kami

Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

Day in Veliko Tarnovo – my highlight of Bulgaria

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My journey from Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo was a bittersweet one. The train ride was supposed to be longish yet smooth. The first part, to the Romanian-Bulgarian border was really fine as I shared the compartment with a fun English-American couple. Time went by really quickly as we were chatting about our travels but actually our train got really delayed and eventually they missed their connection to Varna. That also made me realize that my further journey to Veliko Tarnovo might be in danger as I had to change trains in a small town some 20kms away from my destination. Since my plan for Bulgaria was rather tight I already had visions I will have to skip Veliko Tarnovo, known also as a highlight of Bulgaria. I was checking my possibilities, including a night train to the Black Sea (the biggest advantage of the Interrail tickets is the independence of travels around) but eventually made it to Veliko Tarnovo, even if the train in Gorna Orjahovica had to wait for 50 minutes for me and couple of other people. I thought it’s the end of my worries for the day but I was so wrong. The short ride from Gorna Orjahovica to Veliko Tarnovo was a treat: green hills, spectacular views and me looking outside of the open window, with wind in my hair, trying to take it all in. But as soon as I could see first glimpse of the beautiful town I also could feel a big raindrop on my cheek. Needless to say as soon as I stepped out of the train a massive, torrential rain has started. There was a huge wall of water, the streets were flooding and the whole scenery has changed in just one minute. There were no taxis, no one knew when the next bus to the old town will be, it was getting dark and I was slowly feeling hopeless and super hungry. But then out of nowhere a taxi appeared! Already on the way to the hostel the sky was clearing up, I could see the last rays of sunshine for the day and breath the super fresh, after-rain air. And in the hostel a warm dinner and a glass of beer was waiting for me! My day was saved and I was more than ready to start my day in Veliko Tarnovo!

day in Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo – one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria

I spent the evening preparing for my day in Veliko Tarnovo. Very quickly I found out that I don’t have enough time for everything I’d like to see as the city is just packed with attractions and it’s no surprise it’s the highlight of Bulgaria! Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria, the first settlements there came from 3rd millennium BC! During the Middle Ages the town, known originally as Tarnovgrad, has been the center and the capital of the Bulgarian Empire. Later, over the centuries, it still remained one of the most important places in Bulgaria and until now it has probably the richest history of all the places in the whole country.

day in Veliko Tarnovo

Tsarevets Fortress – the best views of Veliko Tarnovo

When I woke up in the morning, more than ready to see everything in my one day in Veliko Tarnovo, the weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny. I started my explorations pretty early hence for most of the time I had the place (almost) to myself. I started with the Tsarevets Fortress, the major landmark of the city as well as its symbol. It occupies hills at the edge of the town, being a silent witness of its history for over 15 centuries! At first I wasn’t sure if I want to explore it, I’ve thought it’s much more interesting to wander around the town. Well, that would have been a huge mistake! The fortress, or rather its ruins, is enormous! Until now there’re remains of around 400 houses, 18 churches, the royal palace and the execution rock. Basically everywhere you walk you’re surrounded by ruins of buildings that were part of the Bulgarian history. On top of the fortress there’s a Church of the Blessed Saviour with a very interesting interior. But the best thing about the place is the view of the city and surrounding mountains. It’s simply breathtaking! And when you think you’ve just seen that Tsarevets Fortress has to offer you go a little bit further or higher and the landscape looks even better and better!

Market area and another amazing view

 

A walk down the main and really pleasant street took me to the former market quarter – Samovodska Charshiya. The majority of the houses in this part of the city comes from 1880s, when the National Revival architecture was at its best. And while the main street in this quarter is shining with redone facades a little walk in the backstreets will show more real face of the place. The houses are still extremely beautiful, they are just waiting for better times as the renovation is so needed! The lower part is a home to numerous souvenir shops and restaurants but the higher you go (and the better the view is) the more authentic the quarter is and picturing the old times isn’t such a hard thing! And every local person I passed by (ok, there were 3 of them) showed me the way around, pointing to the top from where I could admire the breathtaking area around.

Veliko Tarnovo street art

 

But the reason why I enjoyed Veliko Tarnovo so much wasn’t the history, incredible views or beautiful architecture. It was the really decent street art scene, something I’d never have thought of there! In such a short time and without really looking for it I’ve found so many great works of Veliko Tarnovo street art! Some were better than others, obviously, but altogether they’ve created a great outdoor gallery. In addition to that there were also few big professional carvings on the buildings, showing the history of the city. Together with smaller works it was just a perfect combination and Veliko Tarnovo street art was one of the most interesting and surprising I’ve ever encountered. I asked the receptionist in the hostel how come it’s such a creative city and well, the answer is very easy. Veliko Tarnovo has a very good art university therefore many students try to leave their work on the walls around the town. There’s even Veliko Tarnovo street art festival!

 Delicious Bulgarian food

 

I slowly walked along the river (another nice area of the city) back to the hostel. It was calm, peaceful and so very pretty I didn’t want to leave! I still have some time so I stopped in the nearby restaurant to have lunch. OK, restaurant might be too big word for that place but the food was really delicious and so cheap! I had my typical Bulgarian combo: tarator – a cold cucumber soup – and shopska salad, nothing too fancy yet I was in heaven, especially that it was my first proper meal in the country. But then I had no more excuses, my day in Veliko Tarnovo was over and I had to get ready to catch a train to my further destination – Sofia!


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Surprising day in Veliko Tarnovo

 

Before my visit to Veliko Tarnovo I wasn’t all that much impressed with the city, judging only from the pictures I found online. Just another pretty Balkans place, I thought. But the city is actually really amazing and it’s so easy to fall for it, with its breathtaking location, beautiful architecture and laid-back, artistic vibe. Looking at the number of souvenir shops I bet it’s a pretty touristy place but when I visited it at the beginning of June, in the random weekday, it was really fine. Those few people, fellow tourists, that I met, were not overwhelming at all and when I wanted to have the place to myself I simply went one street right or left. Even if one day in Veliko Tarnovo might not have been enough to discover it properly I still enjoyed it big time and I think it is the highlight of Bulgaria!

veliko tarnovo (27)
Have you been to Bulgaria? Where? Would you like to visit Veliko Tarnovo?


Veliko Tarnovo practical informations:

– getting there: there’re regular bus connections between Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia, the journey takes around 3 hours and costs around 10€. There’s no direct train to Sofia (you need to change in Gorna Orjahovica) but the views along the way are pretty amazing! There’re couple of connections every day. If you’re going from Romania there’s one connection from Bucharest (also with the change). It’s possible to get to Veliko Tarnovo from the Black Sea coast and Plovdic too!

– accommodation: I stayed in Hostel Mostel and it was pretty amazing! Centrally located, clean, with free breakfast and dinner AND beer! You can book your stay there here. If you’re looking for a different place to stay here you can book one of the hotels in Veliko Tarnovo

– eating: since it’s a touristy place there’re couple of restaurants to choose from as well as grocery stores. I ate lunch in a very random and modest place close to Hostel Mostel (few steps up the street), clientele was mostly locals and the food was really good and cheap. Too bad I don’t remember the name but you’ll easily find it for sure!

– the ticket to the fortres costs 6 leva (around 3.50$ / 3€ / 13zł) but it’s really worth it. You can buy it from a random window in the buildings on the left side (when looking at the fortress), few steps away from the main entrance through the gate.


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If you think of visiting Bulgaria or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:

If you’re looking for articles about any place in particular this map with posts might be useful for you. Or just take a look at the „destinations” page.


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10 Wrz '15

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There are 55 Comments.

  1. looks really nice :)

  2. Jeżeli nadal mają ciepło, to jadę :)

  3. jest street art, są ruiny – musi być pięknie ;)

  4. Very interesting description and beautiful photo report!
    Marcin – NRWTrip latest post…Nie takie Niemcy straszne jak je malują…My Profile

  5. ale kontrast między zadbanymi budynkami i tymi zdezelowanymi (zdj24). I sporo twojego ulubionego streetart’u;) pzdr

  6. Not sure this place has ever been on my radar, but some of the views are pretty sweet (especially the narrow street and white-washed houses). All those ruins might be worth a visit.
    Pola (Jetting Around) latest post…Book giveaway: Burma Lost & FoundMy Profile

    • kami
      20:18 14/09/2015

      I really believe Central and Eastern Europe doesn’t get as much attention as it should! And Veliko Tarnovo is a great example of that! It’s such a great destination to visit, I’m sure you’d enjoy it too Pola!

  7. Nice views and architecture but all that street art paintings are totally amazing! Good to know that Bulgaria have such interesting places :)

    • kami
      20:19 14/09/2015

      Yeah, Bulgaria seems to be pretty underrated, everyone just goes to the seaside yet it has so much more to offer! And the street art scene is pretty decent there too!

  8. I love to check out the street art in all places I visit. I think it gives us a good feel for the spirit of the people.
    Cherri Megasko latest post…Bering Sea Gold Star Shelby Johnson Shares AllMy Profile

    • kami
      20:19 14/09/2015

      I agree with you so much! Street art is usually one of the first things I look for in a new place

  9. 01:57 13/09/2015

    I feel that Bulgaria is a place I know very little about (because it’s true ????) yet it is filled with culture and nice little spots… One day, one day
    Mar latest post…What $18,000 will get you in the air – Singapore Airlines Suites reviewMy Profile

    • kami
      20:20 14/09/2015

      I don’t know much about it either! But I’m slowly discovering it, and it turns out to be amazing!

  10. Street are you say? I AM THERE! I think you can tell a place has heart and soul when there is a little bit of street heart! That’s why I love Venice beach, CA! Have you been there? I love the off the beaten path stuff as well. We’d make good travel buddies!
    Bobbi Gould latest post…7 Quick Budget Travel TipsMy Profile

    • kami
      20:21 14/09/2015

      No, sadly I haven’t been to the US yet. But thank you for pointing out Venice beach to me, if you say there’s a decent street art then I want to go there really badly!! Looking for street art is always my fave part of traveling!

  11. Building with souvenirs shop looks outstanding :)

  12. Sometimes travel is difficult but Bulgaria looks wonderful.
    Elaine J. Masters latest post…Seeing America through other’s eyesMy Profile

  13. Veliko Tarnovo reminds me of the old town of Nessebar on the Black Sea. Veliko Tarnovo was on my list of places to visit in Bulgaria, but I was postponing it later and later into the fall. Finally, by the beginning of November with just one weekend left before leaving the country, the weather became so miserable that, to put it simply, I chickened out: getting soaked in freezing rain and traveling for 3 hours from Sofia to some unknowns. At least, I can look at your photos to check what I missed.
    Elena latest post…3 Reasons Why We Are Not Going To Cape TownMy Profile

    • kami
      20:23 14/09/2015

      at least you have a reason to come back. I bet Veliko Tarnovo must look amazing in the autumn colours but I don’t think November is still good for that. I haven’t been to Nessebar but everyone says it’s pretty lovely, it’s on my neverending list of places to visit!

  14. Carol Colborn
    17:46 13/09/2015

    We will be in Sofia and Razlog in November. It is only 2 hours awaY! Thanks!

    • kami
      20:23 14/09/2015

      Perfect, I hope you will visit Veliko Tarnovo and like it as much as I did!

  15. Nie jestem fanką Bułgarii. No może Sofia mnie trochę przekonuje. Mimo wszystko fajnie pokazałaś to miasto i trochę zachęciłaś. Mimo wszystko bardziej czekam na wpis z Sofii :P

    • kami
      20:24 14/09/2015

      No ja też miałam cięzkie początki z Bułgarią, ale teraz już było znacznie lepiej. A Sofia całkiem daje radę! Niedlugo coś się o niej napisze :)

  16. This does look like a really great city–I love all the fun street art! Tsarevets Fortress would be great to check out. The views looks really pretty from the top. And, I love the old houses in the market area!
    Jenna latest post…Landscapes of North America: Photo Book & GiveawayMy Profile

    • kami
      20:25 14/09/2015

      It is indeed really amazing and with so much to offer!

  17. I’m glad the train delay didn’t prevent your visit, it looks like you had a great time!
    Brianna latest post…The Natural Wonders of South IcelandMy Profile

    • kami
      20:25 14/09/2015

      I’m pretty happy as well! it would be such a pity to miss this place!

  18. Bulgaria is one of my favorite countries to visit! I love old fortresses. All the history in them. Makes me wonder what life was like back then. Awesome pics too!
    Joe Ankenbauer latest post…The Road Less Traveled: Angeles Crest HighwayMy Profile

    • kami
      20:28 14/09/2015

      Thank you! Bulgaria is such an interesting country and so full of history! Too bad not more people know about it!

  19. What a pretty place! And I really love all the street art too. I’m glad that the sun came out for you :)
    katja – globetotting latest post…My Family Adventure: Sailing in San Blas, PanamaMy Profile

  20. This most definitely looks like a place I would visit! So much gorgeous architecture and the art makes it look so fun! Being an artist myself I am always seeking out art around the world. :) Thanks for sharing this beautiful place!
    Dawn Kealing latest post…Top 10 Places to Visit in CanadaMy Profile

    • kami
      20:30 14/09/2015

      Thank you Dawn! Central Europe is becoming pretty big in the street art world so I’m sure you’d find many amazing places full of art here! I really like when there’s a balance between art and architecture, just like in Veliko Tarnovo!

  21. I’m so glad that the weather cleared up for you and you were able to truly enjoy your time, you seem to have a keen eye for cities with wonderful street art! Veliko Tarnovo looks really charming, and I’m so glad it ended up being the highlight of your time in Bulgaria. Will definitely make sure I make a trip happen when we travel to Bulgaria next fall. Thanks for the info and photo tour :)

    • kami
      20:33 14/09/2015

      I’m sure you will enjoy Veliko Tarnovo as well, the city has so much to offer! Don’t miss it when you go to Bulgaria! and yeah, I have some kind of radar when it comes to street art, will find it just about everywhere!

  22. What a pretty place you describe. I haven’t been to Bulgaria, but my sister has and she says it is a really nice country. You confirmed this :)
    Claudia latest post…How to be an Unsuccessful BackpackerMy Profile

    • kami
      20:34 14/09/2015

      It is really lovely, and so underrated! I hope you will have a chance to visit it one day to see it yourself!

  23. Basia
    11:31 14/09/2015

    Wow, beautiful photos ;) I don’t know that Bulgaria is a wonderfull place ;)

    • kami
      20:34 14/09/2015

      Thank you! Bulgaria is such an underrated country yet it has so much to offer!

  24. Mirøslav Hristøff
    18:15 15/09/2015

    Great photo reportage from Veliko Tarnovo. It’s one of my favorite cities in Bulgaria! Actually I’ve been student there for five years, so I have great memories from there. Totally agree with you – on of the most beautiful places in Bulgaria. A lot of history, culture and dynamic nightlife.
    Sorry for your troubles with the railways and the weather. The railways in Bulgaria are total disaster in the last few years. And the weather – we have a lot of surprising rains like this one lately…

    • kami
      22:25 15/09/2015

      It must have been really great to study there, I loved the city’s vibe! Together with history and culture they made a perfect mix! It’s such a gem!! And well, I’m really easy going when it comes to things I can do nothing about, i.e. trains delay and weather, so I just tried to focus on positives, like actually getting to Veliko Tarnovo. And Bulgarian railways aren’t the worse, and I’m sure they will improve with time! :)

  25. adam david
    04:30 16/09/2015

    someday maybe I’ll be there to see how beautiful this place :)

  26. I really know nothing about Bulgaria so this was a great little intro for me. I loved your photos of Veliko Tarnovo and learning about its history!
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) latest post…Will travel for music: Destination – East TennesseeMy Profile

    • kami
      14:13 22/09/2015

      thanks! It’s probably one of the lesser known countries in Europe yet so beautiful and interesting!

  27. Błakany potrafią zaskoczyć :) dla nas takim odkryciem był Ohrid w Marcedonii – te same białe domki co w Veliko Tarnovo :)

  28. Jon Dunn
    09:30 02/11/2015

    Yet another superb report and set of photos. I do love waking up on a Monday morning and seeing one of your colourful posts, it gets my week off to a great start. I’ve only ever been on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, Bourgas and Nesebar, but the fascination of the buildings and history never fades :)
    P.S. I had no interest in street art until I started reading your blogs – now I consider myself a bit of an expert!! ;)

    • kami
      19:36 15/11/2015

      Thank you for your lovely comment Jon, it really made my day! I haven’t made it yet to the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria and I’d really love to however I’ve heard it’s really destroyed by tourism and it has lost its authentic charm. Is it true?

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