Introducing Veliko Târnovo
The evocative capital of the medieval Bulgarian tsars, sublime Veliko Târnovo is dramatically set amidst an amphitheatre of forested hills, divided by the ribboning Yantra River. Commanding pride of place is the magisterial, well-restored Tsarevets Fortress, citadel of the Second Bulgarian Empire. It's complemented by scores of churches and other ruins, many still being unearthed.
As the site of Bulgaria’s most prestigious university, Veliko Târnovo also boasts a revved-up nightlife of which many larger towns would be jealous. There’s great food and drink, too, in restaurants offering commanding views of the river and castle, or the old-world ambience of the Varosha quarter, with its terracotta rooftops and lounging cats.
As a major stop on the Bucharest–Istanbul express train, Veliko Târnovo is also a backpackers' fave. However, it’s also popular with weekending Bulgarians drawn by its romantic ambience and European tour groups peering over the sites. Certainly, it’s one of the ‘obligatory’ destinations for getting the full Bulgarian experience, but Târnovo is well worth it, and will keep you entranced for at least a few days.
Veliko Târnovo is stacked upwards along a ridge above the Yantra River – try to think vertical to make sense of city maps. The river winds in a horseshoe bend between four hills: Tsarevets, site of the fortress; Momina Krepost, several kilometres to the east; Trapezitsa; and Sveta Gora (Holy Mountain).
The centre of town runs along ul Nezavisimost and ul Stefan Stambolov, between the post office and a huge underpass. Follow ul Rakovski as it branches up from Stambolov for the traditional crafts shopping quarter, Samovodska Charshiya, and beyond it the quiet and cobblestoned old town, Varosha. Târnovo’s nondescript modern part is west and southwest from ul Vasil Levski.
Veliko Târnovo destination guides
Budapest to Istanbul
From pastoral countryside to forbidding forests and magnificent mountain ranges, experience the romance of the east on your way from Budapest to Istanbul. In two well-paced weeks, explore the weathered architecture of Budapest, grand Ottoman palaces and mosques in Istanbul for an introduction to the artistic and cultural heights of two very different empires.