Eyebrows raise when writers call this lesser-known European city “the next Chiang Mai of Europe.” But this up-and-coming digital nomad hotspot truly lives up to the title.
Bulgaria’s second-largest city is often overshadowed by the likes of Bansko and Burgas and rarely gets the attention it deserves.
A creative hipster epicenter with a heaping dose of historical charm, it’s a true Goldilocks destination for digital nomads. The quirky remote work scene and serious affordability here have remained a well-kept secret – until now.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria is the perfect European city for digital nomads this year. Here’s why.
Historical Charm Meets Hipster Center
The unique blend of past, present, and future makes Plovdiv a destination overflowing with potential.
The character of Plovdiv is cobbled together with different pieces that, like the stones in its streets, somehow fit together despite their winding shapes and variant colors. Picturesque pedestrian avenues connect brightly painted storefronts and ultra-modern restaurants to 19th-century homes and 1st-century ruins.
You probably think of Italy and Greece when you think of magnificent ancient ruins, but Bulgaria can play that game, too.
Plovdiv is home to the showstopping Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis, one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world. Best of all, this first-century relic is still in regular use as an event venue today.
But Plovdiv’s ancient history isn’t just reserved for special tourist sites.
When walking on the main pedestrian street Knyaz Alexander 1, you’re actually walking on top of ancient ruins. Regular glass cut-outs split the street and reveal the historical roots of the city below while kids play on the remains of Roman columns by the park.
Piled on the hills of Plovdiv’s old town are a fascinating variety of architectural treasures from the Ottoman period and Bulgarian Renaissance.
Once home to wealthy merchants, a dozen carefully preserved and restored houses are now open to visitors to literally step back in history – as long as you step lightly with shoe covers. (Some of these irreplaceable sprawling rugs are more valuable than the average family home.)
While there are plenty of historical mansions in Plovdiv, Balabanov and Hindliyan Houses are the clear must-sees. A combined ticket from the Old Town’s tourist information center lets you see 5 sites of your choice for $8, making it easy and affordable for digital nomads to get a taste of Bulgarian history and culture.
Trendy Creative Hub
Kapana is the beating hipster heart of Plovdiv’s creative and culinary scene.
Semi-affectionately called “The Trap” by locals, this maze of restaurant-packed cobblestone lanes and colorful street art can be tricky to navigate – and even trickier to bring yourself to leave!
The gastronomy, nightlife, and cafe culture really exceed expectations for a city of Plovdiv’s size. With all this buzz packed into one district, you’ll need reservations on the weekend.
Here are some recommended Kapana staples:
- Pavaj – Their menu changes with the seasons to feature the freshest local ingredients at the intersection of creativity and tradition. Try the succulent duck or fried zucchini fritters.
- Tam’s House – This upscale option is known for its red meat specialties. You can’t go wrong with a beef carpaccio or any of their steaks. Try the white chocolate and fruit jam “egg” for a unique dessert as tasty as it is mind-bending.
- Cat & Mouse Brewery – The undisputed craft beer king of Plovdiv.
- ANYWAY Social Bar – Crowd-pleasing cocktails with a perfect people watching location.
- Bluestone Donuts – The morning after a night out at the craft breweries and cocktail bars, a gourmet salted caramel doughnut just south of the Kapana district line will cure what ails you.
- Brioche Bakery – A tiny pastel blue storefront can only fit one or two patrons inside, so it’s advised to take the best croissant outside of France to-go.
- The Family Coffee Roasters – While it’s technically a few meters north of Kapana, no hip Plovdiv list would be complete without this work-friendly coffee shop.
- Dwell Coffee House – The seating is less suited for laptops, but the coffee is absolutely top-notch.
Kapana creative district, the historic old town, and the main boulevard Knyaz Alexander 1 are all fully pedestrianized.
Pretty much anything you could need in Plovdiv city center is concentrated in a 20-minute walking radius composed of mostly car-free streets designed for getting around on foot. On the off chance that you find yourself in need of a ride, buses are $0.60, and taxis average less than $5 for short to moderate distances.
Digital nomads can start the day with an espresso by Stefan Stambolov Square, take a stroll in Tsar Simeon Park, then walk to any of the many coworking spaces in the center, all without breaking a sweat.
Digital nomads can feel quite safe walking around the city from morning to night.
While the nearby capital of Sofia can be a bit seedy, the city of Plovdiv is one of the safest destinations in Europe.
Crime is low, streets are well-lit, and public spaces are kept clean and secure. Solo female travelers in particular favor it as a top safety destination.
Coworking From A Brewery? Yes, please!
Cat and Mouse Coworking is the clear front-runner for coworking in Plovdiv. It’s easy to see why; who wouldn’t want to work from a craft brewery in the heart of the creative district? Open seating starts at $11 per day, $36 per week, or $94 per month from 8am-9pm.
The brewery and coworking are part of the same network as Mouse House guesthouse, which is a convenient stay for a short first-time working trip to Plovdiv.
Networking Premium Coworking is another well-loved favorite. In contrast to Cat and Mouse’s cozy space, Networking Premium offers a sprawling open layout and kitchen on the first floor, as well as private offices on the second floor.
They also run a swanky coliving complex well suited for hassle-free longer stays with top-tier amenities.
This location is known for hosting events and belongs to a network of over 50 locations around the world. Open seating goes for $11 per day, $38 per week, $72 for two weeks, $111 per month, or $133 per month with 24/7 access.
IMD 24/7 Coworking is the most affordable and basic option in the city at $94 per month. This is a good choice for digital nomads staying for at least a month who work non-traditional or non-European hours.
Bulgaria has some of the fastest internet in the world at low prices. Mobile speeds here rank 14th globally, and broadband averages a speedy and symmetrical 60mbps. SIM cards cost $7-20 for 15-50GB of data.
Not only is Wi-Fi in Plovdiv fast, but it’s widely available in cafes all over the city for free. Remote work favorites are Art News Cafe, Monkey House, Coffee & Gallery Cu29, and newcomer Croatóan.
As far as accommodation, digital nomads can choose from coliving or coworking-adjacent guesthouses, Airbnb and Booking.com, or local rentals, all at some of the most affordable prices in Europe.
Long-term rentals for single apartments in the city center average $300-450 a month. Short-term stays for a few nights or weeks around Kapana cost around $30-45 per night or $200 per week.
Longer stays in Plovdiv and surrounding areas are relatively easy because Bulgaria is a non-Schengen country with a 90-day tourist visa. This makes Plovdiv a great remote work destination for spending your three months outside of the Schengen zone before continuing on to other European adventures.
The residency process in Bulgaria is also one of the easier options in Europe and offers a tempting flat income and corporate tax rate of 10%.
The Bulgarian capital of Sofia is home to an international airport and a European rail hub. From Sofia, getting to Plovdiv is fast, easy, and cheap.
Buses to Plovdiv take 2 hours and run every hour from 8AM to noon for just $8.
Alternatively, the fast train takes 2.5 hours and runs eight times per day from 6AM-11PM for $7 in first class with a reserved seat. (Pro Tip: reserve the window seat for an outlet and mini-table if you’re planning to get through your to-do list on the train.)
Working travelers can use their mobile hotspot for about 80% of the route between Sofia and Plovdiv without dead zones. Bulgarian trains tend to be sluggish Soviet relics by comparison to other European rail networks, but they do have on-board outlets that work most of the time.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com