So you are heading to Plovdiv, and only have one day to see it all. Perhaps you are in Sofia, and are coming on a day trip, and want to know if you can see all of Plovdiv in just one day. The good news is, one day in Plovdiv is enough to see the highlights, and with this Plovdiv one day itinerary, you can do it really easily!
This article may contain affiliate links. If you click on those links and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you I will get a small commission. This will go a long way toward keeping this website running. As always, thank you for your support! Click HERE for more information.
Some people will argue that one day in Plovdiv just isn’t enough time to see everything, and really enjoy what Plovdiv has to offer. I would agree, and in my opinion 2 to 3 days would be a lot better. BUT, if you only have one day in Plovdiv, then you CAN see the highlights, and still go away content with the fact that you made the most of your time.
Having spent over a month in the city myself, I have walked the streets so many times, that I now know the best places to go to, and what order to see them all. The one day itinerary I am about to outline is basically a walk I have done dozens of times myself!
So, here is my recommendation of what to do if you only have one day in Plovdiv.
Table of Contents
- Ancient Theatre of Philippopolous
- Old Town
- Ancient Stadium of Philippopolous
- Main Street
- Roman Forum and Tsar Simeon Gardens
- Sunset and Dinner
- Singing Fountains
Ancient Theatre of Philippopolous
We are going to start you off in Plovdiv Old Town, at THIS location.
This Ancient Theatre has been around for over 2000 years, but until recently was totally lost and forgotten about. Hidden under the hill, with tonnes of dirt on top, no one was even aware of its existence.
That was until the town began to dig under the hill to build a new road tunnel. Workmen struck the lower foundations of the Theatre, and excavations immediately began to find out what they belonged to.
Now, the Theatre is the centerpiece of Old Town.
You can see the Ancient Theatre of Philippopolous for free, simply by looking down into it through the barred fence around the top. My suggestion though, is to get there around 9am and buy yourself an Old Town pass that will get you into 5 attractions in Old Town for only 15 LEV, including the Ancient Theatre. If not, you can explore the Theatre alone for only 5 Lev.
From the Theatre, we are going to head down into Old Town. It doesn’t really matter which way you go, as all the streets from the Theatre will intersect with the main street anyway.
Did you get the combined pass when you were at the theatre? If you did, take a look at it now and decide where you want to go. My suggestions are the Balabanov House, Hindliyan House, Nedkovich House, and then your choice of the Stambolyan House (which is basically and art Gallery inside an old house), or the Klianti House.
Also, you really should go to the Regional Ethnographic Museum. It will cost you an extra 6 LEV as it isn’t included on the combined pass, but you will get a great look at Bulgarian traditions, history, costumes etc inside the museum.
I will leave you on your own to decide where you go and in what order. The Old Town is really well signposted, and not large, so you won’t really save any time doing it in any particular order.
A couple of highlights I want to point out to you so that you don’t miss them though.
- The famous Hisar Kapia Gate beside the Ethnographic Museum is a must see, and you can’t miss it. If you go to the Nedkovich House you will have to pass under it anyway, and the house is just down on your left.
- The Street of Crafts. Pass under the same gate and go immediately left to reach it.
- The small park opposite the Balabanov House. Have a close look at the wall in this park to see the incredible layers in the rock which are evidence of the different ages of construction.
I have wandered around Old Town so many times, and still love it. You can’t get lost, and seem to always end up coming back to the same starting point near the Gate.
Don’t forget to use all of your pass. The houses are large, but you don’t spend too much time inside them. Take note that there is a small gatehouse between the Balabanov House and Hindliyan House, meaning you can go from one yard directly into the other, without exiting to the street again.
Depending upon what time it is when you are finished in Old Town (depending on what time you started your one day in Plovdiv tour), then you may want lunch.
The best place to eat in Old Town is just up the hill from the Ethnographic Museum. It’s called Rahat Tepe, and is one of the most popular places in the entire city for locals. Rahat Tepe is a beer garden with ice cold beer (great if it’s summer) and some of the best food in town.
If you are after something a little more budget, then continue on with this itinerary, and you can stop in the Main Street where there are plenty of really nice budget food joints. Check out THIS article for the locations of all my favorites.
Also, we are about to head into the Kapana District, which is overflowing with boutique restaurants and cafes, if that is more your style.
Here, you will find stairs going down into a tunnel under the road. follow this to the other side, and take the stairs to the left to get back to street level again.
Continue straight for 50 meters, then veer right into the District known as Kapana. You should now be walking down a street full of restaurants and cafes. To be sure, head HERE.
The name Kapana literally means “The Trap”, and you can see why as you wander the streets. It is like a maze, and was created that way on purpose many years ago by the craftsmen that once plied their trades in the area. The intent was to confuse customers into wandering the streets lost, in order to pass by more and more of their stores. I assume it worked well, considering it is still working today!
The Kapana area has now been taken over by the local artists, and as you walk the streets you will find street art everywhere. The area is one of the favorites for locals to hang out, especially on weekends, with the many boutique bars, wine bars, restaurants and cafes overflowing in the Summer months in particular.
Make your way through Kapana until you reach the Main street. If you haven’t eaten yet, here is where you will find plenty of cheap eats as mentioned in the article link above.
Ancient Stadium of Philippopolous
Once you are in the Main Street, we are going to walk uphill toward THIS location.
This is the Ancient Stadium of Philippopolous, which was constructed and used by the Romans for events such as chariot races, games and gladiatorial Contests. Like the Ancient Theatre it is over 2000 years old, and in really good condition.
The reason for its amazing state of repair is similar to that of the Theatre as well. This stadium was lost and hidden for many hundreds of years, and once again, only uncovered recently. In fact, it was because they were excavating the stadium area, that they were diverting the traffic away from main street, therefore building the tunnel that resulted in the discovery of the Theatre!
The Ancient Stadium has been hidden beneath the main street for a long time, but its not like the locals didn’t know it was there. All of the buildings along the street are built above the stadium “grandstands”, and the owners were constantly discovering the ancient seating in the basements of their buildings during construction or renovation. No one would speak up and tell the authorities though, as it was prime real estate, and the last thing they wanted was to lose their business premises to the town.
The decision was finally made to turn the Main Street into a pedestrian zone, divert the traffic and begin works to uncover the Ancient Stadium. It can be seen now holding pride of place in the Main Street, just below street level.
You can enter the stadium via the stairs near the mosque, and do a small DIY tour through.
You don’t even have to move to be at the next location on your one day in Plovdiv tour!
As mentioned earlier, the Main Street is a pedestrian only zone, and runs all the way from the Tsar Simeon Gardens at one end, all the way past the stadium, down the hill to the covered pedestrian bridge across the river. A very interesting fact is that this street is actually the longest pedestrian zone in Europe!
Main Street is a great place for a stroll with your camera as there is just so much to see. Highlights include the Djumaya Mosque, which was built in the year 1435. This sits right beside the Ancient Stadium, which can also be seen inside the H&M building, where parts of it are visible in the basement, and can be viewed from the shop floor. You can also do a tour inside as well.
Along the main street are some classic examples of architecture from all periods of Plovdiv’s History. In fact, in one spot near the Tsar Simeon Gardens, you can see evidence of Ottoman, Roman, Russian and Modern Day influences.
Midway between the stadium and the gardens at the end, don’t forget to stop and say hello to the statue of Milyo “the crazy”. Milyo was once an iconic figure in Plovdiv, and would sit on this very spot day after day. Legend has it that if you whisper your desires into his ear, they will come true. Also, you may notice the shiny knees on the statue. It is believed that to rub his knees will make you lucky in love!
Roman Forum and Tsar Simeon Gardens
At the end of the main street, you will find the Tsar Simeon Gardens. First though, opposite Afreddo Ice Cream, you will find the ancient Roman Forum. You can’t spend one day in Plovdiv without exploring this!
The Roman Forum area is, like the stadium, below street level, and can be accessed via stairs from the main street. This entire area is laid out really well, with the path running past pieces of ruins that have information boards nearby telling you what they are. At the end you will find a few old Roman Columns, and the actual Forum area where the Roman councils would sit.
Back in the main street, on the other side of Afreddo’s, you will see another lot of ruins. This one is an Ancient well, and is worth exploring too.
Beyond that lies the Tsar Simeon Gardens. This amazing parkland was created in 1892, and is a favorite place for the locals to relax and enjoy the city. During the warmer months, they really come alive, and at any time of the day you can find people out exercising, relaxing on the grass, enjoying the fountains or even just a game of chess under the trees.
Sunset and Dinner
If you still have time on your one day in Plovdiv, and don’t have to rush off anywhere fast, then consider sticking around for sunset and dinner, because we still have more on the agenda. Life in Plovdiv doesn’t stop at dusk!
If it’s a nice day, then you can head to one of two places for sunset. The first is THIS location, where the famous Plovdiv Clock Tower is located. This is the oldest Clock Tower in Eastern Europe, built in 1623. It is only a 5 – 10 min walk from the Gardens, and the hill isn’t really large. It is also located right near to the main street.
The other place that I really recommend, is actually my favorite place in the city for sunsets. Head to THIS location at Bunardzhika Hill, and the Alyosha Monument on top. From this peak you will get the best views of the city, and a glorious sunset. It’s only about a 15 to 20 minute walk from the gardens, and the park is very safe, with many locals going up for the sunset in the evenings.
After sunset, you can head back down toward the main street again for dinner. There are plenty of places to eat, but my recommendation, and one of the best places in town, is Hemingway Restaurant at THIS location.
To finish off your one day in Plovdiv, after dinner we will head back to the Tsar Simeon Gardens. Walk through the gardens until you find the famous Singing Fountains.
What better way to finish your one day in Plovdiv than which a choreographed, colored fountains show!
I hope you have enjoyed my itinerary for your one day in Plovdiv. Hopefully you got to fit it all in!
If you have to cut this itinerary short (ie, if you have to catch an early train or bus) then I hope you enjoyed the parts that you could.