- Asenova Quarter
- tel, info: 062 636 828
- tel, info: 062 638 841
- adult/child Lv4/Lv2
- museum 08:00-18:00 Apr-Oct, 09:00-17:00 Nov-Mar, light show 20:00 to 21:30, depending on time of year
Lonely Planet review for Tsarevets Fortress
The inescapable symbol of this proud medieval town, this reconstructed fortress dominates the skyline, and is one of Bulgaria's most beloved monuments. The Tsarevets Museum-Reserve is located on Tsarevets Hill, which has been settled since time immemorial due to its strategic location. Thracians and Romans used it as a defensive position, but the Byzantines built the first significant fortress here between the 5th and 7th centuries.
The fortress was rebuilt and fortified by the Slavs and Bulgars between the 8th and 10th centuries, and again by the Byzantines in the early 12th century. When Târnovgrad became the Second Bulgarian Empire's capital, the fortress was truly magnificent, but with the Turkish invasion in 1393, it was sacked and destroyed. Tourists can thank the Soviets for returning it to a semblance of its former glory (although some archaeologists grumble about the faithfulness of the restoration).
When Târnovgrad became the Second Bulgarian Empire's capital, the fortress was truly magnificent, but with the Turkish invasion in 1393, it was sacked and destroyed. Tourists can thank the Soviets for returning it to a semblance of its former glory (although some archaeologists grumble about the faithfulness of the restoration).The remains of over 400 houses, 18 churches and numerous monasteries, dwellings, shops, gates and towers have so far been uncovered. The Patriarch's Complex and Baldwin Tower have received the most restoration, and there is plenty of random rubble lying about. Not much English-language information is provided, but guided English-language tours can be arranged by enquiring in the Tourist Information Centre.Entering the structure, pass through two gates and veer left (northeast) for the fortress walls, some of which were once 12m high and 10m thick. Further along the walls are the unrecognisable remains of a 12th-century monastery, various dwellings & workshops and two churches. To the north lie remains of a 13th-century monastery, and Execution Rock, from which traitors were pushed into the Yantra River. Alleged traitor Patriarch Joachim III was the most famous figure to take the plunge, in 1300.The complex's eastern path is unremarkable, so return to the middle, using the hill-top Patriarch's Complex as a landmark. Past one of several modern bells are a ruined nobleman's dwelling and two churches to the left (east).Below the Patriarch's Complex are the foundations of the Royal Palace, from where 22 successive kings ruled Bulgaria. Once covering 4500 sq metres, the palace included an appropriately enormous (about 30m by 10m) throne and Roman columns, probably transferred from nearby Nikopolis-ad-Istrum. From the palace, head west to the main path and up the steps to the Patriarch's Complex, also called the Church of the Blessed Saviour. Once about 3000 sq metres in size, it was probably built about 1235, but has been extensively restored. The views of the city from the front steps are more impressive than the modern murals inside, depicting 14th and 15th-century Bulgarian history. Returning towards the main entrance, veer left along the path hugging the southern wall. At its end is the restored Baldwin Tower, where Baldwin I of Flanders - the perfidious Crusader who led the sack of Christian Byzantium in 1204 - got his just desserts, imprisoned and executed after his defeat by the Bulgarians a year later. There are great views from the top. The Sound and Light Show is held here. This nocturnal event sees the whole of Tsarevets Hill lit up in great flashes of colour and rumbling music, a spectacular homage to the Second Bulgarian Empire. The show doesn't happen unless a certain number of people have bought tickets, but during the summer it happens most nights, as there are always tour groups in town. The show is 40 minutes long and apparently relates the rise and fall of the Second Bulgarian Empire (although for most people it will just be a pretty array of flashing lights set to music). To find out if the show is happening ask the Tourist Information Centre or your hotel to check for you. Alternatively, turn up at the fortress and hope the show is on, or do what most locals and visitors do: listen for the bells, and look for the laser beams.