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Discover Plovdiv beyond the mainstream attractions with Culture Trip‘s guide to the most unusual, quirkiest things to do and see in Bulgaria’s second biggest city.
Plovdiv is best known for its Old Town dotted with brightly colored traditional houses, but there is much more to explore. Read on to explore Plovdiv beyond the obvious.
Climb one of the Plovdiv’s hills (Bunardzhika) to get panoramic views of the city while standing at the foot (or rather the feet) of the monument of Alyosha, formally known as the Monument of the Soviet Army in Plovdiv. The statue’s nickname is derived from the diminutive for Aleksey, the real name of the Soviet soldier who was the model for the monument. As with most Soviet-era statues, Alyosha is controversial – locals either love or hate it.
Several decades ago in Plovdiv, there was a man named Milyo. Almost all the locals knew him. He was considered crazy, but harmless and would stroll from café to café telling strangers his amazing stories. Even though they were probably made up, people would offer him a meal or cigarettes in return. His image has been so well preserved in the collective memory, that today there’s a monument devoted to him on the main walking street of Plovdiv. You will recognize him by his big ears and his posture, as if he’s trying to overhear the latest gossip in town.
Several generations of locals fondly remember riding Plovdiv’s Children’s Railway. The tiny train passes through a tunnel, travels beneath a canopy and reaches a panoramic spot at the final station. The best part about it is that it is open to children of all ages (including grown-up children), which means you can buy a ticket up the hill and back to your childhood.
During the summer months, the Singing Fountains in Plovdiv are a favourite hangout spot among locals. The water sprays dance in time to popular and local hits. During the day, the fountains are silent, but a small area beside them is equipped with mini-fountains where you can always see children and grown-ups cooling down while running through the sprays in the shallow water. For the exact hours of the show, it’s best to ask at the Tourist Information Center.
The Ancient Roman Theater of Plovdiv has been remarkably well preserved, especially considering its age of more than 2,000 years. You can visit it as a tourist attraction, but you can also get a ticket and watch a concert or an opera performance in the summer when it regains its original function. What makes the experience unusual is the fact that many of the stones used for seats are original, and if you look closely, you can even see a name of one of the ancient nobles to whom the seats were inscribed back then.
When you are walking up the main Saborna Street in the Old Town, look out on your left side to see the statue created by the local artist Tsanko Lavrenov. He was a famous painter and one of the main activists for the preservation and restoration of the Plovdiv’s Old Town. Landscapes and old houses from Plovdiv were some of his favorite subjects. Become part of the picture by posing in the empty frame of the statue.
Life on top of Nebet Tepe hasn’t ever stopped since it was inhabited for the first time around 6,000 years ago. The hill is the natural end of your walk exploring the Old Town of Plovdiv and the locals’ favorite place to watch the sunset. Very little is known about the earliest settlers of the hill, but you can still see remains of a fortress. Climb up to the top to get the best views of Plovdiv and the Maritsa River.