Veliko Tarnovo was once the capital of the Bulgarian Empire. Things to do in Veliko Tarnovo include;
- Tsarevets Fortress
- Trapezitsa Fortress and Light Show
- Old Town Veliko Tarnovo
- Asenevtsi Monument
- Boliarka Brewery
- Monument of Mother Bulgaria
- Abandoned Buildings – Dark Tourism
- Etar Veliko Tarnovo Stadium
- Nicopolis ad Istrum – Roman City
Hotels in Veliko Tarnovo are excellent value, I recommend you choose one in old town facing the river.
The Second Bulgarian Empire lasted for 2 centuries and Tsarevets was the capital. Today of course, Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and the purpose of the fortress is a tourist site. The fortress is in excellent condition, as well as seeing the ruins, there are information boards explaining exactly how it looked and functioned back in the day. An interesting part of the fortress is Execution Rock, as you have probably guessed, this is where criminals were executed. Finally, the views of the city and surroundings are majestic from Tsarevets Fortress.
Historically, Baldwin’s Tower was the southern entrance to Tsarevets Fortress. Today, it offers a wonderful viewpoint along the walls as well as of the Patriarchal Cathedral St Ascension. It’s worth walking out to Baldwin’s Tower so you can get a true feeling of how big the fortress is.
Trapezitsa Fortress and Light Show
Trapezitsa is the adjacent hill to Tsarvarets and it too houses a fortress. The Trapezitsa Fortress however is much smaller than its neighbor and is currently being restored. A good reason to visit Trapezitsa Fortress is to do a little exercise walking up as well as enjoy the views. In addition, there are frequent light shows on the adjacent Tsarevets Fortress and Trapezitsa is the best place to see them from.
Holy Forty Martyrs Church
In between the hills of Trapezitsa and Tsarvarets is the Holy Forty Martyrs Church. This church is dedicated to the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and was built in the 13th century. There are also several important artefacts from the Second Bulgarian Empire located inside. Another interesting fact about this church is that Saint Seva was originally buried here. He now lies in the impressive Saint Seva Temple in Belgrade, Serbia.
Old Town Veliko Tarnovo
The old town of Veliko Tarnovo is fascinating as it’s located on a cliff edge. In fact, the cliff edge circles the Asenevtsi monument and an Instagram worthy U-shaped river bend. If you’re staying overnight, definitely book a hotel with a view over the majestic U-shaped river bend view. As you walk through the streets of old town, as well as the picturesque houses, there are several bars, restaurants, cafes, shops and hotels.
You could say that the Asenevtsi monument and U-shaped bend in the Yantra river are the centerpieces of Veliko Tarnovo. As a matter of fact this separates the old town from the new town. There is a negative to this, you must walk all around the river to get from one part of the city to another! What is the Asenevtsi monument? It was built on the 800th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria from the Byzantine Empire. As a matter of fact the huge sword represents the power of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice and Espresso
As you walk through the streets of Veliko Tarnovo you’ll see people with a combination of drinks. The freshly squeezed orange juice and espresso combination works very well. If you fancy a cold beer, you must try the local Boliarka beer.
Not many people know that you can take a brewery tour in Veliko Tarnovo. In actual fact, you must organise the tour a couple of days in advance. If you arrive without prior warning, it’s highly unlikely you can take a brewery tour. To organise a tour, contact the brewery directly. Alternatively, you could ask in you hotel, maybe they’ll call and arrange it for you. I forgot to mention, the beer of Veliko Tarnovo is Boyarka, try it in a local bar!
Monument of Mother Bulgaria
The Monument to Mother Bulgaria is to respect those fallen to war. Wars which Bulgaria has lost soldiers in are the Russian Turkish, the Serb Bulgarian, the Balkan as well as the First and Second World Wars. The monument depicts Mother Bulgaria kneeling to respect those who lost their lives. People tend to sit down and chill out in this small plaza.
Abandoned Buildings – Dark Tourism
As you walk around Veliko Tarnovo, you’ll see several abandoned buildings. I know nowadays, vloggers love making YouTube videos in abandoned buildings. Let me know if you want to know where this one is located (above). Additionally, visiting abandoned buildings is a form of dark tourism. Other abandoned buildings you can visit are the abandoned stadium of Plovdiv, Mostar Sniper Tower and Chernobyl, Ukraine.
Etar Veliko Tarnovo – Stadium Ivaylo
Etar Veliko Tarnovo are a football team which play in the Bulgarian First League. They are not the best team in Bulgaria nor do they have a successful history. Nonetheless it’s worth visiting the Ivaylo stadium. If there’s no match on, it’s free to walk around. If there is a match on, watching a Bulgarian First League match is always an entertaining experience. Read about my experience at the Etar Veliko Tarnovo stadium on my travel blog.
Nicopolis ad Istrum
Nicopolis ad Istrum is a Roman city from the second century. I could compare walking around Nicopolis to walking around a miniature Pompeii. There’s even an interesting Odeon as well as a Roman road with underground waterway. When I visited, I had the whole Roman city to myself, something I couldn’t say about Pompeii! An interesting fact is that this city flourished under the rule of Emperor Diocletian. If you ever visit Split Croatia, you will see the impressive Diocletian’s Palace.
How to visit Nicopolis from Veliko Tarnovo
Nicopolis is located around 15 km from Veliko Tarnovo. For this reason you must have your own transport or hire a taxi. The good news is that taxis are relatively cheap. I paid €15 for the taxi to take me, wait and take me back to Veliko Tarnovo. You can organise a taxi through your hotel and the taxi will pick you up from there.
How to get from Veliko Tarnovo to Varna
There are regular buses from Veliko Tarnovo to Varna. They leave approximately every 2 hours from the central bus station. The journey takes around 3 hours on a luxury bus. Enjoy your trip to Varna and welcome to the Black Sea.