Architecture in Plovdiv
Like most Bulgarian cities and large towns, Plovdiv is no exception to having had a turbulent history: Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs and Ottomans have all had a huge influence in the city’s evolution which, in turn, has had a profound inspiration on architecture in Plovdiv.
Plovdiv is not only the second largest city in Bulgaria but also the third oldest city in Europe and wandering around the centre’s amazing structural designs, its remarkable how some of these buildings have remained so true to their original styles. Built on the banks of the river Maritza and lying in between three hills, Plovdiv’s architecture offers a unique insight into ancient eras of history.
This list is by no means exhaustive but here are four of the best architectural charms to visit.
Plovdiv and its neighbouring districts have over two hundred archaeological sites to explore, many of which date back to Roman times. The city centre’s heritage has been revealed through the excavations of the Ancient Stadium, (situated under the main shopping area) and the Roman Forum and Odeon, (which can be reached from behind the main Post Office), both of which offer a fascinating look into Roman times.
Unbelievably, Plovdiv’s Ancient Roman Theatre was only re-discovered in 1968 by coincidence when the Roman stone and marble, which dates back to the second century, was uncovered. Many of its large columns are still intact and the quietness is a stark contrast to the thousands of spectators that would have filled the marble seating blocks. Remnants of the splendid decorations are still prevalent but instead of gladiator fights, the Theatre now plays host to cultural and music performances throughout the summer months.
Plovdiv Old Town
Behind the walls of the opulent brightly-coloured Revival Houses of the Old Town, lie museums, galleries and the workshops of local artisans. Narrow, cobbled streets will lead you through an open air museum of the Bulgarian Revival period where their creative flair of east meets west is evident by the splendor of ornamented houses with their painted details, characteristic shutters and wooden entrances.
Mostly built during the Nineteenth Century, here you’ll find the famous house-museums of Balabanov House, Philippopolis Art Gallery, Nedkovich House and even a Museum of Pharmacy. Inside these buildings are magnificent high ceilings, painted murals and art and lavish interior decor. These buildings are scattered amongst numerous cafes, restaurants and shops selling traditional souvenirs.
You can see the pink-painted minaret long before you see the Dzhumaya Mosque as it stands at twenty-three metres tall. On closer inspection, the Byzantine brickwork, which dates back to the mid-15th Century, is what makes this mosque one of the oldest Ottoman religious constructions of the Balkans. There are nine domes all covered in sheets of lead and a unique sun dial which was later added in 1878.
There are countless cathedrals, synagogues and monasteries dotted throughout the city and several beautifully decorated churches including the St Dimiter, St Nedelya and St Marina Churches located in or near the old quarter. The latter of which has been re-built several times since its original holy temple way back in the 5th Century due to various reasons of demolition and fires and now has a distinctive wooden clock tower that was restored in the 1950’s.
Ok, so this might not be to everyone’s taste of architecture but the old, neglected buildings of the tobacco industry are a vital feature to an aspect of Plovdiv that are often overshadowed by other historical buildings. Mostly built in the 1920’s, their architectural designs were influenced by neo-Classicism, Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession and were specially made for renowned, and affluent tobacco traders. However, they have now been left to decay but still offer a distinctive style of economic prosperity during this time.
For more information on Plovdiv’s tourist attractions check out this excellent site: www.visitplovdiv.com