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If you’re searching for the best things to do in Veliko Tarnovo, you’ve come to the right place.
This tiny Bulgarian town is a wonderful option for a weekend trip from Sofia and one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in the country.
This quaint cliffside city is also the old capital of Bulgaria so it harbors a lot of history behind its beauty.
The cobblestone streets lead you past colorful houses and the red rooftops cascading down the cliffside look like something out of a fairy tale. Add the greenery, parks, fortress and old monuments and you have a recipe for an amazing weekend!
If you’re ready to visit, use this guide to discover the 16 best things to do in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, and then use the map and walking route at the end to easily see them all on your weekend escape to the city.
Welcome to Veliko Tarnovo! This guide will take you to all of the best attractions in this Medieval city
What to Do in Veliko Tarnovo
Surprisingly, there’s a lot to do in Veliko Tarnovo and our weekend trip from Sofia was packed full trying to fit it all in (spoiler alert: we didn’t).
Here’s some of the most popular options to help you plan your trip.
1. Take the Free Walking Tour
The free walking tour is the best thing to do in Veliko Tarnovo and you should try to take it first.
You’ll get the layout of the city and see most of the main attractions in passing.
Then, you can go back and spend more time at the ones you like the most. Plus, you’ll learn a lot about Bulgaria’s history. The walking tour is 2.5 hours which is a bit long, but I still think it’s worth it.
You can catch the free walking tour every day at 11 am in front of the Veliko Tarnovo Tourism Office.
If you don’t arrive in time for the free walking tour or that’s not really your thing, you can still do pretty much everything there is to do in Veliko Tarnovo in one day – use this list and walking route to see it all with ease!
The absolutely insane view at the Veliko Tarnovo Sky Walk
2. Take Panoramic Pictures at the Sky Walk
In 2014 a group of architecture students chose Veliko Tarnovo for the annual EU summer project.
In two weeks, they built a small sky walk that allows for amazing panoramic views not just of the cliffside city but also the winding river, nearby hills, the monument, and more.
The entrance looks like a wooden cube, and it’s easy to find on the main street in the Old Town.
3. Stop for Ice Cream with a View at Gellato Fresco
Gelatto Fresco has tasty ice cream, cold drinks, and an amazing view of Veliko Tarnovo.
Stop here to grab a cone and take a break from the midday sun while enjoying the picturesque setting.
4. Visit the Free Art Gallery
The Hadji Nikoli Inn Museum Art Gallery is built into the last original inn in Veliko Tarnovo.
The city used to be packed with inns due to its location on the merchant trading roading through the Ottoman Empire, but only one remains. This one has a lovely garden with flowers and a restaurant as well.
After you eat, visit the small gallery on the second and third floors to see works by local Bulgarian artists.
Shamovodska Charshia Market is one of the top Veliko Tarnovo attractions but it left me a bit underwhelmed
5. Walk Down the Shamovodska Charshia Market
This section of Veliko Tarnovo has a lot of promise but doesn’t quite deliver. The picturesque street is fun to walk down, but you won’t need to spend too much time here.
It has “workshops” where people make wood carvings, knives, art, and other traditional pieces, but like most places it’s mostly devolved into overpriced souvenir shops and not much else.
Tsarevet’s Monument is the best things to do in Veliko Tarnovo
6. See Tsarevets Fortress and the Church on the Hill
Tsarevets Fortress is one of the most popular things to do in Veliko Tarnovo and for good reason.
The walls wrap around the hillside and will transport you back to Medieval Bulgaria. Entrance costs 6 lev / 3.50 usd per person and there are plenty of different trails to take to the top.
Here, the main attraction is the Patriarchal Cathedral St. Ascension.
I’m not going to spoil the surprise, and you shouldn’t Google it either! Just make the trek to the top and step inside to see this very unique place for yourself.
My tip: If you visit in the summer, make sure you bring water because none is sold inside. Also, when you make it up to the church take a break behind it. Here the shade and a strategic wind tunnel create the perfect place to cool down in the afternoon heat.
Pretty shops and views await on the less-crowded Gurko Street
7. Walk Along Gurko Street
When the main road is packed with tourists and traffic, get a break from the crowds on Gurko Street.
It conveniently runs along the length of the Old Town, but it’s down at the bottom of the cliff. Here you can get from point A to point B in a much more relaxed fashion, while enjoying amazing views and cute little streets packed with rickety houses.
After you visit Tsarevets fortress, walk all the way to Stambolov Bridge along Gurko street for your next destination.
Fab view of Veliko Tarnovo from Sveta Gora Park
8. Get Some Fresh Air at Sveta Gora Park
Cross Stambolov bridge onto the peninsula and right behind the giant monument (I’ll get to that next), you can continue walking to find a stair case. The steps will take you up to the large Sveta Gora Park.
It has two terraces built specifically for view points of the city, and if you continue upwards you’ll find lots of green space and happy families enjoying the shaded park.
If you really want to relax this is one of the best things to do in Veliko Tarnovo. Simply bring a blanket and grab a few cold drinks at the cafe at the top!
Drink with a view of Asen’s Monument and Veliko Tarnovo Old Town at sunset
9. Watch the Sunset at Asen’s Monument
After you explore Sveta Gora Park, return the way you came and Asen’s Monument will be impossible to miss.
On the peninsula you’ll see four horsemen and a giant pillar rising between them. This is a celebration of the Asenevsti Dynesty and the four kings who ruled Bulgaria during it.
The statues are striking, but it’s also has one of the best views of the Old City from below. Check it out at sunset, and grab a drink outside at the Melon Bar right behind it while you watch the lights flicker on across town.
Asen’s Monument is another one of the can’t-miss things to do in Veliko Tarnovo
10. Try Some Traditional Bulgarian Food
Ready for dinner?
Luckily there’s a great place to try traditional Bulgarian food right nearby. Best of all, it doesn’t have a view, which means it has to attract people based on the merits of their food alone.
To be honest, this was the only meal I had in Veliko Tarnovo that didn’t disappoint.
The restaurant is called Asenevsti and was recommended by our hostel owner. We had a plate of fried chicken, an appetizer, roasted potatoes and two large beers in the garden all for only 28 lev / 16 usd.
11. Watch the Laser Light Show
The laser light show is one of the most popular things to do in Veliko Tarnovo.
You can get a great view and watch it for free on the steps of the Orthodox Church (search Iglesia Ortodoxa in Google Maps to find it).
It only runs on holidays but that’s actually still surprisingly often throughout the year. Check the schedule and make the trek all the way back to Tsarevets Fortress to watch it if you’re lucky enough to be there when it plays.
12. Grab a Drink at the Hipster Art Bar
Last but not least, it’s time to finally relax!
If you want a drink the Hipster Art Bar is the best place to get one. The quirky atmosphere and lively crowd make it a great place to meet locals and travelers alike while you all wind down for the evening.
The Hipster Art Bar is located in the Shamovodska Charshia Market area.
Yes, all of this can really be squeezed into one jam-packed day in Veliko Tarnovo. That’s not all, though. If you have a day to two to spare, there are even more options to check out around the city!
The abandoned Buzludzha monument is one of the best things to do near Veliko Tarnovo if you have a car
13. Visit the Town of Arbanasi
If you have extra time, another popular thing to do in Veliko Tarnovo is a half-day trip to the town of Arbanasi. This should only cost about 3 to 5 lev / 2 to 3 usd for a taxi from the Old Town because it’s so close.
There’s not a ton to do in this small town, but when the weather is mild and the flowers are blooming it’s still a nice place to be.
Some of the popular things to see here are the Church of the Nativity of Christ and simply wandering the streets to see more than 80 houses that have been preserved as an open-air museum (including the Konstantsaliev house that you can go inside of).
14. Take a Dip at the Krushuna Waterfall
The Krushuna waterfalls are about 1.5 hours driving from Veliko Tarnovo.
They’re easy to reach if you have a rental car, but if you’re stuck with public transport (like we were) you’re probably going to be out of luck.
If you go, hike on the nearby trails and bring a suit to take a cold swim in the gorgeous blue natural pools that lie at the waterfall’s base.
15. Hike to the Devetashka Cave
This cave is perfectly placed to combine with the Krushuna waterfall.
The Devetashka Cave draws visitors because of the open holes in the ceiling that let in natural light and the many species of bats and other wildlife you can spot on the hike.
If you’re driving out to see the Krushuna waterfall, definitely add a pit-stop at the Devetashka cave to your to-do list as well.
16. Check out the Buzludzha Monument
This abandoned communist monument is a must for photography lovers. The eerie UFO shape, graffiti, and crumbling walls all speak to a bygone era that’s definitely best left in the past.
Just like the above trips, the Buzludzha Monument can only be visited by car.
It’s 1.5 hours from the city, but don’t stress trying to fit it into your schedule if it doesn’t work. The monument is also less than 2 hours from Plovdiv and 3 from Sofia, so even though Veliko Tarnovo is the most convenient location to visit from it’s not the only one.
Veliko Tarnovo Walking Route + Map
Use this map to easily find all the best things to do in Veliko Tarnovo and create your own walking route in this order:
- Sky Walk View Point
- Gelato Fresco
- Hadji Nikoli Inn Museum Art Gallery
- Shamovodska Charshia Market
- Tsarevet’s Fortress
- Ascension Church (inside the fortess compound)
- Take a walk on Gurko Street
- Sveta Gora Park
- Sunset at Asen’s Monument
- Dinner at Asenevsti
- Drinks at Hipster Art Bar
Then, if you have more time in Veliko Tarnovo, set out on an adventure the next day to see the caves, waterfalls, and monuments around the city as well!
Pretty houses in Old Town Veliko Tarnovo
Bonus: Where to Stay in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
The top-rated hotels in Veliko Tarnovo are incredibly budget friendly.
If you’re looking for something even cheaper, the lowest priced rooms in Veliko Tarnovo are at the Diana Guesthouse for only $18 per night.
Use This Guide to Discover the Top Things to do in Veliko Tarnovo
There is so much to do in Veliko Tarnovo, and if you have a car there are even more half-day trips to take from the town as well.
Visit this beautiful cliffside city in Bulgaria for a quick history lesson, gorgeous photos, relaxation, and a unique weekend experience in the country.
Ready to go? Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to Bulgaria and then explore accommodation like unique stays on Airbnb or the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan the perfect night, weekend, or long-term stay in the country.
This article is part of the Beyond Sofia Travel Series. Read the rest below:
Or, explore the complete Bulgaria Series for more to see, do, eat, drink, and discover throughout the country.
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I’ve been traveling full-time for three years, these are the resources that make it happen:
➤ I exclusively use Airbnb for savings and security on long-term stays in furnished apartments.
➤ I use Booking.com for short-term stays in hostels and hotels on weekend trips.
➤ Upwork allowed me to take the leap to travel full-time because they make it so easy to find freelance clients in any field.
➤ The Superstar Blogging Travel Writing Course launched my travel writing career and helped me become a contributor at sites like Cincinnati Refined and International Living, and even get published in the Boston Globe.