Travel Guide to Varna
As Bulgaria’s third-largest city, Varna is the country’s main naval and commercial shipping port. Located close to many of the Black Sea’s resort towns, Varna brings in a well-balanced mix of tourism, commercial industry, and military aspects. On any given day, it is not surprising to find sailors, tourists, and locals mingling in the local bars and taverns.
- Province: Varna
- Population: 351,552 (Year 2005)
- Altitude: 41 Metres
- Postcode: 9000
- Area Code: 052
- Geographic Coordinates: 43° 12′ North, 27° 55′ East
Varna offers a beautiful location with the seashore, blue skies, and breathtaking buildings. Founded in the late 500 B.C., Varna was originally called Odessos by the Thracian tribes. In 341 B.C., Phillip II of Macedon entered the area and lost. Eventually, he gave up his battle and became an ally to Odessos. When the area became part of the Roman Empire, the city became a thriving center for trade. Eventually, the Slavs would enter the area and rename it Varna. In the 11th century, the area declined and many years as a thriving port seemed to end. In the 13th century, Tsar Kaloyan liberated the area and helped rebuild its status as a thriving military and trade area.
Ottoman domination was next as the Turks entered the area in the 1400s. During this time, a large number of ships were coming into the area every month. The Ottoman reign lasted until the 19th century when Bulgarians gained control.
There are a number of churches in Varna. The Cathedral of the Holy Mother was built in the late 1800s. The stone blocks used in the foundation and walls were imported from England. Based on the design of Russian temples, the church is one of the largest in Varna. Tourists rave over the tall bell tower that can be reached after climbing more than 125 stairs. St. Nikolai was built in the 1860s. This sea temple was built to protect sailors, as Saint Nikolai was the patron saint of sailors. The Azazie Mosque was supposedly erected in 1795. The mosque has many elaborate features, but the most notable is that of a golden door from Mecca.
The Varna Archaeological Museum opened in 1906, though its location changed repeatedly. In 1983, the museum opened in its present location. There are more than 100,000 artifacts from Varna and its surrounding towns. Of these artifacts, the largest is a collection of gold coins and statues dating back 3,000 or 4,000 years.
The Naval Museum takes up two buildings. There is a life-size replica of a naval ship on display. There are also exhibition halls with many naval artifacts, weapons, and models of naval ships.
Varna’s Natural Science Museum houses grand exhibits based on the ecology, geology, and animals found in or around the Black Sea.
The Ethnographical Museum is located inside a large home erected in the mid to late 1800s. The museum focuses on the people of Varna and the jobs they have held throughout the past two centuries. Tie this museum in with a trip to the Museum of Varna. Here there are many artifacts and exhibits focusing on the culture of Bulgaria, specifically in the Varna area.
At the Museum of the Revival, visitors will view a restored 18th-century classroom. The exhibits focus on education in this period, as well as some documentation and pictures from the Revival period.
After opening in 1932, the Varna Aquarium became one of the area’s hottest tourist attractions. Not only is the history of the Black Sea one of the key areas, but there are also tanks filled with wildlife from the sea such as birds, fish, crustacean, and more. Also, visit the Varna Zoo, home of a large number of wild animals. The zoo is located near a huge open-air amphitheater that holds live performances regularly. There is also the Exotic Zoo that houses more than 70 different species of snakes, lizards, and arachnids.
You must also spend some time at the third-century remains of a Roman Spa located on the outer boundaries of Varna. Twenty kilometers away, you will find the â€œStone Forest. This area is a portion of land on which saltwater stalagmites formed leaving what looks like the ruins of Roman pillars.
There are a lot of hotels in and around Varna. Typically, heading online to one of the reservation sites guarantees you a great rate! A sampling of some of the top choices can be found below:
Hotel Amfora is located six kilometers from the city center. An outdoor pool with a patio bar makes this a popular choice. The room rates are reasonable – you cannot go wrong with Hotel Amfora.
Kempinski Hotel Grand Hermitage just opened in 2006. The rooms include a minibar, private bathroom with separate tubs, shower and a hairdryer, satellite television, direct dial telephone, room service, and more!
The Musala Palace Hotel is located in an old mansion, the hotel’s architectural charm makes it a popular spot for couples.
The City Planet Park is located in the city center. A total of eight rooms and suites with air conditioning, cable television, telephones, and minibars await tourists looking for a central location.
Tourism offers plenty of revenue in Varna. Thanks to the Varna Naval Academy, there is a broad mix of sailors, students, and tourists all passing throughout the town regularly. Additionally, the designation as a major trade route keeps money flowing through the city regularly.
As Bulgarian cuisine is a blend of Turkish, Russian, and Mediterranean styles, meats are usually roasted or stewed and served with locally grown vegetables. A typical meal consists of Kapama (a meat and vegetable stew cooked in clay pots), loaves of freshly baked bread, and salads made from roasted eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. Dessert is not always served, but on special occasions, one might find cups of hot Turkish coffee and Baklava.
Sadly, there are many fast-food restaurants within Varna. Do not fall for them, however, visit area restaurants serving traditional Bulgarian fare. You’ll find the prices are not that much different, but the food’s quality is in a whole other range and should not be missed!
There are many restaurants in Varna. Chinese, Irish, fast food, and Bulgarian all have establishments in the city center. Added attractions are the numerous beerhouses within Varna that serve icy local beers and local fare for an extremely reasonable fee. The Three Lions is the largest of the bunch. With more than 60 beers on tap, the selection will keep you coming back for more!
Many in Bulgaria feel that Varna is the city with the best nightlife. A huge number of dance clubs, bars, and taverns are open nightly. One of the best is Planet Club, a trendy dance club with peppy music and art-deco decor. With 600 seats, Planet Club can hold quite a crowd.
Daja Vu Cafe is smaller, 70 seats, and offers a quieter, tone that is more relaxing. If you want a spot to wind-down after work, Daja Vu Cafe is an excellent choice.
Horizon Night Club offers live music, huge dance floors, and sofas tucked into the dimly lit corners. There is a piano bar attached for those who want a quieter atmosphere.
With a population nearing half a million people, Varna is a growing city that is extremely tourist-friendly, packed with activity, and inexpensive too! Five colleges and universities keep the streets and businesses teeming with a younger crowd. With a balance of young and old, students and tourists, military men/women and others, Varna remains an excellent destination for all ages. Whether you want to dance, eat, or sunbathe on the beach, Varna makes your dreams come true!