Known as the historical and cultural capital of Bulgaria. Here’s my favourite 12 best things to do in Veliko Tarnovo.
1. Tsarevets Fortress
Tsarevets Fortress is one of the top attractions in Veliko Tarnovo. This much loved Bulgarian monument and symbol of the city has thousands of visitors every year.
Once the headquarters of military forces and later home of the Royal Palace, this large, partially restored stronghold is pretty impressive.
Walking through the grounds you will see the remains of the palace as well as churches, houses, ramparts and more.
It isn’t difficult to become immersed in the fascinating history of Tsarevets Fortress whilst visiting here.
One of the main attractions is the Patriarchal Church at the very top of the hill. Worth the climb for the interesting, if somewhat sombre, 1980s murals inside the church.
In addition, the views over the city of Veliko Tarnova and the winding river Yantra in the valley below are pretty spectacular. (Entry is approximately 10.00 Leva (£4.45) per adult.)
Obviously, visiting this amazing, historical fortress has to be one of the best things to do in Veliko Tarnova.
2. Explore The Old Town
Situated in the north eastern part of Veliko Tarnovo, the Asenov Quarter is the oldest neighbourhood in the city. First built in the 13th century, it was actually once called the New Town!
Nestled at the foot of the historical Tsarevets hill, overlooking the River Yantra and close to a pine forest, this neighbourhood is often forgotten by tourists.
However, this old medieval merchant area has, amongst other things, historical churches, four of which are national monuments, colourful houses and the beautiful Bishop’s Bridge.
If you’re looking for picturesque areas for some colourful photos, Gurko Street is one of the prettiest streets and undeniably perfect for some insta worthy shots!
Overall, the Old Town is incredibly calm and peaceful and the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a scenic stroll.
3. Multimedia Visitor Centre Tsarevgrad Tarnov
The Multimedia Visitor Centre is located near Tsarevets hill and features wax figures, sculptures and paintings of medieval characters as well as interactive screens.
You can see kings, peasants, clergy, craftsmen and soldiers in, what would have been, everyday situations during the times of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
Also look into the interiors of the homes of the various groups of society, to understand how each group would have differed.
This museum is great for a 30 minute visit, especially for children, with some interesting historical facts.
Entry is approximately 10.00 Leva (£4.45) per adult. Opening times 9am – 6pm.
4. Giant Chairs
Directly behind the monument dedicated to Todor Lefterov, you will find these giant chairs.
Now for once I have no idea about the history or story behind them, however saw so many people queueing to take their photo sitting on the chairs.
They give a unique view of the Tsarevets Fortress in the background and are hidden away down an alley which make them even more mysterious!
So grab a pic and keep on moving I guess. And if you find out the back story to these giant wooden seats please let me know!
5. Light Show At The Fortress
A visit to Tsarevets Fortress during the day is unquestionably one of the best things to do in Veliko Tarnova. However, you also don’t want to miss its magnificent, night-time light show.
Lasting about 40 minutes, the Sound and Light Display uses lasers, multicoloured lights, chiming bells as well as choral music. All used to portray some of the most significant moments of Bulgarian history.
With the whole of the fortress skyline bathed in multicoloured lights and dramatic music ringing out, this is undoubtedly an impressive spectacle.
Shows are held throughout the year and usually start between 6.00pm and 9.30pm, depending on the time of year.
Free shows can be watched from in front of the main gate of the fortress. Paid shows are viewed from a special panoramic viewing terrace.
6. Park Sveta Gora
Located on one of the hills just out of the city centre, Park Sveta Gora is a large public park. After a grand renovation, this somewhat unique park officially opened in September 2016.
It was designed to promote the natural appearance of the environment. Mixing colours, shapes, textures and materials and creating a vast choice of recreational facilities for visitors of all ages.
Covering many different areas and zones that are connected by walkways, this park offers an amazing array of activities.
There are more than 6km of walking and cycling trails, playgrounds, a pet-park, outdoors fitness equipment, panoramic terrace, skateboard platform and more.
Popular with locals and visitors, this park is a great place for people of all ages to spend some fun time together, especially families.
It’s also a lovely area to stroll through and enjoy all the scenic views. Definitely one for the list of best things to do in Veliko Tarnovo.
7. Monument To The Assen Dynasty
Located in the centre of Veliko Tarnovo, Assen’s monument is pretty easy to spot, being visible from just about everywhere in the city!
Built in 1985, the monument to the Assen Dynasty is dedicated to the kings Assen, Peter, Kaloyan and Ivan Assen II.
The towering obelisk, flanked by the four kings on horseback, was built for the 800th anniversary of Assen and Peter’s uprising. This uprising led to the restoration of the Bulgarian State after two centuries under Byzantium rule.
The sword, around which the four Assens are situated, symbolizes the power and the rise of medieval Bulgaria.
This impressive landmark, representing an important part of Bulgarian history, is certainly a must-see of things to do in Veliko Tarnovo.
8. Hotnitsa Waterfall
Located approximately 20km from Veliko Tarnovo, Hotnitsa Waterfall is definitely worth a drive out. It’s an easy waterfall to get to and there is parking just a few metres away.
Once parked, you walk over a small wooden bridge into the adjacent meadow and you will immediately have great views of the beautiful Hotnitsa waterfall.
Named after the nearby village of Hotnitsa and fed by the river Bohot, the waterfall cascades 30m down into a beautiful large pool.
In addition, benches and covered areas have been conveniently placed in the meadow. Making this the perfect spot for a picnic and one for the list of things to do in Veliko Tarnovo, especially for all waterfall lovers.
Also, if you fancy a hike, there is a that trail you can follow up over the waterfall and down the other side.
9. Dryanovo Monastery
This active Bulgarian Orthodox Monastery dates back to the 13th century and is located about 30km from Veliko Tarnovo.
Following several locations over the years, Dryanovo Monastery was finally rebuilt in this picturesque Andaka river valley within Bulgarka Nature Park. (6km form the village of Dryanovo.)
Today it houses a collection of artefacts relating to its history and some valuable icons by famous painters. As well as a renowned library.
Dryanovo Monastery is considered one of the top 10 shrines of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. As well as being a national historical monument and a popular tourist attraction.
This beautiful monastery exudes history and has to be on the list of things to do in Veliko Tarnovo.
Open from 8am to 8pm (April-October) and from 8am to 4.30pm (November-March). Entry is free.
10. Bozhentsi Village
The well known tourist destination of Bozhentsi village lies in the midst of the Balkan Mountains, approximately 45km from Veliko Tarnovo.
It was established after Veliko Tarnovo was invaded by Ottoman Turks in the 16th century. As a result of the invasion, many residents fled from the city to settle in remote parts of the mountains.
The village is famous for its well preserved Bulgarian National Revival architecture and history. In fact, in 1964, it was proclaimed an architectural and historical reserve and is part of UNESCO’s cultural monuments.
It feels like time has really stood still in this pretty village. With more that 100 magnificent two-and three-story houses and public buildings having been preserved from the time of the Bulgarian Revival.
Furthermore, several of the houses in Bozhentsi have been sympathetically transformed into museums. Offering visitors the opportunity to learn about the fascinating history of the village.
Visiting this picturesque village has to be one of the best things to do in Veliko Tarnovo. Especially if you love history and old architecture.
11. Shipka Monument
Located just over an hours drive from Veliko Tarnovo, the Shipka Monument (also known as the Monument of Freedom) is probably the most famous monument in Bulgaria.
Sitting in heart of the Shipka National Park-Museum, this huge monument dominates the Shipka Pass.
Opened in 1934, it commemorates a series of battles in the 1900s that led to the liberation of Bulgaria. This impressive monument was built using donations from people all across Bulgaria.
The Shipka monument can be reached by road or via a long flight of steps (nearly 900). In addition, there’s a few more steps once inside the monument to reach the top of the tower.
It is free to visit the grounds of the monument. However there is a small fee to enter the building and see the museum. This also allows you to climb to the very top of the tower, from where you will have spectacular 360° views.
Visiting this hugely important and historical Bulgarian monument has to be a must of things to do in Veliko Tarnovo.
12. Eat Bulgarian Food
One of my favourite things to do when travelling is to try the local food and Bulgaria has some delicious specialities including:
A traditional Bulgarian dish. The classic recipe being layers of baked filo pastry filled with a mixture of whisked eggs, natural yogurt and white cheeses.
As well as the classic recipe, this dish can also be made with a variety of different fillings, either sweet or savoury. Whatever your choice this delicious, light pastry dish will melt in your mouth.
A popular Bulgarian spread. Traditionally made from red peppers and tomatoes, with courgettes sometimes added.
This tasty relish can be spread on bread/crackers or eaten alongside meat dishes and is a staple of Bulgarian households.
If you are looking to eat out, the Green Restaurant, located close to the entrance of Tsarevets Fortress, is a great choice for dinner.
I found this cosy restaurant had a warm and welcoming ambience. Offering a variety of tasty local food, along with some great views of Tsarevets and Trapezitsa.
Where To Stay In Veliko Tarnovo
Featuring 5-star accommodation, Bridges Residence is located in Veliko Tŭrnovo, 0.7 miles from Tsarevets Fortress and 0.8 miles from Forty Martyrs Church.
This 5-star hotel offers a shared lounge, a concierge service and free WiFi. The property is allergy-free and is located 350 yards from Archaeological Museum Veliko Turnovo.
At the hotel the rooms have air conditioning, a desk, a terrace with a city view, a private bathroom, a flat-screen TV, bed linen and towels. All rooms will provide guests with a wardrobe and a coffee machine.
The daily breakfast offers buffet, continental or vegetarian options.
The emblematic Tsarevets Design and Spa is a small boutique hotel, located only 10 yards from the remarkable fortress Tsarevets.
From this place once the kings of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom enjoyed the beauty and grandeur of their achievements.
The hotel building is a restored and reconstructed old town house, built in 1891, which has undergone many famous historical events. Limited free private parking spaces are available.
The rooms include a flat-screen TV with cable channels, free WiFi and a minibar, available upon surcharge. The spacious, bright bathrooms have invigorating showers.
Architects house in Veliko Tŭrnovo provides adults-only accommodation with a terrace, a restaurant and a bar.
Located around 0.7 miles from Tsarevets Fortress, the property is non-smoking and is just 350 yards from Archaeological Museum Veliko Turnovo.
The hostel features some units that have mountain views, and the rooms come with a private bathroom with a shower. At Architects house rooms come with bed linen and towels.
For more places to stay in Veliko Tarnovo, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.