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Tsarevets Fortress Tours

Tsarevets Fortress
Perched on a mountaintop overlooking one of Bulgaria’s oldest towns, Tsarevets Fortress is—both geographically and statistically—the top attraction of Veliko Târnovo. Dating back to the 12th century, the imposing fortress is known for its medieval architecture and royal legacy.

The Basics
While most visitors to Tsarevets Fortress head straight to the mountaintop, the fortress is actually spread out around the hillside, and there’s plenty to see on the hike to the top. Among the sprawling remains are a 13th-century monastery; Execution Rock, where traitors were pushed into the Yantra River below; and a number of churches and buildings, all surrounded by 39-foot-tall (12-meter-tall) fortress walls. The highlight is the hilltop Palace and Patriarch’s Complex, comprising the Church of the Blessed Savior and Baldwin Tower, which affords spectacular views from the top.

Things to Know Before You Go
  • Tours to Tsarevets Fortress run from cities such as Sofia, Varna, and Plovdiv, as well as from Bucharest in Romania.
  • Limited signage and information is available in English, so it’s worth visiting with a guide.
  • Wear sturdy shoes, comfortable clothing, and bring plenty of water—the walk around the fortress includes steps, uneven ground, and steep passages.
  • Due to its mountaintop location, the fortress is not accessible to wheelchairs and people with limited mobility.

How to Get There

The only way to reach the fortress is on foot, and the main entrance is a short walk from the center of Veliko Târnovo. From there, it’s about a 15-minute uphill walk to the top, but allow an hour or two to take in all the sights along the way. 

When to Get There
The fortress is open all year round, although opening times vary. If you’re visiting in the summer months, an early start is recommended to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day. On summer evenings, a sound and light show takes place at the fortress.

History of Tsarevets Fortress
Although the fortress that stands today dates from the 12th century, the mountaintop site has a history dating back to ancient Roman times. The first fortress was built by the Byzantines in the fifth century AD, and by the 12th century, when Veliko Târnovo was the capital of the second Bulgarian empire, it was the most important fortress in Bulgaria. Tsarevets was mostly destroyed in the Turkish invasion of 1393, and it wasn’t restored until the 1930s.
Address: Tsar Asen Square, Tsarevets, Veliko Tarnovo, 5000, Bulgaria
Admission: Varies
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