VELIKO TARNOVO

 

Tsar Asen I square veliko tarnovo know bulgaria tsarevets fortress

 

Just north of the Balkan mountain range, at equal distance of Sofia and Varna (220 km or 2h35 minutes by car), you will find Veliko Tarnovo. This gorgeous town has a lot to thank to the river Yantra, which nearly completely surrounds the old town and to the foothills of the Balkan mountain range. Serving as a natural defense towards invaders, they were probably the reason for the founders to settle on Trapezitsa Hill in 3000 B.C. Yet the city gained true importance as the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, lasting from its liberation from the Byzantine Empire in the 12th century to the Ottoman occupation at the end of the 14th century.

 

Even today, however, the river and rocky ground combine to form an impressive landscape of hilltops and valleys. Clearly marked by the old city walls and the Patriarchal Church on top is Tzarevets, the hill on which the old medieval city center was build. It is connected through a small corridor of land, surrounded by the Yantra, to a younger part of town to the west, the Varusha South neighbourhood. Varusha South serves as an excellent starting point of the exploration of the city. In case you are hungry or thirsty after your journey to Veliko Tarnovo, you can find ample bars or restaurants to enjoy a beer or good food, before setting off to discover Veliko Tarnovo.

 

All ready and prepared for the tour? Then let’s see what you should certainly not miss out on!

 

  • Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno cathedral – Built from 1842 to 1844 on the highest point of Varusha South, between the Nikola Pikolo street and the Ivan Vazov street, you can find the Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno cathedral. Especially from the outside, it is quite the impressive building, with its many domes and arches. The square on which it is built also offers a great view on the Trapezitsa Hill to the north, at the other side of the river. The cathedral is open for visitors during daytime.

Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno cathedral veliko tarnovo

 

 

The museum of The Bulgarian Revival and the Constituent Assembly veliko tarnovo

  • The museum of The Bulgarian Revival and the Constituent Assembly – From the Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno cathedral you go to the Ivan Vazov street and follow it upwards for about 30 meters and on your left side you will see the museum. Inside you will find and exposition of Veliko Tarnovo during the which started after the Ottoman invasion, from the 15
    th
    century until the 19th In the very same building, in the hall on the 3rd floor, the first Bulgarian constitution was ratified and declared after expelling the Ottomans.
    The entrance fee is 6 BGN or converted €3 for adults and 2 BGN or €1 for students.
    Phone contact: +359 62 682 511
    April-October: 9h00-18h00 (on Mondays the museum opens at 12h00)
    November-March: 9h00-17h30 (on Mondays the museum opens at 12h00)

 

 

 

  • Archaeological  Museum – If you are interested in more of the history of Veliko Tarnovo, this would be the right address. It is situated right next to the museum of The Bulgarian Revival and the Constituent Assembly on 2, Ivanka Boteva street. It offers archeological findings and art from the region of Veliko Tarnovo from the Ancient times all the way through the Middle Ages. Even though not all explanatory texts are translated to English, you can easily spend an hour taking in information and enjoying the artworks.
    The entrance fee is 6 BGN or €3 for adults and 2 BGN or €1 for students.
    Phone contact: +359 62 682 511
    April-October: 9h00-18h00 (on Mondays the museum opens at 12h00)
    November-March: 9h00-17h30 (on Mondays the museum opens at 12h00)

know bulgaria luxcorvus  Archaeological Museum veliko tarnovo

 

  • After having familiarized yourself with the history of the city, you might be curious about the old town built on Tzarevets. If you want to get there fast from the Archeological Museum, then we suggest you to retrace your steps back to the Ivan Vazov street and keep following it until you arrive at the Tsar Asen I square. This square will offer you an excellent view on Tzarevets, the surrounding hills of Veliko Tarnovo and marks the start of the road into the old town. You can also take the long way to the Tsar Asen I square and explore the small cobblestone streets of Varusha South. You might well stumble upon hidden places of peace or stunning views on the river valley.

Tsar Asen I square veliko tarnovo know bulgaria tsarevets fortress

Tsar Asen I square veliko tarnovo know bulgaria tsarevets fortress

 

  • Tzarevets – Often referred to as the Veliko Tarnovo fortress, the Tzarenvets was actually a large part of the city. But the mistake is easy to make, given the impressive 12th century city walls and the narrow, well-fortified causeway leading up to the city gates.
    Once inside the walls, you will find yourself in the Middle Ages. Clad in medieval outfits, the hosts will make the illusion complete. You can find craftsmen performing their professions, a pillory you can use on yourself if you have been misbehaving and even a ballista.
    You can wonder inside the greener area of the city walls to its northernmost point, where you will find the foundations of a 16th century monastery. In the period before it was built, however, the location looking over the Yantra had a whole different function: traitors were thrown off the rock and into the river. All of the sudden that pillory doesn’t seem that bad!
    The entrance fee is 6 BGN or €3 for adults and 2 BGN or €1 for students.
    Phone contact: +359 62 682 511
    April-October: 8h00-19h00 (on Mondays the museum opens at 12h00)
    November-March: 9h00-17h00 (on Mondays the museum opens at 12h00
    A guided tour in English will cost 30 BGN or €15

 

Tsar Asen I square veliko tarnovo know bulgaria tsarevets fortress

 

  • Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God – The three-naved church on top of Tzarevets carries the name Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God. It was reconstructed in 1981 and inside you can find impressive mural paintings depicting the history of the Second Bulgarian Empire. If you want to enjoy an impressive panoramic view of the younger parts of town, you should certainly ascend the bell tower.
    The entrance fee to the church is 2 BGN or €1 (children under 7 years old are free)
    The entrance fee to the bell tower is 5 BGN or €2.5

patriarchal cathedral of the holy ascension of god veliko tarnovo

 

  • Sound and Light – After wandering around within the boundaries of the medieval city, you will need just the grand finale: the sound and light show of Veliko Tarnovo. From the Tsar Asen I square you will have a very good view on this spectacular display, which transforms the entire old town into a color show accompanied by the sound of music and church bells. The show is an artistic recount of the turbulent Bulgarian history, however, if you do not get the storyline there is no need to worry, just sit back and enjoy the beauty of it!
    If you want, you can pay 20 BGN or €10 for tickets to the panoramic terrace, in order to get an even better view, the view from the square however is free. Please bear in mind that this show is not organized every day, so please check out the scheduled performances so you will not have to miss out on this!
    Phone contact: +359 885 080 865

 

The list provided here does not contain all you can see and do in Veliko Tarnovo. There are monuments, churches and museums you can find and more views to be enjoyed from the hills surrounding the old town. Feel free to explore! However, we believe that if you follow our recommendations, you will get a very good sense of why Veliko Tarnovo attracts tourists from all over the world and why it was the most important city in Bulgaria for over 200 years.

 

By Lennert Habils