Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria after the capital Sofia and one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is situated in the huge plain between the Rhodope Mountains towards the south of Bulgaria and the Balkan Range, or Old Mountains – Stara Planina, which runs through the centre of Bulgaria. Both the ranges are visible on clear days. The River Maritsa flows through the city towards southeast before forming the Greek/Turkey border to the Aegean Sea.
As of June 2013, it had a population of 341,041 inhabitants. It is the administrative centre of Plovdiv Province as well as the municipalities of the City of Plovdiv, Maritsa municipality together with Rodopi municipality where the population of the municipal body was 403,153 in February 2011. Moreover, it is also an important economic, cultural, transport, as well as an educational centre and the second largest city in the historical international region of Thrace after Istanbul and the tenth largest city in the Balkans after Istanbul, Athens, Belgrade, Bucharest, Sofia, Thessaloniki, Skopje, Tirana and Zagreb.
Traces of Neolithic Settlement – 4000 BC
Plovdiv has a history of 6,000 years with traces of Neolithic settlements which dates roughly to 4000 BC and is ranked among the world’s oldest cities. The city is also known for most of its recorded history in the west by the Greek name – Philippoupolis, introduced in 340 BC. Plovdiv originally was a Thracian city which later became a Greek city and thereafter a major Roman city. During the Middle Age, it retained its strategic regional importance changing between Byzantine and Bulgarian Empires and came under Ottoman rule towards the 14th century.
Plovdiv was liberated from Ottoman rule by the Russian army on January 4, 1878 and remained within the borders of Bulgaria till July that year and then became the capital of the autonomous Ottoman region of Eastern Rumelia. Plovdiv and Eastern Rumelia in 1885 became part of Bulgaria.Presently Plovdiv is a famous tourist destination and has several interesting places to explore It is also well-known for hosting the Plovdiv international Fair twice a year as well as for its ancient sites.
Host to Cultural Events
Plovdiv is also a host to cultural events like the International Fair Plovdiv, the international theatrical festival `A stage on a crossroad’ and the TV festival `The golden chest’. It has several remains which have been preserved from antiquity like the ancient Plovdiv Roman theatre, Roman Stadium, Roman Odeon, the archaeological complex Firene, to mention a few. The American educational institution outside United States is the oldest which was founded in Plovdiv in 1860, was later moved to Sofia and is presently American College of Sofia. Old Plovdiv is compact and walk able and the main downtown road tends to get blocked to traffic. One will find a good collection of Bulgarian revival buildings which are used as museums, restaurants and hotels that are worth visiting.
The Roman Amphitheatre which was discovered in 1970 during a construction project which is nearby and a part of the pedestrian zone has merchants selling art together with other interesting items Besides one can visit St. Marina church which has an unique wooden tower, a mosque from the Ottoman Empire and the nearby hill, the old town center which has a famous gateway entrance. Plenty of interesting sites lies in store to be explored while holidaying in Plovdiv.