If you happen to stay longer in Veliko Tarnovo, which I highly recommend, it’s time to discover the hidden gems in this beautiful city. Beyond the museums and the tourist attractions, the Old Capital of Bulgaria is a buzzing city, trying to get rid of the historical halo, or I’d rather say, trying to get a bit hipster, to diversify the image of fortresses and historical sites.
In this guide I am taking you to some less visited places, quite often overlooked by tourists, or to some new places I have discovered during my last visit to Veliko Tarnovo. I’ve lived in the city for 10 years and for the last 10 years I’m spending at least a week there each year, so it’s really nice to see how the city develops and grows. So, here’s my selection of 11 off-the-beaten-path things to do in Veliko Tarnovo.Discover the best hidden gems in Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria)!Click To Tweet
- 1 Offbeat things to do in Bulgaria’s Old Capital
- 1.1 Walk the Bishop’s Bridge (Vladishki Most)
- 1.2 Get back in time in Asenov Quarter
- 1.3 Climb some stairs in Varusha Quarter
- 1.4 Get a bird’s eye view of the city from the City Skywalk
- 1.5 Forget about the calories at Amaretto Bakery & Cafe
- 1.6 Have a traditional dinner at the Tihiat Kut Tavern
- 1.7 Get a drink with a view at The Gallery
- 1.8 Go on a graffiti hunt in Veliko Tarnovo
- 1.9 Get fresh fruit and veggies at the daily Farmer’s Market
- 1.10 Chill out at Marno Pole Park
- 1.11 Indulge in art and wine at the Hadji Nikoli Inn
- 2 Prepare for your trip to Veliko Tarnovo
Offbeat things to do in Bulgaria’s Old Capital
You can use the map below to find the locations of those places. Some of them are not to be found on Google maps. You can download this map and use it even offline when in Veliko Tarnovo.
Walk the Bishop’s Bridge (Vladishki Most)
This is one of the most romantic places in Veliko Tarnovo. The wooden bridge was built in the late XVII century. It’s called the Bishop’s Bridge at it was close to the seat of the episcopal see and most likely its construction was financed by the the then bishop. From the bridge, there’s a this beautiful view to the Tsarevets fortress and the Yantra River.
Get back in time in Asenov Quarter
This part of the city is often overlooked by the tourists and no one hardly ever walks the streets there. When you visit the Tsarevets Fortress, just walk the road down to the river instead of going back to the city centre. You will be surprised by the serenity and peacefulness of the area. Once called the New Town (first built in the XIII century), today it’s the oldest quarter in the city. There are 5 churches in this quarter and 4 of them are national monuments. I love the stately look of the St. Demetrius Church and the colors of the Assumption Church. And of course the beautiful Bishop’s Bridge (Vladishki most) is also there.
Climb some stairs in Varusha Quarter
A maze of narrow cobbled streets and stairs, lined up with houses in National Revival Style, and almost no cars, Varusha Quarter is like an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the busy town. Almost no tourist sets a foot there, only the people who live there. Perhaps, this is why the place is full of charm and a certain dose of nostalgia. Just take your time and get lost in this village-like part of Veliko Tarnovo.
Get a bird’s eye view of the city from the City Skywalk
There are a few terraces on the main street from where you can enjoy a view over the Yantra River, the Horsemen Monument and the Gallery, but I’ve recently discovered this place and it offers the best view. It’s a kind of a skywalk they’ve built in one tiny opening on the street between two buildings. If you’ve been to Veliko Tarnovo, you’ve probably passed by many times without noticing it. See the map above for the exact location of the skywalk.
Forget about the calories at Amaretto Bakery & Cafe
The best part about coming over and over again to a place is that you see how it changes. My last discovery from my last visit to Veliko Tarnovo is this lovely café. It’s quite different from the rest of the cafés in the city, a bit hipster looking, which is quite surprising for a traditional city like Veliko Tarnovo. You can go there for breakfast and try a traditional Bulgarian banichka (filo-type dough pastry with feta-type cheese). Just be warned – resisting all the sweets and cakes and cookies and pies is impossible. And the coffee they serve is to die for! Their fresh juices are also a nice surprise. I tried the water-melon one and it was full of taste and super refreshing. Oh, and their signature Amaretto chocolate cake is everything you need.
Have a traditional dinner at the Tihiat Kut Tavern
There are so many restaurants in the city, but if you want some traditional Bulgarian comfort food, served at an unpretentious and cozy place where you’ll get warm and affectionate attitude from the waiters, then you have to visit Tihiat Kut. Translated into English, the name of this restaurant means The Quiet Corner, and indeed the place is pretty quiet. Located at the small square, where the iconic Gurko Street starts, this place is visited mostly only by locals. I remember I was frequenting this place like 20 years ago, but then I started going to fancier restaurants, kind of forgetting all about it until I rediscovered it last summer. Oh, and they have a lovely summer garden, that feels as if you are siting at your backyard.
Get a drink with a view at The Gallery
What can be better than enjoying a local beer with one of the most beautiful views in the world? And I don’t exaggerate. There are hardly any other places in the world that offer that amazing view – the colorful houses with red roof tiles cascaded on the hill with the river meandering around. The Galeria Café is located just in front of the State Gallery, hence the name. It is open throughout the summer. Stop by and enjoy a drink with a view. Wait, there is also a bonus attached to it – to get to the café you have to pass along the most famous bridge in the city – the Stambolov Bridge. Besides, in the summer the place is used as a venue for various festivals. So you can listen to a band playing, with the twinkling lights on the windows as a backdrop. Life can’t get better than that.
Go on a graffiti hunt in Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo is also home to some pretty cool graffiti. With a Fine Arts High School, the city boasts as a centre of young and talented artists. Unfortunately, there’s no graffiti walking tour, so you have to go on a scavenger tour to discover them. On the other hand, it’s perhaps better to discover them without a tour, as you’ll come to places where tourists normally don’t go. I wish I knew a bit more about them, so that I could tell you, but I am sure you will be able to appreciate them on your own. Don’t miss also the big murals from the communist days which are located on Stefan Stambolov Street. I’ve found some amazing graffiti on Knyaz Dondukov Street.
The first Graffiti Art Festival was held in the city at the beginning of September 2019. So I’m pretty curious about the creations the artists made at one of the schools in the city – Slaveikov Elementary School. If you visit the city before me, tell me about the new graffiti in the comments below.
Get fresh fruit and veggies at the daily Farmer’s Market
One of the things that I mostly miss that I am now living in the Netherlands, is the daily farmer’s market. There isn’t a more sustainable way of getting your food on the table than choosing for the shortest way your food will travel from the farm to the table. The Farmer’s market is bursting with aromas and colours, If you are travelling on a budget and cooking your meals, get your veggies and fruit at the market. Even if you are eating each time at restaurants and cafes, stop by at the market and get some fresh seasonal fruit and enjoy the colours and the special vibe.
Chill out at Marno Pole Park
The city park is another place that is often overlooked by the tourists. In the summer, you can stop there to chill out under the shadows of the trees. You can play chess on the special chess tables, or you can sit down on a bench and enjoy the flowers and the serenity. There are also beer gardens at the park, if you aren’t much of a chess-player. In the winter the the park turns into a Christmas village with the festively decorated stalls and beautiful lights.
Indulge in art and wine at the Hadji Nikoli Inn
If you don’t know where Hadji Nikoli Inn is, you will pass by without noticing it and still it is perhaps the most beautiful building in the city. Hidden behind the Samovodska Charshia, which is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Veliko Tarnovo, the former inn remains off the beaten path for the most visitors of Veliko Tarnovo. The Inn was built around 1850-1860 by one of the most prominent architects and builders of the time – Kolyu Ficheto. For many years the inn was left to its fate but it was recently beautifully restored.
Today, there’s a museum which hosts interesting exhibitions, an art gallery, a wine bar (the best in Veliko Tarnovo) and a gourmet restaurant with great atmosphere. My favorite place, however is the inner courtyard.
Prepare for your trip to Veliko Tarnovo
- Traveling for the fist time to Bulgaria? Check out my post about what to expect and how to prepare for your travel.
- Read my complete travel guide about Veliko Tarnovo for a list of all attractions in the city.
- Need accommodation in Veliko Tarnovo? My extensive hotels guide will help you find the hotel with the best view in Veliko Tarnovo.
- Staying longer in Veliko Tarnovo? Check out my suggestions for day trips from Veliko Tarnovo.
- Want to discover more of Bulgaria? Take this road trip from north to south along some of the most beautiful places in Bulgaria. Veliko Tarnovo is one of them.
- No idea what to pack for your trip to Europe? Check my posts packed with useful information and advice about packing for Europe in the summer and packing for Europe in the autumn.