Veliko Tarnovo or Great Tarnovo is famous for its three- walled citadel called Tsarevets in the middle of this historic city. Ruins of over 400 houses, 18 churches and partially reconstructed palace are still visible today. Capital of the Bulgarian Kingdom Tsarevets was home to Bulgarian kings between 1185 and 1393. You can take taxi, bus (20, 400, 110) or simply walk to the fortress that is clearly visible. From April to September it is open from 8 am till 7 pm and from October till March it is open 9 am till 5 pm
Location: Asenova Quarter
Tel. 062 636 828
062 636 841
Entrance Fee: 6lv, student 2lv, elevator 2lv
Open: 9am- 5pm Nov- March
8am- 6pm Apr-Oct
light show 8pm- 8:30pm
Entrance Fee: Adult 4 lv, child 2lb
Veliko Tarnovo or Tarnovgrad as it was known through much of its history, is one of the oldest sites settlement sites in Bulgaria. Remains of human occupation date as early as 3rd millennium BC on Trapezitsa Hill. Thracian tribes and later Ancient Romans used Tsarevets Hill as a base for their military operations in the region.
Tsarevets Hill sees expansive construction beginning 5th century AD during rule of the Byzantine Empire. By the 12th century it becomes a major political, religious and economic centre of the country. In fact brothers Asen and Peter proclaim here independence from the Byzantine rule and turn it into their capital in 1185, thus Veliko Tarnovo became the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom under the name of Tarnovgrad or Tarnov City in Bulgarian. One of the notable prisoners of the castle was Baldwin I, the first emperor of Latin Empire with its capitol in Constantinople, after its fall in 1204 to the Fourth Crusade. Defeated and imprisoned by czar Kaloyan he was kept in Veliko Tarnovo in Baldwin Tower until his death. Causes and methods are largely obscure and unknown, but the legend tells that Baldwin I tried to seduce Kaloyan’s wife and instead was thrown from the Execution Rock. Following the left wall upon entering the fortress you can see it for yourself. Many criminals and enemies of the czar ended their lives here.
Veliko Tarnovo expanded and flourished for over two centuries until Ottoman invasion that sacked Bulgaria and all of Balkan Peninsula. City fell to Turkish forces on 17 July 1393 after three month of bloody siege. However it remained a powerful symbol of former glory and it is not surprising that even ruins inspired Bulgarians to fight for their freedom. Several rebellions against Ottoman rule broke out in Veliko Tarnovo including two major uprisings that started here. One occurred in 1598 (First Tarnovo Uprising) and another in 1686 (Second Tirnovo Uprising). Unfortunately both failed to achieve independence for Bulgaria. It was not until Russo- Turkish was of 1877- 78 and arrival of Russian army on 7 July 1877 under leadership of general Joseph Vladimirovich Gourko then city got its independence back.
On April 17, 1879 the first National Assembly presiding in Veliko Tarnovo ratified the first constitution of the newly liberated state that came to be known as Tarnovo Constitution. Ironically the same Assembly decided to move capital from Veliko Tarnovo to Sofia, but tzar Ferdinand Saxe- Coburg Gotha paying homage to the ancient capital of Veliko Tarnovo and chose to proclaim final independence of the state here in church of St. Forty Martyrs on October 5, 1908.
Veliko Tarnovo Royal Palace of the Bulgarian czars was originally it covered over 4500 sq meters. It was the center of the Bulgarian Kingdom from where 22 Bulgarian kings ruled over extensive empire. Medieval masters apparently used ancient Roman stones, bricks and columns from much older Roman ruins. Recently Veliko Tarnovo Palace saw major reconstruction. Historians and archaeologists worked hard to recreate the appearance of the medieval building. It is hard to say how well they accomplished it, but the site lost certain degree of its authenticity.
Reconstructed Veliko Tarnovo church on top of the hill. Although the structure is historically accurate interior frescoes scare tourist with its avant-garde scenes.
Veliko Tarnovo "Baldwin tower" got its name from a fact that it is a place where king of Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem Baldwin I was kept after his imprisoment. It was here where he also died. Current struction was reconstructed in the second half of the 20th century.
Veliko Tarnovo Execution Rock in the corner of the castle. This was the last thing condemned saw on the long way down.