What You Need To Know
Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria. It is an important economic, transport, cultural, and educational center. Plovdiv has evidence of habitation since the 6th millennium BC when the first Neolithic settlements were established. It is said to be one of the oldest cities in Europe. Plovdiv was known in the West for most of its recorded history by the name Philippopolis (Greek: Φιλιππούπολις; Turkish: Filibe; “Philip’s Town”) as Philip II of Macedon conquered it in the 4th century BC and gave his name to it. The city was originally a Thracian settlement, later being invaded by Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgarians, Slav-Vikings, Crusaders and Turks. On 4 January 1878, Plovdiv was liberated from Ottoman rule by the Russian army. It remained within the borders of Bulgaria until July of the same year, when it became the capital of the autonomous Ottoman region of Eastern Rumelia. In 1885, Plovdiv and Eastern Rumelia joined Bulgaria. Plovdiv is situated in a fertile region of south-central Bulgaria on the two banks of the Maritsa River. The city has historically developed on seven syenite hills, some of which are 250 metres (820 feet) high. Because of these hills, Plovdiv is often referred to in Bulgaria as “The City of the Seven Hills”. Plovdiv is host to cultural events such as the International Fair Plovdiv, the international theatrical festival “A stage on a crossroad”, and the TV festival “The golden chest”. There are many remains preserved from antiquity such as the ancient Plovdiv Roman theatre, Roman odeon, Roman aqueduct, Roman Stadium, the archaeological complex Eirene, and others. The oldest American educational institution outside the United States was founded in Plovdiv in 1860, which was later moved to Sofia – today’s American College of Sofia. On 5 September 2014, Plovdiv was selected as the Bulgarian host of the European Capital of Culture 2019. This happened with the help of the Municipal Foundation “Plovdiv 2019″ – a non-government organization which was established in 2011 by Plovdiv’s City Council. The main objectives were to develop and to prepare Plovdiv’s bid book for European Capital of Culture in 2019. The organization has a board of directors, which consists of 9 members and an Executive Director. The foundation also has a Public Council, chaired by the mayor of the city, and a Control Board supervises the organization’s activities. The main objective of the foundation is strategic development and implementation of the bid book.
The Plovdiv Drama Theatre is a successor of the first professional theatre group in Bulgaria founded in 1881. The Plovdiv Puppet Theatre, founded in 1948, remains one of the leading institutions in this genre. The Plovdiv Opera was established in 1953. Another pillar of Plovdiv’s culture is the Philharmonic, founded in 1945. Soloists such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Sviatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yuri Boukov and Mincho Minchev have worked with the Plovdiv Philharmonic. The orchestra has toured in almost all of the European countries. The Trakiya Folklore Ensemble, founded in 1974, has performed thousands of concerts in Bulgaria and more than 42 countries. The Trakiya Traditional Choir was nominated for a Grammy Award. The Detska Kitka Choir is one of the oldest and best-known youth choirs in Bulgaria, winner of numerous awards from international choral competitions. The Evmolpeya choir is another girls’ choir from Plovdiv, whose patron when it was established in 2006 became the then mayor Ivan Chomakov. The choir was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador and a municipal choir.
Located in the middle of a rich agricultural region, since the beginning of the 20th century Plovdiv grew as an industrial center. Food processing, tobacco, brewing and textiles were the main pillars of the industry. During Communist rule the city’s economy greatly expanded and was dominated by heavy industry; it still produces lead and zinc, machinery, electronics, motor trucks, chemicals and cosmetics. After the fall of Communism in 1989 and the collapse of Bulgaria’s planned economy, a number of industrial complexes were closed. Plovdiv has one of the country’s largest economies, contributing for 7.5% of Bulgaria’s GDP as of 2014. In 2014, more than 35 thousand companies operate in the region which create jobs for 285,000 people. The advantages of Plovdiv include the central geographic location, good infrastructure and large population. Plovdiv has international airport, terminal for intermodal transport, several connection with Trakia motorway (connecting Sofia and Burgas), proximity to Maritsa motorway (the main corridor to Turkey), well-developed road and rail infrastructure. The economy of Plovdiv has long tradition in manufacturing, commerce, transport, communications and tourism.
Industry has been the sole leader in attracting investment. Industry has been expanding again since the late 1990s, with manufacturing plants built in the city or in its outskirts, mainly the municipality of Maritsa. In this period, some €500,000,000 has been invested in construction of new factories. Trakia Economic Zone which is one of the largest industrial zones in Eastern Europe, is located around Plovdiv. Some of the biggest companies in the region include the Austrian utility company EVN, PIMK (transport), Insa Oil (fuels), Liebherr (refrigerator plant), Magna International 9automotive industry), Bella Bulgaria (food manufacturing), Socotab (tobacco processing), ABB Group, Schneider Electric, Osram, Sensata Technologies, etc.
It is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group. Its closest relative is the Macedonian language and the difference between the two are on dialectal level. Bulgarian is written with Cyrillic, which also has been exported to otherlanguages, notably Russian and Serbian.
Plovdiv is among the nation’s primary literary centres – in 1855 Hristo G. Danov created the first Bulgarian publishing company and later the first printing-press. The city’s traditions as a literary centre are preserved by the first public library in Bulgaria, the Ivan Vazov National Library, by the 19 chitalishta (cultural centres) and by numerous booksellers and publishers. The library was founded in 1879 and named after the famous Bulgarian writer and poet Ivan Vazov who worked in Plovdiv for five years creating some of his best works. Today the Ivan Vazov National Library is the second largest national library institution with more than 1,5 million books, owning rare Bulgarian and European publications.
The city has more than 200 archaeological sites, 30 of which are of national importance. There are many remains from antiquity – Plovdiv is among the few cities with two ancient theatres; remains of the medieval walls and towers; Ottoman baths and mosques; a well-preserved old quarter from the National Revival period with beautiful houses, churches and narrow paved streets. There are numerous museums, art galleries and cultural institutions. Plovdiv is host to musical, theatrical and film events. The city is a starting point for trips to places in the region, such as the Bachkovo Monastery at 30 km (19 mi) to the south, the ski-resort Pamporovo at 90 km (56 mi) to the south or the spa resorts to the north Hisarya, Banya, Krasnovo, Strelcha.
The Ancient theatre (Antichen teatur) is probably the best-known monument from antiquity in Bulgaria. During recent archaeological survey, an inscription was found on a postament of a statue at the theatre. It revealed that the site was constructed at the 90s of the I century A.D. The inscription itself refers to Titus Flavius Cotis – the ruler of the ancient city during the reign of Emperor Domitian. The Ancient theatre is situated in the natural saddle between two of the Three Hills. It is divided into two parts with 14 rows each divided with a horizontal lane. The theatre could accommodate up to 7,000 people. The three-story scene is on the southern part and is decorated with friezes, cornices and statues. The theatre was studied, conserved and restored between 1968 and 1984. Many events are still held on the scene including the Opera Festival Opera Open, the Rock Festival Sounds of the Ages and the International Folklore festival. The Roman Odeon was restored in 2004. It was built in the 2nd–5th centuries and is the second (and smaller) antique theatre of Philipopolis with 350 seats. It was initially built as a bulevterion – edifice of the city council – and was later reconstructed as a theatre. The Ancient Stadium is another important monument of the ancient city. It was built in the 2nd century during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It is situated between Danov Hill and one of the Three Hills, nowadays – beneath the main street from Dzhumaya Square to Kamenitsa Square. It was modeled after the stadium in Delphi. It was approximately 240 metres (790 feet) long and 50 metres (160 feet) wide, and could seat up to 30 000 spectators. The athletic games at the stadium were organised by the General Assembly of the province of Thrace. In their honour the royal mint of Philippopolis coined money featuring the face of the ruling emperor as well as the types of athletic events held in the stadium. Only a small part of the northern section with 14 seat rows can be seen today; the larger part lies under the main street and a number of buildings. The Roman forum dates from the reign of Vespasian in the 1st century and was finished in the 2nd century. It is near the modern post office next to the Odeon. It has an area of 11 hectares and was surrounded by shops and public buildings. The forum was a focal point of the streets of the ancient city. The Eirene Residence is in the southern part of the Three Hills on the northern part of an ancient street in the Archeological underpass. It includes remains of a public building from the 3rd–4th centuries which belonged to a noble citizen. Eirene is the Christian name for Penelopa – a maiden from Megadon who was converted to Christianity in the 2nd century. There are colourful mosaics which have geometrical forms and figures. On Nebet hill are the remains of the first settlement which in 12th century BC grew to the Thracian city of Eumolpias, one of the first cities in Southeastern Europe. Massive walls surrounding a temple and a palace have been excavated. The oldest part of the fortress was constructed from large syenite blocks – the so-called “cyclopean construction”.
Shopping and commerce
The commercial sector is developing quickly. Shopping centers have been built mainly in the Central district and the district of Trakiya. Those include Shopping Center Grand, Market Center and two more all on the Kapitan Raycho Street, Forum in Trakiya, Excelsior and others. Plovdiv has three large shopping centers: malls – the €40 million Mall of Plovdiv (opened 2009) with a shopping area of 22,000 m2 (236,806.03 sq ft), 11 cinema halls and parking for 700 cars, €50 mln. Markovo tepe Mall (opened 2016), and Galeria Mall which is 6 stories high with 127 000 sq.m area, half of which is the parking lot and the rest is shopping area. Due to high demand for business office space new office and commercial buildings have been built. Several hypermarkets have been built mainly on the outskirts of the city: Metro, Kaufland, Triumf, Praktiker, Billa, Mr. Bricolage, Baumax, Technopolis, Technomarket Europa, and others. The main shopping area is the central street with its shops, cafés and restaurants. A number of cafés, craftsmen workshops and souvenir shops are in the Old Town and the small streets in the centre, known among the locals as “The Trap” (Bulgarian: Капана). The Plovdiv International Fair, held annually since 1892, is the largest and oldest fair in the country and all of southeastern Europe, gathering companies from all over the world in an exhibition area of 138,000 m2 (1,485,419.64 sq ft) located on a territory of 352,000 m2 (3,788,896.47 sq ft) on the northern banks of the Maristsa river. It attracts more than 600,000 visitors from many countries. The city has had a duty-free zone since 1987. It has a customs terminal handling cargo from trucks and trains.
Plovdiv has a geographical position which makes it an international transport hub. Three of the ten Pan-European corridors run into or near the city: Corridor IV (Dresden–Bucharest–Sofia-Plovdiv- Istanbul), Corridor VIII (Durrës-Sofia-Plovdiv-Varna/Burgas) and Corridor X (Salzburg–Belgrade-Plovdiv-Istanbul). A major tourist centre, Plovdiv lies at the foot of the Rhodope Mountains, and most people wishing to explore the mountains choose it as their trip’s starting point. The city is a major road and railway hub in southern Bulgaria: the Trakia motorway (A1) is only at 5 km (3 mi) to the north. It lies on the important national route from Sofia to Burgas via Stara Zagora. First-class roads lead to Sofia to the west, Karlovo to the north, Asenovgrad and Kardzhali to the south, Stara Zagora and Haskovo to the east. There are intercity buses which link Plovdiv with cities and towns all over the country and many European countries. They are based in three bus stations: South, Rodopi and North. Railway transport in the city dates back to 1872 when it became a station on the Lyubimets–Belovo railway line. There are railway lines to Sofia, Panagyurishte, Karlovo, Peshtera, Stara Zagora, Dimitrovgrad and Asenovgrad. There are three railway stations – Plovdiv Central, Trakia and Filipovo – as well as a freight station. Plovdiv has a large public transport system, including around 29 main and 10 extra bus lines. However, there are no trams in the city, and the Plovdiv trolleybus system was closed in autumn 2012. Six bridges span the Maritsa river including a railway bridge and a covered bridge. There are important road junctions to the south, southwest and north. Plovdiv has a well-developed cycling infrastructure which covers almost all districts of the city. The total length of the cycling roads is 60 kilometres (37 miles) (48 kilometres (30 miles) are completed and 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) under construction). The city has a total of 690 bike parkings. Map of the cycling infrastructure in Plovdiv
Plovdiv has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) with considerable humid continental influences. There are four distinct seasons, with large temperature jumps between seasons being common. Summer (mid May to late September) is hot, moderately dry, and sunny with a July and August maximum average of 33 °C (91 °F). Plovdiv sometimes experiences very hot days which are typical in the interior of the country. Summer nights are mild. Autumn starts in late September; days are long and relatively warm in early autumn. The nights become chilly by September. The first frost occurs on average by November. Winter is normally cold and snow is common. The average number of days with snow cover in Plovdiv is 15. The average depth of snow cover is 2 to 4 cm (1 to 2 in) and the maximum is normally 6 to 13 cm (2 to 5 in), but in some winters it can reach 70 cm (28 in) or more. Average January temperature is −0.4 °C (31 °F). Spring arrives in March but that season is cooler than autumn. The frost season ends in March. The days are mild and relatively warm in mid spring. The average relative humidity is 73%, being highest in December, with 86%, and lowest in August, with 62%. The total precipitation is 540 mm (21.26 in) and is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year. The wettest months of the year are May and June, with an average precipitation of 66.2 mm (2.61 in), while the driest month is August, with an average precipitation of 31 mm (1.22 in). Gentle winds (0 to 5 m/s) are predominant in the city with wind speeds of up to 1 m/s, representing 95% of all winds during the year. Mists are common in the cooler months, especially along the banks of the Maritsa. On average there are 33 days with mist during the year.