As I was staying in Sofia for quite a while, I wanted to take the chance to explore another city. As it’s only two hours away, and full of Roman ruins, I decided to do a day trip to Plovdiv. Having already visited the Roman sites in Nimes earlier in the year, I thought it would be nice to see even more!
Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, was named the European Capital of Culture in 2019. This ancient settlement has a rich and fascinating history, and it was known as Philippopolis during the Roman period. The city is a fusion of different cultures and time periods, reflected in its architecture, art, and culinary scene. The main tourist attraction is the old town along with the many Roman remains scattered across the city centre.
How to get to Plovdiv from Sofia
There are several different ways to get to Plovdiv for a day trip from Sofia. I chose to do an organised tour with Traventuria because it meant I didn’t have to worry about times, and it included a walking tour in Plovdiv. The nice thing about the tour was that we had the guide to tell us lots of information both on the drive and in the city itself.
The trains to Plovdiv are quite regular and take between 2.5 hours and 3 hours depending on which one you choose. You can check the Bulgarian railway website for exact times. Unfortunately the website won’t show prices without first registering and creating an account. The trains are actually slower than the bus, so unless you really like taking the train then it makes more sense to take the bus for a day trip to Plovdiv.
The bus station in Sofia is located right next to the train station. There are two bus stations, but they are right next to each other. Serdika station is the one for international buses (which is where I got my bus to Skopje) while the main one is for internal buses. You can just turn up and buy tickets from the operator. Karat is the company that have the most times, and you can check both times and prices on their website. Karat have buses to Plovdiv in the morning, then in the afternoon they have buses back. If you want to go to Plovdiv in the evening then you’ll need to look into other operators or take the train.
Plovdiv Old Town
When we arrived, the first place we visited was the old town in Plovdiv. This was the focus of the walking tour that was included on my tour and was a beautiful introduction to the city. The old town is full of charming, beautiful buildings and our guide told us lots of interesting facts about them.
We visited several churches which were beautiful (unfortunately they didn’t allow photography inside). The Church of St Constantine and Helena is full of beautiful gold icons, and the outside has some beautiful paintings on the walls.
My favourite part of the tour was visiting the remains of the Roman theatre. We didn’t have time to enter, but you can see it all from the outside so we didn’t miss too much. Apparently, you can visit the theatre for free on your wedding day, but only if you’re a local.
Our guide showed us the other popular spot for wedding photos, which was next to the Ethnographic Museum. The Ethnographic Museum building is stunning. It costs money to enter the museum, but it’s free to visit the grounds.
We finished our tour of the old town at Dzhumayata square. This is where part of the remains of the Roman stadium can be seen and visited for free. As it was such a nice day, our guide recommended we walked along to the remains of the Roman forum and explore the Kapana neighbourhood, which is full of bars and restaurants. The museums in Plovdiv are apparently very good, so looks like I’ll need to come back again to visit them!
After visiting the Roman Forum, I was looking at attractions on Google Maps and noticed they had several street art locations. I love street art, so spent the rest of my time finding them all.
My personal favourite was a mural saying “Plovdiv” in Cyrillic. If you climb up the steps at “Plovdiv 2019” sign, you’ll find a lot in that area. Right as we were about to leave I spotted a cute cat mural near the mosque. The Kapana neighbourhood has a lot of street art, so just wandering that area you’ll be bound to notice some. You can look up “Graffiti” on Google Maps which will show you the location of some of the bigger pieces.
Should you take a day trip to Plovdiv?
After visiting, I wouldn’t recommend a day trip to Plovdiv. Instead, if you have time, I would recommend spending at least two days in Plovdiv. It’s such a fantastic city that I’ll definitely come back. If you’re short on time, then a day trip is still enough to let you fall in love with the city and see the main sights but you will feel rushed.
I personally thought the amount of time we had on my tour was quite good. The walking tour let us explore the old town, then we had two hours free time. It wasn’t enough time to get food too though – I grabbed stuff from a supermarket to eat as I walked.
Have you been to Plovdiv? What activities do you suggest? How long do you think is ideal for a visit to Plovdiv?