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- 20 Jan 2021, 3 nights
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Plovdiv is Europe's oldest continuously inhabited city, so come ready to take in some history. However, Bulgaria's second-largest city isn't just about celebrating the past – a renovated arts quarter and varied nightlife scene provides plenty of contemporary entertainment too. The paintbox-bright buildings of this ancient town are best enjoyed on foot, but make sure you bring your walking shoes as the whole city spreads over seven hills!
Most hostels in Plovdiv have free breakfast and communal kitchens. If you want to sleep in an antique bed choose the former home of one of the city's richest merchants, or if you're all about location, stay in a hostel within the Central Railway Station. Some Plovdiv hostels have free Wi-Fi and in most you can choose between dorms and private rooms. Check out a hostel in a traditional Bulgarian mansion where the staff organise day trips too, or look for one that offers bike and kayak rental if you feel like getting active.
Plovdiv's Old Town is the central neighbourhood with cobbled streets and 19th-century mansions. Many of these houses have been turned into museums, hotels and cafés that extend outdoors. The main street (Saborna) runs through the Old Town to Nebet Tepe – one of the most popular hills for watching sunsets. Slightly west of Old Town is the artsy neighbourhood of Kapana, full of craft beer bars and unusual boutiques. The Knyaz Aleksander I boulevard is the prime shopping street, which runs north to south through the city.
The Ancient Theater of Philippopolis is a major attraction in Plovdiv. It has city views and the seats are just as they were when the Roman audiences filled them. For more history, check out the Natural Archaeological Museum to learn about the last 4000 years in Bulgaria. You can visit Stepan Hindliyan's home for a peek inside one of the most intricately decorated houses in Old Town – a single mural took six months to complete. For budget-friendly evening entertainment, catch the music and light show of the Singing Fountains in Tsar Simeon's Garden.
You can fly into Plovdiv Airport, but as there's no shuttle bus, be prepared to take a taxi into the city. There are three bus stations in Plovdiv and international services leave from Yug Bus Station, 15 minutes' walk from the centre. To travel within Bulgaria, buses leave from Yug, Rodopi and Sever Bus Stations depending on the destination. Getting around the city is best done on foot, as many of the roads are car-free during daylight hours.