There are so many unique things to do in Veliko Tarnovo, which is why it was one of our favorite stops on our month-long tour of Bulgaria. We arrived without really knowing what to expect and left feeling extremely amazed that this is not a more well-known European destination.
We spent five nights in Veliko Tarnovo. Many may argue it was too long, but we are slow travelers and were in no rush to leave our breezy balcony with these amazing 180-degree views.
With such affordable prices, we were able to treat ourselves to a few nice dinners out and enjoy a few bottles of Bulgarian wine overlooking Tsarevets Fortress at sunset (from our apartment). That alone made it worth the long stop.
Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest settlements in Bulgaria, therefore, it is often considered a central gathering place. In the summer months, it hosts many special events and festivals.
Looking for a fun excursion >> Try the ATV/QUAD tour around Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanasi!
5 Unique Things to Do in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
During our visit, there was great energy in the city with the 19th Annual International Folklore Festival, “The Count of Monte Cristo” outdoor play, and the weekend laser and light show on the Fortress. Summer in Veliko Tarnovo does not disappoint! Here is our insider guide to all Veliko Tarnovo has to offer!
1. Museum of Prison
This small but unique museum is a former prison that was used from the times of the Ottoman Turks to 1954. Visitors can explore the below-ground prison and see where prisoners were held and tortured. Particularly disturbing is the fact that guards would beat prisoners with the heads of prisoners that were executed.
Want to get off the beaten path in Veliko Tarnovo? >> Off-road by Jeep to Monasteries and Waterfalls!
Just off the main strip, there is a small walkway that locals refer to as the skywalk. Make the stop to “walk the plank,” take in the great view, and contemplate if you’d be able to bungee off the edge!
3. Tsarevets Fortress
Truly the highlight of Veliko Tarnovo, Tsarevets Fortress is a stunning backdrop to this old medieval city. Although the site looks massive, it only takes about 2 hours to fully explore.
Read up on its history beforehand though, because there isn’t much signage or information provided on a self-guided tour. The cost per person is 6 LV per person (~ USD 3).
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4. Sound & Light Show
On select weekends, there is a 15-20 minute sound and light show that illuminates the area around the fortress. It’s quite amazing to see. You can pay for tickets (12.50 LV per person), but we enjoyed the show from our balcony for free with candles and wine.
5. Monument of Asenevci
Take a walk over the Stambolov bridge (built in 1892), to reach this massive monument which is dedicated to the four Bulgarian kings. Constructed in 1985, it is situated on a beautiful terrace above the Yantra River. It offers a magnificent view of the old town and the surrounding area.
We stayed in a beautiful apartment with fantastic views of the city. If you are planning on visiting here, try to book this apartment.
It’s worth it just for the balcony alone! The unit is on the top floor of a quiet apartment building. Views here could cost you $500 a night in any other city in Western Europe during the busy summer season. Another bonus is that the main bus station is right below, making it easy for backpackers and long-term travelers.
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Best Local Eats
We tried a few different restaurants during our stay and we have to recommend Restaurant “Shtastliveca.” Many menu items are prepared in cast iron skillets that are simply divine!
We tried two pork skillet dishes, served with potatoes and cheese and they were delicious. And no joke! Order their famous Biscuit Cake! We had a great, romantic, dinner experience over traditional Bulgarian dishes and spectacular views. Highly recommend!
Best Place for a Sunset Drink/Cool Down
We enjoyed bar Lino for the cheap drinks, friendly staff, and great views of the river and the Monument of Asenevci. In addition, they have these huge outdoor cooling fans which helped us cool down on a really hot touring day. They also have a menu with inexpensive eats.
Best Place for a Coffee or Happy Hour Drink
Malkia Inter is a crazy cafe bar with a quirky atmosphere and laid-back vibe. Make sure to stop by the nearby Nativity of Mary Cathedral to capture some amazing views of Tsarevets Fortress. The views are so amazing they inspired Harry to sing a song about them at Malkiat Inter.
Every day we explore, we cherish the fact that Bulgaria still has not fallen into the chaos of mass tourism. We swear Bulgarians are keeping these cities their little secret, and honestly, we don’t blame them!
Find out what happens when all hell breaks loose on our bus in Bulgaria!
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