The town of Veliko Tarnovo is located in northern Bulgaria and is the governmental centre of the Veliko Tarnovo Province. The town sits in the by the River Yantra and is nearly 250km from Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia. Veliko Tarnovo is one of Bulgarias oldest towns and archaeological evidence suggests that the region has had human inhabitants for at least 5,000 years. The city’s extensive history and heritage spans the Byzantine Empire, followed by the occupation of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 500 years before the city was liberated by the Russians in 1877. In 1965 the city was renamed from Tarnovo to Veliko Tarnavo, which translates to mean Great Tarnovo, to reflect the region's significant history and heritage. Nowadays, the city is an excellent river voyages destination, boasting a selection of fascinating historic landmarks and monuments, as well as a terrific range of shops, restaurants, cafes and museums.
Boasting a collection of both historic and modern architecture, Veliko Tarnovo has a diverse and exciting ambience. One of the town’s most historically significant landmarks is the Tsarevets medieval fortress, which served as Bulgaria’s strongest castle from 1185 to 1393. The fortress has been fully restored during the modern era in order to bring it back to its former glory and now stands proudly on the hills overlooking the town. Archaeological excavations are still taking place around Tsarevets and in the surrounding hills, uncovering new and exciting artefacts from the past 5,000 years of human activity in the region.
The town is also famous for its impressive churches and monasteries, which date back to the Middle Ages. One of Veliko Tarnovo’s most iconic churches is the ancient Holy Forty Martyrs Church, constructed in 1230, which was the final resting place of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s most important saint, Saint Sava. The town is littered with other historic religious buildings including the Patriarsheski, Plakovski, Arbanashki, Kapinovski and Kilifarevski monasteries, all of which are worth visiting to observe their magnificent architecture. One of the city’s most celebrated landmarks is Asen’s Monument, which aside from being an impressive statue honouring Bulgarian kings-past is also set in attractive surroundings, with a choice of sightseeing walks in close proximity.
Veliko Tarnovo is home to an excellent selection of museums, including the captivating National Archaeological Museum. A variety of shops, bars and restaurants selling affordable souvenirs, drinks and meals are also situated throughout the town, giving visitors the chance to take a break from sightseeing and relax whilst spending time in Veliko Tarnovo’s bustling central plaza.