The lesser-known place to visit for ancient history buffs: Plovdiv in Bulgaria

ByAndrea Thompson

April 26, 2024

From the Colosseum in Rome to the Parthenon in Athens, these landmarks are our gateways to ancient history. However, it may come as a surprise that Plovdiv is among the five oldest cities, holding the title of the oldest in Europe.

Evidence dating back to 4000 BC intertwines the histories of the Thracian, Roman, and Ottoman empires, each leaving their mark in this vast open-air museum for us to explore.

  • The Romans: Left fortresses, public buildings, amphitheatre, and aqueduct.
  • The Ottomans: Built mosques, Turkish baths, a bazaar, and bridge over the Maritsa River.
  • The Thracians: Credited with developing the first European script, although much of their written language is lost.

The Ancient Theatre stands as Plovdiv’s most iconic cultural landmark. Perched dramatically on a hill, this Roman amphitheatre can host more than 5,000 people and offers breath-taking views of the city centre and the distant Rhodope mountains.  The marble seats are still used today by the Plovdiv Opera and used for concerts and ballets.

Kapana, formerly a parking area dotted with dilapidated houses, has been revitalized into pedestrian-friendly streets lined with shops, restaurants, and art galleries.

Cultural experiences in Plovdiv often blend contemporary art with centuries-old architectural marvels. The Ancient Bath, managed by the City Gallery, showcases art pieces within an authentic 16th-century Turkish bath open in the summer months to enjoy the cool ambiance away from the Plovdiv heat.

Explore the winding cobbled streets of Plovdiv’s old town, where beautifully preserved Ottoman-era townhouses.  The Photogenic Hindliyan House with its rosewater fountain and showcasing the exquisite furniture and intricate wall murals.

The walls are embellished with both real and imagined landscapes of Venice, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Inside, one can find magnificent panelled ceilings and oriental-style marble bathrooms, complete with domed ceilings and skylights.

In 2019, Plovdiv was awarded the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture which celebrated its rich heritage, art, and vibrant neighbourhoods.

So pack your curiosity and embark on a journey through time in this captivating Bulgarian city.