Visit the Monument of the Assens and the Boris Denev Art Gallery
There are nice shade trees. Even in the heat of summer you can walk down and back up in the shade.
The monument commemorates the 4 Bulgarian Kings that ruled during the Mediaeval State when Veliko Turnovo was the capital of a prosperous and successful nation.
There are four horses with one of the kings on each of them. Walk around the monument and get a good view from each side.
Nice views of the town and the houses on the hillsides from here too.
The art gallery is closed on Mondays.
Visit Tsarevets Fortress
Very peaceful – few tourists go far inside. Quiet, relaxing. Excellent views of town and surrounding countryside. Some nice e.g. not restored remnants among all of the restored walls and walks.
Remnants of servants quarters can be identified – small houses surrounding the palace. Outer walls of the Fortress are mostly restored. Occasional Roman remains to be seen – especially columns.
Walkways are of rough cobblestones only at the beginning of the climb upwards – continuation is flat field stone and crushed gravel - much easier walking.
The church was built at the top of the hill in reaction to the Turkish rule that no church may be higher than the local mosque. The Palace is a bit lower down on the hill.
For a good historical review, to appreciate what you see more, see: Wikipedia
I was in Veliko Turnovo 19-23 April, just a few days before the Orthodox Easter. While walking down towards the entrance to Tsaravets Fortress I came across an interesting sight...
A number of people were walking to church with home baked goods and cakes. Others were coming out of the church carrying green leaves. I was told afterward that these leaves are used to make crowns and to put up on the doorways of their homes.
Indeed I did see some people walking around the Tsaravets Fortress with wreaths of green leaves. As I understand it the more religious people continue to wear the wreaths all day.
I stepped inside the church. It was a beautiful sight to see. People lined up to place their offerings (donations?) on a table, then joined a line to receive a blessing from the priest and the leaves. People of all ages, from small children to older individuals...
The scent of aromatic incense was intense, the lighting from candles, the silence total...
A marvelous and totally unexpected experience.
Veliko Turnovo is known as the "City of Tsars", and the fortress above the town is a reminder that Veliko Turnovo was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, between 1185-1396. Some people say that touring the fortress is the highlight of the visit to Veliko Turnovo (though I enjoyed many other things as well). It is open daily from 8AM-7PM and entrance is very inexpensive. There is alot to see in the fortress, as the remains of many churches, monasteries, and houses have bee uncovered there by archaeologists. Sometimes they do a sound and light show at night, and this is worth seeing if you are in Veliko and if they are having the show on the night you are there.
You really can't miss this place, and you shouldn't. This fortress is the main sight in Veliko, and seems to stand guard, even without maurding hordes threatening the town. And, it's the one really BIG thing to do in Veliko Tarnovo.
Getting to the fortress is simple enough, but, once you walk through the gates, and up the hill, you can get a bit confused. There are archeological ruins there, several, a church that looks old from the outside, but, once inside, has distinctly early 1980s era light fixtures, and paintings on the wall. (Not frescos.)
It's all interesting enough, and once you get to the top of the fortress, there are great views, but, the fortress seems all the more incredible when viewed from a distance.
And, on certain nights, there is a light show on the fortress, where it's lit up all different colors. I never paid to do it, but had a perfect view from the second floor porch at the hostel where I was staying.
This isn't something that you have to set out specifically to do, but Veliko has some great murals around town (as does Plovdiv) and they just sort of make you pause. My favorite one was on the "second terrace" street down from the Old Town. It was a balcony, with great views of the rest of the City below.
Another fascinating mural was near the "casino."
As I said, while this isn't something you actually "do," it is something that makes you think about the city, the country, and its history.
While I mentioned this is the overview, it's worth repeating that it's really nice not to have any plans here. It's great just to wander, look at views, think about how old this place is, how one day, all these cute old shops that regular Veliko Tarnovoites frequent, will one day be selling postcards and little Bulgarian tschoskies. Not that there aren't a few of these already, but given what a gem this place is, there are sure to be more. Maybe soon. But, maybe not. It's a bit of a haul from a city with an airport, so that may save it from being another town in the Balkan/Eastern Europe merry-go-round.
Anyway, the town is perfect for being aimless.....Enjoy.
This huge monument commemorates the founders of the second Bulgarian Empire, the brothers Assen and Petar aswell as 2 of their successors. They successfully led an uprising against the Byzantine rulers and made Veliko Turnovo the new capital.
It's situated in a bend of the Yantra river and from there you get great views of the houses on the opposite side of the river.
Next to the monument sits the large State Art Museum.
The memorial to Vasil Levski here in Veliko Turnovo is appropriately enough on ul Vasil Levski on the city's main street.
Levski was the leader of the anti-Ottoman revolutionary movement from the late 1860's until his execution by the Turks in Sofia on the 18th February 1873. Levski was both a hands-on freedom fighter as well as an ideological revolutionary. In the early 1860's he was an active member of the First and Second Bulgarian Legions, based respectively in Serbia and Romania, where his courage earned him his name - Levski meaning "like a lion".
In the later half of the decade he was a founder member of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee where he drafted his ideas for a Bulgarian Democratic Republic based on the French Revolutionary principles of "Liberty, Egality and Fraternity". He saw the struggle against Ottoman rule not against the Turks as people, nor against their religion, but rather against authoritarianism and oppression.
Bulgaria's freedom was his overriding passion and in the 1870's he spent much of his time secretly travelling around the country, often on foot, organising resistance cells. Just as the movement was gaining momentum and support from within Bulgaria Levski's assistant, Domitar Obshti, without authorisation, successfully robbed a Turkish postal convoy. However the Turks identified Obshti as one of the participants and he, along with several others, were arrested. In their forced confession they revealed Levski's revolutionary role and so he became a sought fugitive.
Intending to escape to Romania Levski first needed to rescue some potentially damaging papers from the committee archive in Lovech but was betrayed when staying overnight in the nearby village of Kakrina.
He was arrested on 27th December 1872 and taken initially to Veliko Turnovo for interrogation before being transported to Sofia where he was tried and sentenced to death. During his interrogation and trial he admitted nothing but his identity and steadfastly refused to reveal names or details of the organisation.
He had always been prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. As he is quoted on the monument: "If I shall win, I shall win for the entire people. If I shall lose, I shall lose only myself."
Levski, warrior, poet and free-thinker, is often referred to as "The Apostle of Freedom" and in a 2007 television poll he was voted "The All-time Greatest Bulgarian".
Tsarevets - a historical hill of 12 hectares in the eastern part of Veliko Turnovo. In the 7th-14th centuries the capital residences of the tsar, the boyars and the patriarch are erected. Built over a Thracian settlement and Byzantine fortress, dating back to the 4th-6th centuries, Tsarevets turns into an unapproachable fortress and capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. It is surrounded by two fortified walls enforced by battle towers and flying buttresses (2,40 - 3,60 m thick). The main entrance is to the west, one passes three consecutive gates each of which is defended by a battle-tower and the rock in front of the first is cut so that a draw-bridge could be put and then withdrawn. At the western wall of the fortress one can see the Gate of Asen with a two-winged door and a two-storied tower. It links Tsarevets and Trapezitsa and the quarter between the two hills. The third main gate is in the south-eastern wall and leads to the quarters of foreigners at the foothills. This gate is equipped with a falling door. The palace compound is situated on the central plateau part of the hill. It is a separate fortress surrounded by strong walls. Most impressive is the northern facade of the palace with the main entrance. The throne-hall is in the western part. The patriarch's compound occupies the highest elevation. It is surrounded by fortified walls, enforced with towers and loop-holes. When the Turks conquered Turnovo, Tsarevets was burned down.
Tsarevets Hill is probably the main sight of Veliko Tarnovo. The first fortress there was built by Byzantines between the 5th and 7th century and then overtaken by the Slavs and Bolgars between the 8th and 10th century. The Byzantines moved in again in the 12th century and it's peak was reached when Veliko Tarnovo (Tarnovgrad at that time) became the capital of the second Bulgarian Empire in 1185. That period ended in 1393 when the Turks overtook the Balkan peninsula.
So far the remains of over 400 houses, 18 churches and a lot of other buildings have been excavated. Some things have been restored, mainly the patriarch' s complex.
In the evenings you usually have a spectacular sound & light show.
If you go to the Interhotel Veliko Turnovo, you will see a small paved path to the right of the main hotel entrance leading down to a bridge. From here you will have a wonderful view of the city and for me, the viewpoint was a highlight and I wouldn't miss it while visiting.
Close to the entrance of Tsarevets fortress you can find these displays. For 3 lv you can become a knight or queen and take photos. The gentlemen receive armor, a helmet and a sword, and can mount the horse and get ready to conquer the fortress.The ladies, properly dressed, sit on a throne by a pile of golden treasure.
From now on, you can call me Queen Christina I, he he...
On this, my second, visit to Veliko Turnovo I did indeed make Tsarevets my main priority and so as soon as I finished breakfast on the first morning of my stay off I set.
On a January morning, with about four inches of snow covering the site, I pretty much had the place to myself and stunning it was too. The first thing that impressed me was the sheer scale of the place. The circumference of the outside walls must be at least three kilometres and these were built up to 3.6 metres high and about 1.5 metres thick along with crenellated abutments and guard towers - that's a lot of stonework!
There really is something truly majestic about this site. Because it is mostly ruins it makes it easier for me to imagine it as busy, working, stronghold and palace unlike say Prague Castle or Wawel Hill in Krakow. Because these latter have been fully restored (and superbly, I should add) in some ways that renders them sterile and obviously a place for the tourists, as if that's what they've always been. Here at Tsarevets though I could hear the clanging of the hammers on anvils at the armourers smithies, I could hear the cavalry horses snorting in the winter air. I could smell the woodsmoke from the myriad of cooking and heating fires. I could feel the buzziness of the streets market stalls and imagine the richly-dressed Tsars and Nobles haughtily going about their affairs of state whilst the scruffy servants and traders haggled vociferously over the price of the daily necessities.
The place is quite well signposted, in several laguages, making it easy to understand the function of all the main buildings, leaving the 400, or so, lesser ones for your own imagination to slot into their places. You can see the foundations of former artisans homes and workshops, the main streets and the dozens of churches and the mind's eye rebuilds and peoples them.
Overlooking it all is the partially-restored Patriarche's complex, with its rebuilt church and bell-tower, and slightly lower (as the Tsars felt it should be) the, in the process of restoration, Palace.
I spent a total of four hours just wandering, taking pics and letting my mind run free - in fact it was only when I checked the time that I was surprised to see that it had been that long and had the cafe been open I would probably have lingered longer.
Awesome! And well worth the 6 leva (??) entry.
In addition to being a fascinating historical site Tsarevets, with its hilltop location, also provides stunning views over the city and the surrounding mountainside. The bell tower of the Patriarch's Church provides the highest viewpoint but that was shut on my visit. However you do get great views from just about anywhere in the grounds and so here's a few pics: