Plovdiv — a 6000 year old city


After a bit of time in the beautiful Bulgarian mountains of Rila and the amazing Sofia, it was time for a quick stop at one of the world’s oldest city, Plovdiv. With early inhabitants having settled in around 4000BC, it originally was a Tracian settlement before becoming a big Roman city. This makes this city around 6000 years old! It went through periods of Byzantine and Ottoman Empires before being part of current Bulgaria. The city has this nice Roman feel to it and sits in an interesting region of hills and has often been refered to as “The City of the Seven Hills”. This beautiful city has recently been nominated the European Capital of Culture 2019 and development has started in preparation for this. Plovdiv is the perfect city for a day trip from Sofia, where you can stroll along the old streets and check out old ampitheatres and enjoy some of the most stunning views! Its a nice day of nature, history and of course, culture!

Wonder Round the City

Start off your time in Plovdiv with a little walk around the centre, where you will see a mix of modern and old. The majority of it will be new and very modern low buildings occupied with shops and restaurants. Walk along the main street and you will no doubt bump into the iconic statute of “Milyo the Idiot”. He was known as a local prankster and hung around the main streets of Plovdiv, eavesdropping and being a nuisance. He has become such a local folklore that they made a statue of him in the middle of town! You will notice the big together sign behind him, displaying that Plovdiv is the European Captial of Culture.

Don’t get Lost in the Trap

Kapana is known as the trap, for being an area with maze-like street, where even locals claim to manage to get lost walking around. The cobbled streets have been named since the 15th century, where workers and merchants would live and work. Nowadays, the cobbled streets are lined with hip bars, restaurants, cafes and galleries. In fact, the government encourages small and local businesses into this area by offering some rent free discounts! Probably the “hipest” area in Plovdiv, make sure to meander around the small streets and get a bit lost!

Pop into Monkey House for a really nice cup of coffee!

Uphill to the Old

Moving slightly uphill and you will start to see changes to the buildings as you entering into the more historical areas of Plovdiv. The streets definitely get more cobbled and buildings such as grand Churches start to appear.

An interesting point I heard during the Plovdiv Free Walking Tour is how some of the buildings had extensions at the second floors of the homes. This was a form of Bulgarian revival architecture and is used often during the Ottoman times for tax evasion. Taxes were calculated based on the area of the house based on the ground. A clever bit of thinking meant people could enlarge their houses by extending the second floor!

Time for a Bit of History.

One of the biggest influences for the city are the Roman structures dotted around town. Right in the middle of the high street is what is left of a Roman Stadium, where athletes would compete with each other in gruesome fights, as a form of entertainment for others. The facility was around 240m long and 50m wide but the stands were huge and could hold around 30,000 spectators. There is a miniture replica of the full stadium to really show you how big this structure was.

What is left of the stadium can also be seen and just like how new things were built around or on top of old strucutres in Sofia, you can see shops and restaurants right next to it!

Probably the highlight of Plovdiv is the Roman theatre which was created around 1 AD and could hold around 5000 to 7000 people. This theatre was actually destroyed in 4 AD by a large earthquake and was only discovered in the late 1960s! It is a really impressive structure — really large, grand and quite unbelievable how they have manage to find it and preserve something so old and ancient.

Dzhumaya Mosque

This is the most iconic religious site in Plovidv and can be seen from quite a long way away. What is really interesting about this Mosque is its history. The building originally was a Church built from materials of the Roman aquadect that exised over 1000 years ago! The current building is the oldest Turkish Mosque in Europe and is literally the same building as the original Church! They literally just made the Church into this Mosque!

Make sure to stop by the little Turkish cafe for some delicious baklava! It definitely brought back memories of Jerusalem and Sarajevo!

Stop for a View

The last and final stop in Plovdiv is one that cannot be missed. The views from the top of the hill is just spectacular. After climbing the mini hill, you will come to a flat plain with lots of old rock structures of fallen buildings. Head to the edge and check out the sprawling views of Plovdiv! The orange tiled roofs surrounded by hills was a great site!

All in All

Plovdiv was my final stop in this incredible Bulgarian solo journey. This final city was literally steeped in history and amazing buildings. Those Roman ones are enough to warrant a stop from Sofia. This Bulgarian adventure was truly incredible, from the gorgeous city of Sofia to the snow mountains of Rila and the Roman city of Plovidv!

Originally published at Out Of Office London.