Things To Do In Varna
Varna -- Bulgaria’s third-largest city -- is popularly known as one of the biggest European resorts on the Black Sea Coast. It has been an important port city ever since the seafaring Greeks began using it in 585, but tourism is now equally important and it is quite a cosmopolitan place. The busy streets of Knyaz Boris 1 and the Nezavisimost Square certainly entice visitors to discover its charm and history. Take a trip to the Archaeological Museum and gaze at the oldest gold treasure in the world -- historians say it is older than the gold discovered by the Incas.
The people are exceptionally friendly and always smiling. Despite the apparent immensity of the city center and its surrounding areas, you can easily get around on foot here. Dining areas offer delicious Bulgarian cuisine (kyufta, Bulgarian cheese, jelly mlyako, roasted vegetables, and freshly grilled fish) that will delight even the most sophisticated gourmet. And of course everyone loves the sea, the beaches with the comfortable and luxurious Marine Park, the Golden Sands and the Dolphinarium.
When To Go:
The high season months of July and August are when most guests and the numerous crowds of sightseers explore the city. However, this city is truly flourishing all year-round, and the ideal time to tour should include all the months between May and October when daytime temperatures normally range from in the 80s. The low season and rainy weather occur in the months of June, November, and December.
These are the top things to do and the places to see when in the city of Varna:
Varna Archaeological Museum
This is one of the museums worth visiting in Varna. The very well structured exhibition halls offer odd and curious things dating back as far as the ninth century B.C. Aside from the famous ancient gold exhibit, there are artifacts like a mud bowl that is more than 3,000 years old but remains intact and polished like new.
The Varna Archaeological Museum is one of the mandatory places to visit and understand in Bulgaria. It has a large exhibition of icons from various monasteries all around Bulgaria. And the best part is the oldest gold in the world. Found in tombs near Varna, the Thracian gold can be traced back to about 5 thousand B.C. You will be amazed at the amazing workmanship and detail and the attractive gold products from the Roman times.
These beautiful gold discoveries of Varna symbolize how rich and creative the early inhabitants of the area were. The museum has been renovated, the spaces are representative, the archaeological finds are exhibited in a neat and appealing layout and everything is bright and well lit.
Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin
When in Varna, a visit the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin is practically required. This temple is famous among the locals as the house of answered prayers and miracles. There's something truly special there, and not just its unique architecture. Inside the temple there is a shop that sells lovely icons and religious paraphernalia. You can light a candle and offer prayers at the candle section. Everything is beautiful and heartfelt; however, taking pictures will cost you a fee. Near the temple there is a large flower market and a nice park, and a playground for children is not far either. The church functions as a museum as well as a cathedral that leaves a strong impression. It is worth visiting regardless of what religious orientation you support.
This Orthodox Church in Varna is open for public viewing; the priest welcomes every guest and leads a guided tour of the church when the holy service is done. The beautiful church in the heart of Varna dominates the area especially from the port. It was built in Neo-Byzantine style with characteristic big, golden domes and numerous architectural embellishments. The towers truly signify a sense of wealth and splendor. One of the towers was built at the beginning of the twentieth century, and therefore the style deviates (minimally) from the rest of the building. The religious structure is architecturally coherent, and the imposing building beckons every tourist to come inside to admire its impressive interiors. It is very spacious with rich colors and excellent acoustics. There is a beautiful iconostasis and some interesting twentieth-century frescoes; picture-taking is allowed.
The Stone Forest is an interesting and peculiar tourist attraction that is located about 12 miles west of Varna. Along the road from Sofia to Varna one encounters an unusually windy area but this does not deter the crowds from exploring every corner of this site. It is a rock forest area of about 4.5 square miles. It consists of several groups of natural rock formations that are mainly unusually shaped stone columns ranging from 13 to 20 feet tall.
The space here is devoid of any vegetation, so there are no shaded areas. In summer, remember to bring some water along on your guided tour. The tour guides explain that a therapeutic place called the "Baba Vanga" constitutes an energy center for the park. It is said that there used to be a sea here; the water eventually disappeared but the strangely shaped pillars remained. With a little imagination you can see silhouettes or faces of people and animals. The forest of rocks is fascinating in its own right (even without stories.) Take pictures and linger to see the sunset and admire the idyllic views of the city.
The Aladzha Monastery is a medieval Orthodox Christian cave complex located near the Golden Sands Beach Resort north of Varna. Located near St. Constantine and Elena; to access it you can take the bus number 2. It is advisable to go to the light show in the evening. It is a beautiful sight and provides a very informative story about the history of the monastery and Bulgaria itself. One of the top things to do is to climb all the way to the top and then walk through the Kelyam caves, and look at the beautiful sea view from there. You can explore both levels of the catacombs and ponder the mystery of how the monks courageously climbed over the fences of their isolated cells. Carved into the cliffs are residential and non-residential premises and a church... and this is where the monks lived from year to year.
The whole place has remained intact and well kept. The small museum has complete information about the creation and discovery of the monastery. You can buy paintings created by contemporary artists, mostly dwelling on patriotic themes. There is also a small playground and free parking provided for every guest. The main monastery dating back to the 13-14th century was investigated in 1912 by archaeologist Karel Herman Skorpil. In this natural cave, a rocky 130 feet from the ancient sea bottom, monks who created a complex consisting of a monastery church, a smaller cemetery church, a crypt, kitchen, refectory, and solitary cells, with a chapel on a second level.
The Sea Garden is ideal for outdoor sports and recreation. In the morning, you can see joggers, cyclists, skate boarders, or people who simply walk and enjoy the cool breeze and shaded foot paths (plenty of trees) in the park. Spectators also enjoy this wonderful park along the coast -- you can just sit to rest with a breathtaking view of the sea. The park has many tree-lined avenues, and there is also a Dolphinarium and a zoo. The breeze from the sea is refreshing on a hot day of walking.
Families with children are always delighted at the Dolphinarium and coming there from the center of Varna is easy using the regular bus routes. This is an old park in spite of being very modern. It has good lighting along all the pathways and when you get tired of walking there is an area in the park where you can ride on a small train, at a cost of 60 cents.
The Dolphinarium is located in the Primorski Park (Sea Garden), situated on the arterial road in the direction of Golden Sands. The show lasts about 1 hour and is truly stunning and delightful to kids and families. The much-awaited dolphin show takes place at least three times a day at specified times. It is important to check the schedule and come early to buy tickets. The seating places are not numbered so you need to be there in advance because the principle of “first come; first served “ is applied here. The admission fee includes a chance to swim, pet and kiss the dolphins. During the official show led by the very skilled dolphin coaches, 3 or 4 languages are used to explain to the audience the nature and behavior of the well-treated dolphins in their facility.
The huge complex of Roman baths at the Roman Spa highlights the impressive scale of the ancient Roman civilization. You can visit a small "complex of ruins", with masonry walls and a monument fenced and equipped with bridges to cross. The site is furnished with large markers and signs so it is impossible to get lost.
Each item is offered with guide maps that have information in both Bulgarian and English. Some walls are as high as 65 feet but it is still possible to distinguish a gym, several rooms reserved for bathrooms, dressing rooms, and shower rooms with pipes linked to their cold water supply. There is an entrance fee but the tour is worth it.
National Maritime Museum
Despite the fact that the museum is not very big -- two floors and some exposure on the street -- you can spend at least half an hour and learn new things here. Those who are interested in the history of navigation and everything connected with it are especially encouraged to visit.
The museum has a "forbidden to photograph" rule but the employees will advise you just to take pictures without flash. You will love the mini-exposition in the museum courtyard where you can see a bunch of old ship anchors, guns on display, mines, helicopters, cars and small boats. All this is very interesting to consider when you are in the vicinity.
Inside there is a large exhibition of weapons, uniforms, and many accessories used by soldiers in Bulgaria. The property is located off the seafront promenade, with an oasis of greenery and overlooking the sea. Gathered here are many exhibits that were used by the Bulgarian military infantry in the previous period. Many of the pieces displayed are of Soviet production.
The Aquarium and the Black Sea Museum
The tour inside the Aquarium and the Black Sea Museum takes 45 minutes; you will discover several species of fish from the Black Sea, and the history of its maritime industry. There are fish species presented in different basins with a mixture of freshwater and seawater. The site is well maintained and translations in different languages are provided.
The aquarium is located in a historic building that was built in 1906-1911 by Bulgarian architect Dabco Dabkovym. From 1918 to 1922, this building was home to the first Naval Academy. Although the presented collection is quite small, the dedicated professionalism of the staff is clearly evident in this facility where they care for the marine creatures found in the waters of Varna.
History of Varna Museum
The History of Varna Museum shows an abundance of artifacts related to the struggle of the Bulgarian people for their independence. Take this interesting tour with an English-speaking guide -- you will learn a lot of historical facts and see portraits of national heroes. The 2 floors of the museum house many exhibits (military clothing, weapons, models of ships, portraits of heroes and awards). It is all quite interesting, especially if you are attracted to the life of the Bulgarians. The small museum of modern history in Varna should not be missed.
The museum director will escort you with great enthusiasm around the house, which was formerly a hotel and also served one time as a prison. She seems to love every single piece displayed, and also discusses the country and the city of Varna. Other things to appreciate inside are the assortment of colors on the loom, a printing press, and the historic photos of Varna -- from clothing to antique radios. Many tour operators in Varna offer this tour.