Plovdiv, Bulgaria: Expect the Unexpected

When Plovdiv, Bulgaria pinged our radar we expected a hilltop old town, Roman Ruins, and Byzantine architecture – and this vibrant city definitely delivered.

But the best surprise was “The Unexpected” …

What we didn’t expect was a style of architecture totally new to us, world-class street art, as well as a trendy, semi-bohemian neighborhood crowded with local artisan shops and cafes. And of course, a weekend street festival buzzing just around the corner from our apartment didn’t hurt either.

Plovdiv is smaller than the capital Sofia, and prides itself on its relaxed atmosphere with a youthful, university-town vibe. The lack of big city hustle and bustle enticed us to spend a week there. Many of the streets in the center have been pedestrianized, and all attractions are within easy walking distance. So exploring on foot is the perfect way to experience the city’s charms.

And its many tourist attractions and quality of life haven’t gone unnoticed; it’s been chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2019.

Plovdiv was a wonderful surprise and we fell in love. So in our next posts we’ll zero in on what we loved about this attractive, energetic city, and hopefully, convince you that it should be on your bucket list.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri


Photo Credits: 1. N. Lazarov via Wikimedia Commons


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

45 thoughts

    1. Sue, I’m not sure if you’re talking about the slider or the first collage photo. But the slider is Roman glasswork from a fabulous, small museum in Plovdiv, and the first collage photo is the Roman theatre in Plovdiv. And of course, in true Gallivance style, you’ll hear more about both. And just so you don’t feel like you Calgarians have the only cold weather around, it was 10° here yesterday morning. No big deal for your hardy Canadians, but it had this southerner shivering and piling on the fleece. ~James

      1. It was actually the photo scrolling through your top posts of the two figures that appear to be on sticks.
        Sounds like you may need to invest in a Canadian sleeping bag coat! One day it’s fleece and the next day the geese are hiding from you for fear you are after their down for a jacket. 🙂

    1. Cindy, we really enjoyed our time in Bulgaria and feel like we only only scratched the surface. We will definitely return, and if you get the chance, I’m sure that you’d enjoy it – particularly if you have family ties there. ~James

    1. Thanks Tim and Anne. As I said earlier, we really enjoyed our time in Bulgaria and feel like we only only scratched the surface. We saw some fascinating things there, and if you plan a trip to SE Europe, it should definitely be on your list. It has a long history and there’s lots to see, so you can do your research and pick and choose. And as an added bonus, it’s relatively cheap as well. ~James

      1. The biggest problem we’re having right now is where to start. A great problem to have but SE Europe looks like a definite possibility for 2017. Cheers, Tim

    1. Thanks Martha. We loved the street art, and were so impressed, that we’ll be doing a post. And as to pronunciation – it’s pretty much like it looks: “plov” as in grove, and “div” as in live. The city name in the Latin alphabet didn’t give us too much trouble. It was when we had to find our bus that we had problems, because the window placard said: Пловдив. 🙂 ~James

    1. Shelley, before our Balkans trip we didn’t know anything about Bulgaria, and honestly, it had never been high on our travel list. But after being there, we’re so glad that we visited, and we would definitely return to see other parts of the country. ~James

    1. Luckily, we did some research in advance, which is really the only reason we discovered Plovdiv. For us, it had the variety of sights that we enjoy, and the relaxed atmosphere was delightful. It’s the European Capital of Culture for 2019, so I’m sure that will put it on lots of bucket lists. ~James

    1. If you like color Tess, watch this space. Plovdiv has fabulous, colorful street art and architecture, and we’ll give you a look at both. It was such a pleasant stop, and a chance to catch our breath on a long trip. And from your time on the road, you know how wonderful this is. ~James

  1. Bulgaria, I must admit I don’t know much about it but it seems like a wonderful place to discover. I honestly prefer traveling to places I haven’t got a picture in my head yet, so why not Bulgaria? 🙂 safe travels, Michelle

    1. Thanks for the comment Michelle, and for dropping by the blog. When we travel, our usual process is to do enough research to decide if we want to visit a place, and once we decide, we forget about it until we arrive. Once we’re there, what we see and do is a bit of a moving target. Our plans go day to day, and our philosophy is quality over quantity, which always produces a few surprises. And this is exactly what happened in Plovdiv. I’m sure that you and Lara would enjoy Bulgaria, so I hope you can make it. ~James

    1. Lynn, one thing that we discovered in Plovdiv (and in Hungary in general) is that a long history makes for lots of interesting tourist variety. When we visit a place like Plovdiv, we run into so many intriguing sights that we have to remind ourselves that too many posts about one place might tire our readers. As bloggers, it’s a good problem to have, and as travelers, it’s proof that we picked a good spot to visit. ~James

      1. We have often found ourselves in places where we wished we had so much more time to explore, feeling like we have only just scratched the surface of a particular destination.

        Just as an fyi, I am having a bit of surgery next week on my shoulder & not certain how much I will be able to comment. I will definitely be reading, just not sure about my typing skills!

    1. Actually Leslie, it’s Roman. But, even though the Romans conquered Athens and Greece, they copied most of their art and architectural styles from Athens. This photo is a theatre that you’ll hear more about in our next post. ~James

  2. As often happens, I had never heard of Plovdiv until recently when I saw it on a list of places (most much better known) that should be on every traveler’s list, and now here it is again! Sounds like a great place to plunk down for a week and explore. I was just in Bogota where I was entranced by the street art – can’t wait to see more of Plovdiv’s!

    1. Lexie, before we started our trip research, we hadn’t heard of Plovdiv either. As I said, it’s been named European Capital of Culture for 2019, so you can bet it’s going to be appearing on more and more lists, and for good reason. It really is a very cool place with lots to see, and city government seems to be doing its best to get the city spiffed up for the tourists. And BTW, the street art is fab, and we’ll be doing a post on it. ~James

    1. Curt, the Roman ruins were what initially attracted us to Plovdiv, but it turned out to have so much more to see. It was a pleasant surprise, so watch this space, and we’ll tell you all about it. ~James

    1. Darlene, Plovdiv was a hidden gem, that I suspect won’t stay hidden much longer. It’s combination of art, architecture and Roman ruins make it a wonderful destination. ~James

What do you think? We'd love to know!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s