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Wedged between two majestic mountain ranges, Plovdiv is a patchwork of historical architecture and bohemian neighbourhoods. Crowned as the European Capital of Culture 2019, the city is rising on must-visit list for those travelling to Bulgaria.
Combining dramatic scenery with a rich history, this Balkan city is rapidly becoming a travel hotspot for those in search of an enlightening city break. Proudly flaunting its status as the oldest city in Europe, Plovdiv’s convoluted history – stretching back over 6,000 years – can be seen in disparate imperial buildings, from ancient Roman and Persian ruins to the decadent Balkan and Ottoman architecture that lines the city’s streets.
Explore the remnants of past empires as you wander through Plovdiv’s Old Town. Visit the iconic Roman amphitheatre, built around 90 CE and only discovered after a landslide in the 70s, and the 600-year-old Dzhumaya Mosque next door, or climb the ruined fortress of Nebet Tepe for views across the city.
Like Rome, Plovdiv was built on seven hills, and is nestled between the towering Balkan Mountains and the Rhodope Mountains. Escape the city for long countryside walks on which you’ll spot ornate relics dotted around the surrounding hills. Peep into the frescoed Bachkovo Monastery or make your way to the crumbling medieval Asen’s Fortress for views across the forest-clad Asenitsa Valley.
The European Capital of Culture for 2019, Plovdiv has much more to offer than just its historic buildings. Stroll around the cobbled streets of Old Town – featuring with the longest pedestrian street in Europe – to find cute cafés and quaint boutiques selling handmade art and artisan jewellery.
Once you’ve had your shopping fix, sample Bulgarian cuisine, traditional food made with Turkish, Greek and Slavic influences. Don’t forget to try a bottle of local Mavrud, a famous Bulgarian wine, or Boza, a wheat-based malt drink.
Who to take with you
Someone in need of some serious “aylyak”, a Bulgarian word used on a daily basis, roughly translating as feeling extremely relaxed and content, and often used in the context of drinking copious amounts of Mavrud.
When to go
Just west of Plovdiv’s Old Town is Kapana, the city’s bohemian quarter known as “The Trap” because of its narrow lanes. Many young artists and artisans have set up studios and stores here. Visit Plovdiv in September for the Kapana Fest, during which the streets of Plovdiv’s trendiest neighbourhood come alive with celebrations and cultural activities.
Where to stay
Built directly into a cliffside, hotel Boris Palace offers a boutique stay, complete with a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views across the Old Town. Nearby, Hotel Evmolpia offers traditional interiors adorned with dark wood and Bulgarian textiles.
Most likely to bump into…
Trendy tourists visiting the hipster cafés, vibrant flower shops and the buzzing jazz bars of Kapana.
Essentials to bring with you
How to get there
Flights from London Stansted to Plovdiv take just over three hours.
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