The town has the most glorious historical past and is a symbol of Bulgarian statehood. It is situated in Central Northern Bulgaria, on a plain between the Danube and the Balkan Mountains, cut by the Yantra River, whose meandering forms three peninsulas - Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora. The old Bulgarian capital was built upon these hills.
The earliest traces of human life in the region, discovered on the Trapezitsa Hill, are from the Paleolithic Era - six millenia B.C. There are remains from the Bronze Age (13th century B.C.) on the Tsarevets Hill. Up until the end of the Iron Age the inhabitants of the region were the Thracian tribes of Uzdicenses and Crobises. The next cultural stratum is the early Byzantine (4-7th century). A medieval Slavic settlement emerged later, upon the ruins of the fortress on the Tsarevets Hill; it continued to exist during the entire period of the First Bulgarian State and the years of the Byzantine rule. Its name comes from the Slavic word tern, or Iran, which suffered various modifications during the years - Ternov, Tranov, Tarnov, Tarnovgrad, Tarnovo, and Veliko Tarnovo. In 1185 the Boyar-brothers Asen and Petar organized an uprising to secure liberation from the Byzantine dominion. Tarnovgrad became the capital of the restored Bulgarian State. For centuries thereafter, it was the political, administrative and spiritual centre of Bulgaria. Remarkable, artistic monuments of architecture, painting, literature, and artistic crafts were created. This was the second golden age of Bulgarian culture, which gave the Slavic world and Southeast Europe: the Patriarch Evtimiy's School of enlightenment, Yoan Kukuzel the Angel-Voiced's School of singing, and the Tarnovo School of painting and architecture. During the Ottoman rule, the old Bulgarian capital was a fortress of the Bulgarian self-consciousness; a centre of revolts, plots and uprisings; a cradle of hope and trust in the Bulgarian spirit.
• The Museum of the National Revival and the Constituent Assembly, where the First Bulgarian Parliament (1879) sat, accepted the Tarnovo Constitution and elected the first Bulgarian Prince -Alexander Batenberg.
• The Museum of Modern History.
• The Art Gallery - with the richest collection of works on historical themes.
• The Prison-Museum, where distinguished activists of the national liberation movement of the 19th century received their sentences.
• House-museums of distinguished community activists and writers born here.
• The Sarafkina House architectural and ethnographic exposition.
• The Bulgarian Architecture National Museum.
• The Nicopolis ad Istrum Archaeological Reserve - a Roman colonial town 17 km (10 miles) from Veliko Tarnovo, founded by Emperor Trajanus.
• The Samovodska Charshia Architectural and Ethnographic Complex, where the craftsmen work with period tools in their workshops in front of the visitors.
• The Tsarevets Architectural-Museum Reserve, where the remains of the palace and patriarchal complexes from the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (12-14th century) are exhibited.
• The Arbanasi Architectural Museum 4 km (2.5 miles) from Veliko Tarnovo, situated on a high plateau. The village was founded at the end of the 15th century by the Christian immigrants from the southwestern parts of the Balkan Peninsula. Over a period of several decades it was under Ottoman rule. It reaches its zenith during the 17th -18th century. Crafts and foreign trade - with Italy, Russia, and Austro-Hungary -were developed. Monumental house-fortresses and churches were built, which are unique monuments of Bulgarian architectural and artistic heritage. The Arbanasi
houses have high stonewalls and an austere facade, which contrasts strongly with the richly decorated interiors of woodcarvings and murals. Among the best preserved are: Konstantsalieva House (where a museum collection is arranged), Hadzhilieva House, Kandilarova House, and Nikolcho-Stoyanova House. The churches have strong masonry, small windows, and oak doors with elements of iron; they are richly decorated with iconic wall paintings and woodcarvings inside. Of special interest are the church-museums of the 17th century: Birth of Christ, Sts. Archangels Michael and Gabriel's, St. Athanasius' (the smallest church in Arbanasi), St. George's, and St. Demetrius', as well as the monasteries: the Holy Virgin's and St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker's.
• The Osenarska River Ethnographic Complex approximately 25 km (16 miles) from the town, with attractive watermills and fulling-mills.
• Momina Krepost (the Maiden s Fortress), the hills Sveta Gora and Trapezitsa.
• The Sound and Light audio-visual show.
• The House with the Monkey (1849), Hadzhi Nikoli Inn (1858) - the work of the master Kolyu Ficheto.
• The monuments: Velchova Zavera (a plot to overthrow the Ottoman rule), Mother Bulgaria, Nikola Pikolo, Asenevtsi, Vasil Levski, Emiliyan Stanev, Stefan Stambolov, and The Monument to the Hung.
• The churches in the town and its vicinity, true monuments of medieval and National-Revival architecture and mural painting: The Patriarchal Church on the Tsarevets hill; The Cathedral (Synod) Church, where three Metropolitans: Kliment Tarnovski, Sofroniy and Antim, are buried in the nartex; St. Nicholas'; Sts. Cyril and Methodius' (St. Athanasius'); Sts. Konstantin and Helena's (St. Boris'); St. Marina's in the old village of Marino Pole; St. Spas' (of the Ascension); the Holy Trinity's; the churches in the Asenova neighbourhood -the Holy Forty Martyrs', the Assumption of the Holy Virgin', St. Demetrius of Thessalonica's (1185, reconstructed in the 20th century), St. George's (13th century), the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul's (13th -14th century); and the churches of Arbanasi.
• The monasteries of the Veliko Tarnovo region: Kapinovo Monastery, Kilifarevo Monastery, Plakovo Monastery of the Holy Prophet Elijah, Prisovo Monastery of St. Panteleyimon, Sts. Peter and Paul's, the Holy Trinity's, and the two active monasteries in Arbanasi - St. Nicholas' and the Holy Virgin's.
• Preobrazhenski Monastery (of the Transfiguration). It is situated in a gorge on the Yantra River 6 km (4 miles) north of Veliko Tarnovo. It was founded in the 14th century and has been pillaged and burned down several times by the Turks during the Ottoman rule. The monastery's active role in the spiritual flowering of the Bulgarian people began with its reconstruction in 1820. In 1835 the main church, The Lord's Transfiguration, was built. It was constructed by the masters Dimitar Sofiyaliyata and Kolyu Ficheto. The murals and some of the icons are the work of the great National-Revival artist Zahari Zograf. A large number of the icons in the main and two smaller churches were painted by Tryavna icon painters and Stanislav Dospevski. The characteristic silhouette of the monastery complex is due to the bell tower, which was built by Kolyu Ficheto. Among the most popular landmarks of the Preobrazhenski (of the Transfiguration) monastery is The Wheel of Life - a part of the exterior mural on the main building painted by Zahari Zograf.