Veliko Tarnovo (population 74 800 inhabitants) is situated in central Bulgaria, at the foot of Stara Planina, 210 meters above the sea level. It is regally situated along the historical hills Tsarevets, Trapezitsa, and Sveta Gora, on the two banks of Yantra River. The town lies at almost same distance from the biggest Bulgarian towns – 241 km northeast of Sofia, 228 km southwest of Varna, 192 km northeast of Plovdiv, and 224 km northwest of Bourgas. The old metropolis of Bulgaria is a regional centre. The favourable climate, the presence of numerous natural and historical landmarks, and the development of the national crafts offer great opportunities for development of tourism.
Veliko Tarnovo is the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185-1393). One of the most picturesque towns in Bulgaria, also known as the City of Tsars (kings), a historical, cultural, transport, industrial and tourist centre of modern Bulgaria. The precipitously perched houses and mediaeval fortifications girdling the Tsarevets massif add melodrama to the scene. Le Corbusier raved about Tarnovo's "organic" architecture, and even the dour Prussian Field Marshal Helmut Von Moltke was moved to remark that he had "never seen a town of more romantic location". Inheriting centuries-old Prehistoric, Thracian and Antique culture, and sitting on the gorge of Yantra River, many streets are lined with traditional houses, and above the town the ruined citadel on Tsarevets Hill recalls the time when this was the capital of the Second Bulgarian State. Tarnovo Schools of Literature and Arts were also established and developed here, paving the way for remarkable architectural monuments to be created.
Modern Veliko Tarnovo is a town rich in many cultural museums and monuments and architectural preserves. Every year the town is visited by thousands of tourists from Bulgaria and from abroad. The first thing that one is greatly impressed by is Tsarevets Hill - the site of the patriarchial church and royal palaces, the hill where Balduin's Tower rises majestically and tells the legendary story of the Latin Emperor Balduin of Flanders who was captured by Tsar Kaloyan.
Then you will admire the beauty and charm of another hill - Trapezitsa. You will marvel and enthuse over the Bulgarian National Revival period architectural ensembles along Gurko Street, the old Nikoli Inn and St. Constantine and Helena Church. The original Samovodene craft market has been brought back to life. As in old times, skilful craftsmen work out and sell exquisite objects in the small restored workshops. At night, proud Tsarevets lends the natural decor to a fantastic sound and light show.
Veliko Tarnovo is a town with rich and glorious past. The earliest traces were found on Trapezitsa Hill from the first half of the 3rd millennium BC. Remnants on Tsarevets Hill date back to the end of Bronze era (13th century BC). The oldest settlement was inhabited by Thracians and exited by the end of the Iron era. The following inhabitants were the Byzantines. During the 8th century a big Slav-Bulgarian settlement was built there. At the end of the 10th century the elevations of Tsarevets, Trapezitsa, and Sveta Gora were densely populated and in the 12th century Veliko Tarnovo was a fortified town and a significant economic centre.
The origin of the name is related to the Slavonic word "tern" or "turn" (thorn) and during the years it developed into Ternov, Trunov, Tarnov, Tarnovgrad, Turnovo, and Veliko Tarnovo, called Veliko (Great) in relation to its size, beauty and grandeur. In 1187 Uprising of Assen and Petar (brothers and noblemen), the Byzantine rule was thrown off, and they proclaimed Veliko Tarnovo capital of the restored Bulgarian Kingdom. During the 13th and 14th centuries the town became a significant political, economic, trade and cultural centre in Europe. This material and spiritual upsurge was discontinued on 17th of July 1393, when the whole of Bulgaria was conquered by the Turks.
During the Revival period the town experienced a new economic, cultural and political upsurge. Crafts developed, trade flourished, beautiful houses, public buildings and churches were built. Veliko Tarnovo became a centre of the struggles for ecclesiastical and national independence. On the 7th of July 1877 Veliko Tarnovo was free again. On the 16th of April 1879 the Constitution, one of the most democratic constitutions in Europe at that time, is passed there. On 17.04.1879 the first Great National Assembly of liberated Bulgaria convened in Veliko Tarnovo. It was namely there that on 06.09.1885 the acknowledge of the union of the Principality Bulgaria with Eastern Rumelia was made.
Although Sofia became the capital of united Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo continued to be a bastion of the Bulgarian national spirit, and self-awareness.
Tsarevets Hill in the eastern part of the town is proclaimed an archaeological reserve. There the so called Balduin Tower, the entrance door, and part of the fortified wall are preserved, as well as the palace of Bulgarian kings and the Bulgarian patriarchy of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (12th-14th century) are restored.
Trapezitsa Hill is related to the earliest manifestation of the Bulgarian rulers during 12th century. There 17 church foundations have left until nowadays. The most interesting there are the churches St. Dimitar and the 40 holly Martyrs, as well as Assenova Mahala (Assen’s neighborhood).
The hil Sveta Gora rises south of Tsarevets. It was a cultural and spiritual centre of the Bulgarian State in the mediaeval times. Nowadays the buildings of Veliko Tarnovo University St. St. Cyril and Methodius are situated there.
Sites of interests are the churches St. Nikola, St. St. Cyril and Methodius, St. St. Constantine and Helena, the architectural monuments: House with the monkey, House of Petko R. Slaveikov, House of kokona (grand lady) Anastasia, Stambolov’s Khan (inn), Samovodska Charshia (market of wood-nymphs) with lots of National Revival houses and working workshops, the monument of Assens, the monument "Mother Bulgaria", Stambolov’s Bridge.
The Museum of the National Revival and the National Assembly is situated in the Old Konak (Town Hall), built by the eminent Bulgarian architect Kolyo Ficheto and related to a lot of historical events. The Ethnographic Museum is arranged in the Inn of Hadji Nikola – one of the most interesting architectural monuments. Very interesting is the Prison Museum through which a lot of freedom-loving Bulgarians passed – Vasil Levski, Philip Totiu, Stefan Karadja and many others.
In Veliko Tarnovo there is a Theatre of Drama and Music, as well as state art gallery and many private galleries.
Both bus and railway transport secure the interurban connections of the town. International buses also start from the town of Veliko Tarnovo to different European cities.
The Bus Station is situated in the western end of Veliko Tarnovo. The Central Railway Station is located in the southern end of the town. There is another railway station - Trapezitza. Both stations are at the main railway line Ruse - G. Oryahovitsa - St. Zagora - Podkova.
4 km northeast of the town is the village of Arbanassi - proclaimed an architectural reserve. There are unique monuments of the Bulgarian National Revival architecture. Preobrazhenski Monastery is situated 7 km to the north at the left bank of Yantra River. The oldest Monastery around Veliko Tarnovo – Sveta Troitsa (St. Trinity) is located on the right bank of Yantra River, opposite Preobrazhenski Monastery. 13 km south of the town near the town of Kilifarevo is located Kilifarevo Monastery, founded by Teodosii Tarnovski. Plakovski Monastery is situated near to the village of Plakovo, 18 km south of Veliko Tarnovo. Merdanski Monastery is 14 km southeast of the town. The complex Nikopolis ad Istrum - ruins of an old Roman majestic town near the village of Nikiup, is situated 18 km north of the town.
The spa resort Voneshta Voda is 28 km to the south.
The passage of the Republic (Hainboaz) is 39 km south of the town of Veliko Tarnovo.