Plovdiv is a dreamy city at any time of year, but that’s especially true in winter! Here are our favorite things to do in Plovdiv in winter if you come to Bulgaria during the colder months.
While Bulgaria does get some occasional snow, you can enjoy this European Capital of Culture year-round if you follow our Plovdiv winter travel tips on what to do and what to wear while you’re here.
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The Best Plovdiv Winter Activities and Things to Do
In no particular order…
Explore Plovdiv’s Old Town
Plovdiv’s Old Town is one of the best reasons to visit the city any time of year, but the city’s historic Bulgarian architecture does look amazing underneath a beautiful layer of snow.
Make sure you set aside a few hours to explore these beautiful streets and alleys, and see what you can find tucked away!
Go on a Walking Tour of the City
Some tours are seasonal, but not the Free Plovdiv Tour! Hosted every day of the year (holidays included!), this fabulous walking tour lasts nearly three hours and covers the most important parts of the city. Wear comfortable shoes to handle Plovdiv’s old streets. Check their winter tour times on their website.
Head to the Plovdiv Christmas Market
The Plovdiv German Christmas Market is held annually in Stefan Stambolov square. This festive event goes from the end of November until December 25th (though this date may change each year). Open from 10 am until 8 pm, there’s plenty of time to get in some holiday cheer if you’re in Plovdiv during the Christmas season!
Escape the Cold in One of Plovdiv’s Museums
The Plovdiv Regional Ethnographic Museum is housed inside a stunning Bulgarian revival style house in the middle of the Old Town. While it’s my favorite museum in Plovdiv, you can also explore the Hindliyan House and Balabanov’s House. These great museums offer a glimpse into what Plovdiv was like throughout the past few centuries, from Ottoman rule through today.
Bonus? They’re a great way to keep out of the cold for an hour or two!
Marvel at Plovdiv’s Historic Churches
Plovdiv’s historic center is full of old churches, but you need to go inside to truly appreciate how amazing they are! A great way to duck out of the cold, don’t gloss over exploring the interiors of these Orthodox wonders.
Take Advantage of Plovdiv’s Excellent Nightlife Scene
Our ticket price included a few drinks, but more than that we just loved learning more about the nightlife scene in the city and hanging out with other travelers looking to have a good time! Check the pub crawl schedule and reserve a spot here.
Take a Day Trip to Some of Bulgaria’s Most Interesting Sites
Plovdiv is a great base for anyone looking to explore more of central Bulgaria. From here, you can easily visit Buzludzha, Veliko Tarnovo, Shipka Memorial Church, and Rila Monastery.
When we do day trips in Bulgaria, we like to drive, but we know some people won’t be comfortable driving in snow on foreign roads (though keep in mind that it’s not ALWAYS snowy).
Some of our favorite places to visit from Plovdiv have guided tours available, so you don’t have to worry about transportation. This is a great option, especially in winter!
Some of the best options include this full-day guided tour that picks you up right at your hotel. You explore Veliko Tarnovo, Arbanasi, and Shipka Memorial Church. Click here for tour schedules and reviews.
One of my absolute favorite places to visit in Bulgaria is Rila Monastery. I’ve gone on guided tours and driven, and the roads can get a bit slick in the mountains in winter. You can either rent a car and go on your own or you can go on this guided tour that includes hotel transfers. Click here for tour schedules and reviews.
My third choice would be to take a day trip out to Buzludzha, Bulgaria’s Communist UFO. Guided day trips are available through some hotels in Plovdiv, but my suggestion here is to rent a car. Just note that there is usually snow at the top of the mountain, so get a car rental that can handle it. Here’s our complete Buzludzha trip guide with more tips.
What to Bring to Bulgaria in Winter
We have a full Bulgaria packing list, but in case you just want the quick version, here are a few essentials you shouldn’t forget to pack!
A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle: We love and own Lonely Planet Bulgaria & Romania for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.
One or two swimsuits: If you plan to enjoy your hotel sauna, indoor pool, or steam room, you’ll likely want one! We suggest bringing two so you never have to put a cold wet one back on. We love this one.
Plenty of winter clothing: You can check our packing list above for our full winter packing suggestions for men and women. At a minimum, you’ll want to bring a warm winter jacket (I love this North Face parka), cozy snow boots, warm wool socks, touch-screen friendly gloves, a scarf, and a winter hat.
We’re not skiers ourselves, so we don’t have specific ski gear equipment, but special ski clothes — waterproof pants and jackets, goggles, etc. — and ski gear obviously should be on your packing list, unless you have decided to rent it all when you arrive at your Slovenia ski resort.
Moisturizer: Travel will beat your skin up in the best of times — and winter travel in addition to skiing will do a number on it! If you use a moisturizer at home, bring it. If you’ve never used a moisturizer before, you really should start. You’ll be happy to give your face a boost before heading outside in the cold all day.
Sunscreen: We strongly suggest wearing sunscreen when you spend time outdoors, no matter the weather outside. The higher altitudes combined with the reflection of the sun off the snow can lead to unexpected sunburns. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen – it’s mess-free, works well in carry-ons, is ultra-protective, and blends in well.
Where to Stay in Plovdiv in Winter
If you’re headed to Plovdiv and don’t know where to stay, don’t worry – we’ve done the legwork for you! Here are our top picks for each budget category in Plovdiv.
Budget: When I stay at a hostel, there are a few things that I look for: privacy curtains, personal reading lights, and outlet space for each bed. Bonus points if the hotel lobby is modern and inviting – and if the kitchen is well-stocked and beautiful to cook in to boot, you might as well move in. Pijama Hostel has all of this and then some. Perks include board games, coffee and tea makers, and a central Kapana district location! Check reviews, prices, and availability here.
Mid-range: This is the hotel I chose for my most recent trip to Plovdiv, and I am obsessed with it! The Stay Hotel Plovdiv feels like a luxury hotel but at budget prices, and it’s located at what might be the single best spot in the city. The staff is friendly, the views are great, and the beds are comfortable. I’m seriously in love. My favorite part was that our room had a sleek couch that was a great place to relax after a long day of sightseeing and a long night out. Check reviews, prices, and availability here.
Luxury: The first five-star hotel in Plovdiv, if you’re seeking a spot of luxury in Europe’s 2019 Capital of Culture, you should check out the Residence City Garden. The rooms are refined and stylish – we’re talking spacious rooms and high ceilings (some rooms with chandeliers!), antique-style furnishings, and impeccable attention to detail. The bathrooms are beautiful and extremely modern, with lovely bathtubs that you can soak in to rest your feet after a long day of exploring Plovdiv. Check reviews, prices, and availability here.
Still looking? Check out my full (and not sponsored) review of the Stay Hotel Plovdiv.
More Bulgaria Travel Resources
If this will be your first time in Bulgaria, we have some resources to help make your first trip here a breeze. Check out our guide on how to plan your trip to Bulgaria, which goes over everything from visas to ground transportation to budgeting your trip.
Don’t forget to check out our Bulgaria packing list which has details of everything you’ll want for your trip.
If you will also be spending time in Sofia, check out our guide to what to do in Sofia in winter, plus things to do in Sofia and Sofia itinerary posts to help guide your way through the city we call home. Make sure to check out our guide to avoiding taxi scams in Sofia as well.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance
Finally, make sure you always travel to Bulgaria with a valid travel insurance policy. The country is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
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Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.