Bulgaria Diaries: What To Do In Veliko Tarnovo?

What to Do in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Hi, guys! Today’s diary is going to be about Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. Being a proud Romanian, for a long time, I have refused to admit that our neighbors might have beautiful places to visit, also. I have never been so attracted to going to Bulgaria, even though I’ve heard that there are places like Veliko Tarnovo, Golden Sands or Balchik that are worth paying a visit.

And because for Andrei’s birthday we haven’t planned anything special in advance, we decided to do a city break which wouldn’t cost us that much and wouldn’t make us spend our entire weekend on the road. Since you spend half of the weekend in traffic when visiting anything in Romania, it’s not a good option for a birthday you’d want to spend relaxing. So Veliko Tarnovo was our best option! It was built on three hills: Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora and it was once the capital of Bulgaria, so it must have something special to it.

Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo and Accommodation

We hit the road after work, somewhere around 6 p.m. and it took us 4h to get to our accommodation in Veliko by car, which was somewhere on top of the hill. You can also take a train, but it includes a transfer and it takes you to Veliko Tarnovo in about 7h. The price for the train is around €10. Here are more details. We stayed at Guest Rooms Harmony, a nice villa which cost us around €50 for 2 nights. It has all the amenities necessary, a nice pool and a beautiful rooftop terrace where you can have a nice breakfast or a candle-lit dinner. Unfortunately, we found out about the terrace exactly when we left, so we couldn’t enjoy it. But maybe you will πŸ™‚ I strongly recommend the place, it is about 500m from the historical center and it has an a-m-a-z-i-n-g view from the room.

Tip #1: get a room with a panoramical view. It’s totally worth it.

Tip #2: dress as comfortable as you can, since the accommodation is somewhere on top of a hill.

Things to Do in Veliko Tarnovo

We only had 2 days to visit the entire city and it was enough, trust me. We tried to visit the most important touristic attractions but ended up spending more time in restaurants trying the Bulgarian food. Regarding important places, there are a few to mention, but I believe the city itself is a lovely place to just get yourself lost in. Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest cities in Bulgaria and it hosts the second-largest university.

Tsarevets Fortress

Tsarevets fortress Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria
Tsarevets Fortress – source

This is the most important touristic attraction from Veliko Tarnovo. It dates back to the 2nd millennium BC and it is surrounded by 1 km of stone walls. It is a rather impressive point, but don’t expect too much. There is a little bit of climbing and I wouldn’t suggest going on a very hot day. On top, there is the Patriarchal Cathedral, a small church with colorful paintings, and it also features a tower that you can visit and I bet it has a nice view. I wasn’t that lucky, it was closed that day.

Personally, I expected the fortress to be something more interesting, but it wasn’t. It’s worth a visit, but don’t expect too much.

tsarevets fortress ruins veliko tarnovo
The Ruins

The most impressive thing about the fortress is that on summer days it features a light show which is great! We saw the light show from our room and the hosts even played some kind of music to accompany the show. It was a really nice surprise πŸ™‚

The Assens Monument & Boris Denev State Art Gallery

Veliko Tarnovo Bridge to the Assens Monument
Veliko Tarnovo Bridge to the Assens Monument

The Assens monument is visible from all the restaurants that have a terrace on the riverbank. The monument features the 4 Bulgarian kings: Peter, Assen 1st, Kaloyan and Ivan Assen who regained Veliko Tarnovo from the Ottomans. It is a landmark for this city and it really is interesting. I bet the museum is, too, but I haven’t visited it.

Assens Monument - the 4 kings
Assens Monument – source

Hotnitsa Waterfall

Hotnitsa Waterfall Veliko Tarnovo
Hotnitsa Waterfall

On our second day in Veliko Tarnovo, we had something to eat, took one more walk around the village and headed to Hotnitsa Waterfall. It is a paradise near Veliko, at about 20 km away. It is a beautiful waterfall and it also has a trail for hikers. We took some pics of the waterfall because it has a green-blue-ish color and it’s really instagrammable. After that, we hiked the canyon which is not dangerous, in my honest opinion. It took us about 1h back and forth and was a truly enjoyable experience. Overall, it was a great experience and it was the highlight of our city break, so I suggest you pay it a visit. πŸ™‚

Where to Eat in Veliko Tarnovo

The restaurants in Veliko are affordable and they have great Bulgarian dishes. Almost all of them have a terrace on the riverbank with a beautiful view, so I recommend checking all of them out. πŸ™‚

Restaurant Shtastliveca Old Town

Restaurant Shtastliveca Veliko Tarnovo BulgariaFoodie in her environment

Shtastliveca is a really nice decorated restaurant! I took a photo of the interior but I can’t find it anymore (as I can’t find a lot of pics from Veliko); however, it looks great and the person who decorated the restaurant was a genius! It has a lot of refurbished pieces of furniture inside – like this armchair I’m sitting in – and some other drawers and tables. It’s colorful and the food is delicious, the prices varying from €8 to €15. It is probably one of the most expensive restaurants in Veliko Tarnovo, so you can imagine how cheap are the other ones.

Restaurant Ego

Ego Restaurant Veliko Tarnovo
Ego Restaurant

We picked this one for celebrating THE birthday on Saturday night and it was a good choice. The food was delicious (we had the salmon bruschetta, calamari, and beef) and a good bottle of Bulgarian wine. We had a table with a view to the riverbank and the waitress knew English (which, apparently, is very uncommon in Bulgaria), so our experience at Ego Restaurant was an enjoyable one. As you can see, I have pictures from all the restaurants I eat in. I don’t know why, probably because I want to see a before and after eating my way through a city. πŸ™‚

Restaurant Rich – a big no, no, no!

We went to this restaurant in our first day there because it was recommended by a friend. It was recommended for the nice view, but that’s it. I asked myself: how bad can it be? Well, incredibly bad. The food is cheap and not tasty and the service is the worst.

Abstract painting monalisa Veliko Tarnovo
And they have this weird painting inside – which ok, it’s very cool

My experience there? After ordering fresh orange juice twice (the first time she forgot about it), the waitress brought us Cappy. Ok, we can let that pass. She was a nice person and we could see that she was trying. She didn’t know English at all, but we showed here everything we wanted on the menu. We ordered some shark fillet – which was full of bones – definitely not a fillet and some fish with boiled vegetables which never arrived. We spent 2 hours there. The whole time I made jokes that they’re bringing in the fish right now, they’re harvesting the vegetables and so on.

Meanwhile, after 1 hour, the waitress came and asked me (read: showed me on the menu) if I ordered boiled vegetables. I confirmed. She smiled and left. After 1h and 45 minutes when I asked about my food she told me that they actually don’t have what I ordered, she said sorry and left. After.almost.2.h. I was so mad and frustrated (and, of course, very hungry), we asked for the check and left as soon as possible without leaving any tip, of course. It was the worst restaurant I’ve ever eaten in and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Yes, the view is great, but there are many other restaurants with the same view which actually bring you what you order! πŸ™ So a big no-no for Rich (which is actually very poor).

Veliko Tarnovo Overall Experience

The overall experience? It’s worth it. Veliko Tarnovo is a nice city, good for hiking and eating some tasty Bulgarian dishes and appropriate for a city break not far away from home. Except for the above-mentioned restaurant experience, the people seemed nice, even though they don’t speak English that good. And it’s a cheap place, with the accommodation being around €50 for 2 nights and the food varying around €12 for one meal. The worst part about it? There are no beautiful doors. πŸ™

Tsarevets Fortress Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria

Have you ever been to Veliko Tarnovo? Have you enjoyed it?

If you liked it, please like & share πŸ™‚

14 thoughts on “Bulgaria Diaries: What To Do In Veliko Tarnovo?”

  1. Veliko Tarnovo comes across as an enchanting place. The fortress sounds fascinating to me. Even though there is not much to see there, the fact that it dates back to the 2nd Millenium BC is so intriguing. I loved the candidness of the post. You have also written about restaurants that deserve to be given the skip, which is so helpful.

  2. Thanks for sharing this nice place! I’ve never heard of it before (but then I’ve not been to Bulgaria so what do I know). The fortress, the monuments and waterfall all look interesting! Would love to go there in the future, but before that, I definitely have to get to your hometown first!

  3. Hi! Thank you for sharing your experiences! My family has been going to Bulgaria for the past 4 years every summer and I wasn’t able to go with them once! I was always so jealous and this post did not help either haha Looks like an awesome place, sorry you had such a bad experience at that restaurant though!

  4. Until this moment, I’d never heard of the place. But if it has a monument to King Peter, then I’m all for it!

    The waterfall pool doesn’t look terribly inviting. Nobody taking a dip on a hot day?

    If your fish had bones in it, it wasn’t shark. In Australia, shark fillets are very popular. They taste great and have no bones. We call it “flake”, and there are few things finer than a meal of flake and chips at the beach. Usually with seagulls trying to make off with a chip or two.

    Your restaurant experience sounds horrendous. Hard to imagine they would be able to stay in business with service that bad. I remember going to a restaurant in Lygon Street in Melbourne, a street famed for good eating. We sat down at the first restaurant we came to, and after about an hour with no food, decided to look up some online reviews. They all spoke of the terrible food and service. Are there online reviews for Veliko Tarnovo? If so, you should comment on your experience. For the sake of others.

    1. Hi, Pete

      The place is vreau for a weekend getaway, really. Good food, nice places to visit, but that one experience really made me frustrated regarding how such restaurants can stay in business this way.
      Australia sounds tasty. I’ll be sure to reach you if I decide to come, but I bet tickets from Europe are a little bit pricy.
      Regarding the reviews, I left a negative one on Trip Advisor. Couldn’t help it πŸ™

  5. My best friend lives in that part of the world, so I’m planning a trip to visit next year. I’d love to add Tsarevets Fortress to my list, as well as a few waterfalls! It’s a bummer that there weren’t any really ornate doors that you could enjoy. Bummer!

  6. I love going to Eastern Europe, and I’ve heard a lot about Bulgaria and how beautiful it is. Of course, there are a lot to do in Sofia, but Veliko? That sounds like a great place to visit and spend some time. Accommodations and trains prices are just incredible! Thanks for the tips! x

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