It is a full-day trip to visit the historic town of Plovdiv in Bulgaria from the capital city of Sofia, but it is definitely worth the time that it takes. The town, like so much of the region, has a history that goes back to the Trojans, then the Greeks, followed by the Romans, and eventually the Turks, not taking into account the modern occupations including the Soviet Union. That history and amalgamation of cultures is part of what makes a tour of Plovdiv fascinating, but today it is also a vibrant shopping area with lots of shops and restaurants literally built on top of the ruins of an enormous, ancient sports arena. Bring comfortable shoes with you as you will be doing a fair amount of walking up and down the hills on which the city center is built.
The first thing that you will notice is the striking architecture of the local homes that line the cobblestone streets. They have a definitive style based on the Bulgarian Renaissance architectural style and often feature vibrant colors and details around the windows that overlook the street. After walking through the ancient streets of the city’s old town, you will reach the large Roman amphitheater, which is remarkably well preserved. It is still used for concerts and events today and the college for the arts is located next to the entrance to the amphitheater.
As you continue to the main street that runs the length of the old town, you will be walking above the ruins of a huge stadium where chariot races were once held. There are various points along the street where you can see and even walk down into the ruins in order to get a closer look. The original stadium actually stretched the entire length of the street with the shops above, which gives you an idea of just how large the stadium was back when it was in use. We stopped at a local restaurant for lunch and enjoyed watching all of the tourists that were walking the street on a very busy day in Plovdiv.
It takes 8 to 10 hours roundtrip to get to Plovdiv from Sofia since Plovdiv is located in central Bulgaria while Sofia is located in western Bulgaria. As with many places in Europe, Plovdiv is a combination of historic sites and a modern city. If it were possible, we would recommend planning your trip at a time when a concert was taking place in the amphitheater as it would make for a really unique experience. We certainly enjoyed our time walking the streets of the historic old town and seeing all of the interesting sites and buildings that are located there.