After the article “What to do in Sofia”, today I would like to introduce Plovdiv – a beautiful ancient city of Bulgaria. This is an ideal destination for a perfect day trip from Sofia. In this article, I will note and summarize my experience of visiting Plovdiv, Bulgaria from the capital city of Sofia and what to do in Plovdiv in one day. So, how to spend and what to do in Plovdiv in a day? Let’s check out my Plovdiv trip blog on how to arrange a Plovdiv day trip from Sofia to find out the answer!
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Overview of Plovdiv
Plovdiv is the Bulgaria’s second largest city. Initially, Plovdiv was a Thracian territory, later it was occupied by many peoples, from Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Rus, Bulgars, Slavs, the Crusaders, even the Turks. In general, Plovdiv has a tumultuous history with changing hands constantly. It was not until 1885 that Plovdiv officially belonged to Bulgaria.
From the tumultuous history of handing over, we can understand Plovdiv as a “hot pot” of blending cultures. This is most evident when you visiting Plovdiv’s Old Town. From ancient Ottoman-style wooden houses to medieval cobblestone or brick streets. Orthodox churches are located next to synagogues. Roman theater interspersed with Greek temples. To say that Plovdiv contains symbols of all times and cultures is not an exaggeration.
Plovdiv day trip from Sofia: How to get to Plovdiv from Sofia?
Plovdiv is a large city with its own airport. This is the fastest way. However, the simplest way is probably going from Sofia – the capital of Bulgaria.
I came to Plovdiv from Sofia, so I will share my travel experience for this journey.
There are 2 ways to get from Sofia to Plovdiv:
Bus: From the Central Bus Station Sofia, there are many Buses to Plovdiv. They run continuously, so there is almost no waiting time. You can check schedules and tickets here. Tickets can be purchased online or straight from the driver. Buying tickets directly here is very convenient. But you can only pay in cash. About 7 euros (14 lev)/one-way.
Train: I chose to take the train because I love the “nostalgic” atmosphere as well as the ancient look of the old trains here. It feels like stepping into an ancient ruin. Moreover, it is easy to meet new friends. It was on the train to Plovdiv that I met a Bulgarian-American writer, who is currently working as a teacher and writer in China. He is very passionate about Asian culture. We talked about the Bulgarian era under the Communist yoke, and he even helped me work as a translator to talk to other local passengers.
If you want to exchange and changing atmosphere and find a sense of harmony with history, I recommend you go by train. Buying tickets is very simple, go to the station to buy and then get on the train. The price was about 10 lev (2 way, 1 way only… 4 lev, too cheap).
Some tips for self-sufficient travelers to get to Plovdiv:
If you go on a tour, they are already prepared, so no need to do anything. But if you go by train or bus, you must note the following points:
- Buses run all day, including buses running backwards from Plovdiv back to Sofia. But the train is not! If I remember correctly, the last train from Plovdiv to Sofia runs at 5:45 pm. I remember before 6 pm. In general, you should ask carefully. Or check it out here.
- As you can see above, bus fare is twice as expensive as train fare. But this has its reasons. Although the traveling time is about the same (bus about 2 hours, train about 2 and a half hours), but the train is very… dilapidated. I must emphasize this. The almost all of railway systems of the Eastern Europe is in disrepair. The musty smell of the seat cushions mixed with the rusty smell of the train’s side. Old fashioned creaky windows. If you have a “romantic” spirit, you can go by train, but their conditions are terrible.
- Plovdiv’s railway station and bus station are both located in the suburbs, quite far away, and difficult to find. I use Google Maps but still get lost. You have to arrange a reasonable time to come back.
- It is best to buy a one-way ticket, for both bus and train. In case you miss the train, you can go to the bus station to buy a new ticket.
Plovdiv trip blog: What to do in Plovdiv in a day?
Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Old Town to feel the rich history of Plovdiv
Plovdiv’s old town is probably one of the most unique I’ve been to. But that’s what I dare to admit because I’ve visited a few old towns across Europe. Plovdiv’s old town is peaceful, crisscrossed, with something quiet and modest, hidden inside is rich history. The houses in the Old Quarter are mostly Eastern Renaissance style. Some houses with more than 200 years old. For photography enthusiasts, this must be heaven. Every corner is quiet and unique, hidden traces of rich history.
Visit Regional Ethnographic Museum Plovdiv
Address: ul. “Doctor Stoyan Chomakov” 2, 4000 Tsentar, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Hours: 9AM–5PM/Monday: Closed
There is only one ethnographic museum, of course. But there are many museums housed in other old houses that are also worth seeing. I especially enjoy visiting the museums here. Because not only objects, artifacts in the museums, the house itself is also a work of art. Usually the entrance fee is very cheap, about 2 lev or more, don’t be afraid to visit all if you have time such as Plovdiv Regional Historical Museum, Museum of Natural Sciences…
Visit historical sites, enjoy tea next to the Roman theatre of Philippopolis, Ancient Stadium of Philipopolis
After King Philip II of Macedon conquered Thrace, Plovdiv was once called Philippopolis. Next to Plovdiv’s post office, you can still see the ruins from that ancient time, recalling a glorious history.
During the Roman conquest of Europe, the Roman theatre of Philippopolis was built here. It’s not uncommon for me. I’ve visited the Colosseum in Rome and in Verona too, the Greek theater in Siracusa. However, the theater in Plovdiv is very beautiful, and still in operation. If you’re not planning to witness a performance, relax and enjoy tea near the theater while you admire these stunning ancient structures. It feels so good.
Eat like a local at Grazhdanski Klubb
Address: Ulitsa Stoyan Chalukov 1, Plovdiv 4000, Bulgaria
Hours: 3PM–12AM/Saturday; Sunday: 11AM–12AM/Monday: Closed
This should be called an eatery rather than a restaurant. It is located right in the old town, very easy to find. Is a fairly large restaurant, serving typical central European food, delicious, cheap and full, true to local style. The locals suggest me to come here. Its backyard is small, not many tables, but inside is very large. I sit in the yard to cool down. I tried Hungarian specialty called shopska salad and lamb sauce with pepper, mushroom. It’s so cheap and tasty. 2 dishes with drink but cost less than 10 euros… But the portion is huge, I can’t eat it up…
Feed your soul when get lost in Kapana street (Literal translation: “The Trap”)
The street right next to this old town is extremely-lovely and gentle. Your artistic passion will be pushed to the top when you come here. Street paintings can be seen everywhere. It’s also a gather place for unique and stylish restaurants, cafes. In addition, this is an area where many unique craft shops are concentrated. The whole month of June is also an arts festival – when craft stalls are opened across the street, attracting tens of thousands of artists to join in the fun and vibrant atmosphere!
In 2019, Plovdiv was chosen as the European Capital of Culture! You should take advantage of visiting as soon as possible before Plovdiv tourism explodes in the near future, that maybe turning this gentle city into a museum-city with only visitors but souless like Venice…
Walking on the pedestrian street of Plovdiv’s New Town
Plovdiv has the longest walking shopping street in Europe! Really long! Very beautiful and modern, crowded with shops and brands from popular to famous. Usually only tourists visit the Old Town. Residents all live in New Town, which includes this pedestrian street. To really feel the bustling atmosphere of Plovdiv, you have to immerse yourself here. Maybe walking around the streets, drop by shops or cafes. Or sit down and enjoy a cup of tea. Tea in Eastern Europe is usually exceptionally cheap. There is also a Mosque on the way, you can try to stop by. I was not very interested.
Relax in Tsar Simeon Park and see the Singing Fountains of Tsar Simeon Park
This huge green park is located a little outside the center of Plovdiv. If you walk from the station to the center, you will definitely pass this park. It is very green and fresh, the locals especially like to bask in the sun here. Inside there is a very large fountain, which is said to “dance” to music at night. I came during the day so I couldn’t see it. But the atmosphere in the park is very pleasant.
Plovdiv is one of the most culturally interesting places. Going for a day, so I only had time to “look at the flowers while passing on horseback”. In fact, there are many other small places also worth a visit that I have not mentioned. For example, visit churchs, or visit some old houses located quite hidden in the old town. If you see a place that’s open, come in and take a look. Usually no require any admissions. If have, they will let you know.
Have you ever visited Plovdiv? Does anyone have any experience to share? Or if so, what do you think about it?
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Sofia you can refer to
- Nis Day Tour from Sofia
- Plovdiv Day Tour from Sofia
- Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Tour from Sofia
- Rose Valley and Koprivshtitsa Tour from Sofia
- Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa Combo Day Tour from Sofia
Read more: Sofia blog — The ultimate Bulgaria Sofia guide for first-timers and Bulgaria travel guide here.