Planning a Trip
Bulgaria's most beautiful city planned to open the doors to its first tourism bureau only at the end of 2006, but as of the summer of 2008 that still had not happened. Alternatively, take a look at the semi-useful site www.plovdivcityguide.com. Astral Holidays (www.astralholidays.bg) is one of the city's most established independent travel agencies, but its advice on hotels and restaurants still is lacking. For current info on what's playing in town, pick up the monthly Plovdiv Visitor's Guide or Programata (www.programata.com).
Plovdiv is best visited in spring and early summer (July-Aug can be unbearably hot) or autumn. Try to avoid the Plovdiv Fairs (early May and mid- to late Sept; for exact dates see www.fair.bg), or at least book your accommodations long in advance as space is limited and prices inflated then.
Getting There -- The Sofia-Istanbul highway that links Sofia with Plovdiv is in tiptop condition, so the journey by car takes 70 to 90 minutes, making it a possible day trip from Sofia. Plenty of tour operators offer the itinerary, but an even better option is to skip Sofia and treat Plovdiv as your base.
There are three bus terminals. Yug is the main terminal on Hristo Botev, where buses connecting Plovdiv with Sofia pull in almost hourly (the trip is just over 2 hr.; 10lev/$8.10/£5 one-way). Buses also travel to Assenovgrad, from where you can catch another bus to Bachkovo, Varna (7 hr.), Bourgas (4 hr.), and Istanbul (6 hr.).
Getting Around -- The city is divided into two sections: the 18th- and 19th-century open-air architectural reserve that is Old Plovdiv, sprawled across the three remaining hillocks of ancient Eumolpiade, and "New" Plovdiv, spread around the foothills. With its meandering cobbled lanes, Old Plovdiv -- and even the smattering of sites in New Plovdiv, along pedestrian Knyaz Aleksandur I Street -- is best explored on foot, with all the top sites and hotels listed within walking distance of each other.