Things to see and do on a trip to Varna

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Varna is known as the maritime capital of Bulgaria as it is one of the country’s most famous cities with the greatest historical and cultural heritage. This beautiful city stretching along the Black Sea coast is full of parks, fountains and beautiful buildings in the old town. It also has a beach. However, the most famous things to see in Varna are the Odessos Thermal Baths and the archaeological sites in the surrounding area.

The city can be visited in a day, but in the surrounding area, less than 1 hour away, there are numerous sights not to be missed, such as the Devnenskite Izbori springs and the Aladzhá monastery. In this post we help you organise your trip to Varna in Bulgaria to make the most of your holiday. Find out what to see in the city, how to get there and the best places to stay and eat. Bulgarian gastronomy, rich mainly in meat, will surprise you.

What to see in Varna?

1. Odessos Thermal Baths, a must-see in Varna

In Varna you can see the ruins of the largest thermal complex in Bulgaria. It dates back to the 2nd century and covers more than 7000 square metres. Numerous archaeological artefacts were found there and are now on display in the city’s Archaeological Museum. Entrance to the complex costs €2.6 and the opening hours are 10am-5pm daily.

2. Primorsky Park, the sea garden to see in Varna

This 20,000m² waterfront park is the largest and most spectacular in Bulgaria. It’s perfectly manicured and within the perimeter there’s a small amusement park and a farm for the little ones to enjoy. There’s also a museum dedicated to Copernicus and the Naval Museum, which we’ll talk about later. Although you’re likely to pass through it at some point, we recommend a stroll through this incredible park, which is full of life.

3. Varna’s best beaches

As a maritime city, Varna has numerous beaches ideal for sunbathing, long walks and swimming in the warm 28ºC waters. Here you’ll find beach bars, nightclubs and some of the city’s best restaurants, as we’ll discuss in the food section below. The best beaches in the city are Rappongi, in the city itself, or Golden Sands on the outskirts.

Varna Beach on your trip to Bulgaria
Varna Beach @pixabay

4. The Archaeological and Naval Museum, museums to see in Varna

The most famous museum to see in Varna, and the second most important in Bulgaria is the Archaeological Museum. The building was built in the 19th century as a girls’ school and still retains certain period features. In the museum you can see exhibits dating from the Palaeolithic to the Middle Ages, and many other artefacts found in the Varna necropolis and other archaeological sites in the surrounding area. In summer it is open daily from 10:00h to 17:00h, and from Tuesday to Saturday from October to May. Admission is €5.

Another interesting museum is the Naval Museum near the harbour. Admission costs 5 leva, 2 for students, and it’s free for children up to 7 years old. It is also free on the last Wednesday of every month and there is a possibility to buy a family ticket for 10 leva.

5. Historic Old Town of Varna

The historic centre of the city is home to some of the most spectacular buildings to see in Varna. The first stop is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, with its gilded domes and stained-glass windows. On the way to Nezavisimost Square you will come across other late 19th century buildings such as the Grand Hotel London, the Stoyan Bachvarov Theatre and the Naval Club. In the centre, which is quite small and can be easily visited on foot, there is a statue of Dabko Dabkov, a Bulgarian architect who designed more than 300 buildings.

What to see around Varna?

1. The Devnenskite Izbori Springs

30km from Varna you can take a dip in the springs of the Devnya River, natural pools created on karst terrain with turquoise-blue water. In the surroundings there are also restaurants where you can relax in the middle of nature and a farm where children can play with goats, chickens and other animals. There is also a pond where you can fish for your own food. It takes half an hour by car and two hours by train.

2. Ovech Fortress

In the town of Provadia, 50km from Varna, is one of the most impressive castles to see in Bulgaria. It is a 3rd-century fortress built on cliffs and has an impressive historical heritage, and due to its bordering location, many peoples have passed through it, such as the Byzantines and Turks.

The fortress costs 2 BGN (1€) and is best reached by road. The journey takes about 50 minutes. The train is another option, but it takes more than 2 hours. Once at the fortress you should be aware that there is a long walk up to the fortress.

 3. Aladzhá, the monastery to see in Varna

Dug into a limestone cliff and 40m above the ground is this incredible 10th-12th century monastery, where many hermit monks who were forced to leave their homes by the conquest of the Ottoman Empire lived for many years. This network of rooms including chapels, crypts, kitchens and cells can be visited thanks to the construction of an external staircase giving access to the two floors.

The monastery is located 15km from Varna, 20 minutes by road and 44 minutes by public transport. Access to the monastery and surrounding catatombs costs €2.5. There’s also a small museum at the entrance that explains its history and how the monks lived.

What to see in 1 day in Varna?

The city of Varna is easy to visit in one day, in fact, it is a regular stop on travel itineraries in Bulgaria. In one day you can visit the museums, the thermal baths and the necropolis, as well as stroll around the old town, the beach and the seafront garden. And of course, don’t miss the specialities on the banks of the Black Sea in the city’s best restaurants.

Despite being a relatively small city, many tourists choose to spend two or three days here to see the many sights in the surrounding area, such as the Devnenskite Izbori springs and the Aladzhá monastery among others. Plan your trip well with Passporter and make sure you don’t miss anything to see in Varna.

Where and what to eat in  Varna?

Eating in Bulgaria is a real pleasure as the dishes are hearty and very cheap. Some of the best-known dishes are the kavarma (meat stew), the sach (meat with potatoes, kyufte (meatballs) or the kebapche (sausages). As you can see, Bulgarian cuisine revolves around meat, but they also eat potatoes and vegetables as a side dish. For sweets, the best is banitsa, a puff pastry with cheese. Here are some of our favourite restaurants in the city.

  • Nord: is a simple beachfront restaurant with incredible views. The food is hearty and unpretentious, and the best part is the price, which is very affordable despite its prime location. One of its specialities is mussels.
  • Horizont Veranda: This is a slightly more luxurious restaurant than the previous one. It’s located in Primorski Park and its dishes are a real spectacle. It’s the perfect place to indulge.
  • CUBE: it’s a beachfront bar with great prices and even better views. In fact, it is one of the most famous places in Varna for its good atmosphere.

Where to stay in Varna?

Accommodation in Bulgaria is generally very good value for money and there are plenty of options in the main cities. Small hotels are the best, as they have the most charm. The older, more luxurious ones have a Soviet feel to them. It’s also possible to stay in Orthodox monasteries; there are up to 130 of them scattered around the country. Here are some ideas for accommodation:

  • Nomado Hostel: this is a cosy hostel where you can sleep from 10€ a night in shared rooms, or 28€ in private rooms. It has common areas such as bathroom, kitchen and living room.
  • City Boutique Inn: is a charming guesthouse 5 minutes from the beach and less than a kilometre from the centre. The breakfast buffet is included in the price and the rooms are fully equipped.
  • Efbet Hotel is a modern five-star hotel located in the heart of the city centre. It has a bar and restaurant, and offers a fabulous breakfast for €5. Family rooms are also available. Room rates range from €40 to €80.
Visit Varna Bulgaria
Sunset in Varna @pixabay

How to get to Varna?

Varna airport is located 7km from the city, however, it is only served by local flights or flights from nearby cities. So the best option would be to fly to Sofia, and from there to Varna, which is about two hours from the capital by plane. Once at the airport, there are several ways to get to the city centre:

  • Bus: Bus 409 drops you off in the city centre for 3 BGN in just 20 minutes. It operates on weekdays between 5:45am and 8pm and on weekends until 11pm.
  • Car hire: is perfect for touring the country and several car rental companies are available at the airport.
  • Taxi: Taxis, although slightly more expensive, are the most comfortable option. The standard price is 1 BGN per kilometre. Only take those with the fare written in the window.

What should I consider before travelling to Varna?

  • The official currency of Bulgaria is the Bulgarian leva (BGN).
  • The best time to travel to Varna is from May to September.
  • Tap water is safe to drink in the country’s main cities.
  • Winters are very cold.
  • Please note that many signs may be written in Cyrillic.
  • The main language is Bulgarian. English is spoken in the big cities and by young people, but it is not widely spoken.
  • In Bulgaria it is one hour longer than in Spain.
  • From Spain it is not necessary to have a visa. An identity card is enough.
  • Be covered for medical emergencies: travel with insurance.
  • The country is generally very safe, but just in case, be careful with your belongings.

How to prepare what to see on your trip to Varna?

Register or download the Passporter App and discover all its possibilities.

  • Get inspired by the experiences of other travellers.
  • Create your own itinerary and add suggestions from the app to it.
  • Add the stops you’re most interested in, as well as the restaurants and bars where you want to eat (you can use the points of interest listed in this post as a reference).
  • Organise your itinerary by route days according to their location on the map (you can take inspiration from the routes presented in the post).
  • Check out the travel budget that the app calculates for you based on your travel stops, restaurants, and leisure activities.
  • Make any modifications you need and you’re all set for your trip.
  • Share your experience. Upload photos of the places you visited on your trip to the app and recommend other travellers what to see in Varna.

If you have doubts about how to do it, you can check our post: How to create a travel itinerary in Passporter.

Frequently asked questions about a trip to Varna

What are the typical dishes in Varna?

Some of the most famous dishes are kavarma (meat stew), sach (meat and potatoes), kyufte (meatballs) or kebapche (sausages). The best sweet dish is banitsa, a puff pastry with cheese.

When is the best time to travel to Varna?

The best time to travel to Varna is from May to September, as winters are very cold.

Do I need a visa to travel to Varna?

If you are travelling from Spain, an identity card or passport is sufficient to enter the country.

Is the tap water in Varna safe to drink?

The tap water in Varna is drinkable.

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