Varna (Варна) is a large city on the Black Sea coast in the northeast of Bulgaria. It's the larger of the country's two major sea ports (the other one is Burgas), and a gateway to the seaside resorts on the northern part of the coast. With a population of nearly 350,000, Varna is the third-largest city in Bulgaria (after Sofia and Plovdiv) and it is often called "the sea capital" (morska stolitsa) of Bulgaria. It also holds the headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine, and several institutions of higher education.
Geography and orientation edit
Varna is roughly in the middle of the northern Bulgarian coast, at the bottom of the 8 km (5.0 mi) wide Gulf of Varna. An artificial shipping channel splits the gulf's coastline in two and connects the sea to the long and narrow Varna-Beloslav lake, which in turn is fed by the small Provadiya River. The city of Varna lies on the northern side of the gulf, on a stretch of relatively flat land under the steeper slopes of the southern edges of a low limestone plateau. The tall Asparuh(ov) Bridge connects Varna to the outlaying neighborhoods on the southern side, Asparuhovo and Galata. The only other way to cross the lake is the free ferry at Beloslav, 16 km (9.9 mi) west of the city centre.
The oldest parts of Varna, including the so-called Greek Quarter, spread fan-like from the north-east to the north-west from the point of the modern port. Further away is a layer of 19th and early 20th century expansions, including the main pedestrian street and the Cathedral. After them follow in another wide arc the concrete panel block neighborhoods of the Communist era. The sea resorts start immediately north-east of the city, almost seamlessly melding with it in a built-up strip stretching along the coast - Sts. Constantine and Helena (in the Communist era: Druzhba, "friendship"), Chayka ("seagull"), and Golden Sands (Zlatni Pyasatsi). Further along the coast to the north are the village of Kranevo, the Albena resort, and the town of Balchik. South of the Gulf of Varna, notable along the coast are the resort and protected area around the mouth of the Kamchia river, as well as the resorts at Shkorpilovtsi and Byala.
Due to its favorable natural conditions, including hot springs and a harbor, the area has been inhabited since pre-history. In classical Antiquity, the seafaring Greeks established here the colony of Odessos, and like many Greek settlements, it later became a part of the Roman Empire.
In 1443-1444, not long after medieval Bulgaria's fall to the Ottoman Empire, the city saw the final battle of the failed Varna Crusade, an attempt to liberate the Balkans from Ottoman rule by combined Polish, Hungarian and Burgundian forces. The crusaders lost the decisive battle and the young Polish king Władysław III Jagiełło was killed, earning him the epithet "of Varna" (Varnenchik in Bulgarian).
Under Ottoman rule, Varna continued to develop as an important economic and military center. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the city was fortified and formed one corner of the "quadrangle of fortresses" (Varna, Silistra, Ruse, Shumen) that guarded this corner of the Empire and repeatedly played a part in the series of Russo-Turkish wars, including the Crimean War, but none of those fortifications have survived to this day. Between 1881 and 1866, a British company built a railway that connected Varna to the river port Ruse, making it the first railway on what would later be Bulgarian territory. The railway allowed freight transported on the Danube river to be shipped faster to Istanbul by avoiding the lengthy detour north through the Danube's delta, and this lead to the further development of Varna as a commercial port town.
After the Liberation of Bulgaria (1878), the 1880s saw a rapid modernization and expansion of the city, with streets laid in a modern, rectangular layout. The main landmark and symbol of Varna, the Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral, was built in that period, and the summer palace of Bulgarian monarchs (later named Euxinograd) was established just north of the city as well. One of the foreigners who settled in Varna at the time was the Czech archeologist Karel Škorpil, the "founding father" of Bulgarian archeology. In the 1890s, Škorpil invited to the city the Czech landscape architect Anton Novak, who was put in charge of designing and overseeing the creation of a large landscaped park by the sea - the Sea Garden.
Like a number of other Bulgarian cities, Varna was renamed by the Communist regime - between 1949 and 1956, it was called Stalin in honor of the Soviet leader ("Stalingrad" was already taken by a much more famous city in the USSR). In 1962, the city hosted the 15th international Chess Olympiad. A distinctive style of chess pieces was created for the Olympiad, which served as the base for mass-produced chess sets that can make a nice souvenir today, if you can find one in vintage stores or online.
Get in edit
By plane edit
- 1 Varna Airport (VAR IATA) (8 km (5.0 mi) west of the city centre, right off the A2 motorway), ☏ (info desk). The airport receives flights from over 80 destinations all over the world (but mostly around Europe). The national carrier, Bulgaria Air, serves the only domestic line the capital, Sofia, twice daily.
Getting there and away:
- By bus – Bus line 409 (see below) connects the airport to the city center and the outlaying resorts (Saints Constantine and Helena, Golden Sands); make sure to have some small-denomination cash for the ticket machine (10 лв note at most). For more details, see below.
- By taxi – There's a taxi stand in front of Terminal 2. The airport has a contract with Triumf Taxi (see the warning about taxi scams below).
- By rental car – At least half a dozen car rental services have offices at the airport.
By train edit
Varna is well connected in Bulgaria's railway network. It's the last stop of two major lines: Sofia-Varna runs along almost the whole length of the country through North Bulgaria, and Ruse-Varna allows a connection to Romania and merges into the other one at the small town of Kaspichan.
From Bucharest in Romania, you can take an international train to Ruse and then change to a national train to Varna (the shorter option), or you can buy a "direct" ticket that will send you on the same train, but the train car will be hitched to a national train at Gorna Oryahovitsa (if you are lucky - if not, you'll have to change trains by yourself again) and it will take longer with more than an hour.
There are multiple daily direct trains from the cities along the main lines: Sofia (7½ to 8½ hours, depending on train; the line passes through the picturesque Iskar Gorge), Pleven (4½ hr), Ruse (4 hr), Razgrad (2¾ hr), Dobrich (2 hr), Targovishte (2 hr), and Shumen (90-130 min, depending on train). Other cities in Northern Bulgaria are less frequent and/or convenient: Vidin (10½ to 11½ hr) and Vratsa (6½ to 8 hours) require changing trains at Mezdra, Veliko Tarnovo can be done by changing at Gorna Oryahovitsa (just outside of Tarnovo; 4 hr to Varna) or a roundabout route through Southern Bulgaria; Silistra requires changing at Samuil (5¼ hr). South of the Balkan Mountains, from Plovdiv there's a once-daily direct train (6 hr) or changing at Karnobat (9 to 10 hr); from Burgas there's also a once-daily direct, but slow train (4¾ hr) or changing at Karnobat (3½ or 4¾ hr); there are two daily direct trains from Stara Zagora (3 hr 40 min) and Yambol (3hr) and various changing options.
- 2 Central Train Station (Zhe Peh Garah, ЖП гара Варна). A pretty Art Nouveau building that was completed in 1925. Roughly L-shaped, it's a twin of Burgas' railway station and impossible to miss because of its clock tower. It has two entrances, one under the clock tower that leads directly to the platforms, and one on the long side of the L - that's where the ticket counters and the arrivals/departures boards are.
It's within walking distance of the city centre and the Sea Garden, but far from the airport and the central bus station. Getting there and away:
- By foot - To the central street, less than 10 min: leave the station via the exit under the clock tower, then use the pedestrian underpass to cross the street (Primorski Boulevard) and follow the street that leads immediately north/uphill (ulitsa Tsar Simeon I) - it should lead you to the New Yorker store on Independence Square (see below). The station is also about 10 minutes to the port (passenger terminal, yacht marina, amusement park), the beach alley and the southern end of the Sea Garden: leave the station via the exit under the clock tower, but then follow the boulevard east until you reach a crossroads with a street leading south that separates the beach from the harbour.
- By bus - confusingly, there are two pairs of bus stops in the vicinity of the station that serve different lines. One of the stops is right in front of the entrance of the ticket office hall with its counterpart on the opposite side of the boulevard (50 m/yd to the east), and the other one is at a small turnaround and a crossroads 50 m/yd west of the same entrance, with its counterpart 20 m/yds further west on the opposite side. The turnaround stop is more convenient for toursits - buses 9 and 109 go to the resorts, buses 22 and 41 go the Cathedral and the central bus station (see below for public transport details).
By car edit
Varna is the end point of the eastern segment of the unfinished Hemus Motorway (A2) to Sofia that runs in the northern part of the country - the segments are connected by route E772 which passes through Veliko Tarnovo and Shumen. The Bulgarian part of route E70 runs from Ruse and merges into the A2 west of Varna (around Shumen), providing a connection to Romania (Giurgiu, Bucharest) and Western Europe.
Route E87 runs in a north-south direction, and the Bulgarian part mostly follows the sea coast. To the north, it connects Varna to Mangalia, Constanta and Tulcea in Romania, and Odesa in Ukraine. In the southern direction, it passes through a number of resorts before reaching Burgas and goes inland to cross the border into Turkey at Malko Tarnovo/Dereköy, continuing towards Izmir and Antalya, with a connection via E80 to Istanbul.
By bus edit
- 3 Central Bus Station (Avtogara Varna, Автогара Варна), 158 Vladislav Varnenchik Blvd (1.8 km (1.1 mi) north-west of the Cathedral), ☏ , email@example.com. 24/7. Serving long-distant connections to Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, Burgas, Plovdiv, Istanbul, Greece, Romania, Central and Western Europe. It was built in the 1970s and it looks like it hasn't had any major renovations since then. Like many bus stations in Bulgaria, it's a hive of ticket offices: the "official" ones of the municipal transport company are inside, but it serves only short range lines; the offices of the private bus lines are all over the place. The station is right next to Grand Mall Varna. Public transport stops (see below) are right in front of the station—the one towards the center is on the opposite side of the street.
By boat edit
- 4 Passenger Terminal, Port Varna-East (Morska gara, Pristanishte Varna-Iztok). Varna is Bulgaria's only cruise destination. The passenger side of the harbor also contains a yacht marina. The terminal is within walking distance of the southern end of the Sea Garden (10 min), the Central Railway Station (15 min), and the main pedestrian street (20-25 min). There are a number of bars and restaurants and an amusement park on the grounds of the port itself, some swimming pools right next to the exit of the port street, and Varna's beaches start immediately north of the port's breakwater.
- 5 Ferry Terminal Varna (Фериботно пристанище Варна) (25 km (16 mi) east of Varna's center (beyond Beloslav), on the south shore of Varna-Beloslav Lake, along road 9004: exit the city via Hristo Botev Blvd (motorway A5) and get off at the large exchange after the Asparuhov Bridge), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Ro-ro ferry service run by Navibulgar, mainly used for freight transport, but they do accept personal cars and even passengers, if there are free cabins. Due to the war in Ukraine, the only operational line at the moment is to Poti/Batumi in Georgia. The interval between courses in one direction is about 10 days, refer to the timetable on the website.
Get around edit
On foot edit
Most sights and attractions are concentrated in the compact old part of Varna and the Sea Garden, where you can easily get around by foot. A pedestrian zone connects the Cathedral square to the main entrance of the Sea Garden, and both are within walking distance of the railway station. There are several beaches immediately below the Sea Garden, and the alley that runs along them starts in the same place as the street leading to public part of the port, 10 min east of the railway station. Even the bus station is doable—25 min to the Cathedral, along a commercial boulevard. Distances do add up, so plan accordingly.
By bus edit
Varna has an extensive public transport network served by buses and trolleybuses (electric buses powered by overhead wires). Online maps of bus stops, routes and current bus positions can be found on VarnaTraffic.com and Easyway; both have route planners and can use your GPS position to point you to the nearest bus stop(s), but while their interface (including bus stop names) is in English, the underlying maps are unfortunately mostly labelled in Bulgarian Cyrillic. Varna Traffic also has an add-supported Android app. OpenStreetMap includes public transport routes for Varna in its Transport layer, so they can be displayed offline in apps that use OSM, such as OsmAnd or Mapy.cz; unfortunately, OSM is often late to reflect changes, including seasonal variation. Also, Varna's official tourism information site has a page on transport.
With the exception of Bus 409 (see below), all lines are run by a municipal company. Paper tickets can be bought from ticket machines at bus stops and in the buses themselves. When they work properly, the machines accept coins, small-denomination notes and credit/debit cards. Tickets are based on duration, not route, and the "clock starts ticking" at the moment of sale. You have to validate (scan) your ticket when you board a vehicle if the ticket is bought from a bus stop or when changing routes/vehicles. As of February 2023, the prices for paper tickets are 2 лв for 60 min, 2.50 лв for 90 min, and 4 лв for a 24-hour pass. You can also buy an "electronic prepaid card" for 10 лв that offers discount prices: 1 лв for 60 min, 1.50 лв for 90 min and 4 лв for a 24-hr ticket. This card also has to be validated when boarding a vehicle. Cards can be recharged in 10 лв increments at ticket machines.
In summary: if you are going to spend a day or two in Varna and plan to use public transport often, it's advisable to buy a 24-hour pass to avoid dealing with the unreliable ticket machines. For longer periods, a pre-paid card may be a more cost-effective solution.
The lines most relevant to tourists (most stops omitted for brevity; stop names are the transcribed Bulgarian names used by the English translations of the route maps):
- Bus 409 – This line connects the airport, the city centre and the resorts to the north-east of the city. The line is co-run by both the municipality and a private company. The municipal buses can be recognized by the "shield with lion and wheel" emblem. The private buses (with large ЧЕНСФИЛД signs) don't accept the tickets bought from the municipal ticket machines and use their own tickets, sold on board by the ticket inspector. The line actually starts at Aksakovo (small town west of Varna). Notable stops along the line are Varna Airport, Central Bus Station (and Grand Mall Varna), the Cathedral (KATEDRALATA stop, on the east side), SEVASTOPOL stop (trivial walks to Archeological Museum to the north, main entrance of the Sea Garden to the south), the next six stops are along the northern boundary of the Sea Garden, then the line goes to and passes through the resorts: Saints Constantine and Helena, Chayka and Golden Sands. After the last stop, instead of simply turning around, 409 loops through the southern part of Golden Sands (four stops) before merging back into the main route (winter route only?).
- Bus 9 – Starts at the Central Train Station (western stop, at the crossroads/turnaround), the Cathedral (KOZIRKATA stop, in front of the tourist information center), SEVASTOPOL and the same six stops along the northern boundary of the Sea Garden, Saint Constantine and Helena resort, Chayka resort, Golden Sands resort, and through Golden Sands Nature Park. Afterwards hooks south to the central part of Golden Sands (4 stops).
- Bus 109 – Reaches the farthest north along the shore. Starts at the Central Train Station and follows the same route as Bus 9, but skips most of Golden Sands to reach its northernmost parts (4 stops, the last is the PANORAMA turnaround).
- Bus 12 – Goes to Asparuhovo on the southern side of the bay. You can take it from the Central Post Office (TSENTRALNA POSHTA stop, right "behind" the Cathedral's park, on the side of the post office), and the Asparuh Bridge over the bay. The last 6 stops are in Asparuhovo.
- Bus 17 – Goes to Asparuhovo and Galata. It starts from the Central Train Station (ZHP GARA-4 stop: to the east, on the "other side" of the boulevard), takes the Asparuh Bridge over the bay, passes through Asparuhovo, right by the Asparuhovo Park, then by a fishing village, and ends in Galata neighborhood (several stops).
By taxi edit
Be careful with taxis. You may pay 10 times the right price, so check for the fare per kilometer—look at the small square paper plate located in the lower corner of the rear doors' windows. Good taxi companies are: OK Trans (OK Транс), Varna (Варна), Evro (Евро), Triumph (Триумф Такси), Alpha taxi (Алфа такси). The typical price is around 0.79 лв/km.
By electric scooter edit
As of 2023, the ubiquitous Lime seems to remain the only electric scooter company operating in Varna.
Sights and landmarks edit
- 1 Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral (Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral). 08:00–18:00. A symbol of the city and a major landmark due to its central location. People use the small park that surrounds it as a meeting place - "at the Cathedral" (na Katedralata). The tourism information center is right across the street. The cathedral was completed in 1886; the Dormition of Mary refers to the Eastern Orthodox belief that Mary died in spiritual peace and was then resurrected and taken bodily into Heaven.
- Other notable old Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox churches include the early 17th-century Theotokos Panagia; the St. Athanasius (former Greek metropolitan cathedral); the seamens' church of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker; the Archangel Michael's chapel; and the St. Constantine and Helena church of the 16th century suburban monastery of the same name.
- 2 Independence Square (Площад "Независимост", Ploshtad Nezavisimost) (south of the Cathedral, across the street). Varna's central square and the starting point of a pedestrian area zigzagging to the entrance of the Sea Garden. The square itself is adjacent to two small parks (one has an equestrian statue of Tsar Kaloyan), the pretty theater and opera building (built 1912-1932), a large fountain in front of the Socialist-era Regional Courthouse, and the New Yorker store (built in 1977 in modernist style as a fashion store in the state-run Valentina chain).
- 3 Grand entrance to the Sea Garden (Morskata gradina). Also known under the self-explanatory name Primorski park (Seaside Park), the largest park in Varna stretches for several kilometers along the coast, one level above the beach alley. It contains multiple venues. Among those not listed elsewhere are a "children's corner" with various amusements (bouncy castle, bumper boats, etc), a petting zoo, many monuments (including an alley with busts of Soviet cosmonauts), open-air exercise equipment, and many cafes and restaurants.
- Varna's centre was rebuilt in late 19th and the earlier half of the 20th century by the nascent Bulgarian middle class in Western style, with local interpretations of Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Baroque, Neoclassicism, Art Nouveau and Art Deco.
- 4 Dragons in Love fountain ("above" the swimming pools, on the alley that enters the Sea Garden). Drinking fountain sourced from a hot spring and appropriately topped with a small statue of a pair of dragons. Built in 2010, sculptor Darin Lazarov.
- 5 Monument to Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship (a 300-step staircase connects it to Knyaz Boris I Blvd (north border of the Sea Garden), between the bus stops St. Nikola and Pikadili Park (lines 9, 109, 409)). A huge abandoned concrete monument dating back to the Communist era, on top of a small hill with a decent view of Varna and the sea. It was built in 1978 together with the park around it. It included a bomb shelter, a bookstore, an eternal flame, and ceremonial halls in the concrete "wings". The text above the arch used to say "ДРУЖБА ОТ ВЕКОВЕ ЗА ВЕКОВЕ" ("friendship for centuries [in the past] for centuries [in the future]"). Warning: there might be homeless people or addicts squatting in the remote corners, so be careful if you decide to explore.
Museums and other institutions edit
- 6 Archaeological Museum, 41 Maria Luisa Blvd (500 m (1,600 ft) east of the Cathedral, along the boulevard), ☏ , email@example.com. 10:00–17:00 (May and Oct: closed Su M, Nov-April: closed Sa Su). The museum's collection covers many periods, from the Early Paleolithic (100 000 BC), through ancient Greece and Rome, to the Middle Ages and later. The most important finds are those from the Varna Necropolis (burial site), including some of the earliest known gold artifacts in the world (4600-4200 BC). The museum also manages two open-air archaeological sites, the large Roman baths in the city centre and the medieval grotto of Aladzha Monastery at Golden Sands Nature Park. Adult: 10 лв.
- 7 Ethnographic Museum, 22 Panagyurishte Str (100 m south of the New Yorker store, then east; southward pedestrian street with a staircase; door to the yard is kept closed, so use the handle), ☏ . 10:00–17:00; Apr–Oct: closed M; Nov–Mar: closed Sa Su. In a quaint Bulgarian Revival house of the "symmetrical type", built in the 1860s. The collection showcases the rich diversity in culture and lifestyle of the population of Varna in the second half of the 19th and the early 20th century - clothing, domestic crafts, everyday items. Adult: 5 лв.
- 8 (Military-Maritime Museum), 2 Primorski Blvd (at the south end of the Sea Garden), ☏ . Nov–Mar: 09:30–17:30 (closed Su M); Apr–Oct: 10:00–18:00 (closed M). As the name suggests, it focuses on military history at sea, from ancient Greek wrecks to Soviet-era armaments. A nice old building (built 1890), with many items exhibited in the open. Outside the yard is the museum ship Drazki ("Daring"), a 38 m (125 ft) steam-powered torpedo boat that distinguished itself in the First Balkan War (1912); in the summer, it's open to visitors. 8 лв adult, various discounts (free for active military), 30 лв for guided tour (in English?); Drazki admission: 6 лв.
- 9 Varna Aquarium. The aquarium's exhibition focuses on the Black Sea's flora and fauna which includes over 140 fish species, but also features freshwater fish, Mediterranean fish, exotic species from faraway areas of the World Ocean, mussels and algae.
- 10 Nicolaus Copernicus Planetarium and Observatory, 4 Primorski park (100 m (330 ft) south ("down and to the right") of the main entrance of the Sea Garden), firstname.lastname@example.org. (in English) Jul-Aug, every Th: 17:00 for children (5-10), 19:00 for adults; more frequent in Bulgarian, on a complex schedule; ticket office works for one hour before a show. Built in 1968. There's a statue of Copernicus in front of the building and a tower with a Foucault pendulum that can be glimpsed from outside. A 10.5 m (34 ft) dome with 80 seats, an old Carl Zeiss ZKP projector and some digital stuff. Two different kind of shows - one for children 5-10, the other for older children and adults, but they are in English (or Russian) on only one day of the week. Adults: 6 лв, various discounts.
- 11 Varna Zoo (Zoopark Varna) (in the Sea Garden, 1.5 km (0.93 mi) north-east of the main entrance - 20 min walk along the central alley; immediately south of bus stop AKATSIITE on lines 9, 14, 39, 109, 409). Daily: Apr May Sep: 09:00–18:00; Jun-Aug: 09:00–19:00, Oct–Mar: 09:00–16:30. A relatively small zoo (2.3 hectares (5.7 acres)) with a variety of animals, both local and foreign. Also operates as a wildlife rescue center. Families with children under 18: 6 лв, otherwise: adults: 3 лв, various other discounts apply.
- Varna Dolphinarium – The only dolphinarium on the Balkan Peninsula, one of the most entertaining attractions of city. Built in 1984 and has 1134 seats.
- Vladislav Varnenchik Park-Museum – A memorial complex in a unique park in an area of 30 acres in the western part of Varna, at the battlefield where, on 10 November 1444, in the name of liberation of the Balkans and southeastern Europe, perished Polish-Hungarian king Władysław III of Varna (Varnenchik). In the exposition are the armor and weapons, paintings, flags and sculptures of the era.
Just outside of the city edit
- 12 Aladzha Monastery (Аладжа Манастир) (17 km (11 mi) north of the city centre). The remnants of a medieval monastery that was established in several caves on the side of a cliff. Nowadays, it's in the middle of the Golden Sands (Zlatni Pyasatsi) Nature Park, the smallest nature park in Bulgaria. The entrance fee is quite low, and it's a very beautiful, and quite weird thing to see.
- 13 Ecopark Varna (University Botanic(al) Garden - Varna) (9 km (5.6 mi) north-east of the city center; bus stop BOTANICHESKA GRADINA on lines 9, 109, 409). Apr–Nov: 80:00–17:30 (closing hour varies by moth, max 20:00 in Jun–Aug). Not to be confused with the Botanical Garden in Balchik. With an area of 36 hectares (89 acres), it includes more than 300 kinds of trees and shrubs, 250+ kinds of irises (flowers), a rose garden with more than 70 kinds of roses, etc., as well some archeological finds and a chapel at the garden's highest point with a nice view. Adults: 5 лв, various discounts apply; guided tour in English - either 24 or 42 лв (website typo?).
- 14 Pobiti Kamani (Побити камъни) (18 km (11 mi) west of the city centre, by the side of I-2, the former main road to Ruse superseded by the A2 highway). The name means literally "stones stuck upright [into the ground]". A natural formation of rock columns of unclear geological origin, up to 7 m (23 ft) high, resembling a stone forest. It's a protected natural area, considered to be the only desert-type biome in Bulgaria.
- 15 Museum Submarine Slava (Музей подводница "Слава", Podvodnitsa Slava) (in Beloslav, 20 km (12 mi) south-west of the city center, on southern shore of the Varna-Beloslav Lake). Tours every hour 10:00–15:00, closed M. Soviet-built diesel-electric attack submarine of the Project 633 class (NATO name: Romeo class). Slava ("Glory") was built in 1959, and served in the Bulgarian Navy between 1985 and 2011. In 2020, it was opened to visitors as a museum ship. Reaching it requires either a car, or some adventurous use of public transport: there are multiple daily buses between Varna's Central Bus Station and Beloslav (from the bus stop in Beloslav it's a 10 min walk east to the museum); there are also multiple daily trains that stop at Beloslav (all regional/commuter-class trains leaving Varna), but the train stop is on "this side" of the lake while the museum is on the "other side", so you have to take the ferry across the lake (northern terminal is 500 m east of the station; you can either take your chance by crossing the rails and following the minor road along the shore, or just follow the main road (2008) until you see the exit to the ferry branching off to the north (i.e. left) to turn under a bridge to the south; there's no ferry fee). In all cases, the museum is right next to the southern ferry terminal. Adults: 12 лв, children: 6 лв.
- The 2.4 km long, 50 m high Asparuhov Most bridge is a popular spot for bungee jumping.
- There is a large tourist place where you can enjoy whatever entertainment that can be bought for money. There is something for every taste. But, you can also have nice walks in Varna.
- Football – PFC Cherno More play football in First League, Bulgaria's top tier. Their home ground is Stadion Ticha (capacity 8250) 1 km northeast of city centre. Their local rivals Sparak Varna are in the Second League.
There are a couple of large shopping malls (Grand Mall, Pfohe Mall, Central Plaza, Mall of Varna, Varna Towers) turning Varna into an attractive international shopping destination. There are also several international big-box retailers (Metro, Kaufland, Carrefour) on the outskirts and traditional downtown shopping streets with boutiques and gift shops. Plenty of tourist stuff in the resorts sold in small stalls.
There are many good restaurants at very descent prices comparing other EU countries.
Near the beach edit
- 1 Nord, 9002 Primorski. In front of the beach
- 2 Morski valk, ul. "Odrin" 21, 9000 Center. Temporarily closed as of May 2022
- 3 Arrest Bar Billiard, bul. "Primorski" №5.
In the city centre edit
- 4 Korean cuisine "Kimbap", ul. "Dragoman" 28.
- 5 Restorant Trifon Zarezan, ul. "Sheynovo" 14. Bulgarian cuisine
- 6 The Social Teahouse, ul. "Preslav" 53.
Around the Primorkski-Park edit
Some blocks from the city centre around the Boteva Gradina edit
- 9 Chinese restaurant Asia, ul. "Veliko Hristov" 37.
- Alba – A variety of traditional and international dishes at very nice prices. In summer you can choose between sitting inside or the outside garden. Located just across Archaeological Museum in a yellow-green painted house. (updated May 2022)
- Sundogs – Also described as a pub by many, Sundogs is the go-to spot for many foreigners that live in Varna for its urban atmosphere and great food.
- Godzilla – A family friendly place, known for its pizzas.
- Happy Bar and Grill – A Bulgarian restaurant chain, based in Varna. Tasty kebabs.
- La Pastaria – Offering traditional Italian food, home made pasta and pizza. (Dragoman Street 45)
- BM – A nice restaurant offering mainly traditional cuisine as well as sea food. Located at the end of sea garden near to the Port of Varna.
- Massa Kitchen – Great atmosphere with a wide range of food options
- Staria Chinar – Traditional and Black Sea food, with many locations in the city
The beach at night tends to have the most night life in the summer.
There are also clubs and bars in the city but some of them are closed during summer: e.g. Cubo, Horizont, Planet Club.
There is a number of hotels in the city ranging from 2 to 5 stars.
North of Varna, along a continuous 20-km-long strip, are the beachfront resorts of Euxinograd, Constatine and Helena, Sunny Day, Chaika, Riviera, and Golden Sands, with a total of more than 60,000 hotel beds, plus several villa communities offering private lodgings.
- Motivi Hotel. This is a family-run hotel providing comfortable B&B accommodation. It is in the seaside resort of St. Constantine and Helena and has direct public transport connection to the centre of Varna (15 min away).
- 1 Yo Ho Hostel, Rusie 23. Nice decoration. 48 лв (double room).
- Alekta Hotel – In the northern part of the Sea Garden, on the outskirts of the town, 200 m from the sea and about a 20-min walk from the town center, which can also be reached by regular bus services or by taxi.
- 2 Amfora Hotel (in St. Konstantin, 8 km north of Varna), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. The hotel is nice and not far from the coast (about 15 min).
- Aqua Hotel Varna, ul. "Devnya" 12 (near the railway station), ☏ . This modern business hotel has six conference rooms suitable for all kinds of business events.
- Ellinis Hotel, ☏ . Built in 2005, the hotel is on the main road connecting Varna with the sea resorts "St. Konstantin and Helena" and "Golden Sands", 12 km from the airport, 1,500 m from the beach, and 5 min away from the city center. All rooms have balconies with sea views. Single: 29–40 лв, double: 40–50 лв.
- Petar Enchev Apartment. 2 nice bedrooms with a lounge, dining room, kitchen and shower room about 50 m far from the central beach. 88 лв.
Stay safe edit
Varna is in general a fairly safe place, though special caution should be taken in regards to the mafia. There have been several cases of tourists being assaulted by the mafia for improper behavior, such as an Icelandic teenage girl in 2017. Try not to give anyone who might be driving a black sports car, wearing a suit with glasses a bad eye. Common sense, courtesy and respect is always the best thing you can pursue.
Stay away from people offering money change on the street they are all cheaters. They usually are located in the area of the cathedral (kozirkata) and also it's a typical place for pickpocketers so be careful.
If you are driving a car be careful where you stop because if you violate the parking restrictions, your car may be removed by the authorities and you will need to pay a penalty fee, not to mention losing a lot of time.
As of Sep 2021, Varna has 4G from A1, Telenor and Vivacom. 5G has reached the beach strip but not the city.
Go next edit
Outside the city are the Euxinograd palace, park and winery, the Ecopark Varna Botanical Garden, the Pobiti Kamani rock phenomenon, the cave monastery Aladzha, and the Kamchiya biosphere reserve (UNESCO-protected)
There are many wild beaches south of town like Pasha Dere, Shkorpilovtsi, Karadere, and Irakli.
- Golden Sands Resort – 17 km north from downtown Varna. Similar to Ballermann and Lloret de Mar—restaurants are more expensive but some good hotel bargains can be found if you like beach.
- Sveti Konstantin and Helena – 10 km north from downtown Varna. It is a small, but peaceful and very green resort. Many nice hotels offer mineral water SPA services, due to the abundance of hot mineral springs all over the area.
- Albena – 30 km north from Varna. An old-style resort, with an architecture from the Communist times. Peaceful area though. Since the whole resort is owned by a single private company, it is one of the very few places on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast that does not suffer from overbuilding.
- Balchik – 40 km north. The town features a small palace and a beautiful botanical garden. A few kilometres further along the coast you can find a semi-warm hot spring, and 1 km further the Tuzlata Mud Baths, similar procedure as the Dead Sea—the water is salty but not that salty though. There is a serviced area (M-Su 09:00-15:30, 6/3 лв), but the pools can also be accessed from their southern side walking along the beach.
- Kavarna (Каварна) – 60 km north. The town holds the Kavarna Rock Fest in early July, the largest rock event in the Balkans and Black Sea region.
- Cape Kaliakra – 80 km north. The longest cape in Bulgaria. Stunning views to the sea and the red cliffs. A place with rich history and many legends. Worth visiting.
- Kamen Bryag (Камен бряг, literally: Rocky Coast) – 82 km north. The high rocky coast near the small village has been popular among Bulgarian hippies.
|Routes through Varna|
|Ruse ← Shumen ←||W E||→ Black Sea → Samsun|
|Durankulak ← Balchik ←||N S||→ Sunny Beach → Burgas|