Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria. It’s also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, its history stretching back all the way to the 6th century BCE.
Plovdiv’s museums, artsy neighborhoods, cobbled streets, Roman ruins, and brightly painted 19th-century mansions make this city a fun, budget-friendly destination.
I loved my time visiting here and it became one of my favorite places in Bulgaria. I found the city to be a peaceful oasis with wonderful parks and ruins that lacked the tourist crowds of Sofia and the Black Sea coast.
Since the city is in the middle of the country, it’s an easy place to visit as you move from one end of the country to the other. It’s worth spending a few days here to see the sights before moving on.
This travel guide to Plovdiv can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your time in this charming destination.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Plovdiv
1. Attend the Night of the Galleries
2. See the Roman Amphitheater
3. Tour the Archaeological Museum
4. Stroll the pedestrian street
5. Day trip to Asenovgrad
Other Things to See and Do in Plovdiv
1. Take a free walking tour
Whenever I visit a new city, the first thing I do is take a free walking tour. It’s the best way to see the main sights and learn about the culture on a budget. Plus, you’ll get to connect with a local expert guide who can answer all your questions. Free Plovdiv Tour organizes a free daily tour that lasts two hours and covers all the main highlights. Just be sure to tip!
2. Tour Hindlian House
A wealthy Armenian merchant named Stepan Hindlian once owned this house in the Old Town, which was built between 1835-40. It contains an extensive collection of historic furniture from that period and the walls are covered in detailed landscape paintings. There’s also an entirely marble bathroom and a high-domed ceiling. It’s a neat look at the lavish lifestyles of the city’s former wealthy residents. It costs 5 BGN.
3. Visit the Philippopolis Art Gallery
Bulgaria’s first private art gallery is housed inside a stunning building designed in the National Revival Style of the early 1800s. You’ll see works from 19th and 20th-century Bulgarian masters, including Vladimir Dimitrov, Anton Mitov, and Dimitar Gyudzhenov. There are also often exhibits from modern contemporary artists on display. Admission is free.
4. Attend the International Folklore Festival
Starting on the first weekend of August, Plovdiv turns into one giant open-air folklore music and dance festival. For five days, the streets are filled with parades, concerts, and dancing. Everyone dresses in traditional colorful regalia as they sing and dance. It’s extraordinary to see!
5. Go wine tasting
Bulgaria has some surprisingly tasty wines, and there are dozens of wine cellars scattered around Plovdiv that you can visit. You can take a tour of these cellars or venture out into the Thracian wine region to visit some of the area’s best vineyards. The Thracian wine region covers the Thracian Valley, the Rhodope Mountains, and parts of the Balkan Mountains range and the Black Sea Coast. Most tours cost 127 BGN for a full day, and you’ll get to visit several wineries, with lunch included.
6. Check out the Cultural Center Thrakart
This building, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, showcases an extensive collection of Roman floor mosaics, as well as various Roman artifacts, pottery, and sculptures dating to the 3rd century CE. There’s also a section highlighting historic glassmaking techniques that’s super interesting. Admission is 5 BGN.
7. See Sveta Marina Church
This little church from the 16th century does not get the attention it deserves. In addition to its 56-foot wooden pagoda-shaped bell tower and its 170-year-old iconostasis (a wall of religious icons and religious paintings), the church’s outer walls display Old Testament murals. It won’t take you long to see it all, and it’s free.
8. Wander the Tsar Simeon Central Garden
This immaculate green space is the perfect escape from the hectic shopping area of Plovdiv’s main street. There’s a restored fountain of the Goddess Demeter and a Viennese pavilion at the center of the park. The Singing Fountains on the lake also put on a light show with water effects every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 9:30pm. It’s the perfect place to wander, relax, and people-watch.
9. Make a trip to Bachkovo Monastery
Just outside of Plovdiv, this monastery dates to 1083 (although most of it was built in the 17th century). The main attraction in the monastery is the Church of Sveta Bogoroditsa, with its interior covered completely in colorful frescoes painted by Zahari Zograf in 1850. The refectory is also full of murals displaying the building’s history. Pilgrims often come to the church to pray in front of the Madonna, which is encased in gold and silver. It’s free to visit the monastery, but the on-site museum costs 2 BGN to visit.
10. Visit the Ethnographic Museum
This museum is housed in a 150-year-old building built in the Renaissance style. It’s enveloped by a tranquil garden and takes you through Bulgarian life from the 19th century to the early 20th century using cultural artifacts like furniture, clothing, and tapestries. There are over 40,000 items in its collection so there’s a lot to see! Admission is 6 BGN.
11. Hike Nebet Hill
Nebet Hill makes up one of the seven hills around Plovdiv, and it’s the site of a giant former Roman fortress. There’s not much left from the fort — all you’ll find are some ruined walls and towers — but most people come up here for the views over Plovdiv, especially at sunset.
12. Explore “The Trap”
The Trap is the nickname given to the neighborhood of Kapana, which used to be the center for merchant trade and craftspeople. Nowadays, it’s an artsy neighborhood filled with trendy restaurants, cafes, street art, bars, and galleries. Most of the area is now a pedestrian-only zone too!
For more information on other cities in Bulgaria, check out these guides:
Plovdiv Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Most hostel dorms in Plovdiv cost around 20 BGN for a 5-8 bed dorm. Private hostel rooms cost 53-65 BGN per night. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also include free breakfast.
Budget hotel prices – Budget two-star hotels cost 42-72 BGN per night. Expect basic amenities like free Wi-Fi, TV, and occasionally free breakfast.
Airbnb is an affordable option in Plovdiv, with private rooms costing 35-70 BGN per night. You can find an entire home/apartment for 60-100 BGN per night.
Food – Bulgarian cuisine is hearty and similar to that of its Balkan neighbors. Meaty stews with lamb, goat, or chicken are common, as are sausages and all kinds of yogurts (dairy products are big here). Popular dishes include kebapche (grilled mincemeat), shopska salad (a salad with tomato, cucumber, and cheese; similar to Greek salad), and moussaka.
You can find food like banica (cheese pastry) are as little as 1.50 BGN, or you can pick up a hearty shopska salad or kebab for around 5 BGN.
A fast-food meal (think McDonald’s) costs around 10 BGN. A traditional Bulgarian meal at a casual restaurant with a drink shouldn’t cost much more than 10 BGN.
If you want to splash out, a three-course meal at an upscale restaurant costs around 25 BGN.
Beer is around 3-4 BGN while a latte/cappuccino is around 2.75 BGN. Bottled water is 1 BGN.
If you plan on cooking your own meals, expect to pay between 40-55 BGN per week. This gets you basic staples like pasta, rice, seasonal produce, and some meat.
Backpacking Plovdiv Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Plovdiv, expect to spend 55 BGN per day. This assumes you’re staying in a hostel, cooking most of your meals, limiting your drinking, taking public transportation to get around, and sticking to mostly free activities like walking tours and hiking. If you plan on drinking, add 5-10 BGN to your daily budget.
On a mid-range budget of 110 BGN per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb, eat out for most meals at cheap cafes and fast food joints, enjoy a few drinks, take the occasional taxi, and do more paid activities like visiting museums and the Roman amphitheater.
On a “luxury” budget of 185 BGN or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out anywhere you want, drink more, rent a car to get around or take more taxis, and do whatever tours and activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in BGN.
Plovdiv Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Prices in Plovdiv are pretty consistent compared with other destinations in Bulgaria, making it a very affordable place to visit. There are lots of cheap and free things to do here so it will be hard to break the bank unless you are looking to splash out. Here are some ways to save money in Plovdiv:
- Stay with a local – If you plan ahead, you can usually find really nice Couchsurfing host in Plovdiv. This way, you not only have a free place to stay, but you’ll have a local host that can share their insider tips and advice.
- Get a Plovdiv City Card – The Plovdiv City Card has tons of good deals, including free admission to 12 museums and a free wine tour. It’s 24 BGN for a one-day pass and 36 BGN for a three-day pass.
- Take a free walking tour – Walking tours are a great way to get familiar with a city and the culture. Free Plovdiv Tour is an excellent company to try. (Be sure to tip your guide at the end!)
- Look for free events – Many of Plovdiv’s events and festivals are free to attend, so ask your hostel or host what’s going on during your visit.
- Limit your drinking – Alcohol here is cheap so it can be all too easy to spend more than you want by going out to the bar. Buy your drinks from the store instead of the bar or cut back on your drinking all together. Those cheap beers add up!
- Skip the taxis – Taxis are cheap here, but they also add up. Stick to public transportation if you’re on a budget.
- Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
Where to Stay in Plovdiv
Plovdiv has some excellent and affordable hostels. Here are my favorite places to stay in the city:
How to Get Around Plovdiv
Public transportation – Most of Plovdiv’s main attractions are within walking distance to one another, so you’ll rarely have to use public transportation. If you do need to take it, the bus is really the only mode of getting around. A one-way ticket costs 1 BGN so it’s super affordable.
Taxi – The normal start rate for a taxi in Plovdiv is 1 BGN, and then it’s an additional 0.90 BGN per kilometer. The base rate at night is slightly cheaper, at 0.85 BGN. Make sure your taxi is metered; some drivers have been known to try and overcharge tourists.
Bicycle – Renting a bicycle in Plovdiv is an excellent way to get around the city center. You can rent a bicycle for eight hours from Plovdiv Bike Rent for 18 BGN. A 24-hour rental is just 20 BGN.
Car rental – Car rentals can be found for around 25 BGN per day for a multi-day rental. You won’t need a car to get around the city, however, if you want to explore the region it might be helpful.
When to Go to Plovdiv
Spring and summer in Plovdiv are lovely, with the average daily temperature hovering around 31°C (88°F) between May and August.
However, the busiest months (July and August) bring in lots of tourists and higher accommodation prices so be sure to book early if you’re visiting in the summer.
Fall (September to November) in Plovdiv is also pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 7-18°C (46-66°F). There aren’t as many tourists as in summer so things are a bit cheaper and a bit quieter. It can get chilly and windy, though, so pack warm clothing.
Winter temperatures drop below 3°C (27°F) and the city sees very few tourists during this time. It’s not the best time to visit, but you can still visit a lot of the museums if you come in winter.
How to Stay Safe in Plovdiv
Plovdiv is a very safe city. Violent crime is rare, as are scams and petty crime. Of course, you’ll always want to keep your valuables secure when you’re out and about just to be safe (especially on crowded public transportation and in busy tourist areas).
Some taxi drivers have been known to overcharge their customers, so make sure your driver has a metered cab before you get in it.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about common travel scams to avoid right here.
When out at the bar, always keep an eye on your drink. Also, never walk home alone if you’ve been drinking.
If you experience an emergency, dial 112 for assistance.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, move somewhere else.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Plovdiv! Follow that rule, and you’ll avoid being the victim of petty crime.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Plovdiv Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- HostelPass – This new card gives you up to 20% off hostels throughout Europe. It’s a great way to save money. They’re constantly adding new hostels too. I’ve always wanted something like this and glad it finallt exists.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do group tours, go with Intrepid. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts with them too!
- Grassroots Volunteering – For volunteering, Grassroots Volunteering compiles a list of good local volunteer organizations that keep the money within the community.
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- Eurail – If you are going to Europe and taking a lot of high speed or long distance trains, get a rail pass. I’ve used a rail pass three times and saved hundreds of dollars each time. The math just works.
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, a free checked bag.
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
Plovdiv Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Bulgaria Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Under the Yoke: A Romance of Bulgarian Liberty, by Ivan Vazov
Written in 1888, this book might be the most famous piece of classic Bulgarian literature in the country. It follows the story of a peaceful Bulgarian town subdued by Ottoman rule — but secretly, its people are preparing for an uprising. Boicho Ognyanov, having escaped from prison, returns to the town to assist with the rebellion and to connect with old friends, enemies, and his true love. It’s classic literature with some important history mixed in.
Bai Ganyo: Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian, by Aleko Konstantinov
Another novel written in the late 1800s, this one takes on a more comical twist as you read about the misadventures of a rose-oil salesman named Ganyo Balkanski. He travels throughout Europe, bumbling his way through meetings with the upper class of Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Dresden. But then things turn slightly darker as Ganyo returns to Bulgaria where he finds that bribes and election-rigging are the norm now that Bulgaria has emerged from the Ottoman Empire. You’ll love this book as Ganyo is an odd but endearing character.
Party Headquarters, by Georgi Tenev
The award-winning Party Headquarters takes place in the 80s and 90s, as Bulgaria transitions from communism to democracy. The story follows the main character as he visits his father-in-law, who is a communist party boss tasked with delivering a suitcase filled with an enormous sum of money before he dies. It’s all based on a popular Bulgarian myth as many people believe that as the communist party fell apart, officials kept bags and suitcases of the country’s wealth for their own personal gain.
Valley of Thracians, by Ellis Shuman
In this book, a Peace Corps volunteer has gone missing in Bulgaria, and everyone (except his grandfather, Simon Matthews) believes him to be dead. Matthews, a retired literature professor, starts a search to find his grandson but then gets tangled up in a quest to uncover a stolen and incredibly valuable Thracian artifact. Matthews travels across Bulgaria and the Balkans, exploring ancient tombs and fortresses until he learns that the only hope he has of leaving the country with his grandson is if he finds the missing relic…somehow. It’s an easy read, and a fun one.
Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria, by Kapka Kassabova
Kapka Kassabova was born in Sofia during the communist party’s authoritarian regime. After escaping with her family once the Berlin Wall collapsed, she lived in the UK, New Zealand, Argentina, and a handful of other places. She eventually decided to return to her home country once Bulgaria accepted democracy and became a member of the European Union, only to find the country struggling under the new way of life. This is a great book if you want to know what it was like to live on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Plovdiv Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Bulgaria and continue planning your trip: