The city of Varna – population 325137, is situated in the Bay of Varna, 470 km east of Sofia. Varna is the biggest city at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Varna's length is over 11 km, its width including the new residential district in nearly 9km. The city stands in tiers and follows the curves of the Bay of Varna. It is surrounded by lots of gardens, vineyards and deciduous groves. Almost the whole territory is occupied by private country houses and small farms. The city is a regional centre.
The town was settled by the fishing tribe of Corbisy.
In sixth century BC a Greece town inhabited by settlers was established here under the name Odesos.
The town had been under the siege of the troops of Alexander of Macedonia in the middle of the fourth century BC but after the siege was put down the town was given the autonomy within the limits of his Empire. At the time of Lisimah the town reestablished its supremacy at the north Black Sea coast.
Gradually Odessos yielded precedence in the region to the town of Marcianopolis (nowadays Devnia). Having been conquered and devastated several times during barbarian invasion it came within the Byzantine empire.
In ninth century it was already called Varna. It is supposed that the name originates from the horse people in Central Asia. The town was included in the territory of Bulgaria during the reign of king Kaloyan. In 1391 it soon declined and the Turkish conquered the town. In 1444, during the crusade of the Polish king Vladislav Yagello and the Hungarian leader Yanosh Huniady, the town was under the siege of the knights. The troops of the Christian coalition suffered a complete defeat. The young king Vladislav was killed. The citizens of Varna built a mausoleum in his honour called Park-museum Vladislav Varnenchik.
In 1878 Varna was finally liberated from Ottoman yoke and became the most important Bulgarian seaport town. Varna quickly established as a seaside resort. Entertainment establishments and holiday houses were built. Varna won the fame of becoming a favourite place for the Bulgarian elite.
The Archaeological museum is housed in a building that used to be a school during the Renaissance.
The Museum of the Bulgarian Revival is housed in a building from 1861 which was proclaimed a culture monument.
The Naval Museum is in the Sea garden and possesses all the objects of importance for the Bulgarian Navy.
The Park-Museum Vladislav Varnenchik is to the north-west of the city.
The Etnographic museum is housed in a Renaissance house from 19-th century.
The Natural – science museum displays species typical of the Bulgarian flora and fauna.
The Aquarium and the Black Sea museum is the first and the only marine biological station in the country.
The Gallery of art possesses paintings by the most outstanding Bulgarian artists as well as pieces of art by numerous foreign artists, donated to the gallery by citizens. A branch of the museum is the Museum house of Georgi Velchev .
An exhibition of icon–paintings from the Renaissance is held in the church St.Atanasii built in the 13-th century near the Roman spa. The church itself is unique with its mural paintings and icons and with its carved altar and bishop’s stall.
The Museum of medicine is the only one on the Balkan peninsula. Medical plants and herbs are on display here, as well as clothing used in the medical profession from ancient times till now.
The Museum of Varna's history has an exceptionally rich collection. The Gold Treasure of Varna is six thousand years old - it is the oldest gold in the world discovered so far.
Cinemas and theatres
There are about ten working cinemas in Varna. Some of the best are in the city centre. The best is Mustang Cinema . It is very comfortable and offers almost 24 hours of block busters.
The Drama Theatre is open during the whole holiday season with its three stages.
Varna’s Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra also have their performances.
The Puppet Theatre is also open throughout the whole season.
The Roman Spa is situated in the proper centre of the city.
The Cathedral of Holy Mother is considered to be an emblem of the seaside capital of Bulgaria.
The Sea garden dates back to the end of the 19-th c.
Various activities take place at the Open Air Theatre. These include the Varna Days of music, the world famous International ballet competition and Varna summer – a trienalle of arts.
The Pantheon is in Primorski park.
The Asparuh bridge connects the city centre with the residential district Asparuhovo and Galata. It is the longest bridge in Bulgaria.
The Clock tower was built in 1880 and it rises across from the cathedral. Beneath the cathedral is one of the branches of the Drama theatre and the Club of the cultural figures.
The Festival complex is opposite the entrance of the Sea garden.
The Dolphin show house is one of the favourite attractions both for children and adults. Performances and demonstrations regularly take place here.
Not far away from city centre is the Puppet theatre, where the “Golden Dolphin” festival of puppets take place each year. In the middle of the Sea garden is located the ZOO with lot of species. Not far from there you can find the Exotic Zoo where visitors can see many of exotic animals living on our planet.
The famous village of Vinitsa is situated 10km north-east of Varna. It is a favourite place where the citizens of Varna often go on picnic or for walks, it is also a holiday spot with lot of small private hotels there.
The Cape of Galata is a very attractive for lots of tourists who are keen on having a seclusion with nature. There is the residental district Galata where are lot of small hotels and holiday houses.
The resort complex of Chernomorec includes several chalets and lot of bungalows.
Around the Asparuh bridge near the residential district the relics of the rampart of Asparuh can be seen. Not far away is the knoll of Djanavar. A basilica from the early Christian period is built here.
The Stone Forest is 20 km west of the city.
The town of Devnia is connected with the Varna canal by the Varna lake. There are remains of the ancient town of Marcianoppolis, the second biggest town in ancient Bulgaria after Philipopolis (in present days – Plovdiv).
The fortress of Petrich rises opposite the railway station of Razdelna, close to the railway from Varna to Sofia. The fortress was built in 5-th century, later on it was pulled down and rebuilt in 13-th to 14-th centuries. It was an important defense fortress in 1444 during the battle of Vladislav Varnenchik. The rocks near the fortress are perfect for mountaineering.
The Aladzha rock monastery is situated in a beautiful woodland about 17 kilometers from Varna.
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, the Deja vu Restaurant, . Middle-class restaurants, private pubs and taverns can be found even in the distant residential quarters of the city (the Chuchura Restaurant, the Chuchurite Restaurant, the Old Varna Restaurant and Wine Club Varna). 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 a lot of market places (the most popular one being Kolhoz) being as well. A lot of small pizza shops (recommended - Godzila) 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.
Warnings of Dangers
To avoid sticky or aggrevating situations like getting bothered by gypsies, getting ripped off while shopping or not being able to understand the menu, try to find a Bulgarian that speaks some English - they will help you a lot. They will be honoured to help and you can get along with your trip more easily and smoothly. If you don't know who to befrend go to younger people (20's or teens) because they tend to speak English. They can show you the town's hotspots and provide any needed help. Just remember to thank your new friend and maybe treat them to a coffe or something to show your gratitude.
When using taxi always set price before the journey. You have to bargain for the price. Never agree to the first price the taxi driver sets. The taxis in front of the hotels are always the most expensive. Try anywhere else in the resort.
Varna’s festivals are large in number, the most popular of them being: the international choir gathering – at the end of the May; International theatre holidays – a part of the festival Varna’s summer – in June; a part of the aforementioned festivals also the international gathering of orchestras and ensembles for classical music – in July; a part of the same festival the jam session in July and August. Other important cultural events are: the folk festival with international participants in August; the international ballet competition in August; the international festival of cinema called “Love is Folly” – in September; the festival of Bulgarian cinematography “Golden Rose”; “The Gold Dolphin” – an international festival of puppet theatres held each year in October.
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.
Varna International Airport (VAR)
Location: The airport is situated on the western outskirts, about five miles (9km) from Varna. Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from April to September). Contacts: Tel: +359 (0)52 500 840. Transfer to the city: Public bus 409, which passes through central Varna and travels as far as Golden Sands resort, serves the airport. Taxis are available, but the meters are often not working and it is advisable to agree on a fare with the driver before departure. Many resort hotels run their own shuttle services to and from the airport. Facilities: The airport has currency exchange facilities, a large restaurant and duty free shops. Departure tax: US$20 (nationals of the USA only) Website: www.varna-airport.bg
British Airways will launch a new summer route from Bulgaria to the United Kingdom in 2006 by introducing a two times weekly service from Varna to London.
The new flights will operate from Varna airport to London Gatwick airport every Wednesday and Saturday. These flights will be operated by Boeing 737-400 aircraft and will be available till the end of October 2006.
Other places of interest in/near Varna