Welcome to Plovdiv
Plovdiv is the second-largest city of Bulgaria. It has a population of 346,893 as of 2018 and 675,000 in the greater metropolitan area. Plovdiv is the culture capital of Bulgaria. It is an important economic, transport, cultural, and educational center. There is evidence of habitation in Plovdiv dating back to the 6th millennium BCE, when the first Neolithic settlements were established. It has been considered to be one of the oldest cities in the world.
Very often cultural experiences in Plovdiv are an interesting mix of contemporary art and centuries-old architectural and cultural monuments. Established in 1995, the Ancient Bath was run by an independent art association for more than 20 years. The interior of the 16th-century Turkish bath is still intact, so art pieces are set in an authentic atmosphere with original stone walls and a stunning central dome. Currently the space is managed by the City Gallery and is the main venue for contemporary art exhibitions. It’s especially pleasant during the summer months and early September, when it remains cool in the Plovdiv heat.
Food is another of Plovdiv’s strengths, and a new generation of restaurateurs are using local ingredients to turn out modern takes on traditional Bulgarian food. The hottest place in town is Pavaj (mains from £6). Its young owners, Raycho Markov and Madlen Pakratyan, are obsessive about their trade, from growing rare heritage tomatoes in Markov’s father’s garden in the mountains to travelling the Balkans in search of great rakia (fruit brandy). Ask nicely and they may offer you samples from the restaurant’s impressive collection. The food is simple and seasonal, from salads and meatballs to grilled sheep’s cheese and bread made to Raycho’s grandmother’s recipe. The pillow-soft rolls are cut in half, fried in clarified butter and sprinkled with a salt and spice mix. It may just be the most addictive thing you try in Bulgaria. Be sure to book ahead. Another good option is the recently opened Aylyakriya, (Kozhukarska 3), also in Kapana, that does smart takes on traditional dishes, such as kačamak (polenta), pork ribs and beans and an exceptional strawberry cheesecake (mains from around £6).