Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis
Widely known as the stadium of Philippopolis, this ancient Roman stadium was built during the 2nd Century AD and served as a socio-cultural place in the Roman Empire.
The Plovdiv Roman Stadium is among the biggest and best-preserved Roman Empire structures in Southeastern Europe. During its construction, the city of Philippopolis served as the capital of Thracia – a Roman province.
Situated in the prominent city of Plovdiv, the stadium is a unique architectural marvel – with an original seating capacity of 30 000 seats, it is measured to be 790 ft in length and 160 ft in width. The stadium of Philippopolis was constructed during Emperor Hadrian's rule and was a common venue for Pythian-like games. These games mostly involved athletic events, music, poetry, and artistic painting. Although the Plovdiv stadium has suffered damage over time, a section known as the sphendone is partially rehabilitated. This area serves as a popular historic landmark with its architecture that lets you travel through time and beauty that takes your breath away!
Sights and attractions
The Plovdiv Roman Stadium is a historical monument that offers plenty of attractions to visitors. Here is a comprehensive look of the must-see sights and activities.
1. The modern visitor center
A presentational area where visitors can learn more about the history of the stadium. You can admire how the stadium looked during the Roman Empire with a 3D movie and visualizations. The movie and all other multimedia information is accessible and interesting to people of all background, age and ability.
2. The vaulted passageway located under the stadium's sphendone
The most notable historic area in the partially restored stadium of Philippopolis is its northern sphendone (the curved, semi-circular section of the building). Here you can explore the vaulted street passageway that people used as an entry and exit through a corridor. This vaulted passageway also served as architectural support for the royal seats that were located above it. You also get to see how early Romans crafted this architecturally beautiful with marble slab stones.
3. Authentic Greek inscriptions and artwork on pilasters
Ancient Romans used to add ornamental pillars in their buildings purely for beauty purposes rather than architectural support. Some of the restored pilasters in the stadium have artistic illustrations of Hermes- a deity in Greek mythology. Others have drawings of Hercules's traits, including his lion fur, arrow quiver, and mace.
4. Section of the original fortress wall and aqueduct
When you explore the northern area of the vaulted passageway, you will discover the city's ancient fortress wall and aqueduct. Although it was built almost 20 centuries ago, a part of it is still standing. The wall underwent several alterations and adjustments during the following two centuries. An example of changes done to the wall over the years is the addition of an aqueduct passageway. This aqueduct assisted early Romans in diverting water from external sources to public amenities such as public baths.
5. Exploring the original ground level of Philippopolis
Once you explore the ancient Plovdiv Roman stadium, you will go underground and see the city's initial ground level. Visitors can access this landmark and freely tour a section of the original track area.
Where is the Plovdiv stadium located and how can you get there?
The renowned stadium of Philippopolis is situated in an underground zone of the main pedestrian street in Plovdiv, next to the locally called Dzhumaya Square. The Plovdiv Roman Stadium is open to the public between 9.00 am and 6.00 pm.
How to get to Dzhumaya Square?
It is located in about 3-minute walk from Villa Flavia Hotel and we will be happy to help navigate you to this or any other beautiful destination in our charming town.
How much will it cost you to visit the stadium of Philippopolis?
Tickets are priced at 4 Euro (which is approximately worth 8 Bulgarian levs). Children are charged 3.6 levs and those under seven years of age get free admittance. This entry fee is mostly for the 3D presentation on this ancient Roman stadium. You can also join a private or group tour, offered by many local tour companies. As your hosts, we will gladly give you any more information you require in person. Ask us!
Ancient Theater of Philippopolis
From the beginning of the reign of Emperor Nerva till the death of Emperor Marcus Antoninus, the Roman Empire underwent a golden age of cultural transformation. During this period many theatres, stadiums, and public baths were built across Europe and Asia. Of these great works, one monument has withstood the ravages and tests of time.
The Ancient Theater of Philippopolis was built during the reign of the greatest emperor of the golden age, Emperor Trajan, and has been preserved in pristine condition still serving as a historical attraction and cultural spot for locals and visitors from all over the world.
The Maritsa River rises from the Rila mountains and flows for 480 kilometers through Bulgaria before entering the Aegean Sea. In the south-central region of the country, the river irrigates a fertile region with a great history. Here, across seven hills, Phillip King of Macedonia and father of Alexander the Great founded a city to rule the Thracians. This city later became the capital of Thracia, a Roman province. Once known as Philippopolis, the city we love is now called Plovdiv. It was here, between the Dzhambaz tepe and the Taksim tepe hills that the Philippopolis theater was constructed.
The Ancient Theater is quite large by the standard of its construction period. Up to 7000 people can sit within its confines at any given time.
The theater is shaped like a half-circle of 82 meters in diameter. It is divided into two sections – the stage and the seating area. The seating area of the theater was originally carved out of a slope thus making it an open-air theatre. The theater stage is formed in a horseshoe design and is 26 meters long. The stage is three stories high and is supported by Greek columns. There are subterranean passages from both the stage and the seating area. These might have been built as a defense measure to provide secret egress of dignitaries in case of an attack.
Theaters were an integral part of Roman public works. The Philippopolis theater served as both an administrative building and a place to gather the public on important occasions. This theater was the meeting point of the Thracian assembly. When Roman Proconsuls, Generals, and Emperors visited Thrace and Illyria, the illustrious residents of these provinces gathered at the Philippopolis theater for an audience with the potentate. Seats within Philippopolis theater bear engraving of the names of the elites or the tribes of the commoners. These engravings guided seating arrangements during the potentate's visit.
The Plovdiv theater also served in sanguinary purposes. The Roman Empire was infamous for its love of bloody sports. Thus the Plovdiv theater must have hosted its fair share of gladiatorial games and animal hunting scenes. There are safety structures in the Plovdiv theater that are like those found in other theaters known for animal and gladiatorial battles.
Misfortune and rediscovery: the Plovdiv theater odyssey
The Plovdiv theater is standing in pristine condition today. This should not be the case. Just before the 5th century, an earthquake destroyed a part of the Plovdiv theater and town. Then a few decades later, Attila the Hun swept through the Roman Empire causing further damage to the it in the process. It was lost to history until a landslide in the 1970s exposed a section. Afterwards, archaeologists conducted several excavations to unearth the theatre. Restoration work was started under the aegis of the National School of Conservation.
Cultural seat of a cultural Capital
Plovdiv was an European Capital of Culture for the 2019 year. At the heart of the programs and activities that artists conduct to showcase the unique heritage of the region lied and continues to do so the Plovdiv Theatre. Today the theatre, which can seat 3500 people, is still a preferred location for many concerts, public exhibitions, and plays. It houses productions such as Opera Open – the biggest opera festival in Bulgaria, food festivals and numerous musical and cultural events and experiences.
Visitor reviews are a gold standard for measuring tourist experiences. Below are a few comments by past visitors to the ancient Roman theatre.
"I was fortunate enough to go with friends to Plovdiv for the day. Part of our time spent in the city center was a walk to the Roman Theatre. How wonderful to see that this is still being used to this day, such a vibrant city. A young newly engaged couple were having photographs taken on the stage area, what a setting for a special occasion."
"The theater is in the heart of the old town. The view is just splendid. It is one of the best-preserved and maintained Roman theaters that can host over five thousand spectators. The theater was built during the splendid times of Philippopolis (the Roman name of the ancient city). A must-visit spot in Plovdiv."
"This is a must-see attraction. Almost nowhere else can you see the ancient stage backdrop features so well preserved? It is so impressed with the mountain backdrop too. The person at the ticket booth was friendly and helpful, giving us a town map. The entrance price was cheap but you can also get a multi-site ticket which you can save money on. The theater was built in the 1st century AD and would have seated 5000 people and showed performances. Absolutely must see it. It will not take a lot of time to go around but the atmosphere is fantastic. No info signs but there is a leaflet."
The ancient Roman theater of Philippopolis, also known as the Plovdiv theater is a remarkable window into history. This venue has also become a symbol of Bulgaria's cultural scene. Today, young artists are embracing this ancient site as a platform to express their unique artistic gifts. Experience a confluence of the ancient past and Europe's evolving culture by visiting Plovdiv’s Ancient Theater and dive deep into centuries of history!
Archaelogical Complex Nebet Tepe
A tourist can tour a variety of places in the world. The traveler can choose the known places available on tourist catalogs. Alternatively, one can seek gems which though hard to find, are worth every dollar. What we offer here is one of those gems in general.
Amongst the numerous cultural attractions, lies a breath-taking gem completely open to the public. Nebet Tepe is a site impossible to describe in words. One of the pillars of European history, it is remarkable for the length of history it represents.
Indulge yourself for a moment. Think of Orpheus, the great Greek poet. He journeyed from here and joined the heroes of Greece to find the Golden Fleece. Did these hills inspire him to seek other mysteries?
Or maybe you love war stories? Clothe yourself in Macedonian armor and stand with your family on this hill. Phillip stood here with his son Alexander the Great. The two discussed their plans of conquest. Father and son may have contested their relative popularity. Perhaps. This site might have inspired their ambitions. Will it inspire yours?
Or maybe you are on a pilgrimage to trace the roots of the founders of Christianity. Paul came here, during his second missionary journey. Did he contemplate the vastness of eternity whilst standing on these hills? He might have. These hills do seem eternal when one is standing on them.
It is rare to find places where the greatest exemplars of Greek poetry, international warfare and global Christianity may have converged. Nebet Tepe is such place.
Historical tourism comes in two forms: the traversed track and the hidden gem. Everybody has been to one of the first kinds. All the travel catalogs feature them. Let’s talk about the second kind. One of the sacred sites of Balkan region named Nebet Tepe. The name means Hill of Guards and it overlooks almost all Plovdiv. People have lived here for 8000 years, making it one of the birthplaces of Indo-European civilization. Archeologists have discovered evidence of numerous civilizations and stories lying on the body of this hill.
One goes on a meditative climb from the Old Town up the hill to get to its top. There, the view is tranquil and spectacular, the air is purer and time stands still.