibition, which was named after Tsar Simeon after the exhibition ended.

The Singing Fountains Plovdiv

The city municipality preserved and developed it as the main city park after the exhibition was over. Tsar Simeon’s Garden has been designated as a park art monument.  The garden has preserved fountains, a large lake, and the classic fountain of Demeter, goddess of fertility, sculpted by Italian sculptor Arnoldo Zcchi, since its inception. The only relic of the First Bulgarian Exhibition is the fountain. The “Fisherman” and the “Bear” are two other well-known fountains.

The lake with the Singing Fountains is located within the park and attracts thousands of Plovdiv residents and visitors during the summer. There are numerous monuments to Bulgarian spiritual leaders, as well as modern sculptures and compositions.

Visit the Kapana District in Plovdiv

Plovdiv’s art district is known as Kapana. For the past 5 centuries, it has been the city’s arts and crafts district.  In Bulgarian, the district name Kapana means “trap.” You’ll feel trapped if you try to visit all of the craft beer and cocktail bars here because you’ll run into them at every turn!

The district was established during the Ottoman occupation and was home to local craftsmen. Even the names of the streets reflect this. Streets like Kozhuharska (Furriers’ street), Zhelezarska (Smiths’ street), and Zlatarska (Goldsmiths’ street) can be found among them.

Kapana District Plovdiv

Kapana, which is only a 10-minute walk downhill from the Old Town, can feel like a world away from the historical center’s ancient sites. This quarter has been completely renovated in recent years.  Kapana, as the city’s traditional arts and crafts quarter, was once home to over 900 privately owned shops that were left abandoned after Bulgaria’s communist regime shut down the private industry. Due to the country’s fledgling capitalist economy, the shops remained abandoned in the years following the fall of communism. Kapana was barely more than a car park only a few years ago.

Kapana is now a maze of streets lined with trendy eateries, chilled-out coffee shops, independent retailers, and a slew of hip bars, making it the city’s go-to spot for nightlife and dining.   The city commissions artists twice a year to paint murals on the walls of Kapana, so there’s plenty of street art to see in the quarter.

Visit the Dzhumaya Mosque in Plovdiv

After the Ottomans conquered the city in 1363, the Dzhumaya Mosque was built. Sultan Murad II completely reconstructed the building in the 15th century, giving it its current appearance.  

This is Plovdiv’s main Muslim temple and Hüdavendigâr Camii or Cuma Camii is its Turkish name. The mosque was built in the center of Plovdiv, replacing the Sveta Petka Tarnovska Cathedral Church, shortly after the town was conquered by the Ottoman army (1363–1364). The old structure was demolished and replaced by the modern mosque during Sultan Murad II’s reign (1421–1451).

Dzhumaya Mosque in Plovdiv

This building was updated during the reign of Sultan Murad II after a couple of hundred years and is now what you see. The north side of the mosque was refurbished with wooden kiosks in the 1800s, which was a small but striking addition.

Floral ornament wall paintings, such as twigs, blossoms, and garlands, are intertwined with medallions quoting the Koran in the mosque’s interior. The wall paintings are most likely from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The exterior and interior of the Dzhumaya Mosque are similar to some of the oldest Ottoman religious monuments in Bursa, Edirne, and Sofia, which were built in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Today, Dzhumaya Mosque is a functioning Muslim temple that is visited by the Muslim religious community in Plovdiv not only on religious holidays but also during the week.  The mosque is open to the public and admission is free. However, keep in mind that it is still a functioning place of worship, so dress appropriately.

See Plovdiv’s Hindliyan House

Stepan Hindliyan’s house was built in 1834-1835 and is one of the few houses in Plovdiv to retain its original symmetrical design.  This historic house-museum, built in 1835-1840 and originally owned by merchant Stepan Hindliyan, is a stunning example of Symmetrical Plovdiv Architecture. The Hindliyan house is the most ornate of all the preserved houses in the Old Town, with its Neo-Baroque design, intricate ceilings, and detailed landscapes handpainted on the walls.

Wall murals depicting scenery from Stockholm, Lisbon, Saint Petersburg, Athens, Istanbul, and Venice adorn the niches on the interior walls, most likely reproduced from postcards and engravings brought back from the house’s owner’s travels.  The Hindliyan’s House yard connects several farm structures, a bathroom, and a basement. The plot has a complicated plan due to its irregular angular shape, which adheres to symmetry only within the frameworks of the inner space. External architectural solutions are numerous and diverse.

Because of the way the light shines out through the 13 windows, one of the rooms in the house is called “the lighthouse,” and the house looks like a lighthouse in the evenings. The house also has a lot of interior windows, which helps with lighting. 

Hike to the Alyosha Monument in Plovdiv

Alyosha is a massive Soviet soldier statue that stands on Bunarjik Hill and can be seen from all over the city.  The Alyosha Monument offers yet another spectacular view of Plovdiv. The monument commemorates Soviet casualties during the country’s occupation by the Soviet Union during World War II.  The statue is a contentious issue among locals, and Plovdiv authorities have attempted to have it removed at least once. Regardless, the monument is still impressive, and the view from there is breathtaking.

Alyosa Monument in Plovdiv

Bunarjik hill offers more panoramic views of Plovdiv, this is Plovdiv’s second-highest hill and it’s also known as Liberators Hill. The name refers to two monuments on the site: the Monument of Russian Liberators and the statue of a Russian soldier.  The hike to the top takes about 30 to 40 minutes, so dress comfortably and bring some water, especially on hotter days.

Take a trip on the Children’s Railway

Plan a trip to the Children’s Railway if you’re traveling with kids or just want to keep the kid in you alive.  The mini-train will transport you to the top of one of Plovdiv’s hills, passing through a tunnel. And yes, it is appropriate for both children and adults. There are only a few trains that run every day.

It first opened on September 23, 1979, and quickly became a popular destination for children and their parents, as well as city residents and visitors. It was decommissioned in 1997.   The idea of re-establishing this historically significant location for Plovdiv was born in 2004. It was also implemented on September 22, 2007, exactly 28 years after the railway first opened its doors, and the railway received a new look.

Pioneer Station, which has a platform, two tracks, and a traffic light, is where the train, which consists of a locomotive and three wagons, begins its journey. The journey takes approximately 25 minutes. There’s more on the Children’s Railway here.

Map of things to do in Plovdiv

Map of Things to do in Plovdiv

You can also see the map here.

Things to do near Plovdiv

Plovdiv is one of Eastern Europe’s most promising cities, and for good reason. It has a great climate and a fabulous Mediterranean-style lifestyle.  There’s a great café culture here and it makes a great base for exploring the local area.  Here are some of the best things to do near Plovdiv. 

If you need to rent a car in Bulgaria we recommend Discover Cars for car hire.  You can search, compare and save up to 70%, with no hidden fees and free cancellation, it’s a perfect choice! Get a price for a rental car in Bulgaria here.

Visit Asen’s Fortress from Plovdiv

Asen’s Fortress is a ruined medieval castle perched atop a rocky ridge overlooking the Asenitsa River in the Rhodope Mountains.  This strategic location was the site of a Thracian fortress, which was later used by the Romans, Byzantines, and Bulgarians. During the reign of Tsar Ivan Asen II, it was renovated in the 13th century to serve as a line of defense against the Latin Empire. The invading Ottoman armies destroyed it in 1410.

Asens Fortress near Plovdiv

This impressive structure stands out against a landscape of limestone rocks and pine brush as you approach by road.   The fortress’s walls zigzag down the steep mountainsides, guarding a perch that has been a stronghold for at least 6,000 years, dating back to the Thracians’ time. What you see today dates from the 1200s, with the best-preserved section being the Church of the Holy Mother of God, which boasts beautiful if partially damaged 14th-century murals.

The fortress is now in ruins, with only a small church remaining within the fortifications. The “Holy Virgin of Petrich” Church is the only building in the complex that has been preserved, and it is one of the most impressive examples of Medieval Christian architecture. The church reopened as an Orthodox temple in 1991, following a complete restoration. You can drive to Asen’s Fortress, but combine it with a visit to the Bachkovo Monastery here.

Go Wine Tasting from Plovdiv

Despite the fact that Bulgaria is one of the world’s oldest wine producers, wine tourism is still in its infancy here, and the wine producers are best visited on a day trip from Plovdiv, or from Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia.  (Our full guide to day trips from Plovdiv is here).

Making wine is an important tradition in Bulgaria that dates back to the Thracian culture. The wine was worshipped as a divine drink by the Thracian tribes who inhabited the lands as early as 4000 BC. Here are a few stops on your perfect wine tour around Plovdiv if you love wine as much as we do!

Wine Tasting near Plovdiv

Villa Yustina, Villa Vinifera, Zagreus Winery, Brestovitsa Winery, and Dragomir Winery are among Bulgaria’s best wineries and vineyards. In Plovdiv, Bulgaria, there are several options for customizing wine tastings and tours, you will, of course, want someone else to do the driving if you go wine tasting in Plovdiv!

Discover the best tasting wines in Plovdiv, click here for more details!

I’ve covered more of the best day trips to take from Plovdiv here.

Go to Plovdiv’s Aviation Museum

The Aviation Museum, which opened in 1991, chronicles Bulgarian aviation’s growth and achievements.  The museum is a branch of the National Military and History Museum and is located near Plovdiv International Airport.  This is an interesting diversion after the more traditional things to see in Plovdiv – there’s a great collection of old Migs and Yaks here.  The Arado 196 A-3, a German seaplane built in 1938 is the world’s last surviving model.

Asen Hristov Yordanov is the subject of one of the Aviation Museum’s most interesting collections. This is the man who designed Bulgaria’s first airplane. The museum has a model of this plane on display. Yordanov also proved to be the only adventurer who dared to enter a competition in the United States for a world flight that was never completed due to a lack of other participants.

Plan your Trip to Bulgaria

Final Words on the Best Things to do in Plovdiv

Whether you come to Plovdiv for the weather (it has a lovely climate), the wine (there are some great wineries around here), or simply to soak up the atmosphere in this fabulous city, it will be well worth your time.  As one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, it is currently Bulgaria’s second city, and its steeped in history, but also gloriously modern. 

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