A complete guide to what to do in Plovdiv, Bulgaria for one day (+ a map with all popular tourist sights and the best places to eat).
Located on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria. The city, like Rome, is built on seven hills. However, it’s much older than Rome! In fact, Plovdiv is the oldest living city in Europe and the 6th in the world.
It’s believed that Plovdiv was founded around 6000 BC. Many different civilizations left their mark on the city – from Thracian and Roman ruins to Ottoman influence and Bulgarian National Revival architecture.
While walking around, you’ll find that the city’s history is layered. One civilization built upon another, resulting in a unique mixture of architecture. Next to Thracian ruins and ancient Roman amphitheatres you’ll see picturesque houses with gorgeous ornamented windows.
What to do in Plovdiv in one day
This travel guide will help you plan the perfect Plovdiv itinerary. It will walk you through all places of interest, including the best restaurants to taste Bulgarian food. It’s ideal for all planning to visit Plovdiv on a long weekend.
Another option is to take an Old Town Self-Guided Audio Tour. You can visit the most interesting sights with an audio guide and a map at your own pace!
At the end of this travel guide for one day in Plovdiv, you’ll find a map (with all attractions and restaurants’ websites).
Already have a hotel booked? Then take a look at my guide where to stay in Plovdiv and make sure you’ve chosen a good location.
What to do in Plovdiv in one day (best things to do)
- Start the day with waffles at Afreddo
- See the Roman Stadium
- Visit one of the oldest mosques on the Balkans
- Tour the ancient Roman Amphitheatre
- Marvel at the quaint houses in Plovdiv Old Town
- Art Gallery Philippopolis
- Regional Ethnographic Museum
- Historical Museum – Bulgarian National Revival
- Balabanov and Hindlian Houses
- See the Church of St. Constantine and Helena
- Enjoy the best city’s views from Nebet Tepe
- Taste the Bulgarian style fish and chips
- Enjoy a colourful fountain light show
To plan my trip to Plovdiv I used this DK Eyewitness Bulgaria Travel Guide. I love their travel guides, as they have practical information, walking tours and a durable map!
Taste the waffles at Afreddo
09:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Afreddo is one of my favourite places for breakfast. They serve amazing waffles and pancakes with different toppings! The espresso is also good (it comes from the coffee capital of Italy, Trieste). A perfect way to start your one day in Plovdiv.
See the Roman Stadium
10:10 AM – 10:30 AM
Do you know that there is a Roman stadium laying under the main street in Plovdiv? That’s right, a whole stadium. Emperor Hadrian commissioned its construction at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Back in the days, the stadium could seat up to 30,000 spectators!
Unfortunately, today you can see only fragments of the structure because the rest is buried under the main pedestrian street. You can go down the stairs to the information centre and watch a 3D movie about the history of the stadium. The price is 6 BGN (~€3) for the movie.
Visit one of the oldest mosques on the Balkans
10:30 AM – 10:50 AM
Dzhumaya Mosque was built around 1363, after the Ottomans conquered the city. However, its current look dates from the 15th century, when Sultan Murad II fully reconstructed the building.
Dzhumaya Mosque means Friday Mosque. This is where all Muslims gathered for prayer every Friday.
It’s possible to visit the mosque and the entrance is free of charge. Yet, keep in mind that it’s still an active temple, so dress modestly.
Tour the ancient Roman Amphitheatre
11:00 AM – 11:30 AM
The Roman Amphitheatre is the most iconic monument of Plovdiv. It is one of the best-preserved amphitheatres in the world. And it is still in use today, various concerts and shows take place every summer!
Emperor Trajan built the magnificent amphitheatre at the end of the 1st century AD. It could host up to 7,000 people and it was used mostly for governing council meetings and gladiator fights.
The entrance fee is 5 BGN (~€2.5). To save money, you can buy a combined ticket, that is valid for 5 attractions in the Old Town of Plovdiv. The ticket is a bargain if you plan to visit more than 3 sights.
12:00 PM – 01:30 PM
For lunch choose between Happy below the hill or Philippopolis Restaurant. Both restaurants offer delicious local food and have an awesome summer garden.
Marvel at the quaint houses in Plovdiv Old Town
01:30 PM – 04:00 PM
Take a walk through the Old Town of Plovdiv and let yourself be carried back through time to the 19th century. Narrow cobblestone streets, Roman ruins and quaint colourful houses, surrounded by peaceful atmosphere and birds singing. A tranquil place soaked in history!
Most of the houses are built in Bulgarian National Revival style and they are beautifully restored. Your sight will be captured by their red, blue or yellow facades richly decorated with floral motives. Many of the houses are turned into museums, guest houses, art galleries or restaurants.
Some of the most popular houses are:
- Art Gallery Philippopolis
- Regional Ethnographic Museum
- Historical Museum – Bulgarian National Revival
- Balabanov and Hindlian Houses
You won’t have enough time for all of them, so choose according to your interests.
Art Gallery Philippopolis
Don’t be fooled by the name, this is much more than an art gallery! Art Gallery Philippopolis is set in one of the most beautiful old houses in the Old Town. Built in 1865 by Hadzhi Aleko, this house is one of the first with solid walls in Plovdiv.
The exhibition features works of famous Bulgarian artists from the 19th century to nowadays. You’ll also find beautiful wooden decorations and furniture in each of the rooms!
Regional Ethnographic Museum
Plovdiv Ethnographic Museum is housed in a former private house. The beautiful 19th-century house once belonged to Argir Kuyumdzhioglu, a rich merchant from Plovdiv.
The exhibit represents over 40,000 artefacts related to Bulgarian folk culture over the centuries. You can see traditional Bulgarian costumes, unique carpets, daily utensils and many more. It’s an excellent stop to get a glimpse of everyday life two centuries ago.
Historical Museum – Bulgarian National Revival
Historical Museum occupies the former house of a wealthy craftsman. The exhibition covers the history of Plovdiv from the 15th to 19th century, when the country was under Ottoman occupation.
Georgi Kendindenoglu commissioned the construction of the house in 1848. Despite this fact, the house bears the name of his son in law, Dimitar Georgiadi. He was a rich Greek merchant from Plovdiv whose successors lived here till the middle of the 20th century.
Balabanov and Hindlian Houses
Balabanov House and Hindlian House share a common yard. Both houses once belonged to rich merchants. With their Baroque furniture and carved wooden ceilings, they are an excellent example of the life of the wealthy class in the 19th century.
See the Church of St. Constantine and Helena
04:00 PM – 04:20 PM
Dating from 337 AD, the Church of St. Constantine and Helena is one of the oldest in Plovdiv. It was erected on the exact same spot, where the martyrs Severin and Memnos were beheaded for their Christian beliefs.
Over time, the temple has been reconstructed several times. The current building and its beautiful Baroque interior are from 1832.
Enjoy the best city’s views from Nebet Tepe
04:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Plovdiv, like Rome, is built on seven hills. However today only six of them remain. The seventh, Markovo Tepe, was destroyed and its syenite rocks were used to pave the city’s streets.
Nebet Tepe is the highest hill in the Old Town. There, you can see the remains of the ancient Thracian fortress, Puldin. Yet, Nebet Tepe is most popular for its panoramic views of Plovdiv.
Taste the Bulgarian style fish and chips
To enjoy a cold beer and some Bulgarian style fish and chips, go to Rahat Tepe and order tzatza and fried potatoes with white cheese. The restaurant is right on Nebet Tepe and besides the delicious Bulgarian food, it offers panoramic views over the city.
Dinner at Pavaj
Finish your day in Plovdiv with a dinner at Pavaj or Smokini.
If you have to visit one restaurant in Plovdiv, make it Pavaj and you won’t be disappointed! Located in the heart of the artsy district Kapana, this is my all-time favourite restaurant in Plovdiv. An Excellent atmosphere combined with delicious Bulgarian food and yummy desserts.
For a more modern twist on Bulgarian cuisine, visit Smokini. This lovely restaurant features a cosy atmosphere with an industrial interior design.
Enjoy a colourful fountain light show
Tsar Simeon Garden is the most beautiful garden in Plovdiv. It’s a great place for a leisurely stroll, especially on a hot summer day.
Yet, the main attraction here is the Singing Fountains. The light show runs every evening in the summer between 09:00 PM and 11:00 PM.
More ideas for your one day in Plovdiv
See the iconic statues of Plovdiv
While walking around the city, you’ll notice a few statues of smiling people. They are all statues of real people, created by the sculptor Danko Dankov. The most popular are the ones of Miljo and the artist Tsanko Lavrenov.
You can find the statue of Miljo on the main pedestrian street. Miljo lived in the 1960s and he was one of the most colourful figures in the city at that time. He always knew the latest gossip for the townsfolk and shared them with strangers.
The statue of the artist Tsanko Lavrenov is in the Old Town. He was one of the most influential Bulgarian artists of the 20th century.
Get trapped in Kapana
Kapana is the art district of Plovdiv. In fact, it has been the city’s arts and crafts district for the last 5 centuries.
Founded during the Ottoman occupation, the district was home to local craftsmen. You can see this even in the streets’ names. If you look at them you’ll find streets like Kozhuharska (Furriers’ street), Zhelezarska (Smiths’ street) or Zlatarska (Goldsmiths’ street).
Nowadays, Kapana is a lively art district full of art shops, craft beer bars and hipster coffee shops. A visit to Cat & Mouse is a must for every craft beer lover, while Monkey House is a great coffee shop.
The name of the district Kapana means “trap” in Bulgarian. And if you try to visit all the craft beer and cocktail bars here, you’ll definitely feel trapped, because you’ll stumble on them at every step!
You’ll also find a lot of street art, so take your time and explore the district. Numerous events and festivals take place regularly, so check before your visit to Plovdiv (find more details here).
Enjoy the city’s views from Alyosha Monument
For more panoramic views of Plovdiv, go to Bunardzhik hill. The second-highest hill in Plovdiv is also known as the Liberators Hill. The name is connected to the two monuments that you’ll find here – the Monument of Russian Liberators and the gigantic statue of a Russian soldier on the top.
Attend a concert at the Roman Amphitheatre
During the summer, the Roman Amphitheatre becomes a stage for concerts and operas. You can find all the summer concerts here.
Besides, in August the Amphitheatre hosts the International Folklore Festival and in September – the Sound of Ages Festival. It’s a unique experience and the acoustics are fantastic, so don’t miss it!
Getting around in Plovdiv
Find here a map with all the attractions and restaurants from this Plovdiv itinerary.
The tourist attractions are within walking distance, so you won’t need to take any public transport. Yet, keep in mind that the Old Town is quite hilly, so bring comfortable shoes.
How to get to Plovdiv
Plovdiv is well connected to Sofia and other major cities in Bulgaria by train and bus. If you’re travelling from Sofia, there are more than 10 buses (and trains) per day. I’d recommend you take the bus. Trains are slower and most of them haven’t been updated for decades.
The journey by bus is about 2h30min. You have to take a bus from Sofia Central Bus station to Plovdiv South Bus station (see the bus schedule here). Once there, it’s about a 15-20min walk to the city centre and a bit more to the Old Town.
Plovdiv Airport is situated 12km southwest of the city. It’s a small airport, used by a few low-cost airlines and for charter flights. There is no public transport to the city centre, so the only option is to take a taxi. Be careful and take a taxi only from the official taxi companies. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying 2-3 times more.
How many days in Plovdiv
Is one day in Plovdiv enough?
For one day in Plovdiv, you can visit the Roman Stadium and Amphitheatre and discover some of the museums in the Old Town.
Yet, I’d not recommend you visiting Plovdiv on a day trip from Sofia (unless it’s an organized excursion or you’re travelling by car). Plovdiv is about a 2h30 journey by bus or train from Sofia. You’ll spend most of the day on the road. So, stay at least 1 night in Plovdiv.
Still, if you’re short on time and Plovdiv is on your list, take a look at this Full-Day Small-Group Excursion from Sofia. The best part is that the excursion also includes a guided tour of the Old Town. So, it will be possible to see all the key sights for just a few hours.
Best time to visit Plovdiv
Most of the tourist attractions are outside, plus you’ll spend a lot of time walking through the Old Town. Having this in mind, the best time to visit Plovdiv are the months of April, May, June, September and October. In these months you have a very good chance for nice weather.
No matter the season, Plovdiv never gets overcrowded. However, if possible avoid July and August, as the temperature usually goes over 30°C (86°F). A hot summer day is not the perfect time to explore the Old Town, as it has a lot of steep streets.