The city of Varna – population 325 137 citizens, is situated 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 is nearly 9 km. The city is surrounded by lots of gardens, vineyards and deciduous groves. Almost the whole territory is occupied with private country houses and belonging to them small farms.
Varna is the third biggest city in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv. As the third largest city in Bulgaria and one of the country’s most attractive towns, Varna is known as Bulgaria’s seaside capital and the Pearl of the Black Sea Coast.
Varna hosts some prestigious cultural events: Varna Summer International Music Festival, International Ballet Competition, International Print Biennale, Prof. G. Dimitrov International Choral Competition, Love is Folly International Film Festival, Golden Rose Festival of Bulgarian Feature Film, Golden Dolphin Festival of Puppet Art. The Festival and Congress Centre is located in the Sea Garden and is designed to host various events such as congresses, symposiums, concerts, festivals, performances, exhibitions, trades. The centre has 11 multifunctional halls, about 250 meters exhibition area, luxury restaurants and coffee shops. It has to offer modern facilities and perfect organization of the events.
The 19th-century Cathedral Assumption of the Virgin is an impressive landmark, while the extensive ruins of the Roman Spa in the centre of town constitutes the largest ancient building in Bulgaria, dating back to 1700. It is the main port for commercial and naval shipping and has a casual, cosmopolitan atmosphere with a Mediterranean charm created by the sunny climate, calm sea, beach promenades and red-tiled roofs. Varna is the gateway to the nearby beach resorts, including Albena and the mega-resort Golden Sands, and numerous scenic spots along the coast are within easy reach, such as the nature reserve at Kamchia and the crumbling rock formations and dramatic cliffs along the Balchik Coast.
Varna is one of the most dynamically developing Bulgarian towns with good road communications, well organized air, sea and railway transport. There is a ferryboat line Varna - Ilichovsk, Ro-Ro lines Varna - Ilichovsk and Varna - Poti. The town is the third biggest industrial center in the country with busy shipping, shipbuilding and ship-repair activities.
The town was settled by the fishing tribe Crobisy. In 6th century BC a Greece town inhabited by settlers was established here under the name Odessos. The town had been under the siege of the troops of Alexander of Macedonia in the middle of the 4th 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 Devnya). Having been conquered and devastated several times during barbarian invasion it came within the Byzantine Empire.
In the 9th century it was already called Varna. It is supposed that the name originates from the horse people in Central Asia. Тhe 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 Jagiello and the Hungarian leader John Hunyady, 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 Ethnographic Museum is housed in a Renaissance house from 19-th century.
The Natural History Museum displays species typical Bulgarian flora and fauna.
The Aquarium and the Black Sea Museum is the first and the only marine biological station in the country.
The Art Gallery possesses paintings by the most outstanding Bulgarian artists as well as pieces of work by numerous foreign artists, donated to the gallery by citizens. A branch of museum is the House of Georgi Velchev.
An exhibition of icon-paintings from the Renaissance is held in the church St. Atanasii built in the 13th century near the Roman spa. The church itself is very original 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 here on display, as well as clothing used in the medical profession from ancient times up till now.
The History Museum has an exceptionally rich collection. Varna Gold Treasure dates back six thousand years ago and is considered to be the oldest gold in the world.
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.
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 from the end of 19-th, being finally completed in 1908.
The open-air theatre is a place, where various activities take place. 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.
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 Dolphinarium is one of the favourite attractions for children and the guests of Varna. Performances and demonstrations with regularly take place there.
The fastest way to get to Varna is by airplane. It takes 50 min. from Sofia to Varna. Varna’s Airport functions throughout the whole year. Varna Railway station is located in the southern part of the town. Varna is connected to all the main railways in the country. There are express trains to Sofia and Plovdiv that reach for 7 and 4:30 hours respectively. Seats are limited so it is advisable to book sleeping car tickets a week before.
The famous village of Vinitsa is situated 10 km 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. Galata Cape is a very attractive for lots of tourists who are keen on having seclusion with nature. There is the residental district Galata where are lot of small hotels and holiday houses.
The resort complex of Chernomorets includes several chalets and lot of bungalows.
Around 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 Devnya is connected with the Varna canal by 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 5th century, later on it was pulled down and rebuilt in 13th to 14th centuries. It was an important defense fortress in 1444 during the battle of Vladislav Varnenchik. The rocks near the fortress are perfect for mountaineering.