An important industrial and market town, Plovdiv, Bulgari’s second city, is on the River Maritsa in the south-central part of the country.
Plovdiv was called Pulpudeva during the ancient Thracian period but was renamed Philippopolis when it was conquered by Philip II of Macedonia in the fourth century BC. In the middle of the first century AD it became a regional centre for Roman Thrace and was renamed Thrimonzium. From the late-fourth century it was ruled by Byzantium.
Huns over-ran the town in the fifth century and in the next century it was settled by Slavs. Khan Kroum successfully invaded in 815 but the city was incorporated into Bulgaria until Byzantine troops seized power in the early-tenth century. Having been plundered by Crusaders in the late twelfth century, Plovdiv was extensively rebuilt under Ivanko. In 1364 it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks who re-named it Filibe and again the city thrived commercially, although resentment grew at the cultural oppression.
From the middle of the nineteenth century the town became a focus for the Bulgarian national awakening. Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, Plovdiv was capital of Turkish Eastern Rumelia but 7 years later it was brought back into the Bulgarian state. The name Plovdiv was officially adopted in 1919. When a communist government took power after World War II, Plovdiv maintained close relations with Moscow but in 1989, shortly before the communist collapse, it was a focal point for pro-democracy demonstrations.
Major industries include carpet-making, food processing, textiles, electrical goods manufacturing and metal working. The city is an important trade centre for the surrounding region which produces tobacco and food crops. Tourism is also important.
Plovdiv is well served by road and rail links and lies on the Belgrade–Sofia–Istanbul line. Kroumovo airport is a short distance from the city centre.
Places of Interest
The modern city extends over six hills but the ancient city centred on the Three Hills area, consisting of Nebet Tepe, Djambaz Tepe and Taxim Tepe. Nebet Tepe is an archaeological complex with remains from the prehistoric, Roman and Greek periods. Hissar Kapiya is the gateway of the Roman fortress constructed under the emperors Trajan and Marcus Aurelius while the Ancient Theatre, an amphitheatre that used to seat 7,000, is still used for musical and theatrical performances.
Other remains include medieval friezes and a giant watertank, Tsar Ivan Asen II’s ruined fortress and the Bachkovo monastery. The Imaret and Djumaya mosques reflect the Ottoman phase. There are several old Christian churches including those of St Constance and Elena, St Marina, St Nedelia, St Petka and the Holy Virgin. Sahat Tepe is surmounted by one of the oldest clock towers in Eastern Europe. Other attractions include the City Garden (designed by Napoléon III’s gardener) and the modern Rowing Canal sports and leisure area.
Plovdiv was one of two European Capitals of Culture for 2019, alongside Matera in Italy. The title attracts large European Union grants.