This complex of Ancient Roman baths, known as Roman Thermae, is one of Varna’s most popular attractions. The semi-ruined baths date right back to the 2nd century, but are surprisingly well preserved. You can wander round and explore the old bathing rooms and sports halls, and during summer nights, there are light shows that illuminate the whole complex. If, after seeing the crumbling ruins, you fancy a dip in some thermal waters yourself, head to one of the 12 mineral springs in the area for nature’s answer to a spa treatment.
Varna’s famous public park, the Sea Garden, is said to be the biggest landscaped park in the whole of the Balkans. The huge green area runs parallel to the seafront, and is filled with brightly-coloured blooms, fountains, landscaped trees and sculptures. You can see rare plants from the Black Sea arranged in quirky formations, a swan-shaped sundial, and the ‘bridge of wishes’, which is said to fulfil your desires if you walk across it backwards with your eyes closed. There’s even an ‘Alley of Cosmonauts’ – a special flowerbed that was arranged in the 1960s, where Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut, planted a silver fir.
The park is the perfect place for a peaceful stroll, and there are loads of restaurants, cafes and bars along the walkways where you can grab a bite to eat. If you’re travelling with kids in tow, there’s also a small boating pond, a kids’ playground and a mini entertainment park.
If you’re a history buff, or you just love sparkly things, Varna’s Archaeological Museum is a must-visit. The three-storey converted girls’ school is packed with artefacts from prehistoric, Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman times, and there’s so much to see you can spend hours there. You’ll find well-preserved pottery pieces, battle tools, and the oldest gold in the world here. Yep, the ‘Gold of Varna’ exhibit showcases the oldest found manmade gold treasure, which was excavated in 1972, and takes up three exhibition halls. It’s worth a visit, just for this.
The unique Aladzha Monastery is a manmade cave complex built into a 40-metre-tall limestone rock. This famous medieval monastery was inhabited by monks during the 13th to 15th centuries, and is now an ‘architectural cultural monument of national significance’, as declared in 1968. It’s spread across two levels, with the first level consisting of a church, a crypt and living quarters, including a dining room and kitchen. The second level is a natural cave recess, which contains a monastery chapel. When you explore the interior, you’ll also find mosaics, stone tkombs and medieval frescos. And, from May until September, the whole complex is illuminated with thematic light shows almost every night.
This stunning cathedral is a grand sight, which is why you’ll find it on most of the postcard shots of Varna. It’s the second-largest cathedral in Varna, and is designed in a palatial style with huge copper-coloured domes that wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney film. It has an equally pretty interior, and is free to enter, so you can explore the ornate carvings, stained glass and beautifully-painted frescos as you please.
One of Varna’s more unusual attractions is a natural phenomenon known as the Stone Forest or Pobiti Kamani. Located near the Beloslav Lake, this site is made up of towering stone columns, some of which are six metres high. Rather than being solid, the structures are filled with sand, and no-one seems to know how exactly they got there. A couple of the accidental formations eerily resemble human faces, and urban legend says that the ‘forest’ is a powerful source of energy and even has magical effects on visitors.
A holiday isn’t really a holiday without a pool or beach. And luckily in Varna, there’s almost 20 kilometres of sandy coastline for you to sink your toes into. The main beach is a Blue Flag number which boasts paddle-friendly turquoise waters and a picturesque backdrop of wooded hillsides. In between relaxing on the beach, you can get stuck into activities like banana boating, windsurfing or parasailing, plus there are scuba diving courses on offer, too.
Bulgaria is one of the oldest winemaking countries in the world, and the Varna region has some of the best grape-growing soil. A third of Bulgaria’s wine is made here, and the award-winning varieties include Riesling, Traminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Not only can you enjoy a wallet-friendly glass of vino in the city, there are plenty of wine-themed tours and experiences you can take part in, too. These include ‘walking and wine tasting’ tours where you can tick off the city’s sights while trying a tipple or two on the way, or ‘winemaker experience’ tours which involve blending your own wine and creating a personalized bottle.
If you’re visiting in February, don’t miss the yearly tribute to the patron saint of vineyards, Saint Trifon Zarezan, on the 14th. Locals celebrate with all-night parties, festive food and, of course, wine.
Grifid Arabella lines up a central location, three pools and three à la carte restaurants.
The family-friendly Grifid Club Hotel Bolero boasts an aqua park, three pools, and an ideal location just two minutes from the beach.
The brand-new Grifid Foresta is tucked away in a peaceful tree-lined spot and boasts contemporary, spacious rooms and its own beach club.
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