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Bulgaria's former medieval capital has aged well. Set on steep hillsides overlooking an S-shaped gorge cut by the gently flowing Yantra River, gorgeous Veliko Tarnovo has been on an upswing in recent years. Long a popular student base, Veliko attracts visitors for hikes to nearby monasteries and waterfalls and rock-climbers who come for annual tournaments. It's also seeing "new Bulgarians" (i.e., retired Brits) buying up old homes in the surrounding hillsides. In town, the cobbled streets like Gurko Street are lined with many medieval buildings, while 19th-century tavern-style homes, such as Sarafkina Kashta, can be visited. The top ...

Bulgaria's former medieval capital has aged well. Set on steep hillsides overlooking an S-shaped gorge cut by the gently flowing Yantra River, gorgeous Veliko Tarnovo has been on an upswing in recent years. Long a popular student base, Veliko attracts visitors for hikes to nearby monasteries and waterfalls and rock-climbers who come for annual tournaments. It's also seeing "new Bulgarians" (i.e., retired Brits) buying up old homes in the surrounding hillsides. In town, the cobbled streets like Gurko Street are lined with many medieval buildings, while 19th-century tavern-style homes, such as Sarafkina Kashta, can be visited. The top attraction lies just north of the center, the dramatic Tsaravets citadel. Much of the walled fortress dates as far back as the 12th century, though the area has been a stronghold for many more years. On some nights, visiting tour groups shell out for a light-and-sound show, though locals line up outside to watch for free. Area attractions include Arbanasi — where the old Tsar, his princes and servants used to live. Its walled compounds are now private homes and restaurants, some of which have gigantic views of Veliko's wide valley below. Veliko is just off the tracks between Bucharest and Istanbul, and hourly buses connect it with Sofia (three hours west) and the Black Sea hub Varna (three hours east).

Robert Reid
About the Expert

Robert Reid has updated 15 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, including Romania & Moldova, Eastern Europe, and Trans-Siberian Railway.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located in north central Bulgaria about 140 miles from Sofia
  • Language: Bulgarian
  • Currency: Lev
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    April to June, or September. Veliko lacks the ski-based attractions for winter.