15 Best Things to Do in Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria)

old town

Veliko Tarnovo is one of the most beautiful Bulgarian cities.

Although the area has been inhabited since ancient times, the settlement became one of the most prestigious and prosperous cultural, economic and political centers of the Middle Ages in the 12th century.

It served as the capital from the 12th to the 14th century.

Today Veliko Tarnovo is a captivating tourist center because of its old Revival architecture, cobbled streets, numerous churches, museums and galleries.

In the near countryside you can see some of the most beautiful villages in Bulgaria, medieval monasteries and the remains of ancient Roman settlements.

As Veliko Tarnovo has a temperate-continental climate with subtropical influence, summers are quite long and hot here.

That is why the best time to visit the town is in spring, from April to June, when you can enjoy pleasant weather and temperatures between 66 and 81°F (between 19 and 27°C).

1. Boris Denev State Art Gallery

boris denev state art gallery
Boris Denev State Art Gallery by Dan Lundberg/Flickr

Located on the hilly Boruna Peninsula, Boris Denev City Art Gallery has been housed in a beautiful historical building since the 1980s.

Situated in the very heart of the old Bulgarian capital, this place is one of the most important landmarks of Veliko Tarnovo.

It reveals a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding historical neighbourhoods.

In terms of the variety of valuable and quality works of art, the gallery is one of the most prestigious on the Balkan Peninsula.

2. Tsarevets Hill and Fortress

tsarevets hill and fortress
Tsarevets Hill and Fortress by Arvid Olson/Pixabay

Tsarevets is one of the hills of the old Bulgarian capital and bears the same name as the fortress located at the very top of the hill.

The place has been inhabited since the 5th millennium BC, but the fortress itself and the defensive walls around were built in the 12th century.

The place is a major tourist attraction, and its visitors are very impressed by the 8.2 to 11.5 ft (2.5 to 3.5 meters) thick stone protective walls.

3. Trapezitsa Hill and Fortress

trapezitsa hill and fortress
Trapezitsa Hill and Fortress by Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

Trapezitsa is one of the hills in the old capital city, where the second most important fortress in Veliko Tarnovo (also called Trapezitsa) rises.

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The fortress had served for two centuries before it was abandoned in the 14th century.

Especially impressive and interesting is the unusually large number of churches discovered during excavations in the area. According to archaeologists, their number so far is 17.

4. Church of St. Peter and Paul

church of st. peter and paul
Church of St. Peter and Paul by Klearchos Kapoutsis/Flickr

Built in the 13th century, the Church of St. Peter and Paul is located on the northern slope of Tsarevets Hill in Veliko Tarnovo.

It is famous for its frescoes and richly decorated interior, completed in several stages in the 13th, 15th and 16th centuries.

The interior of the church was completely restored in the 19th century, so it is has been preserved in a very good condition.

5. Asen Dynasty Monument

asen dynasty monument
Asen Dynasty Monument by Klearchos Kapoutsis/CC BY 2.0

The monument of the Asen dynasty, also known as the monument of “Asenevtsi” was built in 1985.

It is located on the top of a hill, right next to the Art Gallery and near the Yantra River.

Being one the major modern landmarks in Veliko Tarnovo, the monument was sculpted by prof. Krum Damianov and depicts the four tsars-brothers Asen, Peter, Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II.

6. Holy Forty Martyrs Church

holy forty martyrs church
Holy Forty Martyrs Church by Hannah Swithinbank/Flickr

Built in 1230, the Holy Forty Martyrs Church is considered the most beautiful and visited medieval Bulgarian church.

It is located on the slopes of Tsarevets Hill, at the foot of the fortress.

It was built by order of Ivan Assen II in honor of his victory in the Battle of Klokotnitsa.

The interior of the Orthodox church was covered by beautiful murals soon after its completion.

7. Stambolov Bridge

stambolov bridge
Stambolov Bridge by Mark Ahsmann/CC BY-SA 4.0

Completed in 1899 after about 7 years of construction, the Stambolov Bridge is an impressive infrastructure project for its time.

Spanning the canyon of the sneaking Yantra River, the height of the bridge is nearly 92 ft (28 meters)!

The bridge is famous among locals and guests of the city, as it offers one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the old capital.

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8. Church of St. Dimitar of Thessaloniki

church of st. dimitar of thessaloniki
Church of St. Dimitar of Thessaloniki by Klearchos Kapoutsis/Flickr

The Church of St. Dimitar of Thessaloniki is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Veliko Tarnovo.

Built in 1185, it is located at the foot of the famous Trapezitsa Hill, not far from the river bank of Yantra.

The building was finished in the Byzantine architectural style, and as a result of good maintenance, it is in excellent condition.

The church has been declared a cultural monument.

9. Old Town

The Old Town of Veliko Tarnovo is among the most saturated with traditional historical buildings on the Balkan Peninsula.

Most of the existing houses are in the Revival architectural style and were built mainly in the 19th century.

Typical features of this type of buildings is that the houses are whitewashed, and in the lower part you can see the solid stone masonry. Windows, doors and railings on terraces are all made of wood.

10. Gurko Street

gurko street
Gurko Street by Avisionn Photo/Flickr

Located in the heart of Veliko Tarnovo, Gurko Street is considered the most beautiful in the old capital.

The stone-paved street is famous for its wonderful Revival style buildings, many of which have been turned into traditional Bulgarian restaurants (called Mehana), guest houses or small and cozy boutique hotels.

The place is within easy reach of all the city’s sights.

11. Samovodska Charshia

samovodska charshia
Samovodska Charshia by Izvora/CC0

Founded in the 19th century, Samovodska Charshia (charshia means “bazaar”) is one of the most interesting shopping streets in the central part of the old capital city.

It is steep and stone-paved, and on both sides of the road you can see two- and three-storey buildings in traditional old Revival style.

The place was formed as a market area in the 19th century, when local merchants began to offer their agricultural production and handicrafts here.

12. Momina Krepost (Maiden’s Fortress)

momina krepost maiden's fortress
Momina Krepost (Maiden’s Fortress) by Powerfox/CC BY-SA 4.0

Amidst the dense vegetation on the Devingrad Hill, you can see the medieval remains of one of the districts of the old capital.

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What attracts the attention of archaeologists and tourists are the ruins of a church made of bricks and stones as well as parts of the 95 centimeter thick protective wall.

It is assumed that the ruins date from the 14th century, but are not very well preserved due to the steep terrain in the area.

13. Nikopolis ad Istrum

nikopolis ad istrum
Nikopolis ad Istrum by Vislupus/CC BY-SA 4.0

Located more than 11 miles (18 km) north of Veliko Tarnovo, Nikopolis ad Istrum is one of the important landmarks in the vicinity of the old capital.

Here you can see the ruins of an ancient Roman city from the 2nd century AD.

The city is relatively well preserved and you can clearly see the cobbled streets that intersect at right angles.

For protection, the village was surrounded by a defensive wall, and the available ancient aqueduct is a testament to the high quality of life of the locals.

14. Preobrazhensky Monastery (Transfiguration Monastery)

preobrazhensky monastery transfiguration monastery
Preobrazhensky Monastery (Transfiguration Monastery) by Vberger/Public domain

Located in the canyon of the Yantra River, the Preobrazhensky Monastery (translated as Transfiguration Monastery) is located more than 3 miles (5 km) north from Veliko Tarnovo.

Its construction began in the 13th century and was completed in the 14th century.

The complex is famous for its very picturesque location. The most interesting sights within its limitations are the main church built in the 19th century as well as the stone bell tower behind the church.

15. Arbanassi Village

the arbanassi monastery of st. nicholas
The Arbanassi Monastery of St. Nicholas by Piotr Krawiec/Flickr

Arbanassi is a medieval village that was established around the 14th century.

It is located on a plateau in the vicinity of Veliko Tarnovo, more than 3 miles (5 km) from the city center.

Apart from its 14th century church, the village is famous for its old Bulgarian architecture, with most of the houses being finished in a traditional Revival style.

Arbanassi attracts many tourists during the summer months. The village is an architectural reserve and a museum under the open sky.