Veliko Tarnovo is a city in north central Bulgaria and the administrative centre of Veliko Tarnovo Province. Often referred to as the “City of the Tsars“, Veliko Tarnovo is located on the Yantra River and is famous as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, attracting many tourists with its unique architecture. Until 1965 the name of the town was Tarnovo, and this is still the common name. The old city is situated on three hills, Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora raising amidst the meanders of the Yantra. Tsarevets housed the palaces of the Bulgarian Emperors and the Patriarchate with the Patriarchal Cathedral, as well as a number of administrative and residential edifices surrounded by thick walls. Trapezitsa was known for its many churches and as the main residence of the nobility. In the Middle Ages it was among the main European centres of culture and gave its name to the architecture of the Tarnovo Artistic School, painting of the Tarnovo Artistic School and literature.Veliko Tarnovo is an important administrative, economic, educational and cultural centre of Northern Bulgaria.
Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest settlements in Bulgaria, having a history of more than 5 millennia, as the first traces of human presence dating from the 3rd millennium B.O.T are on Trapezitsa Hill.Veliko Tarnovo grew quickly to become the strongest Bulgarian fortification of the Middle Ages between the 12th and 14th century and the most important political, economic, cultural and religious centre of the empire. The city was described by Bulgarian cleric Gregory Tsamblak in the 14th century as “a very large city, handsome and surrounded by walls with 12,000 to 15,000 inhabitants”.In the 14th century as the Byzantine Empire weakened, Tarnovo claimed to be the Third Rome based on its preeminent cultural influence in the Balkans and the Slavic Orthodox world.As the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Tarnovo was a quasi-cosmopolitan city, with many foreign merchants and envoys. It is known that Tarnovo had Armenian, Jewish and Roman Catholic (“Frankish”) merchant quarters besides a dominant Bulgarian population. The discovery of three Gothic statuette heads indicates there may have also been a Catholic church.