Patriarchal Cathedral St. Ascension, Tsarvets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

A Guide to Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

A Guide to Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria was originally published in 2024

Situated in the heart of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo lies almost precisely halfway between Sofia and the famed Black Sea coastal cities of Varna and Burgas. Flanked by the Yantra River, the city of Veliko Tarnovo rests upon three picturesque hills – Tsarevets, Trapezitsa, and Momina Krepost.

Within the Old Town, sits Veliko Tarnovo’s cultural heritage sites and history. Here, amidst numerous churches, museums, and cultural landmarks, the city’s rich past unfolds.

Of course, the main attraction of Veliko Tarnovo is the hilltop Tsarevets Fortress. Perched atop its eponymous hill, just a stone’s throw from the Old Town, this fortress once guarded the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. 

In this quick guide, you will find all the info you need to know to plan the perfect visit to Veliko Tarnovo

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Where to Stay in Veliko Tarnovo

There are a scattering of accommodation options in Veliko Tarnovo.

I ended up at Hostel Mostel, strictly because I wanted somewhere close to Tsarevets Fortress to be able to catch sunrise there and I was looking for something cheap and this one ticked all the boxes for me.

You can check out other accommodations in Veliko Tarnovo on

How to Get to Veliko Tarnovo

By Bus

Bus is the quickest public transport option for reaching Veliko Tarnovo with the most reliable companies being Union-Ivkoni and Biomet in my experience. 

The bus journey from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo takes roughly three hours and fares are around 20-25 Lev one-way. These buses can sell out quickly so I would recommend purchasing your tickets from or trying to buy them directly at the bus station, ideally the day before.

I had actually come to Veliko Tarnovo by bus from the gorgeous peninsula of Nessebar on the Black Sea coast, which required going to Varna first and then on to Veliko Tarnovo.

By Train

You can take the train from Sofia to reach Veliko Tarnovo. Personally, I enjoyed taking trains in Bulgaria. 

To secure your tickets, either purchase them at the train station (ideally in advance) or purchase them from the BDZ website (Bulgarian Railways). The trip from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo will take between 4.5 and 6 hours depending on how long of a stop you will have in Gorna Orjahovica. Ticket prices range from 15.50 Lev to 26.50 Lev, depending on fare class.

How to Get Around in Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo is small enough that you can easily get around on foot. However, if you’re traveling with heavier luggage or have booked accommodation far from the bus or train station you may want to grab a taxi or hop on the bus. 

Public buses cost 1 Lev, which can be paid on board. A taxi starts at 2 Lev and costs 1.60 Lev per kilometer. Finally, you can rent bicycles for about 12-15 Lev per day.

Best Time to Visit Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo is a year-round destination with each season providing a different unique set of colors. That said, the optimal time to visit is in the summer with pleasant temperatures.

I visited in late October, so morning was a bit chilly capturing the sunrise over Tsarevets Fortress but the colors were quite beautiful and the crowds almost none.

Things to do in Veliko Tarnovo

Tsarvets Fortress

Patriarchal Cathedral St. Ascension, Tsarvets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Tsarevets Fortress stands as a symbol of Veliko Tarnovo, towering over the city. 

Originally the fortress served as a stronghold during the First Bulgarian Empire and by 1185, Veliko Tarnovo became the capital with Tsarevets Fortress functioning as the center of politics and home of the aristocracy in the Second Bulgarian Empire.

Tsarevets Fortress features several important components that you should plan to visit. Entry to Tsarevets Fortress starts at 10 Lev. 

Baldwin Tower

The Baldwin Tower, situated within the confines of Tsarevets Fortress, derives its name from the Latin emperor Baldwin of Flanders. Baldwin was captured during the Battle of Edrine in 1205 by Tsar Kaloyan. Legend has it that Baldwin was imprisoned within this tower and met his demise there.

Patriarchal Cathedral St. Ascension

The Patriarchal Cathedral St. Ascension is the iconic church perched atop the Hill of Tsarevets, the symbol of Veliko Tarnovo.

The cathedral suffered destruction during the siege of the fortress in the summer of 1393 by Sultan Bayezid І’s troops. However, its restoration commenced in 1981, culminating in completion in honor of the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state’s establishment.

For 2 additional Lev to the entrance ticket to the Tsarevets Fortress you can take the elevator to the top for a panoramic vista from the tower.

Temple of Mother Bulgaria

Another renowned monument in Veliko Tarnovo is the Mother Bulgaria, situated in the center. This monument pays tribute to the soldiers who perished in five significant wars: the Russian-Ottoman War of 1877–1878, the Serbian-Bulgarian War of 1885, the 1912–1913 Balkan War, and WWI.


Trapezitsa, nestled among Veliko Tarnovo’s trio of hills alongside Tsarevets and Sveta Gora, boasts an ancient settlement dating back to 4200-4000 BC.

Excavations of Trapezitsa commenced in 1879 and persist to the present day, and so far have revealed over 20 churches strewn across the hill’s expanse.

Access to Trapezitsa is by foot or via a funicular departing from the parking lot at Trapezitsa Railway Station. Be aware that the funicular operates only from May to October and is closed on Mondays.

Asenevtsi Monument

The Asenevtsi Monument was erected in 1985 and has since become another symbol of Veliko Tarnovo.

Dedicated to the Kings Asen, Peter, Kaloyan, and Ivan Asen II, the monument features four kings mounted on horses encircling a colossal sword. This powerful imagery symbolizes the strength and ascent of medieval Bulgaria.

Veliko Tarnovo Archeological Museum

Immerse yourself in the history of Bulgaria’s old capital at the Archaeological Museum. Within its halls, you’ll encounter ceramics, weapons, jewelry, coins, and an array of artifacts unearthed from local excavations.

Sveta Gora Park

Sveta Gora sits atop the third hill in Veliko Tarnovo and serves as a sprawling park ideal for leisurely strolls and sporting activities.

Samovodska Charshia 

Samovodska Charshia market comprises two streets lined with shops, offering a variety of goods crafted by local artisans. 

Established in the 19th century, the Alley of Crafts was created to preserve traditional folk crafts and heritage.

Both streets feature restored houses dating back to the revival period of the second half of the 19th century. 

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Have Any Questions About Visiting Veliko Tarnovo?

Ask in the comments sections below. 

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