Veliko Tarnovo Highlights: Sightseeing and Attractions


Veliko Tarnovo is a small town in the mountains. We spent two nights here sightseeing. Here are some of the sights we visited during our walks in Veliko Tarnovo.

About Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo is a town in north-eastern Bulgaria and the capital of the Veliko Tarnovo Region. The city stretches along the Yantra River and has a population of approximately 70,000 (2021).

Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria, with traces of human settlement dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C. In the 12th-14th centuries it was the capital of the Bulgarian Empire. Its historical monuments are an important tourist resource.

Tsarevets Fortress

Tsarevets Fortress

The fortress is situated on Tsarevets Hill, 206 m above sea level. There are traces of human settlement in this area since the 2nd millennium BC. The construction of the fortress began in the 12th century and it played an important role as a bulwark of the Second Bulgarian Empire until it was completely conquered by the Ottomans in 1393.

The fortress has three entrances – north, south and west – with the main gate facing west. Tourists also enter from here. Therefore, the best time to take photos from the main gate is in the afternoon.

The fortress is spacious inside

Within the fortress walls there is a complex containing several buildings, including a royal palace, an execution site, a church and battle towers, the foundations of which can be seen today.

City walls and towers

The Tsarevets fortress was burnt down by the Ottomans, but restoration began in 1930. It is now a well maintained tourist attraction and easy to walk around. An audio commentary in Bulgarian and English is automatically played as you approach the main buildings, although more explanatory notes in English would be appreciated. Entrance to Tsarevets Fortress costs 10 Lev per person. Toilets inside are chargeable and cost 1 lev per person.

Ascension Cathedral of the Lord (Ascension Cathedral)

Ascension Cathedral

The cathedral is situated at the top of a hill and was rebuilt in 1985. The church interior is decorated with murals of contemporary art style.

Inside Ascension Cathedral

There also appears to be a lift to the viewing platform at the rear of the church, but it was closed when we visited. There is an additional charge for this service.

Baldwin’s Tower

Baldwin’s Tower

Rebuilt in 1930. It was built as a modern interpretation of a medieval tower. A staircase leads up to the top, where you can see the grandeur of the fortress walls.

Monument of Mother Bulgaria

Monument of Mother Bulgaria

Built to commemorate the Bulgarian victims of the Russo-Turkish War, the Serbian-Bulgarian War, the Balkan Wars and the First World War.

There is a small garden around the Monument of Mother Bulgaria. It is also located near the City Council and has become a symbolic statue of the city.

Nativity of Mary Cathedral Church

Nativity of Mary Cathedral

One of the oldest cathedrals in the city. It was built in 1844 on the site of an old church that originally stood here. It is characterised by its unique curved and decorated arches.

Holy Forty Martyrs Church

Holy Forty Martyrs Church

An Eastern Orthodox church built in 1230. It is located downhill next to the main entrance to Tsarevets Fortress. Admission is 6 levs per person.

Saint George church

Saint George church

A small Eastern Orthodox church built in 1230. Inside the simple building with grape vines crawling up the walls, old frescoes can still be seen.

Interior of Saint George church

Normally you have to be accompanied by a guide to enter the church, but when we visited, another traveller happened to be entering with a guide and we were luckily able to get inside.

Bishop’s Bridge

Bishop’s Bridge

This bridge, which looks from a distance like a wooden bridge, is one of the oldest bridges in the city. It is not entirely wooden, as the foundations are made of stone. It was completed in 1774 with funds from the Bishop of Tarnovo. It is also the bridge connecting the Tsarevets and Trapezitsa fortresses and was once the only road to the village of Arbanasi.

Church of Saint Demetrius of Salonica

Church of Saint Demetrius of Salonica

Beautiful church built in a design of alternating stone and brick. It has recently been restored. It is not possible to enter this church without a guide. Unfortunately, this time we could only take photos from outside.

Trapezitsa Fortress

Trapezitsa Fortress

A medieval fortress built on Trapezitsa Hill, opposite Tsarevets Fortress.

Traces of a settlement dating back to the 4th millennium BC (the Golden Age) have been found in the area, and Thracian settlement was recognised from the Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age. The fortress is thought to have been completed as a fortress in the 13th-14th centuries, during the Second Bulgarian Empire. During the period when Tarnovo was the Bulgarian capital, it was the second most important fortress after Tsarevets.

Hiking routes to Arbanasi

The entrance of hiking route to Arbanasi

Arbanasi is a small village north-east of Veliko Tarnovo. It too is dotted with historical buildings.

Accommodation is available in the village, but there is also a hiking route from the road north of Veliko Tarnovo to Arbanasi, which can be visited as a day trip. The hiking route is shown in more detail on We gave up walking up to the village of Arbanasi on one of these trails, as it was somewhat steep.

Accommodation in Veliko Tarnovo

Family Hotel Varusha

In Veliko Tarnovo, we stayed at the Family Hotel Varusha. It is a homely, family-run guesthouse.

Rooms at Family Hotel Varusha

WiFi is supposed to be available, but the router on the second floor where we happened to be staying was broken and the internet connection was shaky, and the water supply stopped while I was taking a shower. Apart from that, it was a lovely place to stay.

Meals in Veliko Tarnovo

Mehana Tihiyat kut

In Veliko Tarnovo, we had dinner at Mehana Tihiyat kut. The food was simple, but reasonably priced for the city’s tourist area.

Braised chicken for 11 lev per person

Draft beer 500 ml for less than 4 lev was cold. The staff spoke good English.