Plovdiv is the second biggest city in Bulgaria and one of the favorite weekend spots of locals and foreigners alike. With its laid-back art atmosphere, charming Old Town, and a specially designed creative district, it’s impossible not to fall in love at first sight. Here are a few tips how to make the most of your time if you have only a weekend in Plovdiv.
What to see
All the museums in the Old Town work without a day off. If you have just a weekend, we recommend visiting the Ethnographic Museum and the Historical Museum (Renaissance Exhibition) next to it. Both are set in beautifully ornamented Renaissance-period houses typical for Plovdiv. Choose comfortable shoes, as the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town are steep and uneven.
The Old Town of Plovdiv is situated on three hills, and when you reach the top, you will have an amazing view – Plovdiv at your feet. Still in the Old Town, follow the signs to the Ancient Roman Theater still in use today. In the summer, you can watch theater or musical performances under the stars while sitting on an ancient stone seat.
If you are a history buff, there are two more museums you might like – the History Museum (esp. the exhibition on Unification in Bulgaria) and the Archaeological Museum, both located on Saedinie Square (Unification Square). The historical act of Unification of Bulgaria took place in Plovdiv, and it’s celebrated on this square every year on September 6.
If you travel with kids
Plan a visit to the Museum of Natural Sciences where you can watch a short movie in the brand new Planetarium Hall. Just a short walk away, the Puppet Theater has performances twice a day on weekends. Take a taxi to Mladezhki Halm Hill to ride the Children’s railway – a tiny train (yet suitable for adults, too) to take you on an exciting journey up the hill.
Plovdiv can be somewhat hard to navigate by public transportation, especially on the weekend, as the buses are few and pass rarely. The easiest way is to hail a taxi – expect to pay between US$2 for short distances and US$5 for long distances. The city is not so big, so you can be anywhere in no more than 20 minutes by taxi. Plovdiv has a railway station and a few intercity bus stations if you want to get to another city – buses to Sofia leave every hour from the North Bus Station (Avtogara Sever).
What to eat
Plovdiv is famous for its hot, sometimes scorching weather in summer, so many restaurants offer shady gardens full of greenery where you can cool off. From the local cuisine, try kyufte and kebapche (grilled meat), the variety of salads (put Shopska and Ovcharska on your list), and the cold summer soup tarator (cucumbers, yogurt, dill, and garlic). You are close to the Rhodope Mountains region with their typical baked potato dish patatnik, so if you see it somewhere on the menu, don’t miss it out!
Where to relax
During the summer, one of the favorite attractions of the locals is the Singing Fountains in the central city park (called Tsar-Simeonova Gradina). After sunset, classical music and dancing water combine for a beautiful performance. The fountains “dance” on weekends and some weekdays; it’s best to ask at the Tourist Information Center (located on the main walking street). Another relaxing spot is Kapana Art District famous for its art and crafts ateliers, wine bars and music clubs. Join the Plovdiv youth in the evening when the streets of Kapana turn into an open-air bar.