Here at Regent, we’ve been taking visitors to discover relatively-unknown Plovdiv for years. But, as the first ever Bulgarian city to be selected as European Capital of Culture, Plovdiv has recently captured international attention.
The city has spent four years preparing for its time as joint Capital of Culture (sharing the honour with Matera, Italy), and 2019 will see more than 300 projects and 500 events showcasing the city and the Bulgarian South West’s culture, history, and art.
What’s even more exciting for us is that Plovdiv isn’t just home to this prestigious award, but also to our lovely Travel Specialist, Ida! Ida grew up in Plovdiv before moving to the UK and has brought a fantastic level of expertise to our team – including insider tips on places to visit which aren’t featured in guidebooks and local advice on the spots to grab a bite to eat.
Located on two banks of the Maritsa River, with the Rhodope Mountains, Sredna Gora Range and Chirpan Heights all rising on the horizon, Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria after its capital, Sofia. It is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in Europe, with evidence of Neolithic settlements in the area dating back to the sixth millennium BCE.
Today, it is an important transport, economic, educational and cultural hub, teeming with life and history and always with one eye on the future—for which its Capital of Culture status nicely celebrates!
Architecture from the Bulgarian Revival is still prominent in the city, and wandering the atmospheric cobbled streets of the Old Town will take you past many stunning buildings with treasures tucked away down side streets as well as on main roads.
Visitors interested in history can explore the Amphitheatre, which dates back to the Roman inhabitation of the city; and take in the deeply spiritual quiet and the attractive interiors of the Churches of St. Konstantine and St. Elena.
From Plovdiv, it’s easy to strike out into the surrounding countryside to experience authentic life in Bulgaria and visit nearby places like the pretty village of Brestovitsa, where you can enjoy wine tasting and gourmet dishes prepared by a local Chef.
There’s also the 11th-century Bachkovo Monastery, prized for its unique melange of Bulgarian, Georgian, and Byzantine cultures.
The medieval Asenova fortress is a great point to stop on your way back into Plovdiv. A local legend about a long-ago king tells of a time the fortress was invaded. According to the story, the king ran for his mother and found her cooking fish in the fortress’ kitchen. He told her that if the fish came back to life, the invaders were sure to catch them. The fish miraculously revived, and the king shouted, “Стани майко, да бягаме!” (“Get up, Mother, let’s run!”). They ran—and escaped with their lives!
Much of the fortress is now in ruins, but you can still explore the crumbling battlements and the remarkably well-preserved Church of the Holy Mother God within the fortress walls.
With fewer crowds and lower price tags than the more popular Western European city destinations, Eastern European cities like Plovdiv are a great destination for travellers seeking a city break that is off the beaten track, but still within easy reach of the UK.
Explore Plovdiv and enjoy front-row seats to the Capital of Culture 2019 celebrations on our 6-day Bulgaria Short Break tour, which departs on 18th May 2019 and costs from £980 per person. Click here to find out more.