Plovdiv: what to see on a weekend (2)

For our second day in Plovdiv (see our post about the first day) we started the morning with one of the free city tours, the Free Plovdiv Tour (website) . If you are interested, they start every day at 11 and 6 in the afternoon in front of the town hall, and last two hours (so you are perfectly in time for lunch or dinner later). Different seasons have different timetables. If it sounds like something you’d like to do, the best thing is to check their website.

After touring through Kapana with them, and also along the hill of the ancient city, we ate something quickly and headed to see the most emblematic houses of the XIX century nobility of Plovdiv.

Ethnographic museum of Plovdiv
Ethnographic museum of Plovdiv.

The ancient city of Plovdiv

The ancient city of Plovdiv is an architectural reserve and rightly so: is the area (map) were the houses of the wealthiest inhabitants of Plovdiv are. They built for themselves luxurious mansions for the standards of their time… and ours.

Plovdiv was then a merchant city, and after the western opening with the end of the Ottoman era many architectural influences are seen in the houses. Oriental mixed with western styles.

Many of them have been converted into museums or have been preserved for the enjoyment and admiration of locals and foreigners visiting Plovdiv. One more reason to get a Plovdiv City Card – which we talked about in the first post of the series – is that the entrance to a large part of the mansions is free with it.

The Hadji Aleko house – Philippopolis Museum and Gallery

This two-story building, located on 29 Saborna Street (map), is a beautiful Renaissance house, from 1895 for the notorious citizen of the city Adij Aleko, and the first made in the Western style. His grandfather was a famous craftsman, who organized the guild in the city, and from there comes the luxury of the house, exquisitely decorated with oak.

Galery Philippopolis in Plovdiv
Galery Philippopolis
Gallery Philippolis
Second floor of the Gallery.
Bulgarian costumbrist painting
Bulgarian costumbrist painting

Today it has been converted into a painting museum on both floors, with a permanent collection. The paintings have a clear Russian influence. There’s also a changing collection. When I visited it, the changing one was from the artist Lili Kioutchoukova, who depicts in her paintings the sordid side of Paris.

The Balabanov house

Another of the emblematic houses of the ancient area of ​​Plovdiv is that of Balabanov, which dates back to the early 1800s. Built for the rich merchant Hadji Panajot, it takes its name from the owner it had in the early twentieth century, Mr. Balabanov – also merchant.

Also freely accessible with the Plovdiv City Card, this house was built on the Bulgarian National Revival period. You can see the luxuries of the time on a second floor decorated with the original furniture, while the first floor acts as a painting and sculpture gallery.

Balabanof house.
Lower floor of the Balabanof house.
Main hall of the second floor.
Diniing room

Hindliyan’s house

A few steps from the previous house, we find another picturesque and luxurious house that competes in those criteria with that of Balabanov: the house of Stephan Hindlyan, also a rich merchant and rancher, dating from the 1830s.

It is perhaps the house of the architectural complex of the ancient city of Plovdiv that I liked the most. The second floor is fantastically painted in bright colors, with each room having a predominant one. The “Alafrangas” – a kind of “window” that instead of having crystals to the outside world contain a painting in the stone – are outstanding.

The green room.
Hindliyan's yellow room
Amazing ceiling decoration in the yellow room

Mr. Hindlyan definitely did not spare any expense, since he even had a rosewater fountain for giving the room a nice scent.

Rahat Trepe restaurant

After spending the afternoon walking through the old area (other things to see in the area: Philippo’s gate on the wall, the top of the hill with the ruins our appetite opened and we went to a Nice open-air restaurant on top of the hill: the Rahat Trepe (address: Doctor Stoyan Chomakov. Map).

We placed ourselves on one of the many tables on the terrace and we could watch the sunset from there while we had dinner. We ordered one of the house’s specialties, the ribs, as well as several rounds of refreshing Bulgarian beers (the brand is Kamenitza) and some Rakia (the Bulgarian Grappa) to close the night in the good atmosphere of the restaurant.

The Barbaque Ribs.

Tired and happy, we went back down to the apartment (see the first post of the series, where to sleep in Plovdiv?) To rest, since at dawn we had to continue the trip. The weekend was over.

Plovdiv: what to do in a weekend

We arrive in Plovdiv in the morning from Sofia. We left our things in the AirBnB (See: where to stay and how to get around in Plovdiv?) And we went to the first of Plovdiv to see: the Kapana district.

Kapana: the center of Plovdiv to see and feel

“Kapana” means “the trap.”

Its name comes in its form: they are small and labyrinthine streets from which once you enter you cannot (or do not want, as is our case) leave. It used to be the center of artisanal production of the city, but it has found itself again as the place to go for a coffee or dinner in Plovdiv.

Street in Kapana
Kapana from the Multi Culti café.

Kapana (this area: Map) is alive: cafes, restaurants and picturesque buildings everywhere (and near the oldest part of the city).

The first thing we did was go eat something. We arrived at Café Multi Culti (6A Abadzhiyska street – map, Facebook), a great Gastro-Pub with a menu in which the two young owners have put a lot of love (and quality). What we had was delicious, including a table of Bulgarian cheeses and homemade Fanta (that I had to order when I saw it). You can see it in these photos that we also put in the Big in Finland Instagram.

Bulgarian Cheeses in the Multi Culti café.
Bulgarian gastronomy.
Multi Culti café
Gastro Pub Multi Culti: recommended.

From there we took the “Arts and Crafts District Tour” through Kapana (you can find it here). In addition to picturesque low-rise buildings in the area, dotted with cafes and bars, there is a graffiti battle between the two most important graffiti artists in Bulgaria: Stern (a native of Plovdiv) and Nasimo. We went through the streets trying to identify who the graffiti belonged to (hint: Stern has the same protagonist in his ones, and Nasimo likes triangles and bees). You can see it in this gallery that we put in Insta.

Nasimo VS Stern.
Nasimo Grafitti in Kapana.
A Nasimo Grafitti.

In Kapana we met Giovanna, in her Art Studio Giovanna (address: Frederic Joliot-Curie 6, map), an expert in leather and who has worked with the most prestigious fashion brands in the world, but who returned to her Plovdiv to start a own study. She showed us how leather is worked and we made a pair of keychains with her, which I still carry with me in my backpack today.

Working with leather in the Art Studio Giovanna.

From there we went to see an art gallery of young artists: pLOVEdiv (Pavel Kurtevich Street 3, Map and web), which was almost next door. We walked around the exhibition and to the terrace, with a nice view of Kapana, and before we left we bought a magnet with the motto “Make pLOVEdiv, not Warna”. It still greets from the refrigerator every day. The pun refers to Varna, the city on the coast of the Black Sea of Bulgaria.

pLOVEdiv art gallery
Seeing Kapana from above in pLOVEdiv.

From there we went to have a coffee in the corner, to the gourmet coffee Dukiana Coffee Roaster (map) before going to see the best known monument of Plovdiv.

Dukiana Coffee Roaster
Bean selection at the Dukiana Coffee Roaster

The Roman Theatre of Plovdiv

Roman Theatre of plovdiv
A view from above of the Roman Theatre of Plovdiv, near Kapana.

(re)Discovered by a landslide, and located between two of the 7 hills of the city, the Plovdiv Roman theater is erected. It is the best known ancient monument in Bulgaria.

It was built in the year 90, as it could be seen in the inscription discovered and that names the city councilman then: Titus Flavius ​​Cotis. Admission is free with the Plovdiv City Card, which we talked about in the previous post and that you can get here.

It is still used for its original use, and as you can see in the photo they were preparing it for a concert. Something unique to see in the city.

Kapana at night

After resting for a while, we returned at night to have dinner and have a drink and walk through the center at night.

There is a bar / cafe in the Kapana district that is a copy of Friends’ Central Perk (who knows if to save costs they would record something there Bulgaria Of course Bulgaria has a movie studio that houses the shooting of many films), although we chose the Bar opposite, which they recommended for good Gin Tonics.

Central Perk in Plovdiv
Plovdiv’s Central Perk

From there, we took a walk to the ancient city of Plovdiv, in one of the hills and with several of the most emblematic buildings of the city, now converted into museums and galleries, which we will talk about in the next post.

Of course, Kapana left us delighted! In the next post we will tell you how we spent the second day in the ancient city. You can read here this second part.

Plovdiv: the ancient city of Bulgaria

Cities – and buildings – with millennia of history have a given something.

That is why I haven’t been to the US yet. There everything is a couple of hundred years old, at best. Monuments are made to look old instead of being old. Built with modern techniques instead of inventing techniques to make them. Of course, I am spoiled about this topic it because I am from Alcalá de Henares, which was already a city at the time of Rome.

And Plovdiv, the city I went to visit a month ago, is of this kind of cities. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe and was for a time called Philippopolis, after King Philip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, who conquered it from the Thracians.

Roman theatre of Plovdiv.
Ancient Theatre of Plovdiv: 2000 years looking right back at you.

I wanted to visit Bulgaria because it was an EU country (which facilitates everything so much) and because this city with millennia of life I had not visited it yet. In addition, it is the European Capital of Culture of this 2019, so there we went.

Plovdiv: how to get there from Sofia

There are several ways to get to the city. Plovdiv has an airport, but unless you want to go through Tel Aviv or London first, you will not be able to travel directly.

It is best to go by bus or train from Sofia. We went by bus, although both stations are next to each other (you arrive to the stations by Metro, at the “Central train station” stop. Map).

Plovdiv is European City of Culture 2019
European City of Culture 2019

There are regular buses every hour, as well as trains, so it shouldn’t be a problem to go to Plovdiv without buying the ticket in advance, as we did. The locals recommended the bus because it has air conditioning, although if you do so is a good idea to have a cardigan or scarf with you, as it gets very cold.

Plovdiv: where to stay?

Plovdiv is the second biggest city of Bulgaria, with 350,000 inhabitants. This city, built between the 7 hills, is therefore quite large. To stay in a good place, the best is to stay downtown or just outside the center, to be able to go everywhere walking. If you stay north of the river it will be more complicated to move.

Within the red box are the recommended areas. If you still do not have AirBnB, if you use this link they give you up to € 25 discount on your first reservation. We stayed in the southeast corner of the square, just enough far from the hustle and bustle of the center, but not too much, and near the bus station.

How to get around and what to do in Plovdiv?

Before going there we send a message to the city officials, to ask this very question. As we were just a stone’s throw from the center, we could do it quietly on foot, so at least the “how to get around” part was already solved.

They provided us with a couple of Plovdiv City Card (web, Instagram) to get to know the city and it was fantastic.

The card includes more than 10 free museums, including the ancient theater, built more than 2000 years ago by the Romans, with a capacity for 3500 nowadays, but around 7000 at its height. It also has discounts on stores, restaurants, and more.

If you want to buy yours with time from your smartphone, this is the place.

In the next post we tell you what we did in Plovdiv during the two days we were there, and what we can recommend you what we did.

Did you know Plovdiv? What do you think about the topic of new cities VS millenary cities?

Budapest: where to stay, eat and go out

After the previous post, where we told you how we got to Budapest and we recommend you the Budapest Card to move around the city and more, in this post we will give you some practical information about Budapest: where to stay, eat and go out.

The post will be a mixture of what we did and recommendations of a Hungarian born and raised in Budapest (a friend and a former co-worker who knows the city like the palm of his hand).

A Budapest Street
Through the streets of Budapest

Budapest: where to stay

Before going to Budapest we asked for recommendations and our friend told us that districts 7, 5 or 8 are great for AirBnB, the option we chose to stay. If you are looking for a place to sleep in Budapest, if you don’t have an AirBnB account yet and it seems like a good option to you, I leave you here my link. With it you can get € 25 discount on your first stay.

In the end we opted for a place to stay in the XIII district (in the Pest side of the city), since it was super close to the Parliament – perhaps the most emblematic building in Budapest – and next to one of the bridges that leads to Buda (the area where the Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion are located), the most monumental side of the the city.

Buda and Pest, the two sides of the city

Where (and what) to eat, and restaurants

If you want to try Hungarian cuisine, the most typical is the Lángos. They are some fried bread cakes that are sour cream, the ingredients you want, and a mountain of striped cheese that makes them delicious. They are made at the moment, so the bread dough is still hot. Fantastic!

The best place to have them is on the second floor of the market hall. This is the address (Vámház krt. 1-3 street. Map). And be careful! They close early in the day. Much better to go there for lunch than for dinner.

A good Hungarian restaurant we visited – and which also came recommended – was the Vak Varjú (map). It is usually full (although there are several around the city), so it is better to go a bit earlier or after regular lunch hours if you want to find a table, or try to book (we went without a reservation). The duck liver was great, and although cherry / strawberry wine is one of their specialties, we opted for the local beers.

I also liked the touch of the men’s bathroom: a boxing bag, along with the iconic image of Ali VS Liston. Wash your hands before, please 😉

Of course, check out the places that will give you a discount with the Budapest Card, to get the best out of it.

In general, it seemed to me that the restaurants in Budapest that we went to had good portions and weren’t particularly pricey. We don’t mention all places we ate, since many were not specialized in Hungarian food per se.

For dessert, the most Hungarian things are the “retés“, which are a kind of Hungarian Strudel (they are also very fond of the schnitzel, by the way. A lot of Austrian influence, from the Austro-Hungarian empire). The Kremés are also very tasty.

Where to have a drink and go out

In the center of Pest (Buda is more residential and monumental), to the southeast of the Basilica of St. Stephen, there is an area of ​​interconnected building patios that is full of bars and very good atmosphere in the afternoon for having dinner or for a drink .

It is the Gozsdu Courtyard and you can find it here on the map. If you fancy going all out in that area, in the Kolor bar (which also has a dance floor) there are parties at night.

Gozsdu courtyard
The Gozsdu courtyard
Gozsdu in Budapest
Restaurants in the Gozsdu Courtyard

Right next to Gozsdu Coutyard you also have the Kazinczy Street, which is also full of bars. Some cool bars out there are the Szimpla Kert or the Instant.

Szimpla Kert in Budapest
The Szimpla Kert bar.

If you still have energy to go out, these are the discos recommended by the locals:

  • Ötkert
  • Doboz
  • Trafiq
  • Corvinteto (with a great view of the city)
  • Úrimuri
  • Morrison’s 2. A bit mainstream but also fun.

Ah! And the drink to have is the Pálinka: a kind of Hungarian grappa and “official” drink of the country. The best brand is Rézangyal, although there are many different ones. There are flavored Pálinkas as well, if you do not like your drinks so strong (and the right way to have a Pálinka is as a shot) look for the Fütyülös type.

And you, do you have any more suggestions for Budapest where to stay, eat and go out?

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