“It’s the most beautiful city in all of Bulgaria”
Orlina stated as we were making our way to Plovdiv. That seemed a lot to live up to for sure and as one of her favorite places I was excited to share this with a friend. Orlina while from Bulgaria was living in Jordan at the same time as I was so it was lovely to get to visit her in her home country as well.
Plovdiv is not only considered the oldest inhabited city in Bulgaria it is one of the oldest cities in all of Europe. Going up against historic powerhouses such as Athens, Thebes and others. Although there are older places (such as the ancient settlement of Lepenski Vir in nearby Serbia), Plovdiv is one of the oldest that is still a city to this day.
And what a city, with histories that span millennia and bore witness to countless dynasties and empires that cross through these parts.
One of the things I found very interesting about Plovdiv how it was built along seven hills. It is fascinating how many cities were built in this manner such as Rome, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey), Amman Jordan, Athens Greece, and so many others!
What to see or do
Built in the 2nd Century BC this ancient theater was one of the largest and best preserved in the area. Capable of housing more than 5000 spectators this theater even to this day seems performances. During this recent visit the theater was unfortunately closed as they were preparing for a concert that was to be held there.
The Historic Center
One of the most incredible parts of Plovdiv is obviously the old town. Particularly wandering the hills and seeing some of the incredibly maintained old wooden houses. They were certainly a wonder to look at although I imagine a bit difficult to maintain. From what we saw though this area was rather popular with locals and tourists alike. Particularly those getting married. We saw a lot of weddings during the time in the city.
The town also has a good selection of museums such as the beautiful Ethnographic Museum and the Archaeology Museum. For a city as old as Plovdiv there are certainly no lack of history in this region. The buildings themselves are gorgeous too such as the Ethnographic Museum.
I don’t know how good shopping is in general as I’m not a big shopper. But the city has a great set of pedestrian streets that are full of lovely buildings and various shops. It is also a nice place to just sit awhile when the weather is good.
One of the other things I found interesting about Plovdiv too was the more noticeable religious diversity too. I saw several mosques in the city and locals who were more dressed in Islamic cultural clothing as well. This was a difference than some of the other places in Bulgaria. I had met Bulgarian Muslims in the USA and its proximity to Turkey certainly is noticeable from old Ottoman Architecture. But I didn’t realize previously that Bulgaria is about 8% Muslim with a notable population here in Plovdiv.
The above Dzhumaya Mosque is one of the most distinct buildings in the downtown area of the city as it certainly stands out from the surrounding architecture. Built in the 15th century the mosque is one of the most prominent mosques in the city and a historical
Plovdiv is also expected to be the European Capital of Culture in 2019. Probably a great time to visit even before then but I’m sure there will be a lot of activities then too! As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest cities in the World it is a surprise it wasn’t chosen earlier! Certainly was a highlight of my travels through the Balkans and Bulgaria and a place I hope to return to soon as well.