A Weekend in Veliko Târnovo

Homes in Veliko, Bulgaria

Before I moved to Romania, I had never heard of Veliko Târnovo. And to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have  been able to point to Bulgaria on a map.

Even though Eastern Europe is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination, Bulgaria (and Romania) is often skipped over, in favor of Hungary or the Czech Republic. I’m personally pretty happy about this fact, as it means my husband and I get to explore abandoned castles and fortified churches without waiting in lines, and are able to have picturesque medieval cities like Veliko Târnovo pretty much to ourselves.

Since Veliko is only a 3-hour drive from Bucharest, Luke and I just went for the weekend, staying Saturday night and coming back Sunday. It was enough time to soak in some of the town’s history and charm, but I would’ve liked another day or two. We’ll be back.

In the meantime, here’s a look at what we did, where we stayed and, of course, where we ate.

What We Did:

1. Walked around the city

The first thing I always do in a new place is walk around.  Veliko Târnovo’s historical downtown is relatively small and very pedestrian friendly. Full of artistic graffiti, quirky statues, and cobblestone streets, there’s enough to see for an enjoyable 3-4 hour stroll. (And yes, we brought our dog with us. He now has four stamps in his doggie passport!)

2. Explored Tsarevets Fortress

Visiting castles and fortresses in Eastern Europe quickly becomes like visiting churches in Western Europe or temples in Asia. However, Tsarevets Fortress was worth the time and money (only 6 Bulgarian Lev, or $3.50 USD).  Dating back to the 12th century, this citadel served to protect the  Bulgarian tsars who ruled during the Second Bulgarian Empire. Wear comfortable shoes and plan to spend 1-2 hours walking around.

3. Visited Asenevtsi Monument

This monument was built in 1985 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Bulgaria’s liberation from the Byzantine Empire. It’s dedicated to the Asen family and the rebellion brothers Ivan and Peter Asen led against the Byzantines in 1186. From the monument you get a great view of town’s hillside homes.

 Where We Stayed:

Luke and I stayed at the Rooster Hostel in the historic part of Veliko Târnovo. It’s not a hostel as the name suggests, but more of a guest house with the option to stay in a cheaper 4-bed dormitory. The owner was lovely and very helpful with offering maps, history and dining suggestions.

How much we paid: $25 USD per night for a double room with a shared bathroom. We used booking.com.

How much we liked it: As you can see from the pictures, the place was cute and clean, and the owner is a complete gem. Just know that if you’re staying on the ground floor (like we did), you’ll hear people talking in the common room until lights out at around 11pm. If you’re a light sleeper, pack a pair of ear plugs and an eye mask.

Where We Ate:

Malkiq Inter (above) is a local haunt owned by our hostel owner’s girlfriend’s parents (it’s a small town). The restaurant/bar looked like an eclectic antique store, with a few cats roaming around for good measure. Great music, beer, and awesome chicken served in a clay pot. Oh, and the bill came to less than $20USD for the both of us.

Restaurant Shtasliveca (above; Veliko Tarnovo Old Town location) is, in my opinion (and TripAdvisor’s), the best restaurant in the city. In fact, I would drive to Veliko just to eat there again.

I have no food pictures of this place because it was dark; and honestly, the food was so good that I couldn’t wait to dig in. The menu is seasonal, but when we were there, we ordered a cheese-stuffed sweet pepper appetizer, a cheesy pumpkin dish, chicken and local vegetables served on a “lava plate,” a special biscuit cake for dessert, and a fantastic bottle of local wine for just under $50USD (including the standard 10% tip). Seriously, I can’t even write any more without drooling all over my keyboard. Just go.

What I wish we did:

Image source: www.velikoturnovo.info

For some reason we weren’t able to catch this when we were in Veliko, but the city’s Sound and Light Show is something I definitely want to see next time we’re in town. Apparently most every night around 8-9:30, flashes of colored lights bathe Veliko Târnovo’s skyline to the sound of choral music. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it costs around $10USD. For more information, visit https://www.soundandlight.bg/en/.

 

Have you been to Veliko Târnovo, or anywhere else in Bulgaria? Luke and I plan to visit Plovdiv and Sofia later this year and would love suggestions. Comment below if you have any!

10 thoughts on “A Weekend in Veliko Târnovo”

  1. Jen, Do you recommend driving a car in Romania? What abt the trains? How do you get around? We would like to visit many areas of Romania. What country do you recommend to fly into to cut down on air travel time to Romania?
    We can spend a few days in another country to cut down on Air time! Live your blogs!!
    Cherry

    1. Hey, Cherry! I definitely recommend renting a car when you get to Romania. Bucharest has an international airport and is very easy to fly into. The roads connecting the city to Transylvania are pretty good; you just have to have patience and be on your toes when you’re not on the highway. Having a car allows you to explore the little towns and take day trips, but the trains are pretty good as well. Luke and I usually drive, but we’ve taken the train to Sibiu (definitely recommend) and to Brasov (great town, but the train isn’t in walking distance to downtown). If you want more information, feel free to email me: jenniferdstevens@gmail.com 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience Jennifer. I love to learn about about countries few Americans visit. I don’t think I have ever been or seen a Bulgarian restaurant in the cities I have I have lived in.

    1. Thanks for reading, Scott! I would definitely recommend visiting Romania and Bulgaria if you’re able to. Bulgaria is doing a pretty big tourism push, but it’s still pretty free of tourists, which means it’s cheap and authentic! To be honest, I didn’t think Bulgarian food was all that exciting, but the clay pot dishes were nice and so were their cheeses (cheese-stuffed peppers!). They love their fermented milk drinks (kind of like kefir with salt) and are famous for rose oil and rose products.

    1. Thanks, Dad! We’ll take you here next time you visit. It’s an easy trip and very interesting. 🙂

  3. Looks like my kind of village! I would love to go there…someday! But tell me what is that green field behind you? It looks like a mini golf.

    1. That’s a good question, Patty! I know it wasn’t mini golf, but I believe it was some sort of art installation. Lots of interesting stuff going on there, for sure!

  4. Well Jen that handsome Aussie man of yours and you are getting around…Thanks for sharing Veliko Tarnovo. Its a part of the world (Bulgaria/Romania) I wasnt able to get to but is still very much on the bucket list. The fewer tourists reality is still making it so appealing. Getting to eat, stay, drink and sit with the locals is the best..T x

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