Varna, Bulgaria could be just the hidden gem you have been looking for in order to have a summer holiday with a difference.
Known as the Pearl of the Black Sea and the Sea Capital of Bulgaria, this is the third largest Bulgarian city.
Varna has a lot to offer in terms of seaside entertainment, good food, and summer fun for both grown-ups and their offspring. Beaches covered with fine golden sand, restaurants serving large portions at cheap for the European pocket prices, and (what seems to be) an equal number of playgrounds and nightclubs make Varna, Bulgaria an appetising place to explore.
At the same time, Varna has deep historical roots going thousands of years back in time. After all, the world’s oldest processed gold was found during archaeological excavations just outside of the city and the ruins of Europe’s fourth largest preserved Roman baths lie right in Varna’s heart. So, there is lots to keep you occupied if history, museums, and art are just up your street.
Not to mention the longstanding art, music, ballet, and cinema events and festivals that take place in Varna each summer. If you are a connoisseur, you will feel overjoyed.
The most intriguing thing about Varna, Bulgaria though is that it is the perfect illustration of a formerly socialist city in the grip of the free market. Hence:
- grey multi-storey blocks of flats live side by side with flashy new malls;
- old style cheap snack shacks and brand new foodie restaurants do brisk business;
- the very latest models cars, decades-old autos, and even an old-style Russian produced vehicle or two park one next to another on the wonky pavements in the small streets around town; and
- in summer the city bubbles with excitement and social life whereas in winter everything shuts down in expectation of the next warm season.
Both exciting and a tad frustrating Varna needs to be seen to be believed. To be honest, if you expect impeccable service at all times, a perfectly clean and tidy city, and things to run in an organised and structured manner, then, perhaps, you need to go somewhere else.
If, on the other hand:
- you want to uncover the authentic face of a city that has had many ups and downs due to political upheavals; if
- you are looking for a new destination to explore in earnest while still having lots of fun with your family or your group of friends; and if
- you want to spend some time getting close to both culture and nature in their rawest form…
then Varna, Bulgaria is a good bet for you.
As above all, this is a city where people look to the stars even though on a day-to-day level not everything is quite perfect.
As a born and bred Varnenka (this is what women born in Varna are called, whereas Varna men are known as Varnenetz), I will share with you all the must-see places and sights, all the inner secrets and some unexpected points-of-view in order to enjoy my home city in a memorable, one-in-a-lifetime way.
It doesn’t matter if you are travelling solo, with friends or are a family with a child or two. All interests are covered for all age groups.
At this point it’s important to emphasise that all recommendations shared below have been over the years personally tried and tested several times by me and my family. I have not accepted payment and/or any type of remuneration for including specific destinations and/or companies in the following list.
Now, without further ado, let’s start!
Varna, Bulgaria –
17 Things to Do and See (With or Without Kids)
1. Tick Off Varna’s Main Sights
Start your exploration of Varna, Bulgaria by ticking off your travel wish list the city’s most popular and exciting sights. Here is a handy compact list for your convenience. As indicated, the different items in it are covered in more detail in the thematic points below.
What are the main sights to see in Varna, Bulgaria?! In a strictly alphabetical order don’t miss:
- Archaeological Museum (see point 2 below);
- Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral (see point 8 below and the photo above);
- Roman Baths (see point 2 below)
- Sea Garden (see point 3 below);
- City Centre with its century-old houses, various museums, art galleries, and exciting bars and eateries (see point 10 below).
You can easily cover Varna’s main sights in a day. Still, it’s better to take it easy – especially during the hot summer days. Varna is not just the sum of its museums and sights. The spirit of the city is best felt over several days by combining gentle sightseeing with lots of beach time, relaxed fun, and cultural activities.
2. Delve into Varna’s Ancient History
Founded over 2600 years ago as a Greek colony, Varna was originally known as Odessos. Through the centuries, it changed hands several times and different civilizations left their imprint on the city. Thracians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, and later on Celts, Byzantines, and Bulgars made their home here. In 1201 Varna became part of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
It’s interesting to note though that the Bay of Varna and the lands around the adjacent Varna Lake have been the cradle of even more ancient cultures and tribes for millennia. The oldest flint artifacts found there date back to the Middle Paleolithic age (or around 100 000 years ago!).
Most importantly, the unearthing of the Varna Necropolis (a prehistoric cemetery) in 1972 led to the discovery of the so-called Varna Culture. Dated between 4400 and 4100 BC this was an advanced culture able to produce sophisticated coloured pottery, precious jewellery, and flint and obsidian blades.
Over 3000 gold artifacts were found in the burial sites excavated in the Varna Necropolis (which is still not completely researched). With a total weight of about 6 kg the Varna treasure is the oldest processed gold in the world.
Nowadays, you can see these gold artifacts in Varna’s Archaeological Museum. The Museum’s rich collections represent life in the lands of Varna from the Old Stone and Middle Stone Ages to the 18th century.
Make sure that you put aside at least two hours in order to explore the Archaeological Museum in Varna, Bulgaria in detail. You will find it in the heart of the city, at number 41 on Maria Luisa Boulevard. Here is a direct link to the museum’s website.
In order to appreciate Varna’s ancient heritage, head also to the Roman Thermal Baths. There are two sites in the city where the Romans would congregate to bathe themselves:
- The Large Roman Thermae were built at the end of the 2nd century AD and every five years served as the centre of major athletic games. Nowadays, they are not only the largest ancient building discovered in Bulgaria so far but also the fourth largest preserved Roman Baths in Europe. Click here to read more about this impressive place. Click here to find its opening times and how to get there.
- The Small Roman Thermae were built between the 3rd and the 6th centuries AD. Nowadays the archaeological site is used also as a theatrical stage. Click here to find its opening times and how to get there.
Just up the street from the Large Roman Thermae, you will come across one more ancient site in Varna, Bulgaria. Odessos was an early Christian centre and the ruins of its largest Roman basilica can be seen free of charge in the centre of town. Click here to find out how to get there. The ruins are surrounded by blocks of flats and trees grow between the old stones. The marvelous Roman mosaics that once adorned the basilica have been extracted and are currently kept in Varna’s Archaeological Museum.
3. Go for a Walk in Varna’s Parks and Gardens
With a compact central part, Varna is a city easy to navigate on foot. However, there is a huge number of private and public transport vehicles, so you will soon discover that the pavements (especially of the smaller side streets) are taken by parked cars.
To escape the traffic and the fumes, head over to Varna’s parks and gardens:
- Sea Garden – this large landscaped park is Varna’s green lung. Running parallel to the seashore and with wide alleys lined up with dense green shrubs and trees, the Sea Garden is a favourite place of the citizens of Varna. The park was created at the end of the 19th century and among many things, there you will find Varna’s Planetarium, Varna’s Aquarium, Varna’s Dolphinarium, Varna’s Terrarium, Varna’s Summer Theatre, the Pantheon (a large monument in a style called Socialist Reality), the Alley of the Astronauts, tennis courts, sport grounds, large playgrounds for kids, a number of iconic for the city monuments and large crowds of young and old people on their daily walks. This article is a good introduction to the Sea Garden and the place it has in the hearts of the citizens of Varna, Bulgaria.
- University Botanical Garden – this lush green park is just outside of Varna’s city limits. You will find it on the road leading to the nearby seaside resorts. Ideally, you need a car to reach the University Botanical Garden but public transport buses run regularly several times per hour, too. The park is huge and it is divided into several areas. I particularly like the rose garden. It’s very romantic, especially when the roses are in full bloom. Barbecue pits with adjacent benches and tables are dotted all over the University Botanical Garden just outside Varna, Bulgaria, so you can spend a couple of leisurely hours there grilling your food and sharing it your friends and family. In the forested part of the park, you will find a small Christian Orthodox chapel. A small fee applies in order to access the grounds of the University Botanical Garden. Click here for information about opening hours.
- Battle of Varna Park Museum – a very special place where history meets nature. The Battle of Varna Park Museum is built on the spot where in 1444 the armies of the Polish-Hungarian King Vladislav III Yagello battled the invading army of the Turkish Sultan Murad II. Greatly outnumbered by the Ottomans, the Christian army was defeated and the young king slayed. In recognition of his bravery and ultimate sacrifice, he was given the name Varnenchik. The Battle of Varna was a defining moment in the history of Bulgaria and Europe. You will find the Battle of Varna Park Museum in the middle of a large lush park on the Western edges of Varna, Bulgaria. You can easily reach it by car or public transport. Within the confines of the park, there is also a Thracian tomb. Click here for more details about the museum, the battle, and the park.
4. Stroll Through Varna’s Pedestrianised Centre
Starting from the Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral (or simply ‘The Cathedral’ as this imposing church is known in Varna), go for a leisurely stroll through the pedestrianised city centre.
This will give you a great visual idea of what Varna, Bulgaria stands for. Benches are dotted along the way and you will see people sitting on them at any time of the day while chatting with friends or watching the world go by.
Some of the sights you will see along the way are:
- Kozirkata – (In Bulgarian Козирката) a grandstand-like structure sits just opposite the Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral. Kozirkata is one of Varna’s most enduring symbols from the city’s recent history. Many buses covering all destinations in Varna and the nearby tourist resorts stop right in front of it. Countless of dates have been organised in its shade. Most importantly, currently, Kozirkata houses Varna’s Tourist Information Centre, so make a stop there for brochures and details.
- Varna Theatre with its clock tower – the clock tower is another of Varna’s enduring landmarks. The tower is 24 meters high and it was built in 1888.
- Varna’s Opera and Theatre House – Bulgaria is very proud of its opera singers so if you like classical music and modern-day music theatre make sure that you attend a performance in the red building of Varna’s Opera and Theatre House.
- Singing Fountains – you will find this new for Varna, Bulgaria attraction on Nezavisimost Square right by Varna’s Opera and Theatre House. A large fountain has been standing there for decades. It was replaced with a very modern structure in 2015. The new fountain has a 41 meters high jet which makes it the tallest fountain in Bulgaria. 400 lights and 52 pumps work to create a spectacular water show.
- Century-old houses and buildings – the city centre of Varna, Bulgaria is lined up with beautiful houses and buildings which are over a century old. You will soon notice that some of them are kept in pristine condition whereas others are, quite literally, falling to pieces. The contrast is staggering. You can read more about it here. The above picture shows the Navy Club in Varna the building of which was erected at the end of the 19th century. After a period of neglect, it was recently renovated. You will find it opposite the Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral.
- Dabkov’s bench – Dabko Dabkov is the architect behind several of the beautiful old houses lining up Varna’s pedestrianised central part. In fact, over a period of 40 years, he designed more than 350 buildings in Bulgaria’s Sea Capital. A little bit further away from the Singing Fountains, you will see a bench with the bronze figure of a man sitting on it. This is the monument of Dabko Dabkov erected by the citizens of Varna. It’s also a favourite place to take a selfie or two.
- Church of St. Nicholas – a small but pretty Eastern Orthodox church right by Varna’s main pedestrianised central street. It deserves a moment of your time. It is known as the Sailors’ Church and it was built in the mid 18th century. The church was erected thanks to a large donation by a Varna-based Russian merchant who survived a terrible storm in the Black Sea after praying to St. Nicholas to be saved.
- Cherno More Hotel – a tall imposing hotel a stone’s throw away from the entrance of the Sea Garden.
- Festival and Congress Centre – an emblematic for Varna, Bulgaria building with two cinemas, concert halls, a large bookshop, and a nice restaurant. This is where several important for the city events take place. You will find its large brown body right by the entrance of the Sea Garden and within mere metres of the sea.
- Central entrance of the Sea Garden – tall straight columns jutting upwards from a long arcade mark the official entrance of the Sea Garden (see point 3 above). It’s a very picturesque place and in summer lots of people gather there to watch street dancers and buskers perform.
- Old Sea Baths (nowadays turned into fashionable restaurants and clubs) – Varna’s Old Sea Baths were built in 1926. You will see their long body running parallel to the city beaches straight after walking into the Sea Garden through its central entrance. The baths once housed changing rooms and facilities for the people sunning themselves on Varna’s beaches. A few years ago they were turned into modern beach clubs and restaurants. It is a great place to dip your toes in the sand and relax over a long cold drink.
- The Black Sea – leaving the Old Sea Baths behind you can continue your leisurely walk along the promenade skirting the city beaches. Along the way you will spot lots of restaurants, nightclubs, and cafes.
5. Have a Spiritual Adventure in the Desert
Less than 20 km away from the centre of Varna you will find one of the very few desert habitats in Europe.
The most amazing thing about this place is that it is dotted with huge stone pillars, the tallest of which reach seven meters. Called the Stone Forest (Побити камъни – Pobiti Kamani in Bulgarian), it is a mysterious place. There are many local legends and scientific theories about the origin of the stone pillars.
Walking between them is quite magical. It is a calm, spiritual place where you feel free and at liberty to connect with your thoughts and your inner self.
When in Varna, don’t miss the Stone Forest. You can easily get there by car or taxi. It is one of my most favourite places to visit in and around Varna, Bulgaria, so put it high on your must-see list.
For more details and interesting information about the Stone Forest, please read my article: Exploring Varna – The Stone Forest.
6. Visit a Centuries-Old Rock Monastery
Aladzha Monastery is another must-see place just outside of Varna, Bulgaria.
The monastery dates back to the 13th century and it was abandoned at the start of the 16th century. It is nestled in a 40 metres high limestone rock in which hermit monks hewed their cells, kitchen, chapel, and crypt. Small portions of frescoes have been preserved.
A tall staircase allows you to access the different parts of the monastery. The view from the top is beautiful. You will find yourself above the tall pine trees looking over to the sparkling Black Sea.
A nearby exhibition centre recounts the story of Aladzha Monastery. In summer, there are light shows in the evenings bringing back to life the monastery and its secrets.
Less than a kilometre away from Aladzha Monastery, in the lush forest, there is a group of caves called the Catacombs. Archaeological findings show that these caves had been inhabited as early as the 5th century.
Visiting Aladzha Monastery and the nearby Catacombs is a great experience, especially on a hot day, as the adjacent deep forest offers refuge from the strong sun. You can easily get there by car, taxi or public transport.
For more details and interesting information about Aladzha Monastery, please, read my article: Exploring Varna – Aladzha Monastery.
7. Spend At Least a Day on the Beaches In and Around Varna
Stretching on the Black Sea coast, Varna, Bulgaria is a heaven for anyone who loves spending time topping their tan.
Beaches in and around Varna are covered with fine golden sand which makes them very comfortable to lie on and sun yourself to your heart’s content.
You can easily get to the city beaches which run parallel to the Sea Garden and are in the immediate vicinity of countless bars and restaurants. Or, you can get a bus or a taxi to get to one of the several tourist resorts within an easy reach from the city.
My favourite beach just outside of Varna is in the Sunny Day (in Bulgarian Слънчев Ден – Slunchev Den) tourist resort. It is not overcrowded, there are no people constantly bothering you to buy from them and the sea bottom is sandy and clear of rocks.
Other beaches you can explore are at:
- resorts: Golden Sands, St. St. Konstantin and Elena, Albena;
- areas, villages, small towns – Shkorpilovtzi, Kamchia, Biala, Balchik, Kranevo.
If you have a car at your disposal, definitely spend a day or more driving to different beaches. From semi-wild to highly developed, there is something to please every sun-worshipper.
8. Enjoy Varna’s Art, Music, Ballet, and Cinema Events and Festivals
After a good day at the beach, it’s time for a little bit of culture.
Luckily, Varna, Bulgaria has a rich cultural life with large art, music and cinema events taking place there every summer. Don’t miss:
- The International Ballet Competition – the oldest ballet competition in the world and my very favourite event in Varna. This most prestigious ballet competition is often called the Ballet Olympiad. Such is the class of both the competing dancers and the members of the jury. Varna’s International Ballet Competition is held on the stage of the city’s Summer Theatre during the last two weeks of July every two years. The winners of previous editions have become leading ballet dancers in world-renowned dance theatres and groups. For maximum delight, buy a ticket for the gala evening when the winners in the different categories dance on stage. It’s spellbinding! Read more about it here.
- Varna Summer International Music Festival – the oldest music festival in Bulgaria and one of the longest standing festivals in Europe. Read more about it here.
- Love is Folly International Film Festival – since 1993 this annual film festival shines a spotlight on quality films exploring the themes of love.
In addition, Varna hosts several other events and festivals all through the year. From a folk dancing festival to a fair dedicated to traditional crafts, from concerts by world-renowned names to small intimate gigs of Bulgarian bands, make sure that you check what’s on during your stay in the Bulgarian Sea Capital.
9. Light Up a Candle in Varna’s Historic Churches
Varna, Bulgaria has a host of interesting churches. Most are Eastern Orthodox in line with the main religion of Bulgaria but there is also an Armenian and a Catholic churches.
Having been enslaved for 500 years by Turkey, Bulgaria sought refuge and salvation in its religion. Then, during the socialist/communist era from 1944 to 1989 religion was forbidden for being an ‘opium for the masses’. Yet, the churches and the monasteries in the country continued to flourish as they were considered keepers of the Bulgarian history and spirit.
When in Varna, don’t miss:
- Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral – click here to read my article about this most iconic place in Varna, Bulgaria.
- Church of St. Michael the Archangel – founded in 1865 this was the first church in Varna where service was held in Bulgarian. The small building also used to house the city’s first school.
- Church of St. Nicholas (also known as the Sailors Church) – see point 4 above.
- Monastery of St. St. Constantine and Elena – you will find it in the tourist resort of the same name just outside of Varna. There has been a monastic community at the same place at least as early as the 16th century. The monastery, they say, was built close to the spot where a miraculous icon of the St. St. Constantine and Elena was found after a ship was wrecked in the sea nearby.
10. Browse Varna’s Museums and Art Galleries
Varna, Bulgaria has a nice collection of exciting museums and art galleries. I have given a compact alphabetical list of these with relevant hyperlinks below. This way, you can pick and choose which museum(s) to visit in your beach-free time. Enjoy!
- Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium – click here for detailed information in English. Unfortunately, the official website is only in Bulgarian.
- Ethnographic Museum – a nice, albeit a bit dusty exhibition gives you a detailed overview of the Bulgarian crafts and customs typical for the region of Varna. Click here for more information.
- History of Varna Museum – you need to visit this museum if you want to learn about Varna and how the city has developed through the centuries. The exhibition includes, among many things, recreated shops and offices typical for Varna after the Liberation from Turkish enslavement at the end of the 19th century. Click here for more information.
- Museum of the History of Medicine – a very interesting museum which will take you from 1940 all the way back to the 4th millennium BC in order to show you how people practiced medicine in the lands of Bulgaria through the centuries. This is the only museum dedicated to the history of medicine on the Balkan peninsula. Click here for more information.
- National Naval Museum – opened in 1923 in Varna, this was the first public maritime museum in Bulgaria. The best thing about it is that the museum’s garden hosts several real-life helicopters, boats and other water- and aircraft. Don’t miss the Druzki ship – a legendary torpedo-boat which stopped the much larger advancing Turkish ships during the Balkan War in 1912-1913. You can also see the Cor Caroli yacht which was used in the first circumnavigation of the world by a single-handed Bulgarian sailor. Click here for more information about the National Naval Museum in Varna, Bulgaria.
- Retro Museum – come find out what life was like during the 45 years of the socialist/communist regime in Bulgaria. Click here for more details.
- Varna City Art Gallery – housed in a Neo-Gothic building just up the road from the Cherno More Hotel, here you will find a permanent and visiting exhibitions of Bulgarian and foreign artists. Click here to see the official website (only in Bulgarian).
Also, enjoy the medley of statues dotted all over Varna’s city centre. Reflecting different aesthetics and social circumstances, some are beautiful to look at whereas others are slightly more puzzling.
11. Go on an Unforgettable Day Trip
In less than an hour you can reach many exciting places around Varna. Add another hour to your travel time and you can explore places in the heart of Bulgaria in a day. Here are some suggestions for great day trips from Varna. Click on the links for more details:
- Bulgaria’s Old Capitals – explore the ruins of Pliska and Preslav.
- Magical Madara – explore the beauty of Madara, its rocks, and its fortress. Then find out why the Bulgarians are so proud of the rock-hewn Madara Horseman. Can be combined with a day trip to Pliska or Preslav.
- Kaliakra – learn the legend of the 40 virgins who threw themselves in the sea from the Kaliakra Cape in order to escape a gruesome fate in the hands of the invading Turkish. Eat mussels grown in the nearby mussle farms.
- Boat on Kamchia River – find out why Kamchia is known as the Bulgarian Amazon and get as close as possible to a closed nature reserve in a pretty boat. Then head to the nearby beach.
- Scale the Ovech Fortress – and enjoy the stunning views from the plateau while surrounded by historical ruins. Walk on the long wooden bridge feeling like you are a bird in the sky. On the way back, stop for half an hour at the Museum of Roman Mosaics in Devnya and find out how this sleepy dusty town was once the temporary capital of the Roman Empire.
- Head to Balchik – and enjoy a walk in the gardens of a quirky castle which was the favourite place in the world of the Romanian Queen. Born Princess Marie of Edinburgh she was a granddaughter of the formidable Queen Victoria and married the King of Romania Ferdinand after spurning the advances of her first cousin – the future British King George V (the grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II). Visit the nearby botanical garden, too. Then lunch on fried local fish and spend the afternoon on the beach.
Further away from Varna, don’t miss Nessebar, Pomorie, Burgas, and Veliko Tarnovo. You can even drive to Romania and back in a day!
12. Eat, Drink and Be Merry
With Bulgarian food rich in tasty red meat, seasonal salads, grilled vegetables, and hearty stews you are in for a treat. Restaurants in and around Varna also serve fresh seafood and international cuisine.
Prices are definitely cheaper than similar restaurants in Italy and England, for example. A hearty meal for a family of three can cost around 40 leva (20 euros). Snack shacks around the city sell a huge variety of cheap pastry-based snacks which will set you back a lev or two (0.50 to 1 euro).
Read this article to acquaint yourself with ten traditional Bulgarian meals you should definitely try. Then start exploring.
The traditional Bulgarian drink is called rakia (ракия). It’s very strong (40 degrees), so drink responsibly. There is a huge variety of local wines and beers, too.
13. Immerse Yourself in Varna’s Nightlife
With trendy nightclubs and bars all over town and in the nearby resorts, be ready to stay up well past midnight on more than one occasion during your stay in Varna, Bulgaria.
All types of modern-day music are represented – from hardcore techno to a very Balkan invention with a heavy oriental beat called ‘chalga’. In fact, Bulgaria is split in its opinion on chalga – with half of the population hating it from the bottom of their hearts, while the other half adores it.
In order to find the best club and/or bar to tickle your personal music fancy, spend an evening bar- and disco-hopping along the waterfront promenade which starts at the Old Sea Baths (see point 4 above) and then runs parallel to the Sea Garden along the edge of the sea.
Keep an eye out for posters advertising visiting DJ’s sessions and music concerts, too.
14. Take the Kids to Play all over Varna
Playgrounds are available all over Varna, Bulgaria for the little ones to run and have fun under the watchful eye of their parents.
The city’s large shopping malls are equipped with play centres, too. In some of th,ese you can even drop your child off for an hour or two so that you can shop in peace.
Just off the Sea Garden’s main alley, there is a large playground with many different pieces of equipment. It is a focal point for parents and their offspring from all over Varna.
Also in the Sea Garden you will find a large fairground-inspired place called The Kids’ Corner (in Bulgarian Детски кът – transliterated as Detski kat). Attractions there are paid for and there is a good mix to keep kids of different ages happily occupied for an hour at least. In addition to all the bouncy castles, bungee jumps, and carousels, there is also a crafts’ corner where children can colour plaster moulds and keep busy with different arts&crafts projects. You can find more information about the Kids’ Corner in Varna here.
My favourite thing to do in Varna with my child though is to visit the local Puppet Theatre. Puppeteering is a highly-respected form of acting in Bulgaria and the local puppet theatres stage fabulous shows for the little ones.
You will find Varna’s Puppet Theatre in the heart of the city centre. In Summer, the theatre also stages outdoor performances in the Sea Garden. Some of them use the language of music and dance so that kids and parents of any nationality can enjoy the performance without a language barrier. Find out more about Varna’s Puppet Theatre here.
In addition, don’t miss the small but very imaginative Puppet Museum which is adjacent to Varna’s Puppet Theatre. There you can see over 140 theatre puppets and decors which have been used in stage performances by the theatre. Read more about the Puppet Museum here.
An original way to spend the day with your child or children in Varna, Bulgaria is to go on a sea pirate adventure. Boats shaped like pirate ships criss-cross the bay of Varna offering a great day full of water battles, grilled fish and heaps of entertainment for parents and their little ones. We had our own pirate adventure last summer. It was a lot of fun. The day was officially declared one of our most favourite days in Varna, Bulgaria ever when a couple of dolphins swam next to our boat and circled it several times. This is the website (in Bulgarian only) of the company we used. You can also ask for recommendations at the Varna Tourist Information Centre.
15. Indulge in Some Graffiti-Spotting all over Varna
Graffiti-lovers will be in for a treat when visiting Varna, Bulgaria.
Local graffiti artists like Fars (Фарс) and Mouse have created some stunning images on walls and electrical substations all over the city.
Every time that I am in Varna I discover yet another one-of-a-kind creation.
Be adventurous! Get a camera and simply walk all over town, go down little side streets, wander without a plan in mind, get on a bus and head to the sprawling suburban areas of the city, just keep exploring until you have had your fill of Varna-born graffiti.
Then, let me know what you have uncovered!
16. Photograph Varna from Above
If you fancy yourself as a photograph (hello there, me too!!), you would want to take a special photo of Varna, Bulgaria to remember the time you spent there.
For a panoramic photo of Varna with a difference head to one of these three spots:
- The top floor of Cherno More Hotel (see point 4 above). A large restaurant and a bar take over the top floor of the hotel which, coincidentally, is one of the tallest buildings in town. Position yourself on one of the balconies which line up the restaurant/bar area and start snapping to your heart’s content. See the picture above for an idea as to what you will see from there.
- The panoramic viewpoint in Galata – a suburb on the opposite side of the Varna Bay from where you can enjoy a sprawling vista over the whole of Varna, the long body of the Asparuhov Bridge (famous as a bungee-jumping spot), the Varna Lake beyond the bridge, and the green hills serving as Varna’s lush backdrop. The view is especially beautiful at night when all the main buildings in the city are artistically lit for maximum effect. To reach the Galata panoramic viewpoint it takes about 10-12 mins by car from the city centre. Or slighly longer if you catch bus number 17 or 17A from Varna’s Railway Station.
- The Park-Monument of the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship – a remnant of Bulgarian’s recent Socialist/Communist past, the large body of this monument crowns a hill on the Northern edge of Varna. From there a nice view over the nearby sea, Sea Garden and Varna’s ubiquitous blocks of flats is revealed. A nice little park has been planted around the hill. A long flight of 301 steps (called the Staircase of Victory) leads to the top where the monument stands. With its height of 23 m and width of 48 m, the monument is huge. Rumour has it that secret tunnels criss-cross the hill underneath. I can’t confirm if this is true or not though.
17. Shop ‘Til You Drop in Varna’s Galleries, Boutiques, and Malls
Use your time in Varna to stock up on typical Bulgarian products and crafts. Colourful pottery, hand-drawn icons, rose- and yogurt-scented cosmetics and bath care are some of the gorgeous local things you will discover in shops.
If you love jewellery, check out art shops and galleries for a great selection of handmade in Bulgaria and very reasonably priced silver and gold adornments.
In case you are interested in art, make sure that you visit at least one gallery in Varna, Bulgaria for a taste of how Bulgarian painters and artists see the world.
Finally, if shopping is your hobby, spend some time in Varna’s large malls where multinational brands meet local producers. For example, the first picture under this heading shows Varna’s Sports Hall which was turned into a shopping centre housing many small shops (even though it continues to host sports events, too). There are several purpose-built shopping malls all over town, too.
Who knows?! You may end up having to buy a second suitcase in order to transport your haul back home.
OK, these are the 17 things you can do and see in Varna, Bulgaria with or without kids. I hope that I have given you lots of ideas as to where to go and how to spend your time in and around this interesting city.
Here is a handy list with links to the aforementioned articles with more information about Varna and its sights as well as nearby places you can easily visit in a day:
- Varna, Bulgaria – 50 Reasons to Visit the Pearl of the Black Sea – First Part and Second Part
- Exploring Varna: Aladzha Monastery
- Exploring Varna: The Stone Forest
- Varna’s Cathedral Captured Just Before the Storm
- The Most Iconic Place in Varna
- Varna’s Abandoned Houses
- Ovech Fortress in Bulgaria – Hilltop Ruins and Breathtaking Views
- Magical Madara
- The Glorious Past of the First Bulgarian Capital
- Navigating the Bulgarian Amazon
- The Ruin of the Roman Baths
For information on what to do and see in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, click here:
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