Bulgaria’s third largest city after the capital Sofia and Plovdiv
Varna is today a busy trading centre with an extremely organised port, the most important of the Black Sea. It main activities have always been trade and transport, as well as the naval industry.
A crossroads between the Middle East and Western Europe, its prosperity is also due to the fact that it has been a well-known summer tourist destination since ancient times, being mild even in winter and with golden sandy beaches.
The name Odessos found in various quarters refers to the old name of the city, which means ‘city of water’. The city of Varna was founded by the ancient Greeks in 580 BC as a trading colony due to its favourable position, and the archaeological remains of the ancient public baths can still be seen and visited.
The city’s bustling nature is today seen in the numerous and elegant shopping centres, but also in the night spots, which are always busy and not just during the summer, and in the picturesque markets, which display fruit and vegetables as well as clothing and local products. Markets well worth visiting include the Central Market, Chataldja, or Clock Tower Market, a feast for the eyes with their brightly coloured stalls.
Varna’s architecture is also extremely varied due to the many dominations that have alternated over the course of the centuries, up until the Ottoman conquest in the fourteenth century. The city displays not only clear European influences, but also Byzantine, Arab, Moorish, Armenian and even Egyptian.
Soyan Bachvarov Theatre
The heart of the city is Independence Square, with the Soyan Bachvarov Theatre, one of the city’s most imposing and beautiful buildings, which each season offers a rich season of operas, concerts and ballets; in the middle of the square a fountain sprays a water column 41 metres high and is illuminated with some 2,000 colour combinations, providing a spectacle not to be missed.
It is most certainly a fascinating city due to the wide variety of interesting things to visit and see, which range from museums and royal residence to extraordinary parks, including the Seaside Park, also known as the most beautiful park of the Balkans and one of the symbols of the city, with its peaceful paths that are cool even in summer, varied natural vegetation and numerous monuments dotted over its area.
Perhaps the most important park is Asparuhov Park, dedicated to the sovereign Khan Asparuh, founder in 680-81 of the 1st Bulgarian Empire, and whose name is found throughout the city. The park features beautiful paved avenues, a statue of the sovereign and spectacular night-time lighting.
The churches are also spectacular. Mostly of the Orthodox religion, there are also Catholic churches and even a mosque.
There is a wide range of museums: the Archaeology Museum, which sheds lights on the origins of the city and also preserves the world’s oldest gold treasure dating back to 4000 BC; the interesting Renaissance Ethnography Museum, and the Naval Museum, which proudly displays the past activities of the city.
The extraordinary Museum of Natural History promotes knowledge of natural world and Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea, while the unique Perpetuum Mobile is a place where both young and old can learn about science while having fun. A visit to the impressive Evkinograd Complex is highly recommended. Once the summer residence of Bulgarian monarchs, it is an elegant construction surrounded by a beautifully manicured garden.
The Aladzha Monastery takes visitors back to a medieval world. This building is known as the “most ancient medieval stone building on the Bulgarian coast”. It was inhabited in the thirteenth and fourteenth century by monks in retreat.
Just a few kilometres from the city of Varna is the extraordinary spectacle of the Petrified Forest, a series of calcareous rock columns that are unique in the world. Lastly, for those that love extreme adventure, we recommend a visit to the Asparuhov Bridge, from where you can jump into the void, safely harnessed according to the rules of bungee jumping.
Texts di Anna Glik
Photos: Sisterscom.com, Shutterstock
Copyright © Sisterscom.com
Where to sleep in Varna
Varna is a welcoming city and offers different possibilities for accommodation.
To find the ideal hotel and the best offers you can do a search for the stars but also for districts or landmarks.
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Discover the city, the main tourist attractions, the most important museums to visit and tours not to be missed, selected for you by the Editorial Staff of Avion Tourism.
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Aladzha Monastery is the most famous medieval cave monastery on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. It was inhabited by hermit monks during the XIII- XIV centuries. The monastery caves are hewn on two levels into high limestone rock of almost 40 metres tall. The first level consists of a monastery church, monastic cells, a dining area and kitchen, a small cemetery church, a crypt and farm rooms. The second level is a natural cave recess in the eastern end of which there is a monastery chapel.
The Singing Fountain is found in Varna’s Nezavisimost Square. It was inaugurated in August 2015 during the Bulgarian religious festival of the ‘Assumption of the Virgin Mary’ (known also as “Goliama Bogoroditsa"). Its powerful water jet reaches a height of 41 mretres, making it the highest fountain in Bulgaria. It is spectacular not only for this impressive jet of water, but also for its night-time lighting and amazing sound, and has become an attraction for both residents and tourists.
ORTHODOX CHURCH OF ST. NICHOLAS
This was built as a votive offering after a lucky escape at sea of the rich merchant Nicolau Paraskeva. It was extremely expensive to build and with its richly painted walls is considered the only maritime place of worship in Varna.
CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION
This is a spectacular Orthodox church situated in the heart of the city and one of the most representative churches of Varna. Its appearance is typically oriental on the outside with a copper dome covered in a gold patina. The inside is striking and has rich in decorations such as inlaid wooded chandeliers.
MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY
This is one of the oldest museums in Bulgaria and also includes two open-air museums: the Roman baths, which cover an area of 7000 m2, and the Aladzha Monastery, which features Early Christian mosaics and collection of eleventh-century icons. But the main attraction is the oldest gold collection in the world, with over 3000 objects, including splendid jewellery items, which were found in the necropolises near Varna, some dating back to the fifth century BC.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
The Varna Natural History Museum preserves and promotes geology, palaeontology and the flora and fauna of the Black Sea and Bulgarian coastline of the Black Sea. The exhibiting area is divided into the following sections: Geology and Palaeontology, Botany, vertebrate and invertebrate Zoology.
This museum is located in an elegant Renaissance building and displays the lifestyle of the people of the Varna region from the second half of the nineteenth century. The first floor presents areas such as farming, animal husbandry, fishing, vine-growing and craft activities, while the second floor displays brightly coloured traditional costumes.
This museum offers an overview of the marine heritage of the city of Varna, as well as the history of the Military and Merchant Navy, with models of ships, uniforms, navigational tools, collections of ancient anchors, pistols and sea mines, and displays works by marine artists.
A delight not just for children, this museum house 140 puppets as well as many examples of dolls that are in demand for international trade fairs.
This gallery expresses the atmosphere and character of the newest area of Varna, which is devoted to the arts and culture. It was based on the Centre for Modern Art and combines different artistic styles and messages. It is open to the public and is sensitive to global and local trends.
Located in a futuristic building of glass and aluminium, with a splendid view of the sea, this unique complex houses numerous dolphins - the only in captivity to have bred - which come from Cuba.
The Petrified or Fossil Forest is a totally unique place with rock formations like trees, which reach a height of up to 7 metres. It is located approximately 15 kilometres from the city centre of Varna.
The zoo features 72 different species of animals, including ostriches, panthers, llamas, camels, lions, tigers, red pelicans, peacocks, kangaroos, black swans, etc. Here visitors can stroll through the lush green park with its many ponds and watch the flight of the aquatic birds.
Lying 8 km to the north of Varna is the former summer residence of the Bulgarian monarchs who ruled after the end of Ottoman domination in 1878. The architecture is reminiscent of French Renaissance buildings of the eighteenth century. It features vast, sumptuously decorated rooms with marble fireplaces, elegant English furniture, French chandeliers, wall clocks and a fireplace encrusted with gold. The name is derived from the ancient Greek name for the Black Sea Evksinos Pontos. It also has a winery where visitors can taste the excellent wines of the region.
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