5 minute guide to Plovdiv: ancient history with modern charm in Bulgaria’s second city

5 minute guide to Plovdiv: ancient history with modern charm in Bulgaria’s second city

The best way to get around the city: On foot. Plovdiv city centre is compact and easy to navigate, letting you get out there and explore in the Bulgarian sunshine. Just make sure you come prepared: picturesque cobbled streets and flip flops do not mix.

The must-have Instagram snap: Walk through the streets of the Old Town and you’re sure to stumble across Instagram gold: the cascading streets of brightly-coloured houses make an irresistible backdrop for would-be influencers. If you want your snap to inspire ultimate vacation envy, the best spot is probably the ornate building that hosts the city’s Ethnological Museum. Head inside through the gardens, and you’ll be able to get a glimpse into the lives of the families who once lived in these houses.

The best street food: If you’re looking for food on the go, then Bulgarian cuisine has a whole range of delicious, cheese-filled carbs for your convenience. When it comes to traditional snacks, you can’t go wrong with banitsa: a pie traditionally filled with cheese (and sometimes with healthier goodies such as fruit). For global street food with a Bulgarian twist, order feta with fries (pŭrzheni kartofi sŭs sirene) It’s a great bar snack.

The best view over the city: There are two main vantage points where you can look down over the city. The first is at the top of the Old Town, while the second is on the slightly smaller Bunarjik Hill, topped with a monument known as Alyosha. Finished in 1957, the 11-metre statue is a monument to Soviet-Bulgarian friendship, commemorating the Soviet troops who died in the Second World War. (Bulgaria, meanwhile, aligned itself with the Axis powers.) Some locals also see it as an unofficial nod to the Russian soldiers who fought to free Bulgaria from Ottoman rule back in 1878 — which partly explains why any talk of removing the statue (local officials have already tried twice) sparks such fierce backlash.

What you didn’t know about local history: There’s just so much of it! Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and you’ll find plenty of Roman ruins scattered across the city. The stunning amphitheatre — only discovered in 1968 — is the obvious tourist hotspot, but keep your eyes open for smaller chunks of ancient architecture. Close to the beautiful Djumaya mosque, you can descend below street level to see some of the archaeologists’ work for yourself.

The best place to drink with the locals: The Kapana district is Plovdiv’s attempt to create a dedicated hipster haven, with a chilled vibe and wealth of young, local businesses. If you want a drink, then head down to Cat and Mouse, which has plenty of craft beer on offer. Sit on one of the street side tables and watch the world go by.

Your new favourite obscure local fact is: Plovdiv lends its name to Plovdiv Peak, clocking in at 1,040 metres on Livingstone Island in Antarctica — not too far away from Bulgaria’s Antarctic research base. Plovdiv can also claim the dubious honour of being the first (and seemingly only) city to demote a local politician for spending too much time on 2010s mobile game sensation Farmville. Councillor Dimitar Kerin kept his job but was kicked off a municipal council as punishment for spending too much time milking virtual cows instead of paying attention in meetings.

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