Escape of the Week: Varna, Bulgaria

Written by on January 31, 2012 in Destinations - 37 Comments

Bulgaria may not be the first place people think of to visit for a holiday. While the conversion doesn’t sound great (1USD equals roughly 1.50 Bulgarian Lev), the prices in Bulgaria are cheap.Like 8-Lev-for-a-delicious-dinner-cheap.

And, there are some great places to visit, too.

Windsurfers hang together in the Black Sea, just off the coast of Varna, Bulgaria.

I’ve spent time at two spots on the Black Sea. First there was Sunny Beach, a haven for European partiers in the summer. And then, I went up the coast to the far quieter (and far more charming) town of Varna.

Less crowded and more family-friendly than Sunny Beach, Varna is a more peaceful option for beach-goers.

Located on the Black Sea, Varna has what Sunny Beach does not — a quaint city that mixes history and present day together. Plus, there are far less touts promoting the nighttime discos and foam parties.

The town is known for its beach, which spans 8 km. Depending on what visitors are looking for in a beach, there are different areas. Families should head to the beach with the water park; revelers might like the beaches with clubs plunked down on the sand; and for those just looking to chill, there’s another section perfect for sunning and relaxing. Not a fan of the sand and surf? There is a thermal pool to enjoy, too.

The main beaches aren't without character. Some areas even include cement walls complete with graffiti.

Aside from the actual sea, there are the attractions nearby the water. For an afternoon outside, check out Primorski Park, which runs parallel to the water. It’s got open-air cafes and restaurants to sit and enjoy the scenery.

An old car is parked along Primorski Park.

The promenade leading down to the water can easily soak up an entire day. Wander the pedestrian streets, explore the little shops and boutiques, grab a coffee. And, definitely check out the restaurants offering cuisine from around the world (think sushi, Italian, tapas and more!). The area is gorgeous with its old and colorful buildings mixed with modern shops below.

Colorful buildings line the promenade down to the water.

For those who want more than a beach, spend time wandering the tree-lined streets of the city. There are museums to check out, like the expansive Archeological Museum;  churches to explore; and traditional Bulgarian meals to be had.

A church displays religious art outside its doors.

Where to stay

In terms of lodging, there are plenty of hostels and hotels to check out. I stayed at two — the hot, hot Flag Hostel, which I checked out of, and Yo Ho, which I enjoyed. Keep in mind, in the dead of summer, most hostels without air-conditioning are sweltering.

Worth mentioning

In Bulgaria, shaking the head up and down means “no.” Shaking the head side-to-side means “yes.” Practice.

Also, try anything with rose in it — rose water, rose Raki, rose sunblock. The country is known for its rose products and these items can be found in many places.

Getting there

Depending on where you are coming from, there are both buses and trains to whisk you off to this escape from Bulgaria, Turkey and more. There’s even a ferry that runs in the summer.

Have you been to Bulgaria?


About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

37 Comments on " Escape of the Week: Varna, Bulgaria "

  1. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 1, 2012 at 9:45 am · Reply

    The first and last shot are sensational! Looks like such a fun beachtown.

    • Diana February 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Andi!! 🙂 It is a fun town!

  2. D.J. - The World of Deej February 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm · Reply

    Great pic…In Bulgaria…who would have thought…

    • Diana February 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm · Reply

      I wouldn’t have entertained the thought of visiting unless I was nearby. Now, I am so glad I did!

  3. Angela February 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm · Reply

    Never been to Bulgaria, I wouldn’t mind at all going to that beach, looks lovely!

    • Diana February 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm · Reply

      Angela, Bulgaria is a lovely country! The culture, the people, the food … it is a place I would happily return to visit! The beach isn’t so bad either! 😉

  4. Leigh February 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm · Reply

    Not the sort of images I’d expect to see – and prettier than I imagined.

    • Diana February 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm · Reply

      Bulgaria is very photogenic!! I have some great shots of another town I visited there … for another Escape! 🙂

  5. Nina F February 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm · Reply

    I think I would enjoy an afternoon at Primorski Park, sitting at one of the open-air cafes enjoying a coffee and soaking up the scenery.

    • Diana February 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm · Reply

      I would like to be there right now and do that!!!

  6. Candice February 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm · Reply

    Oooh, that’s some of the prettiest architecture I’ve seen. Seriously!

    • Diana February 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm · Reply

      I love the colors and details! So gorgeous!

  7. Abby February 1, 2012 at 10:56 pm · Reply

    WOWOWOW!!!! Those pics are gorgeous!! I can’t even believe I was there with you, although I totally was. I’ll never forget that ambulance, the graffitti, oh, everything. Such fond memories, my friend!

    • Diana February 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm · Reply

      Thank you!! I wish we were back there right now, Abby.

  8. Sophie February 2, 2012 at 5:37 am · Reply

    Yes, been to Bulgaria. Twice. Nessebar – lovely; Sunny Beach – not so much. Only passed through Varna, though. Looks like I should explore more of it, the architecture especially looks very interesting.

    • Diana February 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm · Reply

      Varna is a really cute city! Sunny Beach … yeah … not so much. Varna is definitely worth a return visit. 🙂

  9. Sherry February 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm · Reply

    Those street art adds a whole ‘nother dimension to this place. And I love how the residents seem to have embraced it. Or, at least they don’t seem to mind it being around.

    • Diana February 5, 2012 at 10:41 pm · Reply

      I found it really interesting. Back home, art like that is a sign to stay out … but, there, it’s a totally different story. I think it’s a cool juxtaposition. 🙂

  10. Ali February 3, 2012 at 12:03 am · Reply

    I’ve never been to Bulgaria, but I’m very interested in finding out more and visiting sometime soon! Great pictures!

    • Diana February 5, 2012 at 10:41 pm · Reply

      Thank you! Bulgaria is this hidden gem in Eastern Europe! So is Romania!! Go!!! 🙂

  11. Christy @ Technosyncratic February 4, 2012 at 2:50 am · Reply

    Cool photos – I really like how edgy some of them feel.

    • Diana February 5, 2012 at 10:38 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Christy!

  12. Jade - February 5, 2012 at 6:07 am · Reply

    I LOVE eastern Europe, but I havn’t been to Bulgaria yet…. one day…

    • Diana February 5, 2012 at 10:36 pm · Reply

      I love the region, too! Definitely get to Bulgaria!!

  13. Aisleen February 6, 2012 at 5:10 am · Reply

    We never made it to the beaches in Bulgaria – stayed inland! Wish we had though! Well done on including the tip about shaking the head – very confusing if you’re not aware of that!!

    • Diana February 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm · Reply

      All the more reason to plan a return trip to Bulgaria!! I figured that tip was kinda necessary. I didn’t find it so much in Varna, but in the smaller town I visited, it was noticeable in shops, etc. that weren’t near more tourist places.

  14. Cam @ Traveling Canucks February 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm · Reply

    Wow – it looks so different from when we were there in the dead of winter. It was still nice, but cold and grey. Not the best time to visit a beach town, but there you go!

    • Diana February 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm · Reply

      I bet it does!! In the summer, it was so lovely! Perhaps you will need a return visit!!

  15. Bobbi Lee Hitchon February 7, 2012 at 10:18 pm · Reply

    Looks so beautiful. Never would have thought of Bulgaria as a great beach destination. Now I’d like to try it!!

  16. Christy February 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm · Reply

    I may have to add Bulgaria to my list now. Anywhere with a pretty beach is my kind of place!

    • Diana February 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm · Reply

      Me, too!!

  17. Dayna February 12, 2012 at 11:16 am · Reply

    I always seem to find your posts at the perfect time… we are in Bulgaria now! We probably won’t go to Varna this trip (as it is cold, cold cold!) but we plan to eventually… some fabulous shots!

    • Diana February 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm · Reply

      Perhaps it’s because great minds think alike!! 🙂 Enjoy Bulgaria. Stop at Veliko Tarnovo. Charming little mountain town. I stayed at Nomads. 🙂

  18. Erica May 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm · Reply

    This place definitely looks like it has personality!

    • Diana May 8, 2012 at 12:14 am · Reply

      It definitely does!!

  19. Dennis March 5, 2014 at 10:56 am · Reply

    I was trying to remember which beach town in Bulgaria it was that I visited and when I googled pics of Varna it brought me here. I traveled there from NJ to meet a Bulgarian woman I was dating when I was only 18. Varna was one of the last stops during my 2 week stay in Bulgaria. It really is a beautiful country and Varna is a fine example. I would love to go back some day!

    • Diana March 7, 2014 at 1:43 am · Reply

      Cool that you found my site from that search! Bulgaria is really a lovely country and I thought Varna was charming!

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