Veliko Târnovo, the Old City of Tsars – Part 3

Veliko Tarnovo

In the third and final part of our epic journey through time and space in medieval Veliko Târnovo, we head for a stroll down its old streets, pass by the stacked houses of the picturesque Varosha quarter, have a delicious taste of Bulgarian cuisine, and head off for some rock climbing over at St. Trinity crag.

If you like, you can also read the first and second parts of our Veliko Târnovo mini-series.

Veliko Tarnovo and Tsarevets

A stroll around medieval Veliko Târnovo

It seems as if time simply stopped flowing and everything around does neither age nor change. Citadels, fortresses, palaces, churches, and cobbled streets where cats rule with a steady hand (seriously, you wouldn’t want to cross them), are the proud witnesses of a glorious past. Get ready to travel back in time as you stroll down the winding narrow streets of Veliko Târnovo’s Old Town, unchanged for centuries. Bulgarian, Macedonian, Greek, and Albanian influences can be seen at every step, history remains steadily engraved in each cornerstone, and the ebony and ivory houses with their stone walls stand proud like miniatures fortresses.

Veliko Tarnovo (2)

Varosha quarter, the old town, with its enchanting cobbled streets, is the perfect setting for a romantic afternoon stroll. Its unique architecture, with labyrinthine alleys and houses overhanging by the valley, stacked in perfect order, is simply picture-perfect.

Veliko Tarnovo at dusk (8)

Oldest street in Veliko Târnovo is Gourko Street, named so in memory of Russian field marshal Joseph Vladimirovici Romeyko-Gourko, who freed the city during the Russian-Romanian-Turkish War between 1877 and 1878. The street has not changed much since the Middle Ages, and neither did most of the steep lanes here in Varosha quarter.

Veliko Tarnovo at night

Sure, it may take less than two hours to cover the Old Town, but you certainly cannot get bored here. Veliko Târnovo is Bulgaria’s second most prestigious university center. Simply put, the city’s nightlife is sublime. The many cafes, bars, and clubs will surely keep you entertained. And it’s cheap too. Prices range between 10 and 15 Euros per person in guesthouses and hotels. Make sure you pick one in the Old Town to make the most of your trip here. If you can find one overlooking Tsarevets, that’s even better. For 20 BGN (10 Euros), you can get a great family dinner that I guarantee will come in large portions. If you haven’t tried it yet, Bulgarian cuisine, with its Balkan influences, should definitely be on your bucket list.

Veliko Tarnovo climbing (7)

Rock Climbing near Veliko Târnovo

It would certainly be worthwhile taking a day or afternoon to visit the neighboring village of Arbanassi, only 4 km (2.5 miles) from Veliko Târnovo, a small tranquil village that has managed to preserve its medieval charm unhindered. It’s stone built houses will take you straight back in time to the late 15th century, when the foundations of this fairytale settlement were laid.

Veliko Tarnovo climbing (5)

If you take the road to Arbanassi and turn left after exiting the city, a narrow and winding road will take you to Sveta Troitsa Convent, St. Trinity in English, built under the steep limestone cliffs rising tall above the Yantra River. It is only a 5-6 km (3-4 miles) drive from the city. Just behind the convent, a 1 km (0.6 miles) long crag welcomes climbers with over 140 routes divided in 7 sectors, sun-oriented during most of the day. You’ll find something here for every taste – grades ranging from 5 to 8b+, offering everything from steep slabs to overhangs, from crimps and pockets to slopers and cracks, on white, yellow, and dark limestone. You can have a look at the topo here.

Veliko Tarnovo climbing (3)

Best time to climb at St. Trinity is spring and autumn. Summers can get really hot here and the crags can turn into ovens. Literally! You wouldn’t want to be caught dead here this time of year! The same goes for Veliko Târnovo, which can be a bit too hot in summer, especially if you want to cover as much of the city by foot. But then again, you can always stroll down its medieval streets in the evening, when the air cools off. And there’s something about Veliko Târnovo that makes it even more magical at dusk.

Veliko Tarnovo at dusk (7)

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