A town (population of 40,829 people, 160 m above sea level) situated by Yantra River at the foot of Turnovo Elevations.
It is 7 km northeast of Veliko Turnovo, 3 km northwest of Lyaskovets and 247 km northeast of Sofia.
It is an important national crossroads with a well-developed network of roads, railway and air transport.
There are data about settlement life in the region from the second half of the 5 millennium BC.
In the 5thist centurjes BC there had been an acient Thracian settlement of the Krobizi tribe, east of the town.
Later, the Romans built a fortified settlement of theirs, which became established as a kind of a centre of viticulture and wine making.
During the 2 – 3 centuries the Roman province of Lower Moesia was the only one, profiting from the protection given by the central authorities for the growing of vineyards and the making of high quality wines.
The fortress built in the 3 – 4 centuries, during the Middle Ages was called Ryahovets, Rahovets. Different explanations have been put forward regarding the origin of the name. According to one, it was associated with the extensive spread of walnut plantations in the region, while according to another it derived from the Persian ‘rah’ – road.
With the formation of the Bulgarian state on the Danube and the emergence of a settlement in the region of Ryahovets, the fortress was restored and further built and during the 12 -14 centuries it was already a powerful defensive bulwark, safeguarding the capital Turnovgrad.
Ryahovets became one of the major medieval town-fortresses in the Bulgarian state of that time. There is information that the fortress had also been used by the Turks, and in 1332-1444, during the Second Crusade of Wladislaw II Jagelo against the Ottoman Empire, it had been taken and consumed by fire.
The population left the region and withdrew in the valley. At the end of the 15 and early 16 century, a settlement took shape on the site of the present-day town.
During the 16 century Gorna Oryahovitsa was already an economically stable settlement with developed commerce and handicrafts. During that period the crafts that flourished were fur working, home woven frieze tailoring, horse shoeing and iron work, gold jewelry, cart making, and saddle-making, while trade was among the busiest in North Bulgaria.
Every Friday a big market of farm animals, farming produce, timber and charcoal took place here.
During the National Revival Period there was considerable spiritual upsurge A monastery school was opened as early as in 1822, and five years later the private school of Priest Gerassim Stoikov was established, becoming a municipal school in 1835.
The first girls school was founded in 1850 and in 1859 Ivan Momchilov opened the first class school whereby the beginnings were laid of class education in Gorna Oryahovitsa.
In 1869 there was already a community culture centre. In 1870 Gorna Oryahovitsa was declared a town.
Its population took part in all national liberation struggles in the region.
Vassil Levski founded a revolutionary committee in 1869 and visited the town twice afterwards. During the preparations for the April 1876 Uprising, Gorna Oryahovitsa was made a centre of First Revolutionary District with main apostle Stefan Stambolov, while actively working for the cause of the people in the town itself were Ivan Semerdzhiev, Georgi Izmirliev and the Gruncharov Brothers.
Unfortunately, the plan for a sweeping uprising failed and just one battle was fought between a handful of rebels and the Turkish posse. It had tragic consequences for the Bulgarians who had risen in a revolt On May 28,1876 Ivan Semerdzhiev was executed by hanging in Turnovo (together with Bacho Kiro and other Bulgarians).
On that same day Georgi Ismirliev was also hanged in the centre of Gorna Oryahovitsa, uttering the words: ‘It is sweet to die for the freedom of the Homeland!’
Voivode Sider Gruncharov (Sider Voivode) perished at the head of a detachment at the foot of Mt Mourgash. A lethal danger threatened Gorna Oryahovitsa, but Elena Gruncharova, the brave president of the women’s socioty, brought together women, children and old men and set out for Turnovo.
There they all requested and got the patronage of Reus Pasha, who sent regular troops and defended the town from the Circassians and the Turkish bashibozuk irregular troops.
Three men from Gorna Oryahovitsa fought in Botev’s rebel detachment, and 132 joined the Bulgarian volunteers during the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation.
Gorna Oryahovitsa was liberated by the Russian troops on June 26,1877. And there is one curious detail: in the ranks of the liberators was also Major Emilian Sienkiewicz (the brother of Polish writer, Nobel laureate Henrik Sienkiewicz), who took a wife from Gorna Oryahovitsa.
After the Liberation the town developed as a major transportation junction (above all, railway), as it is today Its proximity to the old capital Veliko Turnovo, to Arbanassi, to the magnificent monasteries around and to numerous other landmarks has made it a frequented tourist centre.
Landmarks. A Museum of History with branches: The Exhibition ‘The Cause of Education During the National Revival Period1 (in the town), an ethnographic museum (in Dolna Oryahovitsa) and Assen Raztsvetnikov House Museum (in the village of Draganovo). The Church of St Athanasius (1393) is the oldest historical monument in the town.