It’s been a wonderful day in Plovdiv; we’ve been gallivanting about the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe (dating as far back as 6,000 BC!) without a care in the world.
And we found gelato.
And pretty signs.
And Roman ruins.
After staying up until 3am last night in Sofía trying to (they never played our song!) karaoke with the locals at Versus, we all passed out for about 4-5 hours before rising again, all without alarms to wake us up thanks to jet lag, to catch the hourly morning buses to Plovdiv.
We took a cheap 10 minute cab ride up north for 5-6 lev, to the Central Bus Station. There we bought 8 last minute tickets at Booth #13 for 14 lev each, catching the 10am bus on Platform #6. FYI, they do not take credit cards here (or most other places in Bulgaria for that matter).
If the buses are full (we luckily snagged the last 8 seats on our bus), you can try your luck on the bus departing the next hour, or the slower moving train (3 hours instead of 2) next to the bus station.
After 2 hours napping on an otherwise unremarkable bus ride, we arrived at the 3rd and final stop in Plovdiv at its South Station. Then we walked up 10-15 minutes towards the city center, first being greeted by the remains of an old Roman forum.
By the forum are the ruins of the better preserved Odeon.
We then turned around the corner to enter along the bustling pedestrian-only walkway of downtown Plovdiv.
On its southern end we made our first eating stop at Alfreddo Gelateria, arguably known to serve the best gelato in The Balkans.
From there we headed up north along the pedestrian mall, admiring and taking in the charming autumn vibes of old Plovdiv.
The first stop was a quick 2 minute detour to Sveta Marina church:
Then returning back to the main pedestrian path, we came across the Ancient Stadium of Philipopolis, which is free to enter.
By the ancient stadium is Dzhumaya Mosque, which is free to enter and still actively used.
North of the mosque is the cute little neighborhood called Kapana, aka “The Trap.” This district was originally founded as a craftsmen center 500 years ago and now its a windy alleyway home to a plethora of independent art galleries, restaurants, and cafes.
We tried to stop for lunch at Pavaj, and like every frickin’ place in Bulgaria, they needed reservations. So we put our names down and were told to come back in an hour and a half.
Kapana even has a replica of Central Perk from Friends:
Head east through the underpass of Tsar Boris III road, and emerge on the older, hilly part of Plovdiv, adorned with countless Roman ruins scattered about.
The prettiest church in this area is the “St. Konstantin and Elena” Church, one of Plovdiv’s oldest churches standing since 337 AD.
By the church is Plovdiv’s ethnographic museum:
We then headed up more north and stumbled upon the ruins of Nebet Tepe.
Situated on one of the 6 hills off Plovdiv, this was where the ancient town was founded that gives Plovdiv its designation of being the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. The ruins here have unearthed evidence of settlements dating back to 4000 BC, first by the Thracians, then by Philip II of Macedonia, and finally the Roman empire.
From here you’ll get the classic picturesque views of Plovdiv you’ll find all over Google images.
After about 20-30 minutes braving the winds here, we headed back downtown.
Eventually we hit Plovdiv’s Roman theatre in the geographic center of Old Plovdiv, one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in the world. It costs 5 lev to enter. They too, do not take credit cards.
At least we didn’t need reservations, har har har…
Afterwards we wrapped up our day by heading back to Kapana and actually honoring our reservations by having one of our best meals of the trip at Pavaj restaurant.
After our timely dunch at 5pm, we then spent the rest of our day with a sunset back at Nebet Tepe.
After that, we made attempts at Escape The Room (“need reservations”), a bar by Nebet Tepe (“need reservations”), and a thai massage studio (“need reservations”), which all ended up in failure because, well, Bulgaria has reservations about travelers not having reservations.
So we returned to Alfreddo Gelateria for a round of drinks, tea, and gelato before returning on our 8pm bus ride back to Sofía.
They didn’t need reservations.
After Alfreddo Gelateria, we walked through Garden of Tsar Simeon where we caught a little water show at the Singing Fountains.
After 2 hours passed out on the bus ride back, it was another round of farewell drinks in Sofía and looking for food in the middle of the night at 2am. For the record, not even McDonalds is open at this time of night (I think it needs reservations), so your best luck is this lonely little falafel/halal sandwich shop called Alibaba by the Palace of Justice. No reservations.
The 5 of us are all now pulling an all nighter to catch our 6am flights back home tomorrow morning!
P.S. For the record, if you’re flying back from Sofía via Paris on the Bulgaria Air/Air France/Delta codeshare combo, be prepared to RUN once you arrive at Charles Du Gaulle Airport for your connecting flight home.
Bulgaria Air somehow lands on the opposite end of Terminal 2 at CDG, requiring complicated security detours, finding a transiting bus to take you to the other side, and etc. etc. within the hour layover that almost caused me to miss my flight.
But alas, I ran like a hyena and caught it on last call. And now I’m back at work on an overnight shift in the ER.
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- At time of posting in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, it was 11 °C - Humidity: 43% | Wind Speed: 35km/hr | Cloud Cover: mostly sunny