There are lots of places around the Bulgarian Black Sea coast which you can choose for your summer vacation, but Varna has it all – from nightlife and beaches to sightseeing, you won’t be disappointed! During 2021 the sea capital of Bulgaria celebrates 100 years as a holiday destination and this is why it’s the perfect time to visit.
Varna – 100 years holiday destination
Exactly 100 years ago – on June 10th 1921, Varna was declared to be a holiday destination. If you’re curious to read and see how Varna looked like 100 years ago (including swimsuit trends!), check out this article by the Tourist information center about Varna – 100 years as a holiday destination. Nowadays Varna definitely justifies being the Sea capital of Bulgaria – not just because of its developed industry, but because of tourism as well.
The Varna Municipality and the Tourist information center in the city have prepared a couple of special events that you can enjoy and even plan a holiday around these dates. In addition, they provide free admission to two of Varna’s most popular attractions, provided you stay long enough. If you are in Varna for 5 days, you can visit the Roman Thermae for free. In case you’re in town for 7 days – grab a free ticket to the Archaeological museum! You can take the vouchers for these tickets from the Tourist info center itself, which is located opposite of the Cathedral in the beginning of the pedestrian area.
Here are a few of the special events that you can enjoy during your stay in Varna:
- 9 June 2021 – “100 years – 100 photos” – an exhibit at the Sea garden entrance;
- 10 June 2021 – a stately concert in the Varna Summer Theare;
- 13-14 June 2021 – “Wine and Food Festival“
- 13 June 2021 – Special culinary menu – “Varna – 100 years holiday city” – this menu will be a part of the Wine and Food Festival, so don’t miss it!
Check out all of the events in Varna for 2021 over here.
Morning: Coffee at the beach (Cubo bar)
Coming to Varna and not visiting Cubo bar is exactly the same as going to Rome and not going to see the Pope. Cubo is one of the most beloved beach bars in Varna, and you’ll often see it quite full. As one of the favorite bars for locals, Cubo is quite full even at 9 am in the summer season! That’s why you should definitely start your day here – grab a breakfast on the way and go to the beach as early as you can, so you can get the best spot.
To be completely honest, one of my favorite things about Cubo (apart from the music and the atmosphere, of course), are… the chairs! 😂 They’re quite, quite comfortable. Moreover, the sun umbrellas are pretty think, so they cast a thick shadow even on the hottest days.
Noon: Aladzha Monastery
Aladzha monastery is one of the most famous things to do near Varna and indeed – it’s a must-see (especially if you have a car with you). Unfortunately, there is no public transport going there but you can always catch a cab, it won’t be that expensive.
The monastery has a couple of different floors (and staircases built between them) and the entrance fee is 5 BGN. It’s a great way to escape the summer heat, as the surrounding forest is pretty thick, and you can even take a walk around. There’s a small path to the left of the entrance – take it and walk for a bit (about 10 minutes). You’ll find the curious catacombs, where once upon a time the monks probably hid their treasures here – books, potions and yes, even gold. There’s even a legend surrounding them – if anybody find them, he will be overwhelmed with stones. It’s even more curious that the catacombs are currently buried in stone, but this is probably due to the type of rocks in the area (they are quite flaky). But you never know, right? 😁
Afternoon: Botanical Garden
The University botanical gardens in Varna is very lovely – the spring bloom of the tulips might have passed when you come visit, but you might catch the bloom of the roses, which is just as beautiful! The park is large enough for you to spend a whole day there, but you can go around it in a couple of hours. And it’s a great stop back on your way from Aladzha monastery!
You can visit one of the supermarkets at the nearby resort – St. St. Constantine and Helena, and grab a few things for a lovely afternoon picnic under the century-old trees. You’ll find barbecue spots in the park, and you can freely play football, badminton and spend a perfect summer afternoon around nature.
Evening: Wine at Cubo
If you think Cubo is full during the day – think again. In fact, it’s a lot more crowded in the evenings! I think that we’ve all been dreaming about the open-air summer bars, especially with the pandemic at hand. And there is nothing better than finishing your day with a glass of wine or cold beer on the beach. Cubo doesn’t usually have special events per se, but they do have theme evenings and guest DJs. And trust me, it’s absolutely worth it to experience this beach bar in the evening, as well as during the day.
Start your second day from your vacation in Varna with a palace! In order to visit, you have to book in advance a few days before – send an e-mail to Euxinograde@government.bg. The standard tours start at 9 am, 12 pm and 3 pm, but I highly, highly recommend the morning one – it’s not going to be too hot and you will see the palace’s facade beautifully lit by the sun.
Do you know what this weird name “Euxinograde” means? It comes from a mix between Greek (Euxinus Pontus, which means “welcoming sea”) and Bulgarian (“grad” – which means city). Princess Maria Louisa picked that name because she fell in love with the beautiful Black Sea and the city of Varna.
Noon: Monastery St. St. Constantine and Helena
After your lovely walk around the Euxinograde palace, go and visit the nearby resort of St. St. Constantine and Helena. It’s one of the Bulgarian sea resorts with the most vegetation (despite the ongoing construction works in the past few years) and it hides a well-kept secret – a small monastery. In fact, the resort itself was named after the monastery, and you can even see part of Saint Valentine’s remains there. The monastery is over 5 centuries old and its location is not random – people believed the nearby springs carry magical properties.
Afternoon: Beach time at St. St. Constantine and Helena
After you’ve enjoyed the small but lovely monastery, take a walk and go to the beach. The beach of Druzhba (as we, the locals, call it) is a favorite not just among the tourists, but among the locals as well. It’s absolutely perfect for small children as most parts of the beach are pretty shallow. When you’ve enjoyed the beach time, go and visit The Bay restaurant – it’s not too cheap, but it’s located on a gorgeous cove. Check out all things to do around St. St. Constantine and Helena here.
Evening: Concert at the Summer theatre of Varna (or the Roman Thermae)
Varna is indeed the perfect Bulgarian seaside city to combine culture, leisure and beach. Well, the concerts and theatrical productions in the Summer theatre of Varna are some of the things that you can definitely plan your whole holiday around! And this is another perfect way to spend a summer evening by the sea. Check out the Eventim website in order to see what’s on and grab a ticket. You can sometimes visit a production at the Roman Thermae – concerts, theatre or even open-air cinema.
Morning: Coffee or Drunch on the beach (Menthol)
Apart from Cubo, the next most popular beach bar for coffee, beach time or even a glass of wine in the evening, is Menthol. They often have “drunch” (drink+lunch), as well as evening events. Follow their Facebook page in order to combine your morning beach with something great.
Noon: Lunch at the beach (The Sea Terrace)
Even if you don’t make it to a “drunch” at Menthol, don’t worry. There are lovely alternatives just minutes away! The Sea Terrace is nearby and the food is excellent. You can sit inside to escape the summer heat and the huge windows of the restaurant won’t obscure the lovely seaview 💙
Afternoon: Archaeological museum
The summer afternoons by the sea, especially during July and August, can be quite hot. And, believe me, if you’ve spent your morning at the beach, you’ll appreciate the chilly interior of the Archaeological museum! And of course, don’t go just to escape the weather – go for the history! The museum holds the oldest technologically processed gold in the world.
This important thing to see in Varna holds some of the incredible Varna Necropolis finds which are over 6000 years old! Enjoy the vast rooms and corridors and travel through the different eras, represented in the museum.
Evening: Event at Menthol
They say that Varna never sleeps during the summer months. And it’s true – you’ll rarely see a closed bar at any time of the day or night! Menthol often has super fresh guest groups like JEREMY? or stars like Mila Robert over. But even if you don’t manage to catch a special guest, just a cocktail at Menthol will ensure a perfect ending to your day in Varna.
Morning/noon: Brunch at Marche
If you’ve decided spending the majority of your night at a Menthol event, then you won’t make it to the beach too early. That’s why you should start your day at one of the most popular brunch spots in Varna – Marche! It’s located at the heart of the Sea garden in Varna and the restaurant is top notch. They don’t always have French toast on the menu, but these delicious “buhtichki” pastries or the eggs Benedict are a great choice as well.
If you’re looking for more ideas for brunch spots in Varna, find them here.
Afternoon: Beach at Sunny Day
Sunny Day is another really great spot for beach time around Varna. You can go by car, but you can also choose public transport (busses 9, 209 or 409). I suggest that you download Moovit app to help you with this, as Google Maps doesn’t have information on public transport in Bulgaria yet. This beach is usually less crowded than the other beaches nearby – Cabacum and St. St. Constantine and Helena – there are fewer hotels nearby and you can’t park too close to the beach. But that’s why it’s so popular among tourists that have chosen to stay at Sunny Day, and you will absolutely love it too!
Evening: Dinner at El Capan
El Capan is one of the beach restaurants in Varna with an unforgettable atmosphere. Their menu is quite interesting and duh, has lots of seafood 😁 What I would recommend you, though, is the vanilla canoli. Take off your summer shoes, dip your toes in the sand, sit in of their colorful chairs, order your food and enjoy a delicious meal.
Morning: Coffee at the beach (South beach)
The South beach in Varna is popular because of the broader strip of sand than the rest of the city. The beach bars and restaurants are just a tad further away from the sea than these at the Central beach, but still close enough to grab something cold for the beach. There is also a large zone where you can put your own sun umbrella.
Noon: Lunch at the beach (BM The Bay)
There are a few restaurants in Varna from the BM franchise (it’s local-based). Each one of them has a different and unique menu and the one at the South beach in Varna has the largest seafood diversity. Try some delicious mussels for lunch, but don’t miss their special BM dessert with mascarpone.
After you’ve had a very nice lunch at BM The Bay, it’s time to explore some of the things to do in Varna, which are right next to the South beach. The Roman Thermae are so impressive – they are the 4th largest in Europe. If you’ve stayed at least 5 days in Varna, you can take a voucher from the Tourist information center and visit them for free. This was one of the most important places in the city in ancient times – some of the most important conversations were held here. The thermae were even more popular than the market, they truly formed communities and cultural norms. In fact, there are lots of Roman remains in Varna – you can even see some at the Yoan Ekzarh roundabout which were found by accident during a renovation in 2019.
The Ethnographic museum is too, quite interesting. This thing to see in Varna is located in a lovely revival-built house and has two floors. You can explore some curious Bulgarian norms and livelihoods, as well as some traditional clothes from the Balkan peninsula.
That same afternoon, you should take some time and visit the Naval museum and Drazki ship, which is located right next to the museum itself. Drazki is the only preserved torpedo ship of its kind in the world. You can even see it from the main road, I must admit I often admire it when I pass by. Walking into the museum itself, you will be immersed into the naval life – sailor stories, ship models, interesting equipment and other curious naval artefacts. After all, you’re in the sea capital of Bulgaria, right? ☺️
Evening: Cocktails at Punta Cana
You can totally go back at Varna’s South beach in the evening – you’ll see it in such a different light! You’ll be convinced that the city never sleeps – the bars are just as full, just the music is slightly different. I’m sure that you won’t be able to walk around with a drink in your hand, because you’ll bee too busy dancing ☺️ Punta Cana at the beach offers a great array of cocktails and they often have great guest DJs in the evenings (follow their Facebook page events). The music is mainly pop, house, as well as some pop and hip-hop Bulgarian songs, which guarantees you’ll have a fun evening at the Varna beach.
Morning: A walk in Varna’s Sea garden – Pantheon and Natural History Museum
The mornings in Varna’s Sea garden smell like the sea. The mornings in the Sea garden are quiet, calm and idyllic. That’s why many people jog around, while mums have a coffee while their little ones are asleep in the strollers. A walk around the Sea garden is a total classic – even we, locals, go there very often. While you’re walking around and enjoying the start of your day in Varna, check out the Pantheon, the Odd tree, the Rosarium, but don’t forget to find the Bridge of wishes, too! You have to walk the whole bridge with your eyes closed, while making a wish (don’t worry, it’s tiny ☺️).
The Natural history museum is one of the things to see in Varna that you can easily miss – it’s so surrounded by greenery, that you might think it’s just another house. The museum has a few different sections – geology, paleontology, botany. There are over 1000 specimens in it!
Noon: Lunch in the Sea garden (BM The Garden)
You’ll probably now notice that BM restaurants are my truly favorite 😁 And BM The Garden is my top choice restaurant in Varna. Their menu is quite peculiar and different, but trust me, everything is great. I can honestly say that you’ll find the best restaurant service in Varna here, so don’t skip on the tip.
Afternoon: Beach at “Second Buna” and Wake park
Varna’s “Second buna” beach is a tad further from the Central beach, but you can park right next to it, which is great. Bear in mind that the parking spaces are somewhat limited and going back from the beach to the city during the weekends can take 20-30 minutes. Still, it’s so worth visiting this beach!
The right side of the embankment is quieter, shallower and more suitable for children. You can find Wake park here – one of the newer beach bars in Varna that became a favorite for many of us, locals. The left side of the embankment is deeper and usually has nice fun waves. You can also find the restaurant Mazo over there (formerly Rappongi) which is like a little piece of heaven. The palm trees might be plastic, but the atmosphere is unforgettable 💜
Evening: Dinner at Pechkata
“Pechkata” is a small restaurant at Varna’s Central beach that is famous for its delicious traditional meals. Try “Aunt Margot’s bread”, Bulgarian mixed grill or even odd delicacies like pig ears on a grill. Of course, they do have seafood, so if you’ve pledget to eat lots of fish on your vacation in Varna, this restaurant won’t disappoint.
Morning: Cabacum Beach
The beach called Cabacum has one of the clearest waters in the area. It’s deeper than the rest, but the color of the water is so, so beautiful! It’s on the road to the Golden Sands resort and you can reach it by bus (409). If you decide to visit it by car, try to go earlier in the morning, as the parking spots here are pretty limited.
This beach offers a wide array of activities – you can even drive a jet ski here! The prices are not as high as these in the Golden Sands resort, so the locals like this beach better.
Noon: Lunch at Cabacum
You’ll notice there are lots and lots of beach bars and restaurants at this beach. Thus, don’t hesitate to have lunch here! I’m not sure if I have a favorite restaurant here, but still, you’re on the beach, fish and chips sounds like a perfect beach lunch, don’t they? 😁
Afternoon: Park “Golden Sands”
The park “Golden Sands” is a great thing to do in Varna. It might take you further from the beach, but it guarantees a lovely summer afternoon in the forest. The park is the smallest of 11 National parks in Bulgaria, but it does have 5 different hiking trails. One of these is great for children and there is even one marked as suitable for people with disabilities. See everything there is to know about the park over here.
Evening: Dinner at Port Varna
The Port of Varna is one of the loveliest places for dinner and a short walk in the city. You can watch the sun set over the Port while you have dinner, and the calm waters of the bay are a delight. One of the great things here is that there is a pretty large parking (paid), but there are also quite a few different restaurants and bars. But even before you’ve chosen a spot for dinner – visit the small amusement park, go up the ferris wheel and enjoy the view from above! Afterwards, go to the “Old Chinar” and order their delicious home-made ice cream with halva. It’s delicious, alright, but the way they serve it is such a surprise, that you better have your phone ready for photos and videos! 😁
*Note: This post is prepared in collaboration with the Tourism Directorate in the Varna City Council. However, all opinions are my own.