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 🙂 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.
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.
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 🙂
The Assens Monument & Boris Denev State Art Gallery
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.
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. 🙂
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. 🙂
Restaurant Shtastliveca Old Town
Foodie 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.
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. 🙂
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.
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! 🙁 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. 🙁
Have you ever been to Veliko Tarnovo? Have you enjoyed it?