Tsarevets Fortress in Bulgaria is a tourist hot spot, attracting thousands of visitors every year. Here’s all the info for visiting.
How To Get To Tsarevets Fortress In Bulgaria
This medieval stronghold is located high on a hill on the edge of the city of Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria.
Sitting in a bend of the Yantra River, Tsarevets Fortress is easy to get to by car. It is just off route 5 and 514, through Velkio Tarnovo, with parking available at the foot of the hill.
If you are based in Veliko Tarnovo, it’s about 3km from the city centre and to walk would take about 40 minutes.
For those short on time, or that prefer everything to be organised for them, there are some awesome tours on Get Your Guide available to book in advance.
If you are based in Sofia and want to visit Tsarevets Fortress, the From Sofia: Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanasi Tour with Transfer would be a good option.
Tsarevets Fortress Entrance Fee
Adult 10.00 Leva (£4.45)
Family 15.00 Leva (£6.68)
Tsarevets Fortress Opening Times
April – October : 8am – 8pm
November – March : 9am – 4pm
Best Time To Visit Tsarevets Fortress + Tips
It’s always nice to visit these outdoor attractions in the fine weather. So the between the months of April and October would be the better time of year.
As one of Bulgaria’s most popular tourist attractions, it can get quite busy, especially during the school holidays. Therefore, work around these if you prefer it a little quieter or visit early/late in the day.
Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes, as visiting the fortress involves walking over some hilly, rough terrain and cobbled pathways.
The evening light show at Tsarevets Fortress is definitely worth going to see if possible.
What To Pack
Tsarevets Fortress History
Tsarevets Fortress sits at the top of Tsarevets hill and evidence of human presence here dates back to the Bronze Age.
But, it was the Byzantines that built the first fortress of any significance here between the 5th and 7th centuries AD.
A fortress was subsequently rebuilt by the Slavs and Bulgars between the 8th and 10th centuries and then again by the Byzantines in the 12th century.
By the late 12th century, Byzantine rule had been overthrown by Bulgarian forces. Following which Tsarevets Fortress was built on the site of the earlier Byzantine Fortress.
For the next two centuries, Tsarevets Fortress housed royal palaces and the administration of the new Assen Dynasty.
However, in 1393, the fortress was attacked by Ottoman forces who eventually conquered and burnt it down. Thus marking the fall of the Bulgarian Empire.
The Fortress and surrounding ramparts has been continuously in restoration since the 1960s.
What To Expect At Tsarevets Fortress In Bulgaria
Once the headquarters of military forces and later home of the Royal Palace, this large, partially restored Fortress is pretty impressive.
A much loved Bulgarian monument and symbol of the city of Veliko Tarnovo, it has thousands of visitors every year.
Walking through the grounds you will see the remains of the palace as well as 23 churches, over 400 houses, 3 monasteries, an inn, ramparts and more.
To date, the Patriarchal church, the Baldwin Tower and the two gates have been completely restored.
In fact, the Patriarchal Church, at the very top of the hill, is one of the main attractions. It’s worth the climb up to see the interesting, if somewhat sombre, 1980s murals inside the church!
It isn’t difficult to become immersed in the fascinating history of Tsarevets Fortress whilst visiting here.
In addition, the views over the city of Veliko Tarnova and the winding river Yantra, in the valley below, are pretty spectacular.
The Baldwin Tower
Legend has it that Baldwin, the first emperor of the Latin Empire, when defeated by Bulgarian King Kaloyan was kept as a prisoner in one of the fortress towers.
When the queen apparently fell in love with Baldwin, the king ordered his execution. Following which, it is said that the king had a wine goblet made from Baldwin’s skull.
Although, there is actually no evidence to support this gruesome legend, one of the towers is called the Baldwin Tower!
Opposite the Baldwin Tower, on the other side of the hill, you will find the Execution Rock. This is where any traitors were said to have thrown from, down into the Yantra River below.
The Light Show
A visit to Tsarevets Fortress during the day is great. However, don’t miss the magnificent, night-time light show if you can help it.
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.
Where To Stay In Veliko Tarnovo
Luxury – Bridges Residence
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.
Mid-Budget – Tsarevets Design and Spa
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.
Budget – Architects House
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.