Smelling the Roses in Plovdiv

Wander the seven hills of Plovdiv in southern Bulgaria and literally smell the roses. It’s one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in Europe. From the Thracians to today Plovdiv continues to delight and inspire!

Plovdiv will be the European Capital of Culture in 2019. And it’s no wonder. Today Plovdiv is the 2nd largest city in Bulgaria. It’s renowned for its romantic atmosphere and colorful historic homes. And for the relics of the ancient city of Philippopolis.

Plovdiv can trace its history back 6,000 years. Lucian, the Roman writer, even said Plovdiv “is the biggest and loveliest of all cities. Its beauty shines from faraway.”

We thoroughly enjoyed our sojourn in Plovdiv. I’ll write briefly about the ruins you’ll encounter, local wares, and the bright Old Town.

Plovdiv’s Stunning Roman Theatre

In the 1970s works uncovered Plovdiv’s chief jewel. Plovdiv hosts one of finest preserved ancient Roman theatres.

The theatre was originally constructed by Emperor Trajan in the second century CE. Crowds of over five thousand once attended. It survived these crowds, a raid by Attila the Hun, and even burial. And then it was forgotten about (which may have helped conserve it, to be honest). Today, hundreds still attend performances in the venue. Musicians marvel at the acoustics that still hold up.

Roman Theatre

Unlike many Roman ruins, you can explore this astounding theatre. Sit in the auditorium, or stand near to the statues that still stand on the stage building’s facade. Take in stunning views of the old town of Plovdiv and the Rhodope Mountains.

Plovdiv theatre ruins
Can you imagine finding this ruin?

Wandering the Roman Theatre

Not gonna lie, they are some fantastic photo ops up there, too.

Other Plovdiv Ruins

You’ll likely run into more ruins near and around Plovdiv. Like this one, the Roman Stadium.

Roman Stadium

And the Odeon of Philippopolis. There’s still live shows here as well. It was built in the 2nd century under the reign of Hadrian.

Roman Odeon

Hills, Shops, and Roses

Hike up one of the seven hills to get stunning views at sunset.

I loved this view of the Alyosha Monument. The monumental Soviet sentinel watches over the seven hills.

Alyosha Monument

As far as European countries go, Bulgaria is one of the most affordable. Your money will go farther here than Western European countries. I don’t usually get a lot of souvenirs. But with such cheap prices, we ended up getting some whimsical gifts.

I’ll narrow down to my interests, but I’m sure you’ll find something you like, too! In the Old Town we found some stunning Bulgarian ceramics.

Bulgarian pottery
A piece by Ivan Jovchevsky

Also, I’ve mentioned I like painted Easter eggs. Bulgaria has them, too. They’re in more subdued colors but still utterly charming. Here I believe they’re known as pisano yaytse.

Egg
yesss

The pedestrianized main shopping street smells like roses. Buy some rose-infused lotion or perfume. It’s the real stuff, and it’s gorgeous smelling.

The famous Rose Valley is only 60km (37 miles) north of Plovidv. Anytime we drink a rose lemonade it takes us back.Plovdiv Shopping Street

You’ll definitely come across some ruins when shopping. There’s also a lot of fine eateries in Plovdiv. Make sure to get local yogurt, feta, and tarator. I may have an unhealthy obsession with dairy, but goodness it was perfect here.

Old Town

First off, there are some excellent murals near the entrance of the Old Town. They’re mostly in Soviet, Folk, and Modernist styles.

Mural

Check out this one of Hristo Dano.

Hristo Dano mural

When the streets become cobbled and the buildings look old and bright – you’ve found yourself in the Old Town. Wear sturdy shoes because these are some ancient cobbled as hell streets! Here’s an elegant preserved medieval street.Medieval Street

Architecture in the Old Town is stunning. I love the intricately painted arches.

Balabanov House
Balabanov House © Tourbillon/Wikicommons
Хисар капия
Хисар капия, © Бирдас/Wikicommons

Elegant building

It’s a beautiful city worth a weekend away. Truly a treat for all the senses. We didn’t plan to do much as many things were closed for Easter. But it’s a perfect place to just wander. If you do get to the Ethnographic Museum let me know how it was!

Plovdiv view from the hill
Plovdiv view from the hill top © Ilia Markov/WikiCommons

Where to next? We got a big bus around. There were personal TVs, food service, and a bus attendant. Not like your average Greyhound! (Where my husband and I met, incidentally.) We went to Istanbul after visiting Plovdiv. (And came from Sofia, Bulgaria.) Carry a Cyrillic guide so you can read maps and the bus. Also, think about visiting one of the fantastic monasteries, like Bachkovo Monastery.

Bulgaria, a hand-painted postcard
Bulgaria, a hand-painted postcard