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Bulgaria

Varna Tourism Info


Introduction: So much more than a beach resort, Varna is Bulgaria's third biggest city and the capital of the northern Black Sea coast. In addition to its long stretch of beach, lined by the attractive and relaxing Seaside Park, its historical remains from the the ancient, medieval and renaissance times are major attractions. These include Roman thermal Baths, and the second largest church in the country, the glorious Church of the Assumption. Varna's appeal lies also very much in the present, with something of a reputation nationwide as a shopper's heaven, and its boutiques and jewellery stores are buzzing year-round.

Who goes there?
Popular with European package tourists during high season (July-August), Varna is also a magnet for Bulgarian visitors later in the summer. As a cultural centre with a popular shopping area, and wide beach, Varna attracts many people of all ages. Many of them use the city as a starting point to explore the Black Sea coast.

Where in the world?
Varna is located at the end of Varna Bay on a large, flat terrace on its northwestern curve. It is situated 450km (293 miles) east of the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. The city's hub, and its old town, lies to the southeast, with the huge port to the southwest. The beach stretches east, lined by the attractive Primorski Park, over 8km (5 miles) long.

When to go?
Most visitors, including the many package tourists, throng the city in the high season of July and August. But the city is very much thriving year-round. The best time to visit is between May and October when temperatures average 28°C (83°F). The wettest months are June, October and December.

Beach
Varna's beach is white soft sand, gently sloping for good swimming. The city's beaches are more for gentle relaxation and sunbathing, rather than exuberant sports, although there may be some surfing when the wind is up, especially towards the southern end. A volleyball net is usually in place for informal games, around halfway up the beach, and a waterslide is popular with children.

Beyond the beach
The vast Archaeological Museum (“Maria Luisa” 41 blvd.) is Bulgaria's finest, with incredible treasures spanning Stone Age, Thracian, Classical and Mediaeval periods. Also in the city centre are the well-preserved Roman Thermae (Khan Krum street), dating back to the second century AD, with clearly labeled areas used for freezing, tepid and hot baths. The ornate Cathedral of the Assumption (“Mitropolit Simeon” square) is Bulgaria's second largest church, its stained-glass windows and walnut wood-carvings providing its tranquil ambience.

Family fun
Varna Karting Track, a short bus ride away to Vinitza, 5km (3 miles) northeast from central Varna, has 270cc and 200cc karts, and younger kids can drive tiny motorised trucks and cars, outside Hotel Oddesos (“Slivnitsa” 1 blvd.). The huge Sea Garden has an Amusement Park complete with bouncy castle and mini-golf, and nearby the Dolphinarium has daily shows with the sea creatures' tricks and jumps. The immense exhibits of warships, submarines and helicopters in the grounds of the National Naval Museum (“Primorski” 2 blvd.) are impressive.

Shopping therapy
Stylish shopping is centred along the pedestrian “Knyaz Boris” street. The eastern end of “Slivnitsa” street is full of with myriad boutiques of international clothing brands, shoes and jewellery. For souvenirs, the market stalls near the Opera House, and the adjoining “Rouse” and “Kavala” streets, has wooden handicrafts, ceramics, plus fruit, flowers and bags. There is also a good selection of handicrafts at the nearby Bulgarian Art Shop (“Rouse” 19 street). Music lovers can listen and buy local music at Stefkos Music (“Panagiurishte” 2 street).

Nightlife in Varna
The beachfront bars and clubs are lively on summer evenings with house music, although the names and popularity of places vary wildly each year. The outdoor tables at cafe-bars along fill up quickly along the pedestrian “Slivnitsa” street, “Knyaz Boris” 1 street and “Nezavisimost” square, in the centre of the city. Kick off with a drink on the terrace of the Hotel Odessos on the busy square, or a glass of local wine in the Cocktail Bar on the top floor of the Hotel Cherno More (“Slivnitsa” 33 blvd), with amazing city views. Royal Classic Piano Bar (“Shipska” 18 blvd.) has a long tradition of live music from local musicians, and Bulgari Folk Club (in front of the Aquarium) has live popular Balkan hits.

Eating out
Options for eating vary widely. Along the beachfront is a plethora of cafe-bars and restaurants, usually including a vast variety of Bulgarian dishes (salads for starters, grilled meat and seafood), which get lively into the night. Most will have tables on the beach, like Snak Bar Nort (on the beach in front of the Summer Theatre), busy until the small hours, and the fish restaurant Tambuktu (south beach). The other busy area is the pedestrian “Nezavisimost” square, with informal dining, pizzas and outdoor dining. For top-notch traditional Bulgarian cuisine, Paraklisa (“Yoan Ekzarh” 8 street) is highly recommended, and Chuchura is a cozy mehana (traditional restaurant) reflected in its décor. Try another variety of the Black Sea at Georgian Cuisine (“8th November” 5 street) located in a quaint side-street. Pizzarela (“Tsar Osvoboditel” 76 blvd) has good pizzas and other dishes.

Getting around
Most places of interest in Varna are accessible on foot, and metered taxis are everywhere. There is a good city bus service and minibuses connecting other coastal towns and resorts including Golden Sands, Balchik and Burgas. Inter-city coaches from the old bus station serve destinations further afield, including Sofia, Istanbul and Bucharest. Trains head to western destinations. Bicycles can be hired at the Hotel Oddesos.

Exploring further afield
North of Varna, there are easy day trips to the beach and mineral baths at Sveti Konstantin, and the busy resort of Golden Sands (Zlatni pyasutsi) plus its nearby Aladzha Rock Monastery. Bird-watchers could take a trip 80km (50 miles) north to the nature reserve at Cape Kaliakra, and there is dramatic cliff-top landscape at Balchik, 36 km (22 miles) north.

Splashing out
Sample Bulgaria's award-winning cuisine: The bijoux, elegant restaurant in the Grand Hotel Musala Palace (“Musala” 2 street) was awarded to be the best restaurant in the country in 2006, and there is the finest silver and crystal tableware to match. Taste their fine filet mignon, lamb kebab and aromatic lamb cutlet, and blend of Bulgarian and European dishes. Its small menu is outweighed by its extensive wine list with vintages from around the world.

Flying in
Varna Airport (VAR)

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