o you want to follow the footsteps of Bulgarian kings? If the answer is yes, then we strongly recommend you to find time to visit Veliko Turnovo and its surroundings where your taste of history, arts, culture, fine food and wine will be satisfied to an utmost level.
A town of breathtaking hills and picturesque sights with 7000 years of history behind, this ancient and yet modern city situated in the centre of Bulgaria, halfway between Sofia and Varna, has it all. In your own step and mostly by foot you are invited to unveil hundreds of years of history of bravery, dignity and worship. Thracians and later Romans have ruled over that area in ancient times. In Medieval Ages Tsarevgrad Turnov was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (12th – 14th century) and as such it flourished as a cultural and intellectual centre until it fell under the Ottoman Turks in 1393. After the liberation in 1878 Veliko Turnovo has laid the foundations of the Third Bulgarian State by hosting the First Constitutional Assembly that adopted the Turnovo Constitution in 1879 – one of the most democratic European constitutions of its time, and by establishing the First Grant National Assembly which elected Prince Alexander I of Batenberg (1857 – 1893) for Bulgarian ruler. Today the town is a modern administrative centre and a popular cultural and tourist destination.
There is so much to see and explore in and around Veliko Turnovo area – palaces and towers, ancient inscriptions, monasteries with unique frescoes, picturesque bridges, remarkable in architectural style houses, stacked one above the other on the steep hills of the town, etc. but there a few you can’t afford to miss when you happen to be in town. The most significant one is the medieval fortress and town of Tsarevets where you are invited to walk around the remains of the king’s palace, the church “St. Petka”, multiple residential and economic buildings, water reservoirs and battle towers. The Patriarch’s residence is on the highest part of Tsarevets, and the Patriarch’s church is also nearby. Nowadays this medieval capital becomes alive again mainly through cultural and art performances like the summer season of the Bulgarian Opera Theatres – “Stage if the Ages” and the spectacular night-time Sound & Light Show. North-west of the hill of Tsarevets is Trapezitsa – yet another historical fortress and town with churches and monasteries which archeological richness has not been completely discovered yet.
Veliko Tarnovo is famous not only for its historical hills but for its multiple orthodox temples. The most significant of the medieval churches is the temple “St. Forty Holy Martyrs” situated in the old Asenova quarter in the river valley of Tsarevets hill. The religious building was erected in 1230 to celebrate Tsar Asen II’s victory over the Byzantines. The Bulgarian tsars Kaloyan (1168 – 1207) and Ivan Asen II are buried in the temple and the most valuable old Bulgarian epigraph monuments are stored here – the Omurtag column, the Asen column and the Border column of the Rodosto fortress from the time of Khan Krum (755 –814). It is also the location from which Tzar Ferdinand I proclaims the independence of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire on September 22nd, 1908.
Some of the most popular monasteries in Bulgaria can be also found in the vicinity of the town – Preobrazhenski, Patriarsheski, Arbanashki, Plakovski, Kapinovski, Kilifarevski, etc.
The Old Town is the perfect place for strolling and discovering city’s past, especially Samovodskata Charshia (the crafts streets) where the town guests have the rare chance to see houses built over 200 years ago and to sense a completely different atmosphere. There you’ll find crafts workshops, souvenir shops and galleries.
A large portion of the city museums is concentrated in the old part of the town. Some of the most interesting of them include; the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Revival and Constituent Assembly, Museum of Contemporary and Most Contemporary History, the Sarafkina House, the Museum House of P. R. Slaveykov, the Stambolov Inn, the Hadzhi Nikoli Inn Museum, etc.
Don’t forget to indulge your senses and recharge with local delicacies in any of the many great restaurants you’ll find downtown. A personal favourite of ours is “Shastlivetsa 1” Restaurant located at the beginning of the Old Town of Veliko Tarnovo overlooking the Yantra River. Enjoy the astonishing terrace view to the Assenevtsi Monument dedicated to the kings Assen, Peter, Kaloyan and Ivan Assen II. The monument is built in 1985 to commemorate 800 years’ anniversary of the brothers Assen and Peter’s rebellion and the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
And last but not least we strongly recommend that you explore a bit more the region outside Veliko Turnovo. The ancient village reservation Arbanasi is only 6 km uphill from the city with magnificently preserved architectural monuments from the Age of the Bulgarian Revival, old churches and beautiful yards filled with flowers and greenery. 20 km from Veliko Turnovo you’ll find the archaeological reservation Nikopolis Ad Istrum – a Roman and Early Byzantine town. The city was founded by Emperor Trajan in 106 A.D. and flourished until Attila’s Huns destroyed it in 447 A.D. It is an example of Roman city planning with its network of streets, public buildings, a forum, public bath complex, odeon, and agora.
At https://www.velikoturnovo.info/ you can receive more information about Veliko Turnovo and its historic sites, tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, transportation and current events.