The coast of Bulgaria is a major emerging tourist attraction, especially for Romanian people. Endless beaches with golden sand are a top choice for those looking for a summer holiday. However, few tourists visit the center of Bulgaria even though it is a beautiful area with a lot to offer. One city I recommend visiting is Veliko Tarnovo. Although the city is quite small, it’s charm made me fall in love with it. With houses layered along the hills, Veliko Tarnovo looks like the famous Positano. If you only have one day in Veliko Tarnovo, read below about the things you can do in this beautiful town.
Why you should visit Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo is a small town, where you can enjoy a relaxing holiday. Even though during summer the city is quite busy, it still doesn’t compare with other major European attractions. Usually, most of the tourists in Veliko Tarnovo come from the nearby countries like Romania and Serbia.
The city is build on three hills: Tsarevets, Trapezitsa, and Sveta Gora and due to its unique architecture, it offers spectacular views. To make everything even more beautiful, the old city of Veliko Tarnovo is crossed by Yantra River. The narrow streets, local handicraft shops and medieval charm are just some of the things that make Veliko Tarnovo one of Europe’s best hidden gems. Taking a walk will never get boring here.
Another reason to visit this town is the affordability. Everything from accommodation, food and souvenirs costs less than an average European destination. The average price for a one person meal (including drinks) is $9 while a decent hotel costs around $35 per night. If you are looking for some great places to eat in Veliko Tarnovo, I recommend the following restaurants: Sammy’s Bar, Restaurant Ego and Shtastlivetsa.
One day in Veliko Tarnovo – top things to do
Although Veliko Tarnovo has sightseeing opportunities for about 2-3 days, you can still see a big part of it in just one day. Let’s discover the top things to do in one day in Veliko Tarnovo.
Shop ’till you drop
Mall Veliko Tarnovo offers a wide range of stores. From international names such as Adidas and H&M to local shops, here you can find all you need to satisfy your shopping addiction.
However, if you are looking for a more authentic experience and local products, I recommend shopping in the old city. Take a walk on Georgi S. Rakovski Street and admire all the pottery, clothes and handicrafts. Personally, I have fallen in love with the colorful plates.
Visit the Asenevtsi Monument for the best views
Are you looking for the best view in Veliko Tarnovo? Cross the bridge near the Interhotel and you will get to this small piece of land, surrounded by the Yantra River which offers the best views to the layered houses. If you are planning to take some awesome photos, go during sunset.
Visit the Tsaravets Fortress
Located on the hill with the same name in Veliko Tarnovo, Tsaravets Fortress is one of the main tourist attractions. The imposing surrounding walls guard the ruins of the remaining houses, royal palace and churches. The fortress is well maintained and easy to walk around. For the best views, climb on top of the hill at Patriarchal Cathedral St. Ascension and take the elevator for 2 BGN. The Tsaravets Fortress is a must see even if you are staying just one day in Veliko Tarnovo.
Things to know:
- If you are lucky to be around when the Veliko Tarnovo Sound and Light show happens, you will witness a magnificent light show over the Tsaravets Fortress. The shows can be watched all year round, on the dates published on this website. Tip: you don’t have to buy tickets to enjoy the show. You can see it for free from the streets near the fortress.
- Tsaravets Fortress entrance fee: 6 BGN per person
- Tsaravets Fortress opening hours: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. April to October and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. November to March
Take a walk on Stefan Stambolov Street
Stefan Stambolov Street is the main street in Veliko Tarnovo Old Town. Apart from all the restaurants and shops, you will find a few terraces from where you can admire all the beautiful houses while eating an ice cream. Have I told you that ice cream in Veliko Tarnovo is one of the best I’ve ever had?
Awesome Veliko Tarnovo day trips
If you happen to have more time to spend around this beautiful town, there are a few interesting activities to do.
Visit the Buzludzha Monument
An unusual place with a unique architecture, Buzludzha started to gain popularity in the past few years. Standing as a symbol of the Bulgarian Communist Regime, the UFO-like structure is a bizarre finding and a must see. It would be a shame not to visit it, especially if you have your own car. Alternatively, you can choose a tour to visit this unique place – click here for more information. Keep in mind that Buzludzha Monument is situated 75 km away from Veliko Tarnovo and the road might take you about two and a half hours..
Just 10 km away from Veliko Tarnovo, you can taste a bit more from the Bulgarian culture in Arbanassi. Known for its architecture, Arbanassi is perfect for wandering around and enjoying a bit of peace and tranquility.
Where to stay in Veliko Tarnovo
We stayed at Hotel Play and we absolutely loved it! The room was huge, it had a private bathroom, it was clean and very close to the main attractions. The only problem we had was with the parking (the hotel doesn’t have a private parking) but I think this is a common problem for Veliko Tarnovo hotels. We had to look for a parking spot by ourselves. If you want to book this place, click here.
How to get to Veliko Tarnovo
Getting to Veliko Tarnovo by car is the easiest option. The roads in Bulgaria are good and easily accessible. The only thing you will have to be careful about is to buy a vignette. You can buy one when entering the country. Driving around Bulgaria without a vignette might cost you a fine. For more details about the vignette click here.
Traveling to Veliko Tarnovo by public transport is easy. There are buses from Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv, Russe or Burgas.
There are direct trains from Plovdiv and Russe. However, the trains from Sofia and Varna arrive in Gorna Oryahovitsa which is 7 kilometers away from Veliko Tarnovo. From there you will have to take a bus, taxi or another train. Also, there are connections to Gorna Oryahovitsa from Bucharest and Istanbul. For more details about train schedule click here.
Most probably you will land on the airport in Sofia. From there you can take the train, bus or rent a car to get to Veliko Tarnovo.
If you only have one day in Veliko Tarnovo, I hope that my itinerary was useful. However, if you have a few more days to spare do not forget to visit the amazing Buzludzha Monument and Arbanassi.
May the travel bug bite you!
More about Europe:
- Buzludzha tour – an icon of Bulgaria’s Communist Regime – click here
- Travel to Thassos, Greece – a complete travel guide – click here
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