The city of Varna is the third largest city in Bulgaria with its population of 350 000 people. It is widely called the seaside capital of Bulgaria as it is the biggest city at the Bulgarian coast. The city lies in the Bay of Varna, nestled in a deep valley between the Frengen Plateau and the Avren Plateau. Varna is over 11 km long, while its width, including newly erected residential quarters, is nearly 9km. The city's structure resembles an amphitheatre as it follows the curves of the Bay of Varna. It is surrounded by gardens, vineyards and groves.
The city of Varna is about thousand years old. Due to its favourable geographic location, the place was first inhabited by an ancient Thracian tribe, Corbisi, which had a small fishermen settlement there. In the 6th century BC a Greek polis, named Odessos, emerged there. The town became a fishing and farming colony, which soon turned into commercial hub. The town fell under the siege of Alexander of Macedonia's troops in the 4th century BC, but after the siege did not succeed to subject it, the town was given autonomy within the limits of his Empire. Up to the 1st century BC it was an independent polis, which minted its own coins with the image of its god. Later on, conquered by Mark Lukulus' legions, it became a Roman centre though gradually it lost supremacy in the region. In the 9th century it was already called Varna. The town was included in the territory of Bulgaria in the beginning of the 13lh century during the reign of King Kaloyan. Despite its strong defence system, the town was conquered by the Turks in 1391 which gradually transformed it into an oriental city with konaks (town-halls), Turkish baths and mosques. In 1878 Varna was finally liberated from Ottoman rule and became the most important Bulgarian seaport. Even if the city was industrialised, it also developed into a seaside resort, and a favourite holiday place for the Bulgarian cultural elite. The city carried the name of Stalin for a short time, but after 1956 it returned the name of Varna.
Places of interest:
A restored Roman spa built in the 2nd century during the reign of Antony Pii and a Roman Bath dating back to the 3rd century can be found in the downtown. The Holy Virgin Cathedral, considered to be the most impressive monument of the city, rises in the very centre of the city. The cathedral's construction started in the second half of the 19th century but it was not sanctified until 1910. Another church, the St. Nikola Church is located near the Sea Garden Park and dates back to 1866. The Clock Tower, built in 1880, rises just across the cathedral. The Theatre of Drama, where the first-ever Bulgarian theatre performance was held, is also a must-see place in the city centre. It was built nearly a century ago and resembles Vienna buildings of that time. It houses a theatre, an opera and philharmonic halls and stages performances during the entire summer season. Not far away from the Theatre of Drama is the Puppet Theatre, where the Golden Dolphin Festival of puppets takes place each year. The city also has a number of museums, including the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of National Renaissance, the Naval Museum, the Vladislav Varnenchik Park-Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the Museum of Nature and Science, the Aquarium and the Black Sea Museum, the Museum of Medicine and the Museum of Art and History of Varna. The latter has a particularly rich collection including the Gold Treasure of Varna, dating back 6,000 years ago, weighing some 6kg and containing the oldest gold works found in the world. Besides, the city's Art Gallery, opened in 1950, exhibits paintings of outstanding Bulgarian artists as well as works of a number of foreign artists, donated to the gallery by private persons. There are about ten cinemas functioning in Varna with the best ones being in the city centre, including the Mustang Cinema.
Varna's most popular luxurious restaurants are the Indian Maharany Restaurant, Maggy Restaurant, the Moussala Restaurant with a Viennise Cafe, the Paraklisa Restaurant, the FEB Restaurant, the Morska Sirena Restaurant, a chain of restaurants Mustang Food Bar, the Happy Bar and Grill chain, Loza Restaurant, Morsko Konche Restaurant, and the Galateya Restaurant. Middle-class restaurants, private pubs and taverns can be found even in the distant residential quarters of the city. Many of these are open 24 hours, while others stay so as long as there are clients to be serviced. For those who prefer cooking for themselves there is a large number of supermarkets, including such working non-stop, and are a lot of market places (the most popular one being Kolhoz) being as well. A lot of small pizza shops and snack-bars that offer typically Bulgarian snacks are also scattered all over the city. There are also a great number of canteens, especially along the beach and in the Sea Garden where fish and seafood are offered. Besides, every day one can buy freshly caught fish from the local fishermen at the seaport.
The fastest way to get to Varna is by airplane, as it takes less than an hour from the capital city of Sofia while planes in both directions fly 6 or 7 times a day during the summer. The seaport offers regular water transport to and from Balchik, Slunchev Bryag (Sunny Beach), Nessebar and Bourgas. Varna is also connected to all main railway lines in the country with express trains to Sofia and Plovdiv that take 7 and 4.30 hours respectively. The city's main bus station is 1.5km away from the city centre with buses to all larger cities in the country, nearby seaside resorts, Athens and Istanbul as well as to some cities in Central and Eastern Europe. Besides, Varna's city transport has a network of over 60 bus lines (some of these also travelling to nearby resorts) and trolley buses.
Seaside Park - the biggest park of Varna, situated by the beach. Its construction begins in 1878. Within the park area one can find the Seaside Baths, the Navy Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Aquarium (unique exposition of water organisms - Black Sea, freshwater, tropical fishes), the Astronomical Observatory and the Planetarium which organizes observation seances for visitors, Dolphinarium with an amusing show, etc. The Church of the Assumption - this church is second in scale after St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. Erected in 1884-1886 by the master builder Gencho Kunev in honour of the Liberation from Ottoman yoke. Modern Byzantine architecture. Spacious interior, woodcarver iconostasis by masters belonging to the school of Debur, stained glass. The church is painted in 1949-1950. Declared monument of culture.
Evksinograd - a small palace in the vicinity of Varna built for a summer residence of Knyaz Alexander of Battenberg, later used by tzars Ferdinand and Boris III, nowadays - a residence of the government. The construction, started in 1886, the accomplished with the participation of the Viennese architect Rumpelmeyer, the Swiss architect H. Meyer and architect N. Lazarov. The architectural design reminds of the French 18th-century palaces. The building is situated amidst a beautiful park with rare exotic plants.