Plovdiv (Пловдив) is the second-largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, with a population of 378,107. It is the administrative centre of Plovdiv Province in southern Bulgaria and three municipalities (Plovdiv, Maritsa and Rodopi), as well as the largest and most important city of the historical region of Upper (or Northern) Thrace. The city is an important economic, transport, cultural and educational centre.
Plovdiv is situated in the central part of the Upper Thracian Plain on the two banks of the Maritsa River. It is 10 km from the Rhodope mountains and 50 km from the Balkan mountains. The city is constructed on seven syenite hills, some of which are 250 m high. Because of these seven hills, Plovdiv is often referred to in Bulgaria as Градът на седемте тепета (the city of the seven hills).
Plovdiv is host to economic and cultural events such as the International Fair Plovdiv, the international theatrical festival "A scene on a crossroad", the TV festival "The golden chest". There are many remains preserved from Antiquity such as the Ancient amphitheatre, Roman odeon, Roman Stadium, the archaeological complex Eirene and others. In the 12th century BC the settlement on one of the hills grew to the Thracian city of Eumolpias which was among the first cities in Europe.
During its long history, Plovdiv was given various names. It was founded by the Thracians who called the city in Thracian language Pulpudeva, Eumolpias. When the city was conquered by Philip II of Macedon, it was renamed Philippoupoli, Philippoupolis (Φιλιππούπολη, Φιλιππούπολις) in his honour. Plovdiv was referred to as Philippopolis by the Byzantines in the Middle Ages as was usually known as Philippopolis in English until the early 20th century. After the Romans took control of the area, the city was called in Trimontium, meaning the Three Hills. In the Middle Ages the Bulgarians called the city Paldin (Пълдин) or Plavdiv (Плъвдив) and after in was seized by the Turks, it was called in Filibe.
The asteroid (minor planet) 3860 Plovdiv is named after the city. It was discovered by the Bulgarian astronomer Violeta G. Ivanova on 8 August 1986. Plovdiv Peak (1040 m) on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Plovdiv.
Plovdiv is situated in the central parts of the Upper Thracian Plain. It is divided by southern Bulgaria's largest river Maritsa. Only one of the city's six districts is located to the north of the river and the main part of the city lies to the south. It covers a territory of 101 km² which is less than 0,1% of Bulgaria's total area. Plovdiv is the most densely populated city in the country with 3,352 inhabitants per km².
The plain of Plovdiv is an alluvial plain formed by the Maritsa and its tributaries. The heights of Sredna Gora rise to the north-west, to the east are the Chirpan Heights. To the south the plain is surrounded by the slopes of the Rhodope mountains which are steep and around 1300 meters high with the valleys of the rivers Vacha, Stara Reka, Yadenitsa, Chepinska and others cutting their way through the heavily forested mountain. In the city itself there are six syenite hills, called tepeta. In the beginning of the 20th century they used to be seven but one of them was destroyed. Traditionally the citizens call them Dzhendem tepe, Bunardzhik, Sahat tepe, Nebet tepe, Dzhambaz tepe and Taksim tepe. The last three form the area of the Three hills (Трихълмие) in the central part of the city.
The climate is temperate with strong influence from the Mediterranean and is typical of southern Europe. Summers are generally extremely hot and dry. Winters tend to either have a very mild Mediterranean character, or a very cold Siberian character, and sometimes see elements of both. The average annual temperature is 12.4°С. The average maximum temperature is in July - 30.3°С and the absolute maximum was recorded during the same month in 2000 - 45.0°С. The average minimum temperature is 6.5°С and the absolute minimum was -31.5°С measured during an inversion. The average relative humidity is 73%, it is highest in December - 86% and lowest in July and August - 62%. The total precipitation is 540 mm - the wettest month of the year is May with an average precipitation of 66.2 mm, while the driest is August with an average of 31 mm. The average number of days with a snow blanket in Plovdiv is 23. The average depth of the blanket of snow is 2 to 4 cm and the maximum is normally 6 to 13 but in some winters it can reach 50 cm or more. Gentle winds (0 to 5 m/sec) are predominant in the city with wind speeds of up to 1 m/s representing 95% of all winds during the year. Mists are common in the cooler months especially along the banks of the Maritsa. On average there are 33 days with mist during the year.
Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is a contemporary of Troy and Mycenae, and older than Rome, Carthage or Constantinople. Archaeologists have discovered fine pottery and other objects of everyday life from as early as the Neolithic Age, showing that in the end of the 7th millennium B.C there already was an established settlement there. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, Plovdiv's written post-Bronze Age history lists it as a Thracian fortified settlement named Eumolpias. In 4th century BC the city was a centre of a trade fair (called panegyreis). In 342 BC, it was conquered by Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, who renamed it "Φιλιππόπολις", Philippopolis or "the city of Philip" in his own honour. Later, it was reconquered by the Thracians who called it Pulpudeva (a translation of Philipopolis)
In 72 AD it was seized by the Roman general Terentius Varo Lukulus and was incorporated into the Roman Empire, where it was called Trimontium (City of Three Hills) and served as metropolis (capital) of the province of Thrace. It gained a city status in late 1st century. Thrimontium was an important crossroad for the Roman Empire and was called "The largest and most beautiful of all cities" by Lucian. Although it was not the capital of the Province of Thrace, the city was the largest and most important centre in the province. In those times, the Via Militaris (or Via Diagonalis), the most important military road in the Balkans, passed through the city. The Roman times were a period of growth and cultural excellence. The ancient ruins tell a story of a vibrant, growing city with numerous public buildings, shrines, baths, and theatres. The city had advanced water system and sewerage. It was defended with a double wall. Many of those are still preserved and can be seen by the tourist. Today only a small part of the ancient city has been excavated.
The Slavs had fully settled in the area by the middle of the 6th century and changed the ethnic proportions of the region. With the establishment of Bulgaria in 681 Philipopolis became and important border fortress of the Byzantine Empire. It was captured by Khan Krum in 812 but the region was fully incorporated into the Bulgarian Empire in 834 during the reign of Khan Malamir. It remained in Bulgarian hands until it was conquered by the Byzantine Empire in 970 or 971. In 970 the Asian army of the Byzantine Empire under the eunuch Peter was destroyed by the Bulgarians near Plovdiv. The city again came to be known as Philippopolis and became Byzantine in character. Aime de Varennes in 1180 encountered the singing of Byzantine songs in the city that recounted the deeds of Alexander the great and his predecessors, over 1300 years before.
Byzantine rule was succeeded by that of the Latin Empire in 1204, and there were two short interregnum periods as the city was twice occupied by Kaloyan of Bulgaria before his death in 1207. In 1208 Kaloyan's successor Boril was defeated by the Latins in the battle of Plovdiv. Under Latin rule, Plovdiv was the capital of the Duchy of Philippopolis governed by Renier de Trit, and later on by Gerard de Strem. Bulgarian rule was reestablished during the reign of Ivan Asen II between 1225 and 1229. In 1263 Plovdiv was conquered by the restored Byzantine Empire and remained in Byzantine hands until it was re-conquered by George Terter II of Bulgaria in 1322. Byzantine rule was restored once again in 1323, but in 1344 the city and eight other towns were surrendered to Bulgaria by the regency for John V Palaiologos as the price for Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria's support in the Byzantine civil war.
In 1364 the Ottoman Turks under Lala Shakhin Pasha seized Plovdiv. The Turks called the city Filibe. It was the capital of Rumelia until 1382 when the Ottomans captured Sofia which became the main city of the province. Plovdiv survived as one of the major cultural centers for Bulgarian culture and tradition. The name Plovdiv first appeared around that time and is derived from the city's Thracian name Pulpudeva (assumed to be a translation of Philippopolis, from Pulpu = Philippou and deva = city), which was rendered by the Slavs first as Pəldin (Пълдин) or Pləvdin.
Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, Plovdiv was a focal point for the Bulgarian national movement in the Eastern Rumelia province of the Empire. During that period Plovdiv was a major economic center along with Istanbul, Odrin and Solun. The richer citizens constructed beautiful houses many of which can still be seen in the Architectural reserve Old Plovdiv. Plovdiv was a sanjak centre of Rumelia Province between 1364-1864 and was the sanjak centre of Edirne Vilayet between 1864-1878 during Ottoman Rule.
Plovdiv had an important role in the struggle for Church independence which was according to some historians a peaceful bourgeois revolution. Plovdiv became the center of that struggle with leaders such as Nayden Gerov, Dr Valkovich, Joakim Gruev and whole families. In 1836 the first Bulgarian school was inaugurated and in 1850 modern secular education began when the "St Cyrill and Metodius" school was opened. On 11 May 1858 the day of Saints Cyril and Methodius was celebrated for the first time, this later became a National holiday which is still celebrated today. In 1858 in the Church of Virgin Mary the Christmas liturgy was served for the first time in the Bulgarian language since the beginning of the Ottoman occupation. In 1868 the school expanded into the first grammar school. Some of the intellectuals, politicians and spiritual leaders of the nation graduated that school.
The city was liberated from the Ottomans during the Battle of Plovdiv in 1878.
In the spring of 1885 Zahari Stoyanov formed the Secret Bulgarian Central Revolutionary Committee in the city which actively conducted propaganda for the unification of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. On 5 September several hundred armed rebels from Golyamo Konare (now Saedinenie) marched to Plovdiv. In the night of 5-6 September these men led by Danail Nikolaev took control of the city and removed from office the General-Governor Gavril Krastevich. A provisional government was formed led by Georgi Stranski and universal mobilization was announced. After the Serbs were defeated in the Serbo-Bulgarian War, Bulgaria and Turkey reached an agreement according to which the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia had a common government, Parliament, administration and army. Today 6 September is celebrated as the Unification Day and the Day of Plovdiv.
After the unification Plovdiv remained second city in population and significance after the capital Sofia. The first railway in the city was built in 1874 and in 1888 it was linked with Sofia. In 1892 Plovdiv became host of the First Bulgarian Fair with international participation which was succeeded by the International Fair Plovdiv. After the liberation the first brewery was inaugurated in the city.
In the beginning of the 20th century Plovdiv grew as a significant industrial and commercial center with well developed light and food industry. German, French and Belgian capital was invested in the city in development of modern trade, banking and industry. In 1939 there were 16,000 craftsmen and 17,000 workers in manufacturing factories, mainly for food and tobacco processing. During the Second World War the tobacco industry expanded as well as the export of fruit and vegetables. In 1943 1,500 Jews were saved from deportation in concentration camps by the archbishop of Plovdiv Cyril who later became Bulgarian Patriarch.
On 6 April 1956 the first trolleybus line was opened and in the 1950s the Trimontsium Hotel was constructed. In the 1960s and 1970s there was a construction boom and many of the modern neighborhoods took shape. In the 1970s and 1980s antique remains were excavated and the Old Town was fully restored. In 1990 the Sports complex "Plovdiv" was finished, it included the largest stadium and rowing canal in the country. In that period Plovdiv became the birthplace of Bulgaria's movement for democratic reform, which by 1989 had garnered enough support to enter government.
Plovdiv has hosted specialized exhibitions of the World's Fair in 1981, 1985, and 1991.
The population by permanent address (including those living somewhere else in Bulgaria or outside the country but possess Bulgarian passports) for the municipality of Plovdiv for 2007 is 375,137 which makes it second in population in the nation. According to the data of NSI (National Institute of Statistics) the people who actually live in Plovdiv are 346,790.
Just before the Liberation of Bulgaria Plovdiv was the second largest Bulgarian city after Stara Zagora. According to the data from 1880 it had 24,053 inhabitants. Before it was burned down by the Turks in 1877 Stara Zagora had a population of 25,480 while the capital Sofia had 20,501 inhabitants according to the first census in the Principality of Bulgaria in 1880. After the Unification Plovdiv was the largest city in the country for several years with 33,032 inhabitants compared to 30,428 for Sofia. According to the 1946 census Plovdiv was the second largest city with 117,563 inhabitants compared to 487,000 for the capital.Today the city is also the centre of the second largest agglomeration in the country with a population of 575,297.
In its ethnic character Plovdiv is a cosmopolitan city inhabited by Bulgarians, Turks, Armenians, Jews, Greeks and Gypsies. According to the 1884 census the Bulgarians were 50,09%, followed by Turks (21,36%), Greeks (16,44%), Jews (6,48%) and Armenians (2,93%). After the Wars for National Union (Balkan Wars and World War I) the city became home for thousands of refugees from the occupied Bulgarian lands in Macedonia, Western Thrace and Eastern Thrace. Many of the old neighbourhoods are still referred to as Belomorski, Vardarski. Most of the Jews left the city after the foundation of Israel in 1948. The Bulgarians are a majority followed by Gypsies and Turks.
The vast majority of the inhabitants are Christians - mostly Eastern Orthodox but there are also Catholics, Eastern Catholics and Protestant trends (Adventists, Baptists and others). There are also some Muslims and Jews. In Plovdiv there are many churches, two mosques and a synagogue.
Plovdiv is the administrative center of Plovdiv Province, Municipality of Plovdiv, Maritsa municipality and Rodopi municipality. The Mayor of the Municipality of Plovdiv Slavcho Atanasov , together with the six district mayors represent the local executive authorities. The Municipal Council which consists of 51 municipal counselors, represents the legislative power and is elected according to the proportional system by parties’ lists. The executive government of the Municipality of Plovdiv consists of a mayor who is elected by majority representation, five deputy mayors and one administrative secretary. All the deputy mayors and the secretary control their administrative structured units.
According to the Law for the territorial subdivision of the Capital municipality and the large cities the territory of Plovdiv Municipality is subdivided into six district administrations, their mayors being appointed following approval by the Municipal Council.
| Central ||neighbourhoods Kapana, Stariya grad, Marasha, Centar|
| Northern ||neighbourhoods Karshiaka, Gagarin, Filipovo, Zaharna Fabrika|
| Southern ||neighbourhoods Hristo Botev - Yug, Hristo Botev - Sever, Vastanecheski, Uhoto, Yuzhen, Komatevo, Ostromila, Belomorski|
| Eastern ||neighbourhoods Kamenitsa, Izgrev, Stolipinovo|
| Western ||neighbourhoods Hristo Smirnenski, Proslav, Maldezhki Halm, Mladost|
| Trakiya ||Olga Skobeleva, Lauta|
In 1969 the villages of Proslav and Komatevo were incorporated into the city. In 1987 the municipalities of Maritsa and Rodopi were separated from Plovdiv which remained their administrative center. In the last several years the inhabitants from those villages had taken steps to rejoin the "urban" municipality.
Plovdiv is a major cultural center. The city has more than 200 archaeological sites, 30 of which are of national importance. There are many remains from antiquity - Plovdiv is among the few cities with two ancient theatres; remains of the medieval walls and towers; Ottoman baths and mosques; a well-preserved old quarter from the National Revival period with beautiful houses, churches and narrow paved streets. There are numerous museums, art galleries and cultural institutions. Plovdiv is host to musical, theatrical and film events.
The city is a starting point for trips to places in the region, such as the Bachkovo Monastery at 30 km to the south, the ski-resort Pamporovo at 90 km to the south or the spa resorts to the north Hisarya, Banya, Krasnovo, Strelcha. There are more that 50 hotels with 7,000 beds as well as hostels and other forms of accommodation.
The Antique theatre is one of the most famous monuments from the Antiquity in Bulgaria. It was built in the beginning of the 2nd century during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan. It is situated in the natural saddle between the Dzhambaz Tepe and Taksim Tepe hills. It is divided into two parts with 14 rows each divided with a horizontal lane. The theatre could accommodate 3,500 people. The three-storey scene is located on the southern part and is decorated with friezes, cornices and statues. The theatre was studied, conserved and restored between 1968 and 1984. Many events are still held on the scene including the Verdi festival and the International Folklore festival. The Roman Odeon was restored in 2004. It was built in 2-5th century and is the second (and smaller) antique theatre of Philipopolis with 350 seats. It was initially built as a bulevterion - edifice of the city counsel and was later reconstructed as a theatre.
The Roman forum dates from the reign of Vespasian in 1st century and was finished in the 2nd century. It is located near the modern post office next to the Odeon. It has an area of 11 hectares and was surrounded by shops and public buildings. The forum was a focal point of the streets of the ancient city.
The Roman Stadium is another important monument of the ancient city. It is situated between Sahat Tepe and the Three hills in the modern Dzhumaya Square. It was built in the 2nd century and modeled after the stadium in Delphi. In Roman times it could hold 30,000 spectators. Only a small part of the northern section with 13 seat rows can be seen nowadays - the larger part lies under the main street and a number of buildings.
The Eirene Archaeological complex is located in the southern part of the Three hills on the northern part of an ancient street in the Arheologicheski underpass. It includes remains of a public building from 3-4th century which belonged to a noble citizen. Eirene is the Christian name for Penelopa - a maiden from Megadon who was converted to Christianity in 2nd century. There are colourful mosaics which have geometrical forms and figures.
On Nebet Tepe are found remains of the first settlement on the Three hills which in 12th century BC grew to the Thracian city of Eumolpias, one of the first cities in South-eastern Europe. Massive walls surrounding a temple and a palace have been excavated. The oldest part of the fortress was constructed from large syenite blocks - the so called "cyclop construction".
The Archaeological Museum was established in 1882 as a People's Museum of Eastern Rumelia. In 1928 the museum was moved to a 19th century edifice on Saedinenie Square built by the famous Plovdiv architect Josif Shniter. The museum contains a rich collection of Thracian art. The three section "Prehistory, "Antiquity and "Middle Ages contain precious artifacts from the Paleolithic to the early Ottoman period (15th-16th centuries). The famous Panagyurishte treasure is part of the museum's collection.
The Historical Museum of Plovdiv was founded in 1951 as a scientific and cultural institute for collecting, saving, and researching historical evidence about Plovdiv and the region from 16th to 20th centuries. The exhibition is situated in three buildings.
The Regional Ethnographic Museum - Plovdiv was inaugurated in 1917. On 14 October 1943 it was moved to a house in the Old town. In 1949 the Municipal House-museum was reorganized as a People's Ethnographic Museum and in 1962 it was renovated. There are more than 40,000 objects.
The Museum of Natural Science was inaugurated in 1955in the old edifice of the Plovdiv Municipality built in 1880. It is among the most important museums in the country with rich collections in Paleontology, Mineralogy and Botanic sections. There are several rooms for wildlife and it contains Bulgaria's largest freshwater aquarium with 40 fish species. It has a collection of minerals from the Rhodope mountains.
The Museum of Aviation was established on 21 September 1991 on the territory of the Krumovo airbase 12 km to the south-east of the city. The museum possesses 59 aircraft and both indoor and outdoor exhibitions. The Old Town of Plovdiv is a historic preservation site known for its Bulgarian Renaissance architectural style. The Old Town covers the area of the three central hills (Трихълмие, Trihalmie) —Nebet Tepe, Dzhambaz Tepe and Taksim Tepe. Almost every house in the Old Town has its characteristic exterior and interior decoration.
The Plovdiv Drama Theatre is a successor of the first professional theatre group in Bulgaria founded in 1881. The Plovdiv Puppet Theatre, founded in 1948, remains one of the leading institutions in this genre. The Plovdiv Opera was established in 1953.
Another post of Plovdiv's culture is the Philharmonic, founded in 1945. Soloists such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Sviatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yuri Boukov and Mincho Minchev have worked with the Plovdiv Philharmonic. The orchestra has toured in almost all of the European countries. The Trakiya Folklore Ensemble, founded in 1974, has performed thousands of concerts in Bulgaria and more than 42 countries. The Trakiya Traditional Choir was nominated for a Grammy Award. The Detska Kitka Choir is one of the oldest and best known youth choirs in Bulgaria, winner of numerous awards from international choral competitions.
The city has traditions in Iconography since the Middle Ages. During the Period of National Revival a number of notable icon-painters (called in Bulgarian zografi, зографи) from all regions of the country worked in Plovdiv - Dimitar Zograf and his son Zafir Zograf, Zahari Zograf, Georgi Danchov and others. After the Liberation the famous Bulgarian painter of Czech origin Ivan Mrkvička came to work in the city. The Painters' society was established there by artists from Southern Bulgaria in 1912 whose members included the prominent painters Zlatyu Boyadzhiev, Sirak Skitnik, Tsanko Lavrenov.
Today the city has 30 art galleries. The Art Gallery of Plovdiv was founded in the late 19th century. It possesses 5,000 pieces of art in 4 separate buildings. Since 1981 it has a section for Mexican Art donated by the Mexican painters in honour of the 1,300-year anniversary of the Bulgarian State.
Located in the middle of a rich agricultural region, since the beginning of the 20th century Plovdiv grew as an industrial center. Food processing, tobacco, brewing and textiles were the main pillars of the industry. During the socialism the city's economy greatly expanded and was dominated by heavy industry - it still produces lead and zinc, machinery, electronics, motor trucks, chemicals and cosmetics. After the fall of Communism in 1989 and the collapse of Bulgaria's planned economy, a number of industrial complexes were closed.
Plovdiv has one of the country's fastest growing economies with average GDP growth of 12-13%. As of 2005 the total revenues are 9.4 billion leva (approximately 4.8 billion euro), which is with 88% more than in 2001. The profits for the same period rose 4.5 times. The unemployment is 6,5% which is lower than the national average. One of recent problems are municipality's administrative borders which almost completely coincide with the city limits. Due to the constant increase of investments which are $465,000,000 for 2005 some of the businesses have to be redirected to the Maritsa or Rodopi municipalities such as the industrial zone of Radinovo village.
Industry has been expanding again since the late 1990s, with manufacturing plants built in the city or in its outskirts, mainly the municipality of Maritsa. In this period, some €500,000,000 has been invested in construction of new factories. Some of the new plants include the Liebherr refrigerator plant with 1,850 employees and a capacity of 450,000 items per year, the Socotab tobacco processing plant (2,000 employees), a bicycle plant (500 workers, capacity 500,000 units), а Schneider electronics factory, a biodiesel plant, the Bulsaphil textile plant (790 workers), and several electronics and high-tech plants producing CD players and other electronic equipment. The largest electronics plant in the Balkans was inaugurated in the nearby village of Voivodinovo.
Due to the demand for business office space Business Park Plovdiv is going to be constructed in the district of Trakiya. The investment is for €68,000,000 and the park will occupy an area of 110,000 m². A commercial and industrial park is to be built in the village of Radinovo at several km to the north-west of the city with a built-up area of 50,000 m².
The commercial sector is developing fast. Trade centers have been built mainly in the Central district and the district of Trakiya. Those include Trade Center Grand, Market Center and two more all on the Kapitan Raycho Street, Forum in Trakiya, Exelsior and others. There are several malls under construction - the €40 million Mall of Plovdiv with a shopping area of 40,000 m², 11 cinemas and parking for 700 cars, €50 mln. Central Mall Markovo tepe, a huge €60 mln. mall and hotel complex in the district of Trakiya as well as several other projects planned or under construction.
Several hypermarkets have been built mainly on the outskirts of the city: Metro, Kaufland, Sani (2 outlets), Praktiker, Billa, Mr. Bricolage, Baumax, Technopolis, Technopark Europa and others. The main shopping area is the central street with its shops, cafés and restaurants. A number of cafés, craftsmen workshops and souvenir shops are situated in the Old town and the small streets in the centre, known among the locals as "The trap" (Капана).
The Plovdiv International Fair, held annually since 1892, is the largest and oldest fair in the country and all of southeastern Europe, gathering companies from all over the world in an exhibition area of 138,000 m² located on a territory of 352,000 m² on the northern banks of the Maristsa river. It attracts more than 600,000 visitors from different countries.
The city also has a duty-free zone since 1987. It has a customs terminal handling cargo from trucks and trains.
Plovdiv has a geographical position which makes it an international transport hub. Three of the ten Pan-European corridors run into or near the city - Corridor IV (Dresden-Bucharest-Sofia-Plovdiv- Instanbul), Corridor VIII (Durrës-Sofia-Plovdiv-Varna/Burgas) and Corridor X (Salzburg-Belgrade-Plovdiv-Instanbul). A major tourist center, Plovdiv lies at the foot of the Rhodope Mountains, and most people wishing to explore the mountains choose it as their trip's starting point.
Plovdiv is a major road and railway hub in southern Bulgaria: the Trakiya motorway (A1) is only at 5 km to the north. It lies on the important national route from Sofia to Burgas via Stara Zagora. First-class roads lead to Sofia to the west, Karlovo to the norths, Asenovgrad and Kardzhali to the south, Stara Zagora and Haskovo to the east. There are intercity buses which link Plovdiv with cities and towns all over the country and many European countries. They are based in three bus stations: South, Rodopi and North.
Railway transportation in the city dates back to 1872 when it became a station on the Lyubimets-Belovo railway line. There are railways to Sofia, Panagyurishte, Karlovo, Peshtera, Stara Zagora, Dimitrovgrad and Asenovgrad. There are three train stations - Central Railway Station, Trakiya and Filipovo as well as a Freight Station.
Plovdiv has an extensive public transport system, including around 40 bus and trolleybus lines. Six bridges span over the Maritsa river including a railroad bridge and a covered bridge. There are important road junctions to the south, south-west and north.
Plovdiv International Airport is located near the village of Krumovo, 12 km southeast of the city. There are plans for its modernisation and expansion. It takes charter flights from several European countries. A number of other, mainly small airports are located in the surroundings of the city including the important military airbase in Graf Ignatievo to the north of Plovdiv.
Around two thirds of the citizens (62,38%) have secondary, specialized or higher education. That percentage has increased in the period 1992-2001.
Plovdiv has 78 schools including elementary, high, foreign language, mathematics, technical and art schools. There are also 10 private schools and a seminary. The number of pupils for 2005 is 36,964 and is constantly decreasing since the mid 1990 due to lower birth-rate. Among the most prestigious schools are: Plovdiv English Language School, National Schools of Commerce - Plovdiv, Omega College, English Academy, National School for music and dance art Plovdiv, French High School of Plovdiv.
The city has 6 universities and a number of state and private colleges and branches of other universities. Those include the Plovdiv University with 900 lecturers and employees and 13,000 students, the Medical University of Plovdiv with 2,600 students, the Medical College, Technical University of Sofia - Branch Plovdiv, Agrarian University - Plovdiv, University of Food Technologies, Academy for Music, Dance and Fine Arts and others.
The Plovdiv Sports Complex is the biggest in Eastern Europe. It consists of the Plovdiv Stadium with several additional football fields, tennis courts, swimming pools, rowing base with 3km long channel, restaurants, cafés situated in a spacious park in the western part of the city just south of the Maritza river. There are also playgrounds for the children. It is popular among the citizens of Plovdiv and the guests of the city who use it for jogging, walking and relaxation. The Plovdiv Statium has 55,000 seats which makes it the largest football venue in Bulgaria.
Other stadiums include Hristo Botev Stadium (22,000 seats), Lokomotiv Stadium (the capacity is 11,000 seats), Maritsa Stadium (5,000 seats) and Todor Diev Stadium (7,000 seats). There are also six indoor sports halls - Lokomotiv, Dunav, Stroitel, Chaika, Akademik, Total Sport. In 2006 a water park was opened near the city centre called Aqualand. Several smaller water parks are situated in the city as well.
Football is the most popular sport in the city. Plovdiv has four professional football teams. Botev Plovdiv was founded in 1912, and is named after one of the most ardent Bulgarian poets and revolutionaries, Hristo Botev. The city also has PFC Lokomotiv, founded in 1936. Both teams are a regular fixture in the top Bulgarian league. The rivalry between them is considered to be even more fierce than the one between Levski and CSKA of Sofia. There are also two other football clubs in the city – Maritsa FC (founded in 1921) and Spartak Plovdiv (1947).
Plovdiv is host of the international boxing tournament "Strandzha" which takes place since 1949. In 2007 ninety-six boxers from 20 countries participated in the tournament. There is a horse racing club and a horse base near the city. Plovdiv has several volleyball and basketball teams.
Three of the city's seven hills are protected natural territories since 1995. Two of the first parks in Bulgaria are located in the city center - Tsar Simeon garden (also known as the City garden) and Dondukov garden. Some of the larger parks include the Botanical garden, Beliz Brezi, Ribnitsa and Lauta.