Nebet tepe is an extraordinary place with very rich history. It is one of the three hills where the ancient town was founded around 6,000 years ago. It is nowadays in the very heart of the city and offers magnificent views of the center and other parts of Plovdiv. As of 2023, there is ongoing archaeological work on the hill aimed at examining further the remains found on it, therefore it is temporarily closed for visitors. There are currently two theories about the origin of the complex. The first one is that it was a fortress created for the protection of the city. The second one is that at the top of the hill, there was a royal complex and a religious centre.
It is believed the site was first settled by the Thracians in 4000 BC. Due to the remains on the hill the city of Plovdiv is considered the oldest living city in Europe, pre–dating the creation of cities like Rome (753 BC) and Athens (3 000 BC). The archaeological complex on the top of the hill is a cultural monument of national significance to Bulgaria.
The Thracian settlement of Nebet tepe was conquered by Philip of Macedon in the year 342 BC. He named the city after himself – “Philippopolis” meaning the city of Philip. Around that time the town grew significantly and became an important political and economic center in the Thrace region. In the 1st century AD, the town was included in the borders of the Roman Empire. The Romans called it “Trimontium” which means “three mountains”. This name was used to describe the massif of three hills on which the Old town is nowadays situated and includes Nebet tepe, Dzhambaz tepe and Taksim tepe.
During the Roman period, the town expanded even further and became a metropolitan area and a district center. That was also the time when the town reached the nowadays main street and square where the Roman stadium and Roman forum are found. However, Nebet tepe continued to play an important role as part of the fortification system until the Ottoman invasion of the Balkan peninsula in the 14th century. Actually the name “Nebet” comes from the Turkish word nevbet, meaning “guard”. That is why it is believed this was the Watchmen’s hill, where the protectors of the city were situated during Antiquity and the Middle Ages. A notable finding on the hill includes a water reservoir with a volume of 350 m3.
It is inevitable to stumble upon Nebet Tepe if you visit the Old Town. The main street of the neighbourdhood starts around the Mosque in the city center. It leads you directly to the top of the hill. Along the way you can find a couple of galleries, the first pharmacy in the city, the oldest church, and the icon gallery. The road will even take you to the main square of the Old Town with a tourist information center and some of the most beautiful houses in that area.
Hisar Kapia (or the Eastern gate), also situated on this hill, is one of the most famous tourist sights in the city. It dates back to the 11th century. It was one of the three entrances to ancient Plovdiv. During Ottoman times Plovdiv was an inner city for the empire and didn’t need the fortification wall anymore. Therefore, during that period revival houses were embedded in the remains of the old stone walls around the gate.
Nebet tepe still hides many secrets and because of its long history and unique energy, it remains a favorite place for the locals. Also, it drives the interest of the people who visit Plovdiv. The top of the hill offers a beautiful view of the city, especially around sunset time.
Photos: Dimitra Lefterova
Author: Free Plovdiv Tour Guide – Nikolina Mihaylova