As one of the earliest cities in Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo is steeped in five thousand years of history. This small city is also home to one of the grandest medieval monuments of Europe, the Tsaravets Fortress.
What to See and Do
If you haven’t been to Bulgaria earlier, this is one of the must-see destinations of the country. What Veliko Tarnovo lacks in beach resorts and shopping, it more than compensates in authenticity and beauty.
Veliko Tarnovo was built on three hills: Sveta Gora, and Tsaravets, Trapezitsa.
Its landscape has the Yantra River. Brutally freezing winters and hot summers create autumn and spring the best seasons to see. Besides Tsaravets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo contains also a charming old city paved with cobblestones, museums, and churches.
Where to Sleep
When there are not enough sightseeing opportunities to hold you Veliko Tarnovo has many restaurants and hotel options. Wine fans and history fans will also have excellent day trip opportunities from town. The village of Arbanassi makes for the great weekend escape that is tranquil. Options include trips to the ruins of the Maryan boutique winery that is quaint and the Roman city Nikopolis ad Istrum.
Where to Dine
It is rather simple to have around Veliko Tarnovo. The city is serviced by streets, a local airport, and is situated 142 miles away from the capital city of Sofia.
Archaeological evidence indicates that people occupied the region as soon as the next millennium B.C.. Following two aristocratic brothers, Ivan Assen and Theodor-Petar, directed a conflict from the Empire the city has been declared capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire in 1185. As Turnovgrad, the city was known at that time. Underneath the Assen dynasty Turnovgrad developed at a quick rate, with the accession of their most significant structures throughout the 12th through 14past centuries. One of these is the Tsaravets Fortress. Through this Golden Age of prosperity, over 30 monasteries sprung up on town and Sveta Gora Hill becomes increasingly an economic and cultural hub.
Along with the rest of the Balkans, Turnovgrad fell in the hands of the Ottoman Turks in which it remained for almost 500 years. Bulgaria was liberated in 1877 and also Veliko Tarnovo became the newly formed independent state’s capital city. The name did not last long. Sofia has been re-named the funds a couple of years later. Turnovgrad was renamed Veliko Tarnovo in 1966.
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The best place to start is the Tourist Information Centre (ul. Hristo Botev 5 / +359 62 622 148) in the primary square near the post office. It is open seven days a week April through October, and Monday through Friday November through March. Here you will have access to maps, brochures, postcards, along with a team of locals who will answer any queries.
After obtaining the info that you require, the first thing that you should do is to go explore the highlight of the city, Tsaravets Fortress. The fortress is surrounded with 3,000 ft of rock walls, a few of which have height of 36 feet and a thickness of 11 ft. Once past the primary gate, it is fairly easy to browse the fortress on foot. There’s a gentle incline and route, but people are free climb whatever they like and to walk anywhere.
Head to the top of the mountain if you would like to find the modernist murals in the Church of the Ascension. For two BGN you can ride the panoramic elevator to the top for panoramic views. Beneath the church, to a lower level, you’ll visit Baldwin Tower. Legend has it that this is where Count Baldwin of Flanders was imprisoned by Tsar Kaloyan in the year 1205. Here there is a picnic area with a refreshment stand. There are also public toilets and lots of colour from that to take a minute to admire the beautiful view of the city below.
We advise exploring Tsaravets as soon as possible to prevent the heat. The ticket office can be found near the primary entrance to the fortress. Tsaravets Fortress is open 8 pm — seven p.m. April through October and 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. November through March.
Hint: Bring decent walking shoes, a hat, and a good deal of plain water.
On the evenings of financial holidays and Veliko Tarnovo Day (March 22), the city puts on a remarkable sound and light show over the fortress. In other words you should either be with a view of their fortress on a patio, or buy tickets to watch the show by a viewing deck. The best location to find info regarding show dates is the Tourist Information Centre (see above for address).
The Old Town is the best location for strolling, especially Samovodskata Charshia (Rakovski St.). Throughout the next half of the 19th century, that this was where artisans and farmers in the local village of Samovodene arrived on market days to sell their goods. In the 1980s the city revived the region in a bid to recreate the atmosphere of their ancient 20th century. Samovodskata Charshia nevertheless contains several restored Revival buildings (the Bulgarian National Revival period proved to be a cultural movement by Bulgarians to recover their individuality from the Ottomans).
Amongst the city’s museums, the Archaeological Museum (ul.
Ivanka Boteva 2) along with the Hadji Nikoli Inn Museum (ul. Rakovski 19) are just two worth seeing. The Archaeological Museum covers the area’s history from prehistoric times. The unquestionable highlight of the museum is one of the earliest gold treasures in the world dating back to the fourth millennium B.C. Much like the one located near Varna, this treasure uttered Egyptian and Aztec cultures!
The Hadji Nikoli Inn Museum is situated within the 19th century home of wealthy neighborhood tradesman, Hadji Nikoli. It is the surviving inn with that period and a beautiful illustration of Bulgarian Revival design. It is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (closed Mondays). Admission is 5 BGN.
The Assens Monument can be seen from almost everywhere in town. Nicknamed the”horsemen statue,” it includes the Bulgarian Tsars, Ivan Assen, Theodor-Petar, Kaloyan, and Assen. The statue, which was erected just 800 years after the city has been appointed capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, also commemorates the tsars because of their gifts to the city. The steps are inhabited by art students employing the panoramic setting as inspiration for their work. In the monument you will enjoy beautiful views of the town. You’re able to get into the monument .
In the river valley of Tsaravets Hill is the most significant religious construction of the city. The Holy 40 Martyrs Church is all about 20-minute walk in the old city. The church was erected in 1230 to unveil a significant victory over the Byzantines. It was also the location from which Prince Ferdinand I hailed the independence of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire on September 22, 1908. The church was severely damaged but was revived in the last few years. The church shops historical documents and the remains of several medieval tsars such as Kaloyan, Ivan Assen I, along with his wife Anna Maria.
The city of Arbanassi can be found about four km uphill from Veliko Tarnovo. What was once a bustling merchant community in the 16th century now makes for a relaxing escape. The city contains several homes dating back to the 17th along with 18th centuries plus a couple of orthodox churches. Of them, the 17th century Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel will be the biggest. It is made up different areas for men and women, of a altar, a chapel dedicated to Saint Paraskevi, a gilded Bishop’s thronefrescoes, and paintings. Arbanassi’s traditional homes are large and heavily reinforced with rock walls and railing that were thick. The purpose behind the additional security was that bandits frequently attacked and looted the village. The destruction caused by the looters eventually delivered Arbanassi into decline during the late 18th century.
A trip to the renovated Kostantsaliev House Museum is a excellent way to explore the interior of one of these homes. This 17th century two-story house belonged to a rich household. A walk-through will reveal the home’s original timber structure, heating primary living quarters system, servant quarters, bathroom, and kitchen amenities. The Kostantsaliev House Museum is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April through October (closed Mondays) and November through March by appointment only. Entrance is 5 BGN each person.
The ruins of Nikopolis ad Istrum’s ancient Byzantine city are situated just 20 km from Veliko Tarnovo. The city was founded by Emperor Trajan in 106 A.D. and prospered till Attila’s Huns destroyed it in 447 A.D.. The website is a wonderful illustration of Roman city planning. It had a community of roads, public buildings, a forumbath complex, odeon, and agora. There are information points across the website describing the goal of the strikes. Nikopolis ad Istrum was situated at a major crossroads that linked several states including Istanbul and Varna. Nikopolis as Istrum is open 9 a.m. to 6 pm April through October and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March. Admission is free of charge!
If wine tasting is the thing, head to one of the nation’s finest boutique wineries. Named after the village of Maryan, the winery is owned and run by Svetla and Ilia Ivanov, who in 2010 decided to carry their love for wine. Their wines have already received a terrific deal of praise in the wine community, along with their Awareness of Tears Rose won a silver medal in the Balkans International Wine Contest in 2012.
“The amazing story of the village dates back into the legend of the beautiful girl of Tsar Ivan Alexander and the sister of Tsar Ivan Shishman — the last ruler of Bulgaria. The village is called after Kera Tamara (Mara) that was shipped to become the spouse of the Turkish sultan.”
The winery is situated in the village of Elena. It produces limited amounts of Chardonnay, Savignon Blanc, Rose, and other combinations. To organize a tasting, then contact the winery right at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite its small size, Veliko Tarnovo has hostels and resorts. We recommend Hotel Studio (Todor Lefterov 4) because of its near proximity to both Tsaravets Fortress and its own rooftop deck with unobstructed views of the Tsaravets sound and light show. The hotel has Wi-Fi that is no cost four space types, along with free parking. The house has lobby bar, a summertime holiday, and an elegant dining space. Ask for a room with a view. Please note that the hotel doesn’t have an elevator. Prices vary BGN each night, depending upon the area.
Just like the name implies, Ego Pizzeria and Grill serves up crispy artisan pizzas baked in a toaster. Large, cozy booths make this spot the perfect break from sightseeing. The menu also has barbecued meats, risottos, salads, and significant sides. Rates are great at just 5 — 10 BGN per plate. Sit at the rear of the restaurant to get views of city and the river.
With numerous locations and an impeccable reputation for being one of the best restaurants in Bulgaria, Shtastliveca is perfect for practically any event. Now franchised, the Shtastliveca restaurants have been able to retain their quality and popularity. The lengthy menu is comprised by to-die-for salads, many different cold and hot appetizers, pizzas, hot steaks, and fare. Half parts are readily available. We dined at the primary road location, but you’ll find several scattered around the city. Price per plate is 5 — 15 BGN.
After researching the Tsarevets Fortress, then you’ll probably be hungry. Van Hassan II is situated right across the road in the fortress, making it a suitable lunch break option. If the heat of the day is making you drowsy, dine in the comfort of the air-conditioned dining room of the restaurant. The next floor has views of the fortress and plenty of natural light. The restaurant delivers a family-friendly atmosphere and traditional specialties such as sach, soups, cakes, grilled meats, and fish. Perfect for groups and special occasions also. Average price per plate is 6 — 12 BGN.
Time zone: GMT +2
Electricity: 220-240 Volts.
The around plug is taken by electrical sockets. For 110-120 V (U.S. and Canada) appliances, a plug jack, and in some cases a voltage converter is required.
Money: The national currency is the Bulgarian Lev, that is composed of 100 stotinki. The symbol for the Lev is”BGN”
Hint: Tipping 5 — 10% of the whole bill is customary at bars and restaurants.
Before you proceed: Remember it to see Veliko Tarnovo requires a lot of walking. The city was built on mountains, so anticipate slopes and muscles after a couple days of sightseeing. That is why it’s important to bring a fantastic pair of walking shoes and prevent wearing flip-flops and high heels. Also note that Veliko Tarnovo is one of Bulgaria’s hottest cities. It is not unusual for temperatures in August to reach in the 90s °F. Pack a hat, sunscreen, and drink enough plain water.
Have you ever been to Bulgaria earlier? Tell us your suggestions for the things to see and do in Veliko Tarnovo! Leave a comment below!