The "City of the Czars."
Veliko Tarnovo's beautiful architecture and monumental fortress compliment its rugged landscape.
Capital of the medieval Second Bulgarian Empire, which controlled most of the Balkan Peninsula at its height, Veliko Tarnovo is still dominated by Tsarevets. This massive fortress housed the royal and religious palaces, and still covers one of the Old Town's three hills, fully encompassing it with 12-foot walls. Be sure to visit its main tower for striking views of the city. Veliko Tarnovo's cultural and historical riches stretch out beyond the fortress. This city is rich in beautiful Bulgarian National Revival architecture, mostly in the form of whitewashed homes with red rooftops, wooden trim, and ample balconies. This city naturally has showy medieval and Bulgarian Renaissance churches, especially its cathedral, and plenty of museums. Even if you'd rather stay outside and enjoy the weather, Veliko Tarnovo's hilly, rugged landscape, with its steep valleys, makes for plenty of great views, which can be enjoyed from its many affordable cafes.
A popular stop for travelers passing between Bucharest and Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo is worth spending a night or two. Visitors usually head to Arbanasi, a traditional village nearby beloved for its Bulgarian National Revival architecture and its medieval churches, with rich interiors completely covered in atmospheric paintings. Veliko Tarnovo also lies near one of the country's best wine regions. As is common in Bulgaria, there are extensive ancient ruins nearby, in this case, the Roman town of Nicopolis ad Istrum, built by Emperor Trajan, and sacked by Attila the Hun.