It’s that time of the week again when I get to share with you another story about yet another beautiful destination: the Bulgarian town Veliko Tarnovo (Veliko Turnovo).
It’s perfect for 2-3 days visit, has a lovely topography, cultural heritage for art lovers, intriguing past for history nerds and on top of it all it’s a very affordable town. Well, I think I convinced you already, didn’t I?
The small town of today is one of the oldest settlements on the Bulgarian territory. Between the 12-14 centuries, during medieval times, it became the capital of the 2nd Bulgarian Kingdom reaching peak development. Thus the surname of “The Great Tarnovo” or “The City of the Kings”.
All that being said, here are our top tips for a beautiful journey in Veliko Tarnovo:
Learn from the locals
I have been a fan of the Free Guided Tours for years. What better way to learn about a town than from someone who lives there. Daily free walking tours are organized and the meeting point is at the Tourist Info Center. Plami was our guide and I cannot recommend her enough: funny, bright, with broad knowledge, she makes the tour very enjoyable. You can check the schedule and get in touch with the guides on their facebook page: Veliko Tarnovo Free Guided Tours
Explore all areas
There is a perfect symbiosis between the man made settlement and the natural land. The town is perched on three hills: Tsarevets, Trapezitza and Sveta Gora and is shaped by the winding flow of Yantra river. There are 6 areas to visit, and while some are more attractive than others, go to all of them if you have time in order to get a complete Veliko Tarnovo experience.
The Old Town
is world famous for the architecture of the houses. Most of them are from the Revival period (the Bulgarian renaissance), white painted or pastel colored with red-brown tops and wood beams. On the lower floor there are even today workshops where leather goods are made, wood tools are handcrafted and traditional Bulgarian products are prepared.
Hadji Nikoli Inn is the last standing Inn after a great earthquake and fire and the small House Museum Sarafkina is also nice to visit.
is located on the highest of the 3 hills and is the most famous site in Veliko Tarnovo. The ticket is only 6 Leva (3 Eur) but if you are here on last Thursday of the month, you enter for free.
Tsarevets (Bulgarian: Царевец) is a medieval stronghold located on a hill with the same name in Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria. Tsarevets is 206 metres (676 ft) above sea level.It served as the Second Bulgarian Empire’s primary fortress and strongest bulwark from 1185 to 1393, housing the royal and the patriarchal palaces, and is a popular tourist attraction.
The Holy Ascension Cathedral is watching on the highest point of Tsarevets. But on the inside is so different from any other church: it is so grim and with modern spooky paintings.
is the other fortress, recently restored. It is from the same times as Tsarevets, but smaller in size, with only a few artifacts remaining until today. A funicular was built to get you here quicker and easier.
or the Holy Mountain is the 3rd hill and one of my favorite places in Veliko Tarnovo. Ahhh, the view you get here over the Old Town is perfection! There is also the imposing Asen’s Monument, dedicated to one of their best rulers of the 2nd Bulgarian Kingdom.
Veliko Tarnovo has some of the best universities in Bulgaria, and is full of young people and students. When the evening falls, colorful lights rise from Sveta Gora, the bar-restaurant has all kind of drinks and cocktails, students gather and music gets you in a good mood. Don’t miss this place!
is the area of the town where the craftsmen were living during medieval times. We have this same word in Romanian, used mostly with pejorative meaning: a word that describes the poorest and most vile parts of a town. However it also means a neighborhood from the periphery.
In Veliko Tarnovo, the Mahala appeared to us as a quiet side of the town located at the foothills of Tsarevets. There are not a lot of things to do here but you have another perspective of the fortress, an old Wood Bridge over Yantra, and also the Holy Forty Martyrs Medieval church. Orthodox churches here look so different from ours, and this one it’s definitely worth visiting.
The New Town
has not the same charm and beauty, let’s just be fair now. The communist regime that ruled until the 90′, was certainly not known for exquisite architectural taste. But you do have some nice boulevards and many other options to dine. I also want to recommend you to go to a local market. The fruit market was the best! We stocked on tasty cherries and strawberries, sat on a bench in the park and had our own feast with fresh fruits.
Try the food
Veliko Tarnovo is very affordable. Accommodation and food, you find prices for every pocket. Restaurant Shtastliveca has excellent food and amazing view from the terrace. This is one of the more pricey options (20-25EUR for two).
However, on the other end of the budget, a very affordable restaurant with tasty traditional food is Mehana Tihiyat kut. You don’t have the same view, but you get delicious food in a cool ambient. It’s actually one of the oldest dining places in Veliko Tarnovo.
Try Tarator soap! My partner loved it!
The best time to Visit
In Veliko Tarnovo they say that every road leads to up high. There is a lot of climbing on the sinuous roads and in hot summer days it is very hard to deal with. We visited for the 1st of June holiday and it was already getting uncomfortably warm mid-day.
So Spring and Autumn are the best seasons for the visits.
If you’re interested to visit other places near Veliko Tarnovo, check my other articles also:
1st June 2017