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The eyebrows rise when writers call this lesser-known European city « Europe’s next Chiang Mai. » But this up-and-coming digital nomad hotspot really lives up to the title.
Bulgaria’s second largest city is often overshadowed by cities like Bansko and Burgas and rarely gets the attention it deserves.
A creative hipster epicenter with a heavy dose of historic charm, it’s a true Goldilocks destination for digital nomads. The quirky remote work scene and great affordability here have remained a well-kept secret—until now.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria Is the Perfect European City for Digital Nomads This Year. This is why.
Historic Charm Meets the Hipster Center
The unique combination of past, present and future makes Plovdiv a destination brimming with potential.
Plovdiv’s character is paved with different pieces that, like the stones of its streets, somehow fit together despite their sinuous shapes and varied colors. Picturesque pedestrian avenues connect brightly painted storefronts and ultra-modern restaurants with 19th-century houses 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 spectacular Philippopolis Ancient Theatre, one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. Best of all, this first-century relic is still regularly used as an event venue today.
But Plovdiv’s ancient history is not reserved for special tourist sites only.
Walking along the main pedestrian street Knyaz Alexander 1, you are actually walking on ancient ruins. Regular cutouts of glass divide the street, revealing the city’s historical roots below as children play with the remains of Roman columns in the park.
Stacked on the hills of Plovdiv’s Old Town are a fascinating array of architectural treasures from the Ottoman period and the Bulgarian Revival.
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 walk carefully with your shoe covers on. (Some of these extensive, irreplaceable rugs are more valuable than the average family home.)
While there are plenty of historic mansions in Plovdiv, the Balabanov and Hindliyan Houses are the must-sees. A combo ticket from the Old Town Tourist Information Center allows you to 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.
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fashion creative center
Kapana is the beating hipster heart of Plovdiv’s creative and culinary scene.
Almost affectionately called « The Trap » by the locals, this maze of cobbled alleyways lined with restaurants and colorful street art can be tricky to navigate, and even harder to leave!
The food, nightlife and cafe culture truly exceed expectations for a city the size of Plovdiv. With all this hubbub concentrated in one district, you’ll need reservations for the weekend.
Here are some recommended Kapana staples:
- Pavement – Its menu changes with the seasons to present the freshest local ingredients at the intersection of creativity and tradition. Try the succulent duck or fried zucchini fritters.
- Tam’s house – This luxury 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 “egg” and fruit jam for a unique dessert that is as tasty as it is mind-blowing.
- Cat and Mouse Brewery – The undisputed king of Plovdiv craft beer.
- social bar anyway – Crowd-pleasing cocktails in a perfect spot for people-watching.
- blue stone donuts – The morning after a night at the microbreweries and cocktail bars, a gourmet salted caramel donut just south of the Kapana district line will cure what ails you.
- Brioche Bakery – A small pastel blue shop can only fit one or two customers inside, so it is recommended to take the best croissant outside of France.
- The family of coffee roasters – While technically located just a few meters north of Kapana, no modern Plovdiv list would be complete without this work-friendly coffee shop.
- Dwell Coffee House – The seats are less suitable for laptops, but the coffee is absolutely top notch.
The Kapana Creative District, the Old Town and the main boulevard Knyaz Alexander 1 are fully pedestrianized.
Just about anything you could need in Plovdiv’s city center is concentrated within a 20-minute walking radius made up of mostly car-free streets designed for walking. In case you need 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 at Stefan Stambolov Square, take a stroll through Tsar Simeon Park, and 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, the streets are well lit, and public spaces are kept clean and safe. Solo female travelers in particular prefer it as a maximum security destination.
Coworking from a brewery? Yes please!
cat and mouse coworking is the clear favorite for coworking in Plovdiv. Is easy to see why; Who wouldn’t want to work at 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 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The brewery and coworking are part of the same network as the Mouse House Guesthouse, which is a convenient stay for a short first-time work trip to Plovdiv.
premium networking is another much-loved favourite. In contrast to the cozy space of Cat and Mouse, Networking Premium offers a spacious open layout and kitchen on the first floor, as well as private offices on the second floor.
They also run a fine coliving community well suited for hassle-free extended stays with top-notch amenities.
This location is known for hosting events and belongs to a network of more than 50 locations around the world. Open seats are $11 per day, $38 per week, $72 for two weeks, $111 per month, or $133 per month with 24/7 access.
Coworking IMD 24/7 it’s the cheapest, most basic option in town at $94 per month. This is a good option for digital nomads who are staying for at least a month and working non-traditional or non-European hours.
Bulgaria has one of the fastest internet services in the world at low prices. mobile speeds here range 14 globally, and broadband averages a fast, symmetrical 60 Mbps. SIM cards are $7-20 for 15-50 GB of data.
Wi-Fi in Plovdiv is not only fast, but widely available in cafes throughout the city for free. Favorites for remote work are Art News Cafe, Monkey House, Coffee & Gallery Cu29 and newcomer Croatóan.
When it comes to accommodation, digital nomads can choose from coliving or coworking guesthouses, Airbnb and Booking.com, or local rentals, all at some of the most affordable prices in Europe.
Long-term rentals for individual apartments in the city center average $300-450 per month. Short term stays for a few nights or weeks at Kapana are around $30-45 per night or $200 per week.
Longer stays in and around Plovdiv are relatively easy because Bulgaria is a non-Schengen country on a 90-day tourist visa. This makes Plovdiv a great remote work destination to spend three months outside of the Schengen zone before continuing on other European adventures.
The residency process in Bulgaria is also one of the easiest options in Europe and offers a tempting flat 10% corporate and income tax rate.
The Bulgarian capital of Sofia is home to an international airport and a European rail hub. From Sofia, getting to Plovdiv is quick, easy and cheap.
Buses to Plovdiv take 2 hours and run every hour from 8 am to noon for just $8.
Alternatively, the express train takes 2.5 hours and runs eight times a day from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm for $7 in first class with a reserved seat. (Pro tip: reserve the window seat for a plug and mini table if you plan to complete your to-do list on the train.)
Working commuters can use their mobile hotspot for about 80% of the route between Sofia and Plovdiv with no dead zones. Bulgarian trains tend to be slow Soviet relics compared to other European rail networks, but they do have onboard departures that run most of the time.
traveler alert: Don’t forget travel insurance for your next trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com