Veliko Tarnovo: Street art you’ll love and some unexpected findings

Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria) was the first stop on our Balkan road trip. We quickly found a convenient place to stay, based on the Lonely Planet recommendations, took a shower and went for a long walk. We discovered Veliko Tarnovo’s street art, admired its bright houses and visited Tsaravets Fortress. That’s until the rain caught us at Assen’s monument. We also went to Marno Pole Park and found ourselves in the middle of a colorful festival.

Veliko Tarnovo street art

As we were wandering on the old, narrow streets of Veliko Tarnovo, we discovered interesting and beautiful wall art. A favorite of mine, which we discovered by pure luck, is the painted staircase.

A secret garden after a wedding ceremony

While we were walking, we went down some other stairs and we ended up in a hidden garden of what I believe was a deserted church. However, it looked as if someone had held a wedding ceremony there not too long ago. The decorations on the ceiling were still there, and so were some light installations, although several of the bulbs were missing.

While visiting Veliko Tarnovo, I strongly advise you to lose yourself in the picturesque streets. Just pick random stairways to go up and down on. I promise you’ll always come across a nice surprise on the way!

Tsaravets, Veliko Tarnovo’s fortress

In the afternoon, though it was still quite hot outside, we went and visited Tsaravets, the fortress of Veliko Tarnovo.

The fortress dates back to the second millennium BC and has faced many attacks, especially from the Ottoman Empire. The latter has finally conquered it and burned it down in 1393. The story of the conquering and other important moments from the history of Tsaravets are now an audiovisual spectacle, called The Sound and Light Show. The show has been put on stage since 1985, and it consists of lasers, lights, music and church bells.

As you climb up, at the very top you will come across a church, the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God. Step inside and you will get to gaze at some very interesting, modern frescoes.

Tsaravets Fortress
Open daily from 08.00 to 19.00 (April – October) or from 09.00 to 17.00 ( November-March). 
Tickets cost 6 leva for adults, 2 leva for students. The scenic elevator ride costs 2 leva.
Address: Tsar Asen Square, Veliko Tarnovo 5000 | See on map
Tel. +359 62 638 841

The Light and Sound Show
See upcoming dates and tickets or take a peek at the show.
Address: Tsar Asen Square, Veliko Tarnovo 5000 | See on map

The Assen Dynasty Monument

This monument is dedicated to four kings from the Assen Dynasty (Assen, Peter, Kaloyan, and Ivan Assen II). You can see their representation around the large sword in the image below. This sword represents the power and the rise of Bulgaria in medieval times.

The Assen Dynasty Monument was built in 1985 when Bulgaria was celebrating 800 years since the rebellion of brothers Assen and Peter.

Assen Dynasty Monument
Address: Sveta Gora, Veliko Tarnovo 5003 | See on map

The Veliko Tarnovo International Folklore Festival

In the evening, while we were walking through Marno Pole Park, we saw two guys heading to a stage. I followed them and asked if they knew what was happening there.

They were from a band from New Orleans called Komenka Ethnic Ensemble and they were taking part in a folk festival. They weren’t sure if we needed tickets or not, but since we had already entered through the backstage, the two of them told us to just go ahead and take a seat.

So we stayed a bit. Their band opened and they were followed by numbers from Mexico, Taiwan, Argentina, then it was their turn again… And soon after that, we left, but we really enjoyed it!

As we found out, the International Folklore Festival in Veliko Tarnovo is apparently a pretty big deal. It started in 1998 and, from its very beginning, it was one of the 270 festivals recognized by CIOFF*. It brings together groups from all the corners of the world, into a wonderful musical mosaic, and is a pleasant way to relax and cool down at the end of a hot summer day.

International Council of Organizers of Festivals for Folklore and Traditional Arts Official Partner of UNESCO

Veliko Tarnovo International Folklore Festival
See upcoming dates. Entrance is free of charge
Address: Marno Pole, Veliko Tarnovo 5000 | See on map

Veliko Tarnovo street art and much more!

Veliko Tarnovo accommodation deals

Where we stayed in Veliko Tarnovo

Mehana Slavyanska Dusha
Hotel and restaurant in Veliko Tarnovo, 8 minutes away from the Yantra River.  The rooms are clean, the food is tasty, and the staff is very friendly, even though they didn’t really speak English.
Perfect for budget travelers.Family-friendly. Preferred by solo travelers.
Address: 21 Nikola Zlatarski, Veliko Tarnovo 5000 | See on map
Tel. 596-262-5182 
Book your stay at Mehana Slavyanska Dusha through my affiliate,!

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24 Thoughts to “Veliko Tarnovo: Street art you’ll love and some unexpected findings”

  1. I had never even heard about Veliko Tarnovo before reading your post. But now I am wondering why it is not more famous. It seems like a lovely place where you can learn a lot about the Balkan history and culture (old and new).

    1. You’re so right, Lena! Veliko Tarnovo is a great place to visit and it should be more popular with tourists.

  2. We love chasing street art. It reveals so much about a city’s culture and history. this post is a really useful resource for travelers visiting Veliko Tarnovo.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

  3. I have heard some very good things about Bulgaria. Veliko Tarnovo looks like it has a lot of surprise in store for any traveller. It sounds like you got very lucky to check out the folk festival.

  4. I never get bored of street art, and the cat painting you took is amazing, like it’s actually cute and creepy at the same time. Hahaha. ?

    I’ve never heard of Veliko Tarnovo before, but now I’m intrigued to pay a visit if I ever get a chance to visit Bulgaria. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I’d love to go to Bulgaria some day! A friend is there right now and loving it ?
    The cat in the first photo may be my favorite, but the frescos look very cool, too. So different from what you normally see!
    What does the name of the city mean, do you know? I get the “great” part, but great what?

    1. Something like great thorns, according to Wikipedia 🙂 Very good question, by the way, I never wondered about it so far 🙂

  6. Isn’t it lovely to discover surprises along the streets as you go along exploring a town? Those examples of street art are great. I love the small red heart on the wall. And how stunning is that cathedral ceiling !

  7. Lauren Pears

    I love street art! There’s some great street art here in East London and it always catches my eye. Bulgaria looks so beautiful though, I would love to visit someday soon.

  8. Tif

    Never heard of Veliko! Had to look it up!! I really enjoy learning about communities street are! So much history behind it!

  9. The cat painting is so cute! I’m unfamiliar with this part of the world so I really appreciate this post and seeing all the photos and reading what you discovered. I’d love to see the fortress!

  10. never heard of Veliko Tarnovo before. But looks like a very charming place… Loved the pictures .. captured the feel very welll

  11. I so would love to do a Balkan road trip. I have never heard of this destination but there are great things to see. And who knew the street art would be so awesome.

  12. I love street art, and the stairs and cat is my favorite. This place is perfect for people who are into history. I honestly enjoy witnessing a cultural dance of the places I am visiting. In this way, we can enjoy their culture in the forms, of music and arts and interpret it in an enjoyable moment.

  13. Such an interesting place. I loved the Folklore Festival picture – such elaborate costumes! Must have been a treat to watch.

  14. Been to Bulgaria but not to Veliko Tarnovo but Razlog. Didn’t see any street art there as you found. But there was also a fortress turned Orthodox church influenced by the Ottoman wars.

  15. My favorite part of your trip is how you stumbled on the International Folklore Festival in Veliko Tarnovo. Those spontaneous moments are the best part of traveling abroad!

  16. You combined two of my favorite things in this post – street art, and getting lost in a new city! I love your photos. I could probably spend all day just checking out the street art!

  17. I absolutely loved this post – thanks for introducing me to Veliko Tarnovo – I hadn’t heard about it before but it’s definitely on our bucket list now. The street art always adds such a unique character to each place – such talented artists! Experiencing the Folklore Festival must have been such fun – thanks for the link also for it. Would love to plan a visit around the time of this festival. Great post!

  18. One of my favorite things about traveling is stumbling onto unexpected things. It sounds like you had a wonderful time there!

  19. I love finding awesome street art! Your photos are great and showcase the area and vibe amazingly!

  20. I simply love stumbling upon street art, particularly when I’m not looking for it. It’s always such a pleasant surprise 🙂

  21. Oooh this all looks great fun. I love the street art (especially the cat!) But woooow for Veliko Tarnovo’s fortress! What a fantastic castle-like area to explore. You must have had great views up there too.

  22. I always fing street art interesting. If you carefully analyze the art, we get to know about the painter’s mindset. Most of them are theme based. Thanks for sharing about Veliko Tarnovo. Loved to read about it

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