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Sightseeing nearby: Aladzha Monastery - Kamchiya River
Location: The city of Varna is the third largest city in Bulgaria with its population of 314,539 people. It is widely called the seaside capital of Bulgaria as it is the biggest city at the Bulgarian coast. The city lies in the Bay of Varna, nestled in a deep valley between the Frengen Plareau and the Avren Plateau. Varna is over 11 km long, while its width, including newly erected residential quarters, is nearly 9km. The city’s structure resembles an amphitheatre as it follows the curves of the Bay of Varna. It is surrounded by gardens, vineyards and groves.
History: The city of Varna is about thousand years old. Due to its favourable geographic location, the place was first inhabited by an ancient Thracian tribe, Corbisi, which had a small fishermen settlement there. In the 6th century BC a Greek polis, named Odessos, emerged there. The town became a fishing and farming colony, which soon turned into commercial hub. The town fell under the siege of Alexander of Macedonia’s troops in the 4th century BC, but after the siege did not succeed to subject it, the town was given autonomy within the limits of his Empire. Up to the 1st century BC it was an independent polis, which minted its own coins with the image of its god. Later on, conquered by Mark Lukulus' legions, it became a Roman centre though gradually it lost supremacy in the region. In the 9th century it was already called Varna. The town was included in the territory of Bulgaria in the beginning of the 13lh century during the reign of King Kaloyan. Despite its strong defence system, the town was conquered by the Turks in 1391 which gradually transformed it into an oriental city with konaks (town-halls), Turkish baths and mosques. In 1878 Varna was finally liberated from Ottoman rule and became the most important Bulgarian seaport. Even if the city was industrialised, it also developed into a seaside resort, and a favourite holiday place for the Bulgarian cultural elite. The city carried the name of Stalin for a short time, but after 1956 it returned the name of Varna.
Places of Interest:
In the city: A restored Roman spa built in the 2nd century during the reign of Antony Pii and a Roman Bath dating back to the 3rd century can be found in the downtown. The Holy Virgin Cathedral, considered to be the most impressive monument of the city, rises in the very centre of the city. The cathedral’s construction started in the second half of the 19th century but it was not sanctified until 1910. Another church, the St. Nikola Church is located near the Sea Garden Park and dates back to 1866. The Clock Tower, built in 1880, rises just across the cathedral. The Theatre of Drama, where the first-ever Bulgarian theatre performance was held, is also a must-see place in the city centre. It was built nearly a century ago and resembles Vienna buildings of that time. It houses a theatre, an opera and philharmonic halls and stages performances during the entire summer season. Not far away from the Theatre of Drama is the Puppet Theatre, where the Golden Dolphin Festival of puppets takes place each year. The city also has a number of museums, including the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of National Renaissance, the Naval Museum, the Vladislav Varnenchik Park-Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the Museum of Nature and Science, the Aquarium and the Black Sea Museum, the Museum of Medicine and the Museum of Art and History of Varna. The latter has a particularly rich collection including the Gold Treasure of Varna, dating back 6,000 years ago, weighing some 6kg and containing the oldest gold works found in the world. Besides, the city’s Art Gallery, opened in 1950, exhibits paintings of outstanding Bulgarian artists as well as works of a number of foreign artists, donated to the gallery by private persons. There are about ten cinemas functioning in Varna with the best ones being in the city centre, including the Mustang Cinema.
The Sea Garden is another favourite place of visitors of Varna. The garden, finally completed in 1908, shelters an amphitheatre, an astronomic site with an observatory, planetarium and a tower, children playgrounds, and a small channel, where one can practice rowing, a pool with water wheels and a zoo. The beach, where one can find mud and water therapy complexes, two quays, numerous restaurants and disco clubs, is also just beneath the Sea Garden Park. The Dolphinarium is one of the favourite attractions for children and guests of Varna for its regular performances of talented dolphin artists. The Festival Complex can be found just opposite the entrance of the Sea Garden Park. It is a modern building of aluminum, stone and glass and has several stages, conference-halls, and a big bazaar. Another noteworthy place is the Asparouh Bridge (named after the founder of the Bulgarian state, Asparouh), which connects the city centre with the residential quarters of Asparouhovo and Galata. It is the longest bridge in Bulgaria and risklovers can even try a dreadful Bunji jump here.
Outside the city: The famous village of Vinitsa, inhabited by so-called Gagaouzi people, is situated 10 km north-east of Varna. The Gagaouzi are Christians who speak an ancient Turkish dialect and have very interesting traditions. Besides, the Galata Cape is attractive to naturelovers for its meadows, groves, natural water springs with drinking water, and rocks convenient for fishing. Remians of the rampart of Khan Asparuh can be seen close to the famous Asparuh Bridge situated at the Varna lake. The founder of the Bulgarian state built the rampart 13 centuries ago in order to resist the raids of the Byzantine fleet. One can also visit the Dzhanavar Hill, located to the south of the lake of Varna and sheltering a basilica from the early Christian times. Another place of interest close to the city is Pobitite Kamuni (Rammed Stones), 18 km west of the city. The stone figures were formed by erosion about 50 million years ago and hold in various forms of fossils. Many of them were used as places of worship during Thracian, Slavonic, and ancient Bulgarian times. The nearby industrial town of Devnya holds the remains of the ancient town of Marcianopolis, the second biggest town in ancient Bulgaria after Philippopolis (the latter currently named Plovdiv and being the second largest city in the state). These include defence walls, a rampart, turrets, and a forum. The Petrich Kale (Petrich Fortress) rises just opposite the railway station of Razdelna close to the city. The fortress was built in the 5th century, but was rebuilt in the 13-14th century following its destruction. The rocks near the fortress are perfect for mountaineering. About 15 km. north from the city is
Accommodation: Varna offers virtually all kinds of accommodation facilities though traditionally, the bulk of holiday-makers opt out for renting private flats and rooms. The city’s hotels are also a great number; with the Black Sea Hotel, Odessa Hotel, and Varnenski Bryag Hotel considered among the highest-class ones. The Moussala Hotel and the Orbita Hotel fall in the lower price category. There are about 60 private hotels - most of them being 1- or 2-star ones. Good bargains as regards private lodgings can also be come across via direct contact with local people.
- Capitol Hotel - Divesta Hotel - Golden Tulip Hotel - Modus Hotel - Panorama Hotel - Splendid Hotel
- Alekta Hotel - Aqua Hotel - Art Hotel - Atlant Hotel - Best Western Park Hotel - Best Western Prima Hotel - Briz 2 Hotel - Cherno More Hotel - Dionis Hotel - Duchess Hotel - Hi Hotel - Hotel Albicia - Hotel Focus - Interhotel Cherno More - Oceanic Hotel - Orbita Hotel - Park Hotel Persey - Perfect Hotel - Sea Park Homes Neshkov - Solaris Hotel - Victoria Hotel
Catering: Varna's most popular luxurious restaurants are the Indian Maharany Restaurant, Maggy Restaurant, the Moussala Restaurant with a Viennise Cafe, the Paraklisa Restaurant, the FEB Restaurant, the Morska Sirena Restaurant, a chain of restaurants Mustang Food Bar, the Happy Bar and Grill chain, Loza Restaurant, Morsko Konche Restaurant, and the Galateya Restaurant. Middle-class restaurants, private pubs and taverns can be found even in the distant residential quarters of the city. Many of these are open 24 hours, while others stay so as long as there are clients to be serviced. For those who prefer cooking for themselves there is a large number of supermarkets, including such working non-stop, and are a lot of market places (the most popular one being Kolhoz) being as well. A lot of small pizza shops and snack-bars that offer typically Bulgarian snacks are also scattered all over the city. There are also a great number of canteens, especially along the beach and in the Sea Garden where fish and seafood are offered. Besides, every day one can buy freshly caught fish from the local fishermen at the seaport.
Transport: The fastest way to get to Varna is by airplane, as it takes less than an hour from the capital city of Sofia while planes in both directions fly 6 or 7 times a day during the summer. The seaport offers regular water transport to and from Balchik, Slunchev Bryag (Sunny Beach), Nessebar and Bourgas. Varna is also connected to all main railway lines in the country with express trains to Sofia and Plovdiv that take 7 and 4.30 hours respectively. The city’s main bus station is 1.5km away from the city centre with buses to all larger cities in the country, nearby seaside resorts, Athens and Istanbul as well as to some cities in Central and Eastern Europe. Besides, Varna's city transport has a network of over 60 bus lines (some of these also travelling to nearby resorts) and trolley buses.
More information about Varna:
What to do on a cloudy day to the north of Varna