Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria and the former Roman city of Philippopolis. Things to do in Plovdiv Bulgaria include;
- Plovdiv Roman Theater
- Plovdiv Roman Stadium
- Colorful houses of Plovdiv Bulgaria
- Roman Forum of Philippopolis
- Old Town Plovdiv and the Ancient City of Philippopolis
- Abandoned Stadium of Plovdiv Bulgaria
- War Memorials
With all these things to do in Plovdiv, as well as cheap hotels, wouldn’t it make sense to stay in Plovdiv and visit Sofia on a day trip?
Plovdiv Roman Theater
The Roman Theater of Plovdiv claims to be one of the best preserved in the world. I must agree, it’s in excellent shape but there are some more impressive Roman Theaters in Turkey. That said, it’s certainly one of the most impressive Roman Theaters in Europe. This theater dates back to the first century and like many from this era, is built on a slope. It’s capacity is up to 7000 spectators but I’m sure back in the day they fit a lot more in. Its original use was to host Gladiator and Hunting Games. Nowadays however, Plovdiv Roman Theater is used for shows and concerts, check if there is an event on when your visiting.
There are a couple of interesting facts about this theater. Firstly, important citizens had their names inscribed in their seats which you can still see today. This is something which Manchester City do in their modern day stadium, maybe they consider their season ticket holders as important citizens! The second interesting fact is that the theater was lost for centuries when it was covered by a mudslide. It wasn’t until 1970 that it was rediscovered, there’s a similar Roman theater in Durres, Albania which was also lost for centuries.
Plovdiv Roman Stadium
Did you know that Plovdiv Bulgaria has a huge underground stadium? Not only is there a 30,000 seater stadium in the city but it’s also underground, below the main shopping street of Plovdiv. As a result this is one of the most unique Roman stadiums anywhere in the world. The official name for the stadium is the Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis because Plovdiv is built on the ancient Roman city of Philippopolis. As a matter fact, the iconic photo of Plovdiv Bulgaria is the colorful houses with the ancient stadium in the foreground.
Colorful Houses of Plovdiv
The main shopping street of Plovdiv is full of colorful houses. Photographers will love walking around this area with the explosion of color and architecture. I recommend a walk down here at sunrise when you’ll likely be alone. Unless of course, you’re in Plovdiv for the shopping!
As I mentioned, Plovdiv is built on top of the ancient Roman city of Philippopolis. For this reason, there is a huge Roman Forum. It’s not as pretty as the Roman stadiums but an important part of Plovdiv nonetheless.
Staria Grad – Plovdiv Old Town
The official name for old town Plovdiv is Staria Grad. This part of Plovdiv is located on hills, therefore it’s time to do some exercise as you explore. In addition, this is the part of Plovdiv with the deepest history. As a matter of fact Philip II of Macedon is a major part of history in this area. He is of course, the father of Alexander the Great. As well as structures dating back to the Roman period and beyond, there are some colorful 19th century houses. Finally, there are a couple of good sunset locations in Staria Grad, Nebet Tepe and the Church of the Holy Mother of God.
Hisar Kapia Medieval Gate
There are not many of the fortress walls remaining in the old town. For this reason, Hisar Kapia gate has become popular as it’s the best preserved part. The gate you see today was built over a Roman gate. Furthermore, during Ottoman times Revival style houses were built on and around the walls. Photographers will enjoy photographing the gate with a colorful house as a foreground.
Nebet Tepe is the oldest part of Plovdiv Bulgaria. As a matter of fact there are over 6000 years of history on this hill. There are the remains of a fortress here and you’re free to walk around and explore. Be careful though as there is no safety whatsoever! If you look at the fortress from town, it doesn’t look impressive. However, it is an impressive fortress from within it. Additionally, it’s a wonderful sunset location with city views.
Church of the Holy Mother of God
I mentioned that Nebet Tepe is a good sunset location in Philippopolis. Another less obvious sunset location is the Church of the Holy Mother of God. More specifically, the Belfry of the church. Due to its yellow and white colors, it matches perfectly with a sunset sky. In addition, you can also include a Revival era lamp in the picture.
Plovdiv Regional Ethnographic Museum
I must confess, I had to Google ‘Ethnographic’. It means ‘relating to the scientific description of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences’. I can’t think of a better place to have an Ethnographic museum than Bulgaria. The number of different peoples and cultures which have past through Plovdiv Bulgaria over the years is huge. Even if you’re not interested in Ethnography, it’s worth entering such a beautiful Revival era house to see it’s interior.
Church of St Constantine and Helena
The church of St Constantine and Helena is one of the oldest churches in Plovdiv Bulgaria. In fact, its history dates back to the 4th century, it was however, rebuilt in the 19th century. Throughout these centuries the church has been destroyed and rebuilt several times and I have no doubt the Ottomans destroyed it. Today, it’s free to enter and explore the interior. The iconostas is very impressive and it’s likely you’ll be alone in the church to study the icons. Photos are forbidden but if you do take one, it’s incredibly photogenic.
Plovdiv Abandoned Stadium
I have 3 facts about the abandoned stadium of Plovdiv. Firstly, it’s the largest stadium in Bulgaria at 55,000 spectators. Secondly, it’s the only 2 tier stadium in the country. Finally, it’s free to enter and you can explore the whole stadium independently. Check out my Plovdiv Abandoned Stadium Tour on my travel blog.
Lokomotiv Plovdiv Stadium
The largest stadium in Plovdiv which is still in use is the Lokomotiv Plovdiv stadium. Additionally, if you want to watch a football match, you can walk here from the center. I visited on a non matchday and the friendly club invited me on a complimentary stadium tour with player meet and greet. It’s a friendly club which welcomes foreigners. Read about my Lokomotiv Plovdiv stadium experience on my travel blog.
Alyosha Monument and Bunarjik Hill
The Alyosha Monument is a statue of a Soviet soldier. It’ respects the Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in Bulgaria during World War II. If you walk up Bunardzik Hill, I recommend shortly before sunset. As a result you can photograph the sunset over the city of Plovdiv Bulgaria.
Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire therefore there are a few Islamic buildings in Plovdiv. The main Ottoman landmark of Plovdiv is the Dzhumaya mosque. As a matter of fact, this used to be a cathedral but when the Ottomans took over they destroyed and built this mosque. To this day, the mosque still stands. Not without controversy as in 2004 the mosque was attacked by nationalists. Thankfully, it still stands today. For me, it’s another important piece of history in history rich Plovdiv Bulgaria.
Communist Era Buildings in Plovdiv Bulgaria
I mention communist buildings because they are an important part of Bulgarian history. Additionally, photographers love them as they often produce wonderful pictures. You can see them from Nebet Tepe. There are also several of them around the abandoned stadium of Plovdiv Bulgaria.
Hillock of Fraternity
The Hillock of Fraternity is a monument to the fallen soldiers of Bulgaria. It commemorates all fallen soldiers from the World Wars, the liberation from the Ottoman Empire as well as the Balkan wars. It’s quite a walk from the center but it’s close to the abandoned stadium. If you’re visiting the stadium, I recommend adding this to the itinerary. What’s more, it’s adjacent to a modern shopping mall.
How to get from Plovdiv to Veliko Tarnovo
Firstly, there are 2 bus stations in Plovdiv, the North Station and the South Station. Buses to the capital, Sofia, leave from the south station. If you’re going to Veliko Tarnovo, you must go to the north station. There are only a couple of buses per day so I recommend you buy your ticket in advance. As a result you’ll guarantee your place on the bus as well as know the timetable. There is a convenient time to leave from Plovdiv to Veliko Tarnovo at around midday. The bus arrives in Veliko Tarnovo at the West Bus Station. Enjoy the journey, it takes less than 4 hours.