Population and economy
Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria with a population of around 340,000 of whom 168,000 are economically active. The city is the administrative center of the south-central region. It is located in the western part of the Thracian Plain on both sides of the Maritsa River.
The south-central region generates about 14% of Bulgaria’s gross domestic product, which makes it second to the Southwest region. The region of Plovdiv generates some 7% of GDP, which makes it second to Sofia.
The city emerged around 6000 BC. In 342 BC it was conquered by Philip II of Macedonia. It was incorporated into the Roman Empire when Thrace was declared a Roman province in 46 AD. With the establishment of the Bulgarian state in the 7th century Plovdiv became a border city with the Byzantine Empire. In 1204 Plovdiv became part of the Latin Empire that was established by the knights of the Fourth Crusade. In 1364 the city was seized by the Ottoman Turks. The city became part of the Bulgarian state after the Union between Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia in 1886.
In the beginning of the 20th century Plovdiv flourished thanks to tobacco trade.
The city’s population increased from 24,000 in 1880 to 48,000 in 1910 and 105,000 in 1939. The growth after 1918 was to a large extent due to the arrival of refugees from Thrace and Macedonia. In 1928 a severe earthquake (with a magnitude of 7 and an epicenter in the town of Chirpan) destroyed a third of the buildings in the city.
Architecture and urban development
The first modern city plan of Plovdiv was completed in 1896 by architect and engineer Josef Schnitter. He designed the three boulevards connecting the railway station with the center of the city, as well as the boulevards encircling the central part of the city.
The next major city plan was completed in1968 under the leadership of architect Ivan Popov.
The Integrated Urban Renewal and Development Plan of Plovdiv was completed in 2013 under the leadership of architect Belin Mollov.
Architectural landmarks in the city from the Ottoman period include the Bell Tower, which was built on Tower Hill (Sahat Tepe) in the 16th century, the Djumaya Mosque (15the century), the Imaret Mosque (15th century) and the Chifte Baths (16th century).
More than 50 houses in the typical 19th-century Ottoman style have been preserved in the architectural and historical reserve of Old Plovdiv. The churches of Sts Constantine and Helen, St Nedelya, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, St Demetrius and St Nicholas, which were built in the 1940s, are also part of the reserve.
There are also several remarkable buildings in the Bauhaus style in Plovdiv, including a tumbledown house on Sahat Tepe designed by architect Svetoslav Grozev, the former movie theaters of Balkan and Komsomol/Kosmos, St Mina hospital.
Today Plovdiv has archeological, historical, ethnographic and natural-science museums and five museum houses functioning. The Art Gallery of Plovdiv has a collection of more than 6,000 original works of art exhibited in four buildings. The city has more than 25 galleries, 5 movie theaters, 4 theaters, a symphony orchestra, an opera and a ballet.
Sports and recreation
Plovdiv is home to the largest sport center in Bulgaria, Plovdiv Sport Complex. Located in the northern part of the city, the complex comprises a stadium with 55,000 seats, a rowing canal awaiting expansion in line with the new requirements of the rowing federation, an indoor swimming pool, indoor and outdoor tennis courts and track-and-field facilities. Other sport and leisure facilities include Hristo Botev stadium, Lokomotiv stadium, Lauta karting track, Maritsa stadium, Todor Diev stadium, Lokomotiv handball court, the gyms of Dunav, Stroitel, Chayka, Akademik and Total Sport, Aqualand water-park complex.
The zoo of Plovdiv has been closed as not meeting the standards and is awaiting reconstruction.