Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria at almost half a million inhabitants, is a Balkan star rising. Forming part of a trend that sees “Europe’s second cities” gain in popularity, it may well steal the show off its capital neighbour to the West, the city of Sofia. In my last post about Bulgaria, I have already told you about my first 48 hours in Sofia, as well as shared some travel tips for visiting Bulgaria’s interior with you.
Today, it is all about Plovdiv though – and thus, a travel destination that should really be on your list for 2019 (a year that will also see even more travel connections to the southeast of Bulgaria). Why? Well, there’s the ubiquitous rose oil for a start, excellent and unique in its kind; the countless Thracian wines of which Plovdiv forms the cradle, or the many creative artists that populate the old town of Plovdiv, commonly known as Kapana Arts District. Add to this, the city’s designation as “European Capital of Culture” (a title proudly worn), and you will get a feel for what the buzz in Plovdiv is all about.
“First things first”: What’s to see on a first day’s walk around the old town of Plovdiv?
A whole lot, to be honest. I personally loved the “Street of Crafts” above all, mostly because of the artisans who practice and invite us to join them in their crafts! Also, you can climb one of Plovdiv’s little hills and be rewarded with a magnificent view to the south, over its ancient Roman Amphitheatre, surprisingly intact. There are many old houses with detailed facade paintings and woodcraft, too, reminiscent of some of the houses I’ve seen in other parts of Europe, for instance the Alsace. Very interesting. Check this out.
If you’re looking for foodie recommendations, go and check out “Happy People Under The Sky” (yep, that’s the restaurant’s name!) or THE chocolatier in town, Vincent Gaillot, of Gaillot Chocolat.
At the restaurant Ресторант “Щастливци под тепето” (the link leads you to their Bulgarian Facebook page), everything just falls into place: Welcome, items of furniture, aroma & atmosphere, quality of food and service. As soon as I’m back in Plovdiv, I shall make a point of going there again, really. The same is true for visiting Frenchman Vincent Gaillot: Him and his Bulgarian wife have made it their mission to craft artisan chocolate and even accommodate visitors to make their own chocolate in a simple, yet truly entertaining one-hour chocolate workshop. Chocolate “made in Bulgaria” – I love it. There is even chocolate with sea salt off Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast. Check this out: http://www.gaillotchocolate.com.
What’s left for Plovdiv, you may wonder? Definitely a feeling of joy and anticipation for 2019, as well as for further years to come.
I mean, let’s face it: A city in the light of its growing number of expats, who have chosen to come and live here, or Bulgarians themselves returning to their home town and country. A willingness to keep shaping the old town, to make it come alive through art, festivals and events, to spray-paint it with some very original works of street art graffiti. Beyond me, I walk on the traces of an ancient Roman racing course, above me, I can see hipster coffee shops, modern boutique hotels, as well as countless shopping opportunities for the sought after Bulgarian yoghurt and rose oil. Must make a point of coming back for visiting the flower fields of the Bulgarian roses in bloom, an event said to be unique in its kind. That, and many more reasons, vouch for a return to Bulgaria as soon as possible.
Check out even more of my travel photography here:
Disclaimer: I have been invited by Yonka Bakardhzieva-Agalova as well as the cities of Gabrovo, Sofia, Plovdiv, Troyan and Veliko Tarnovo on this #CreativeBulgaria trip. All opinions are my own.