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Varna - the third largest city (325,000 residents) after Sofia and Plovdiv, the biggest Bulgarian seaport, is the gem of the Bulgarian Black sea coast.

Varna coat-of-arms

Varna, panorama

Town history

The earliest archaeological finds on the territory of the town refer to the Varna Eneolithic necropolis, uncovered on the northern bank of Varna lake. In the investigated 280 graves there have been uncovered 3,010 golden objects of overall weight of more than 6 kg, dated to the second half of the 5th millennium BC.

Around 560 BC in the place of an ancient Thracian settlement the ancient town Odessos appears. It is an important trade, crafts and agrarian centre. Being independent up to the 1st century BC, the town mints its own coins (drachmas).

Strengthened with fortified walls in the 4th century BC, later, after being conquered by Mark Lukulus' legions (1st century BC - 4th century AD), Odessos became a Roman regional centre of great importance.

As an intermediary in the multiform exchange between the two worlds - Mediterranean and Thracian, the antique Odessos became a center for development of culture and fine arts. Some early sculptures from the 5th century BC hint that Odessos art developed in parallel to the great Mediterranean art. One of those masterpieces is the head of Apollo (from Odessos).

Varna, The head of Apollo (from Odessos), 5th century BC

Towards the end of the 8th century Varna is included in the territory of the Bulgarian state. After the conversion to Christianity (864) it becomes a centre of the newly adopted creed. Towards 971 the town falls under Byzantine rule, in 1201 it is liberated by tsar Kaloyan's troops.

In the 13th - 14th centuries it is the strongest fortress on the western Black sea coast and a significant commercial port used by ships from Venice and Genoa. In 1389 Varna falls under Ottoman rule. In 1878 the Russians liberate the town.

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The architectural outline of Varna is accomplished at the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century. Ancient, mediaeval, renaissance and modern cultures mingle and coexist through the city.

The older architecture is represented by the Clock Tower in the city centre and the Church of the Holy Virgin (1602) with an iconostasis (1896) by a master artist belonging to the School of Debur, and valuable icons, the oldest dating back to 1646.

Varna lies on the same latitude of the famous Atlantic resorts Bayonne and Biarritz in France.

During the holiday season, in July and August, the sunshine allows 10-11 hours of sunbathing. There is nothing of the cold Baltic wind or the summer Riviera heat.

Varna, The Sea Park entrance

The city is clean and green. The most famous of the city's green miracles are the Marine gardens (largest on the Balkans), Euxinograd park (the former Royal Palace), and the paradise of St Constantine.

Varna, The Marine gardens and the Pantheon

Hundreds of thousends of tourists visit Varna each year, attracted by its modern resorts and natural beauty.

A well-known joke says that in summer Varna grows to the dimensions of Sofia whereas Sofia shrinks to the dimensions of Varna.

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Places you should not miss in Varna:

The Roman thermae (end of 2nd century - beginning of 3rd century AD) - the biggest Bulgarian find so far.
Covering an area of 7,000 sq.m. with numerous rooms, typical for such buildings - frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium with 3 swimming pools, reception halls, etc., - a rather large piece of ancient Rome right in the middle of the modern town. The monument is declared Architectural reserve.

The Cathedral of the Assumption (1884-1886) - second in scale after St Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia.
Erected in honour of the Liberation from Ottoman yoke. Modern Byzantine architecture, spacious interior, woodcarved iconostasis by masters belonging to the School of Debur, stained glass. Painted in 1949-1950, the Cathedral of the Assumption is declared Monument of culture.

There is hardly a city in Bulgaria, apart from Sofia, that has so many museum opportunities: Archaeological museum, National Revival museum, Ethnographic museum, Naval museum, Museum of New History...

The Archaeological Museum (1906) exhibits the oldest high developed civilization in Europe (6th-5th millennia BC), the biggest collection of Mesolithic finds in South-Eastern Europe, and Varna Eneolithic necropolis with one of the oldest presently known golden jewelry (4th millennium BC).

The Museum of Medicine History exhibits the richest paleo-anthropologic collection in Bulgaria.

The Museum of New History (1851), is the oldest surviving house in Varna.

The 'Nicolaus Copernicus' National Observatory & Planetarium (1968), the first astronomic observatory in Bulgaria, and the biggest and most modern planetarium on the Balkans, organize observation sessions for visitors.

Varna's festivals are large in number, the most popular of them being: the International choir gathering (May), International theatre holidays (Jun), International gathering of orchestras and ensembles for classical music (Jul), the folk festival (Aug), the International ballet competition (Aug), Love is Folly international cinema festival (Sep), the International festival of puppet theatres (Oct), etc.

Bulgaria's only Aquarium attracts many visitors with its unique exposition of freshwater, Black sea and tropical water organisms.

The Dolphinarium (1984) - the only dolphinarium on the Balkans, offers an amusing show.

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Bansko, the town center

Varna, the Cathedral of the Assumption (1884-1886) Varna, the Sea garden entrance Varna, city center
Varna, the Roman thermae (2nd-3rd Century AD) Varna, the Dolphinarium (1984) Varna, Eneolithic necropolis (5th millennium BC)

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