My Perfect Plovdiv Itinerary For First-Time Visitors

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by Maggie Turansky

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As one of the oldest cities in all of Europe (some say the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent), Plovdiv is packed full of ancient history, a charming old town, and a thriving arts district with new things popping up all the time.

I have now visited this city twice and am surprised about how often it is still overlooked by foreign visitors.

If you’re looking for an incredible stop on your Bulgaria itinerary, then here’s how I suggest spending up to 2 days in the city.

Getting To & Around Plovdiv

Both times I have visited Plovdiv, I have arrived from Sofia. There are frequent buses from Sofia’s central station which leave roughly every 30 minutes to 1 hour throughout the day and the journey takes about 2.5 hours.

There are a couple of companies that offer service to Plovdiv and you need to purchase them from their respective ticket counters at the bus station.

Because there are so many connections throughout the day, I have never found the need to purchase tickets in advance, even in the summer months generally, you can just get a ticket for whichever bus you want about 30 minutes before it is due to depart. If you want to get an idea of when the buses depart then you can browse timetables here.

There is a train service between Sofia and Plovdiv, however, it doesn’t run nearly as frequently as the bus which is why I suggest you opt for the bus if you’re relying on public transport.

The charming Old Town of Plovdiv
The charming Old Town of Plovdiv

Once you’re in Plovdiv, you will find that the majority of the city’s top attractions are within easy walking distance and it is rare that you will need to take any sort of public transit while in the city itself. However, Plovdiv is served by a bus and tram network that is affordable and easy enough to navigate should you need to.

It is possible that you might need to take a taxi, as the main bus station is located about 3 kilometres outside of the Old Town and city centre.

If you want to take a taxi, do keep in mind that scams can be common and to avoid being ripped off, try not to hail just any cab right off the street and do not jump in a car from those lingering in the bus station advertising a taxi.

Instead, look for taxis with the numbers either 6155 or 6665 as they are reputable, however, it is also good practice to ensure that the meter is running. You can also call a taxi on the app for taxi company 6155 (eko taxi) to ensure that you get a safe ride.

The view of Plovdiv from Nebet Tepe
The view of Plovdiv from Nebet Tepe

How to Spend 2 Days in Plovdiv

While it is possible to see the highlights of Plovdiv in one day, I think spending 2 days is best if you are not in a rush.

I suggest spending the first day enjoying the historical sites of the Old Town before spending your second day learning more about the alternative side of the city and enjoying some local wine.

Day 1 – Ancient Sites & Plovdiv Old Town

Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis

If you’re interested in visiting Plovdiv, then it is likely that you are already familiar with its incredibly preserved ancient amphitheatre. The Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis is the most iconic monument in Plovdiv and this Roman theatre is one of the best-preserved amphitheatres of its kind.

Although today this is Plovdiv’s main tourist draw, the amphitheatre wasn’t actually discovered until the early 1980s as there have been buildings stacked on top of it for thousands of years. Though a good portion of it is still in its original form, a lot of the theatre has also been reconstructed by archaeologists to make it look similar to what it would have looked at during ancient times.

Today, the Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis is not only an excellent tourist attraction, but it also hosts cultural theatrical events throughout the summer season, so if you happen to be visiting when there is a performance, try to see one. The acoustics in the ruin are meant to be fantastic.

Entrance to the theatre allows you full access to the structure. I headed here early in the morning and had it almost all to myself which was truly a surreal experience.

The Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis
The Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis

Nebet Tepe

After visiting the Ancient Theatre, I suggest taking the time to hike up another of Plovdiv’s famous hills (the city, like so many others, was built upon seven hills): Nebet Tepe.

Nebet Tepe is the highest hill in Plovdiv’s Old Town and was once home to its fortress. Though only ruins of the structure remain today, it provides stunning views of all of Plovdiv below where you can truly see both the confluence of old and new in the city and why it was a strategic place to put a fortress.

Though it is a great stop in the daytime when touring the Old Town, it is also a great place to chill out on a pleasant evening. It is popular among locals in Plovdiv to find a place on one of the fortress walls and enjoy a few snacks and beers while watching the sun sink below the city.

Just please remember to be sure to clean up after yourself and that it isn’t technically legal to drink alcohol in public in Plovdiv, however, this law will rarely be enforced.

The ruined fortress and the view of Plovdiv from Nebet Tepe
The ruined fortress and the view of Plovdiv from Nebet Tepe

Regional Ethnographic Museum Plovdiv

Located in a beautiful historic house that used to belong to a wealthy merchant in Plovdiv, the Regional Ethnographic Museum is the second-largest museum of its kind in Bulgaria.

The permanent exhibition includes artefacts from the ancient city of Plovdiv from the time that it was inhabited by the Thracians, to medieval artefacts, to some more modern antiquities.

This is an excellent stop to really get a grasp of what life has been like in Plovdiv throughout its over 6,000 years of history.

Visit a House Museum

If you enjoyed the Ethnographic Museum, I also suggest heading to one of the many other house museums in Plovdiv’s Old Town. There are several houses that you can visit where you can see how wealthy merchants lived in Plovdiv in centuries past.

Some of the museums include the Balabanov House, the Kilanti House, and the Hindliyan House. All of these museums are located within the Old Town in the classic Bulgarian Revival houses that can be found throughout the country.

House Museums are located in traditional Bulgarian buildings like these
House Museums are located in traditional Bulgarian buildings like these

Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis

After spending a significant amount of time within the Old Town of Plovdiv, it is time to head down the hill and to visit the more modern business centre of the city.

While this area might seem as if it doesn’t have the old charms of the Old Town, you must realise that you are walking on over 6,000 years of human history disguised as modern streets.

One of the best places to see that is in the Ancient Stadium of Philippopilis. Another ancient structure, the stadium was not discovered until 1969 and there are parts of it that you can see along Plovdiv’s main pedestrian street. There is a bit of the end seating area that you can climb down and visit yourself, but the majority of the stadium is covered by the street that sits atop it.

However, you do have the opportunity to see more of the stadium at possibly the most interesting H&M in the world. Because in the basement of the multinational fast fashion shop lies even more relics of the ancient stadium, so you can get a healthy dose of history while browsing for the latest trends.

There is also a 3D film where you can learn about the history of the stadium.

The Ancient Stadium of Plovdiv
The Ancient Stadium of Plovdiv

Knyaz Alexander I

After you’ve had your fill of ancient historical sites, take the time to browse the shops or people watch along Knyaz Alexander I, Plovdiv’s main pedestrian thoroughfare. Here you can shop in some popular multinational chains or take in the Plovdiv “Together” monument celebrating the city’s bid for 2019 European Capital of Culture.

There are a few restaurants and cafes along the pedestrian street, as well, however, we would recommend going for a bite to eat in the nearby Kapana neighbourhood, which is only about 2 minutes walking from Knyaz Alexander I.

You also could mosy into the lovely Tsar Simeon Park and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and watch the synchronised singing fountains.

Knyaz Alexander I is Plovdiv's main pedestrian street
Knyaz Alexander I is Plovdiv’s main pedestrian street

If you want an easy way to see all of these sites while also getting some great historic context from a local, we recommend taking a free walking tour with Free Plovdiv Tours. The tour itself is free, however, the guides do only work for tips so it is good practice to tip your guide what you believe the tour was worth.

Keep in mind that the tour does not take you into any of these monuments, only outside of them to give you an overview, but it gave me an excellent introduction to the history and culture of Plovdiv.

Day 2 – Kapana & The Thracian Valley


After spending your first day in Plovdiv exploring all of the ancient historic sites of the Old Town, its time to spend your second day exploring the trendy streets of Plovdiv’s trendy Kapana neighboourhood.

Located, at most, a 10-minute walk downhill from the Old Town, Kapana can feel like a different world from the ancient sites of the historical centre. This quarter, which translates to “The Trap” in Bulgarian, has been completely refurbished has seen a significant transformation from when we first visited Plovdiv in 2016.

As the traditional arts and crafts quarter of the city, Kapana was once home to over 900 privately owned shops that were left abandoned after the communist regime shut down private industry in Bulgaria.

In the years after the fall of communism, the shops remained abandoned due to the fledgling capitalistic economy in the country. Only a few years ago, Kapana was barely more than a car park.

This all changed as the government won the bid for European capital of culture (shared with Matera, Italy in 2019) and was able to pour a massive investment into the formerly decrepit quarter. Businesses were encouraged to open and artists were commissioned to make the streets and walls as colourful as possible.

Today, Kapana is home to a maze of streets offering trendy eateries, chilled-out coffee shops, independent retailers, and a number of hip bars making it the top choice for nightlife and dining in the city. There is also a lot of street art to check out in the quarter, as the city commissions artists twice per year to paint murals on the walls of Kapana.

A confluence of colourful streets in Kapana
A confluence of colourful streets in Kapana

Plovdiv Street Art

After exploring the Kapana district and seeing some of the professionally commissioned street art in the city, you can see some more of the art scene in Plovdiv by walking only a short distance from the Trap neighbourhood.

If you climb up the stairs from the “Together” monument just off the pedestrian street, you will find a few walls decorated with some beautiful murals (and a bit of graffiti). Though most of the art is done by beginning street artists, you might notice some pieces done by more recognisable names like Stern, Nasimo, and Bozko.

Though Plovdiv is known to be a traditional and historic city, this does not mean it doesn’t foster incredible free expression from a creative young population.

Plovdiv is home to a lot of beautiful street art
Plovdiv is home to a lot of beautiful street art

Thracian Valley Wine Tasting

If you’re visiting Plovdiv for more than one day, you would be missing out if you didn’t venture out into the Thracian Valley and sample some of the best wines to come out of Eastern Europe.

Though not traditionally what comes to mind when it comes to viticulture, Bulgaria produces some excellent wines and has one of the oldest wine-making traditions in the world. And the biggest production area of the country happens to be just a few kilometres outside of Plovdiv.

If you’re interested in wine tasting, head to the town of Brestovitsa, which is located about 20 kilometres outside of Plovdiv’s city centre. This small town is home to seven independent wineries that produce some unique and delicious vintages.

We visited the small, family-run Villa Vinifera and were able to sample 4 of their great wines and 2 rakijas while snacking on some cheese and learning about the wine culture of Bulgaria and of the vineyard in particular.

Each vineyard offers something different when it comes to tastings, but it is entirely possible to visit the area independently, without going on an organised wine tour.

You can drive yourself or take a taxi to the town of Brestovitsa from central Plovdiv, though you may struggle to find a return journey with the latter option. You can, also book an organised wine tour if you don’t want to be at the mercy of fickle cab drivers.

Wine tasting at Villa Vinifera in Brestovitsa
Wine tasting at Villa Vinifera in Brestovitsa

Where to Eat & Drink in Plovdiv

While it is certainly possible to find a traditional Bulgarian meal in Plovdiv, it can be just as worth checking out the more modern and trendy eateries that are popping up in the cool Kapana neighbourhood. Here are some of my favourites:

Pavaj — This is one of the most loved restaurants in the Kapana neighbourhood, and it isn’t hard to see why. This trendy eatery serves traditional Bulgarian fare with a modern twist. They have a number of specialities, great salads and are also incredibly vegetarian-friendly. It does get busy at peak hours so it can be in your best interest to book a table in advance.

Tam’s House — Another fantastic Kapana eatery, Tam’s House is a bit more upmarket but still retains affordable prices. They serve fantastic modern European cuisine, have a great wine list, and also have some unique desserts.

Veggic — Located next to Pavaj, Veggic is an excellent option in Kapana. They have an extensive menu serving only vegan food, however, it has none of the fake meat that plagues the menus of so many vegan restaurants. It also has an unpretentious air and is welcoming to even the most carnivorous of patrons.

A delicious bowl of tarator soup from Pavaj
A delicious bowl of tarator soup from Pavaj

Skaptobara 2 — There are a few burger joints in Plovdiv, but the one we would recommend is Skaptobara 2. This burger restaurant also has a couple of locations in Sofia and they have a range of burgers available, including a vegetarian quinoa burger. They also have an extensive craft beer menu with many locally brewed beers on it.

Soup Pause — Bulgarians love their soup and most cities are blessed with a number of soup bars where you can get a refreshing bowl of tarator or a steaming bowl of lentil soup. One of the best places for this in Plovdiv is Soup Pause, where they have a number of incredibly affordable soups available daily and some other hot food as well. It is a great option for a quick, hearty, and budget-friendly lunch that is very popular with locals.

Cat & Mouse — Plovdiv, and Bulgaria in general, has a burgeoning craft beer scene and one of the best places to try some of the best craft beers from Bulgaria and beyond is at Cat & Mouse. This trendy bar has a myriad of craft beers available and also an extensive wine list as well. It is the perfect place to kick back at the end of a long day of sightseeing.

Bakeland — If you’re looking for a cake, pastry, or a coffee, then heading to Bakeland is an excellent choice. This bakery is newly opened and they serve a range of freshly baked cakes and pastries along with some great espresso drinks. This is a great place to pop into to indulge a sweet tooth.

Bulgarian craft beers from Cat & Mouse
Bulgarian craft beers from Cat & Mouse

Where to Stay in Plovdiv

Hotel Evmolpia — This hotel located in the Old Town is what I’d suggest if you’re looking for a mid-range stay. Conveniently located within easy walking distance of both the Ancient Amphitheatre and the trendy Kapana district, they have a helpful staff and a range of clean and cosy rooms on offer.

Boutique Guest house 7th Sense – This boutique guesthouse is an excellent option for those looking for a chic, sophisticated and modern stay in Plovdiv. Centrally located close to all of the top attractions in the city, they have a range of rooms to choose from and excellent hospitality.

Hostel Old Plovdiv — This boutique hostel/guesthouse is within walking distance of everything that Plovdiv has to offer. They have an incredibly friendly and helpful staff and have both dorm and private rooms available. Breakfast is also included in the room rate.

The Hostel Old Plovdiv
The Hostel Old Plovdiv

I hope that you find my Plovdiv itinerary helpful in planning your trip to the city and you enjoy it as much as I have in the times when I’ve been fortunate to visit!

Are you wondering what to do in Plovdiv? Have any questions about visiting? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie


  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the very interesting information. I will be visiting Sofia and Plovdiv in August.
    I was wondering if you have any idea from where I can purchase or buy some good maps of the two cities while in Sofia? I prefare a physical map as they show more area than on a mobile.
    Many thanks and regards.
    Charlie from Malta.

    • Hi Charlie, I’d recommend stopping into the tourist info office once you’re in Sofia/Plovdiv to pick up a physical map. You can usually get a city map for free 🙂

  2. Hi Maggie,
    I enjoyed your suggestions & I’m visiting soon & love to see all the sights, but, I’m temporarily slightly handicapped. Is the Day 1 itinerary you posted difficult for someone walking with a cane? How would you suggest I see most sights? We will have a car but is the parking an issue? There are 3 of us. Do you think we should hire a private guide with a car?

    • Hi Jane, unfortunately, Plovdiv isn’t the most accessible of cities and the old town can be especially difficult to navigate if you have some mobility issues. Areas outside of the old town and well-paved and flat, so it might be easier to walk along there, such as the main pedestrian street and the Kapana area. You might be able to take a taxi to certain areas within the old town, but I am not sure about the driving laws there.
      I hope this helps and you have a good trip.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to write out all these suggestions! We are headed to Plovdiv in 2 weeks and I love having a couple places already picked out to visit!!

  4. Thank you for the suggestions. I appreciate your generosity in sharing these adventures with us. We look forward to our trip in a few weeks.


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