Varna, the sea capital of Bulgaria, has many curious and unique things to see! Here are just 65 of them, even though there are many, many more <3
I. Museums in Varna:
1. TOP PICK: Euxinograde
Entrance fee: 12 BGN
Built in the late 19th century, the palace holds some spectacular gardens. It is located outside the city, but you can take a bus (109, 209, 409) or a taxi for about 10-20 BGN.
Bear in mind that this Varna sight needs to be booked in advance – just drop an e-mail to email@example.com ! They usually require a group of at least 10 people for the visit, but if you go during the high season it shouldn’t be an issue. The group visiting hours for the complex are 09:00, 12:00 and 15:00.
2. TOP PICK: Aladzha Monastery
Entrance fee: 5 BGN
If you go a little bit further than Euxinograde, you will reach the famous Aladzha Monastery. It is a cave monastery that was built in 13-14th century and it was the home of a few hermit monks. The monastery’s name means “bright” but it doesn’t have Bulgarian origins – the word comes from Persian/Arabic.
Upon entering, you will see very high limestone rocks, and you will explore 2 floors of the monastery. You can also stay a bit longer and enjoy some time in the forest, as it is incredibly pleasant and popular with the locals.
3. TOP PICK: The Stone Forest
Entrance fee: 3 BGN
The Stone Forest, favorite for many locals, is the ONLY desert in Bulgaria! This natural phenomena has fascinated scientists for a while, and yet they fail to provide us with an accurate explanation on how the Stone Forest near Varna was formed. There used to be a sea at this exact place, and the most popular theory is that when the waters receded, erosion, winds and rains played a vital part in forming the fascinating forest.
When you enter the Stone Forest, you will be provided with a small booklet with a bit of history and the names of some of the more peculiar rocks. So it will be like a bit of a scavenger hunt and so much fun if you have kids!
4. Archaeological Museum
Entrance fee: 20 BGN
This museum will transport you back in time all the way to 100,000 BC – the Paleolithic Age. You will find many artefacts up until the Middle Ages, but perhaps the most impressive collection that will grab your attention is the one from the Varna Eneolith necropolis. In 1927 over 3,000 objects were found and the gold alone weighed over 6 kg!
5. TOP PICK: Roman Thermae
Entrance fee: 5 BGN
The Roman Thermae in Varna are dated 2nd century AD. They used to be pretty huge and, in fact, many Roman remains can be found underneath the city. You’ll find curious cold and hot water chambers and you’ll be free to explore as much as you want. If you find information online about the “Small Roman Thermae” (a few hundred meters away), you can absolutely skip these on your Varna sightseeing tour, as they are covered in grass and not all that interesting.
Stay on the lookout for events that are hosted inside the Roman Thermae!
6. Ethnographic Museum
Entrance fee: 5 BGN
If you are looking for authentic places to visit in Varna, the Ethnographic museum would be one of your best bets. You’ll get to know a bit more about the culture and the second floor of the museum offers an exhibition of national costumes.
7. Museum of National Revival
Entrance fee: 4 BGN
This curious museum used to be a girl’s high school, and even offers a classroom reproduction on its second floor. The Museum of National Revival in Varna focuses on the development of the city, mainly in the Revival period in the 19th century.
8. Museum “New History of Varna”
Entrance fee: 4 BGN
The Museum “New History of Varna” hides lots of interesting exponents on its 3 floors. It focuses on the city’s main trades – ship building, metalwork and cotton growing, but you’ll also find old bathing suits, as Varna is the sea capital of Bulgaria.
Entrance fee: 5 BGN
You’ll love Varna’s naval museum if you want to know more about the naval history of the city. You’ll also find anchors and shipwreck remains that were taken from the bottom of the Black Sea!
10. TOP PICK: Ship-museum Drazki
Entrance fee: free
Going through things to see in Varna, you will certainly bump into the Drazki ship. It’s located in the south end of the sea garden, next to the Naval museum. It’s a small torpedo ship that is almost 5 meters long.
11. Museum of Natural History
Entrance fee: 3 BGN
The Museum of Natural History in Varna is not huge and impressive, but it is really cheap and worth exploring if you’re visiting Varna with children. It’s located in the sea garden, so you can definitely spend 30 minutes and take a peak inside while you’re taking your scenic walk.
12. Park-museum “Vladislav Varnenchik”
Entrance fee: 5 BGN
The museum holds a collection of 15th century weaponry, and even the only knight armour in the country! You’ll also find flags, maps, sigils and different works of art.
13. Puppet Museum
Entrance fee: 5 BGN
Are you travelling to Varna with children? If so, you should definitely include the Varna Puppet Museum in your list of places to see in Varna! There are numerous puppets created by the founder of this museum, as well as by later puppeteers. You will also have a guide that will tell you a bit more curious facts about the museum, so you can enjoy your visit even more.
14. Museum of the History of Medicine
Entrance fee: 5 BGN
There are 3 main rooms in Varna’s Museum of the History of Medicine. The first room holds an exhibition dated 4th century BC to 14th century AD, while the other two are from later periods. This curious museum has apothecary artefacts and even some furniture for you to explore!
15. Varna Educational Museum
Entrance fee: 10 BGN
The Varna Educational Museum is located within the building of the Varna Archaeological Museum. It’s a museum that is not just for you, but also for your little ones if you’re travelling to Varna with children! The main purpose of this museum is to help children learn better about the past through interactive games – all the way from prehistoric periods.
16. Retro Museum
Entrance fee: 10 BGN
If you’re unlucky enough to have bad weather while you’re exploring things to see in Varna, you’re very likely to find yourself in one of the shopping malls. Well, being in a shopping mall won’t stop you from exploring Bulgaria’s history! Located in Grand Mall Varna, the Retro museum offers insight into the few decades when Bulgaria was under socialism. You’ll find everything from retro cars to filterless cigarettes, which is the perfect way to have fun while taking a break from shopping.
II. Religious Sights in Varna
17. TOP PICK: The Cathedral “Assumption of the Mother of God”
When it comes to symbols of Varna, the Cathedral is definitely the most famous one. It’s just stunning, inside and out. If you visit it during a summer weekend around noon, you’re very likely to see a wedding and hear the lovely wedding bells (my wedding was also at the Cathedral! 🙂 ). You can also attend a Sunday mass and enjoy an all-male chorus which will take your breath away.
18. Saint Athanasius Church
Religion has always been a huge part of Bulgarian history and this is why you’ll find many churches around Varna – some impressive like the Cathedral, and some small and cozy. Saint Athanasius Church is another popular church for the religious part of wedding ceremonies in Varna. It is situated right next to the Roman Thermae, so it’s great to combine it on your journey around places to see in Varna.
19. Saint Nicholas the Thaumaturge – (called Saint Petka by the locals)
I saw this church every day when I went to school, as it is located right next to my high school. I must say, it is definitely more impressive in the early morning, bathed in the golden-hour light!
20. Sveti Nikolay
If you decide to enjoy your afternoon around Varna’s main pedestrian zone, you will pass by the church of Sveti Nikolay. Stop by and take a breather to admire it!
21. Monastery of Saints Constantine and Helena
“Saints Constantine and Helena” is actually a very popular resort place in Varna with its many hotels and gorgeous beaches. If you choose a hotel in the area, don’t miss the monastery! It’s a hidden gem near Varna that is a great escape from the city noise and has such magical atmosphere, that you will find yourself yearning to go back.
22. Monument of Tsar Kaloyan
The city center of Varna is full of places to visit. The monument of Tsar Kaloyan is not old and it doesn’t have impressive history – it’s more recent and it is a result of a contest! Nevertheless, it’s still impressive and enjoyable. You’ll note that one of the horse’s hoofs is in the air which refers to urban legends that the famous Bulgarian ruler did not die in battle, rather from battle wounds. The monument is located very close to the Varna Cathedral.
23. Monument of Khan Asparoukh
Khan Asparoukh is the founder of Bulgaria! In 681, he united different tribes, migrated near the Danube delta and became the first Bulgarian ruler. Thus, it is only normal for him to have a monument in Varna, the sea capital of Bulgaria. And the famous khan actually has two! One is a bust near the Varna library, and the other one is a whole statue near the park in Asparuhovo (a neighbourhood named after the khan).
24. Monument of the Border Guard
This monument is in the heart of the Sea Garden of Varna, very close to the Nature and science museum. It’s a cute instagrammable thing to see in Varna!
25. Monument of the Fallen of the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885
Over 200 soldiers died during the Serbo-Bulgarian War in 1885. This monument commemorates the fallen and is almost 9 meters high. If you’re looking for it – it’s next to the Archaeological museum in Varna.
26. The Portal-Monument
The Portal Monument of Varna is located on one of Varna’s main streets (about a 10-15-minute walk from the city council). You can see the names of all almost 2,500 fallen engraved with gold around the portal.
27. TOP PICK: The Pantheon
When looking for places to visit in Varna, the Pantheon is definitely a must-see monument. And, the truth is, it’s pretty hard to miss if you’re walking around the Sea Garden of Varna! The huge statue depicts two soldiers – one that is injured and another one that is still fighting.
28. TOP PICK: The Park-Monument of the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship
This is by far my favorite monument in Varna! During recent years, it has been a bit overlooked in terms of maintenance, but it’s still impressive. It’s a bit far from the city center, but if you walk until the far-end of the Sea Garden, you can just cross the street and enjoy it. Be careful, though, as there are many stairs in order to reach it. However, the sunsets from that point are quite spectacular, and you can enjoy a birds-eye view of Varna.
IV. Fun Activities
The Planetarium of Varna is located near the entrance of the Sea Garden in the city center. It has a capacity for 80 people and it can also welcome large groups (15+ people). The dome is about 10 meters large and there are also different telescopes for educational purposes. If you’re travelling to Varna with children, they will surely enjoy this Varna sight!
30. Swimming Complex “Primorski”
A huge swimming pool right next to the beach? Count me in! The large outdoor pool is about 50 meters long, so you will be able to enjoy your swimming workout while you’re visiting Varna.
31. Ice Rink
You’ll find a lovely ice ring (45 meters long!) at the Sports Complex Mladost! It’s only about 4 BGN to enter it, and there are even classes available, if you’re interested. See more information here.
32. Sea Garden Sports Complex
Who said you need to stop training while you’re on vacation? The Sports Complex in heart of the Varna Sea Garden is a fantastic opportunity for you to stop having excuses! You can play tennis, football and volleyball on the designated fields. And don’t forget – you can also play volleyball at one of the nets at the beach! In addition, there is a children’s complex close by in the Sea Garden – with different rides and fun activities for your little ones.
33. TOP PICK: Phanagoria Village
Entrance fee: 4 BGN
Battle recreation, bow shooting, horse riding and even taking photos sitting at the throne of the khans are just some of the things that you’ll be able to experience at Phanagoria! The authentic 6th century village is located in the neighbourhood of Asparuhovo and it guarantees a super fun afternoon for you and your little ones.
Entrance fee: 35 BGN
Quite expensive as compared to some of the other things to see in Varna, the Aquapolis is the first of its kind in Bulgaria. It’s located in the popular resort “The Golden Sands”, and only open in the summer months – June 1st to September 15th.
35. Karting Track
The Varna Karting Track is located pretty far outside the city – a taxi from the city center will probably cost you around 10 BGN. However, a lap can be pretty cheap (10 laps are about 30 BGN) and the track is over 1 km long! There is also a scoring board which will tell you exactly how faster than your friends you were 🙂 The complex also offers paintball, but be careful not to expose your bruises to the sun afterwards.
36. Bungee, Hot Air Balloon, Paragliding
Bungee jumping from the Asparuhovo bridge is one of the most popular extreme activities in Varna. I’m not a huge fan of bungee, but I went on a hot air balloon adventure (about 60km away from the city) and it was absolutely spectacular. You can check the prices and more information on the website of Club Adrenaline. Please remember that the activities are seasonal and you’d need to contact them well in advance in order to book your spot!
37. Watch the sunrise!
As Varna is located on the east coast of Bulgaria, you can watch the sun rising over the sea. In the summer (especially in the nearby resorts) you’ll even see many other people that got the same idea – but note, they are mostly just people that didn’t go to bed the night before. But if you’re skipping on the nightlife during your Varna vacation, I am sure you won’t regret waking up early to soak up the summer sun and see the golden hour over the sea!
V. Art Galleries
38. Varna City Art Gallery “Boris Georgiev”
The main city gallery has 10 halls for you to explore. As many other buildings around the city, this one used to be a school as well. The gallery is located at the heart of Varna – right next to “Sevastopol” square.
39. Art Museum “Georgi Velchev”
Georgi Velchev was one of the masters of sea landscapes in Bulgaria and this gallery holds over 200 of his pieces. A rainy day is a perfect day for a visit, since you will surely forget all about the weather and immerse in the beauty of his art.
40. Graffit Gallery
Graffit Gallery is the main modern gallery in Varna (and also a very popular hotel, being so close to Varna’s center!). If you’re in the mood for urban and stylish pieces and interesting exponents, you will immensely enjoy Graffit Gallery!
41. Ross Art Gallery
Ross Art Gallery is perfect for you if you’d like to bring a piece of Varna’s art at home – they sell numerous paintings, most of which have vivid colors and sea scapes. However, you can also pop in and just enjoy the gorgeous artworks!
42. TOP PICK: Sea Garden
Varna’s Sea Garden is definitely one of the top things to see in Varna. It’s a few kilometers long and stretches out from the city center’s beachside all the way to the end of the main beachline of Varna. Walking around, you’ll see a few of Varna’s attractions (as the Planetarium and the Nature & Science museum), as well as a stunning view of the beach at a few places. The garden is a few dozen meters above the beach, but there are secret paths to take you up and down.
The Sea Garden of Varna is also full of attractions – the children’s complex with different rides, the sports complex, open-air theatre and other hidden gems.
43. Park Asparuhovo
This park, unlike the Sea Garden, is not rising above the beach, but is right next to it! Paved roads, green fields and the murmur of the waves will enchant you, as you stroll casually through it. It’s also perfect for your morning run!
44. Park “Golden Sands”
The park of the Golden Sands resort is great for you if you love hiking. There are also a few hidden spots for a picnic and a lazy afternoon. It’s actually the smallest National park in Bulgaria – only 13 square km!
45. Botanical Garden – Varna
Why not spend a day at the Botanical Garden of Varna? It’s a gorgeous large park that contains over 300 species of flowers, trees, bushes and plants. It has many hidden cute spots and it’s so pretty, that it’s a popular spot for wedding photo sessions, so don’t be surprised if you see brides posing there during summer weekends.
46. The Fountains at the Municipality of Varna
These fountains are very bright and colorful at night! Make sure you visit these during summertime, as they often don’t work during winter.
47. Fountain at the Pantheon
If you’re walking along the Sea Garden of Varna, you won’t miss the fountain right below the Pantheon (on its right side). Unfortunately, I’ve often seen this fountain not working, but you still have a good chance of seeing its glory during the summer!
48. Fountain with frogs in the Sea Garden
This fountain is a bit of a hidden gem in the Sea Garden, as it’s located in the part of the garden furthest from the sea (near the main road).
49. Dry Fountain by the Clock Tower
I love dry fountains! They’re so much fun, and not just for children. They are safe and are a great thing to see in Varna during the summer. When walking from Varna’s Clock Tower/Cathedral using the pedestrian road, you’ll see this cute little dry fountain to your right.
50. Dry Fountain on “Bulgaria” Square
This is one of the newest fountains in Varna, and thus, one of the most good-looking ones. Again, you’ll see this on the pedestrian road, a few hundred meters from the Clock Tower one.
51. Fountain on Saborni Square
Saborni square is located very close to Varna’s Archaeological museum, so you can definitely include admiring the fountain when you’re on your way to the museum, exploring places to visit in Varna.
52. TOP PICK: Singing Fountain on “Nezavisimost” Square
With the highest stream of over 40 meters, this is the highest singing fountain in Bulgaria! 52 water pumps and numerous lights create spectacular combinations and stunning views, while playing music to go with the show. The fountains are only open in the summer (if you visit Varna during the winter, you’ll see Christmas decorations on top of them) and the show usually starts around 8:30 pm.
53. The Sirens Fountain (Sea Garden)
This fountain is very close to the entrance of the Sea Garden. This is one of the few fountains I’d recommend seeing during the day, as its night lights aren’t as impressive.
54. TOP PICK: “Nezavisimost” square
The Nezavisimost square (translated: Independence square) is one of the prettiest squares in Varna! Located on the main pedestrian alley of Varna, it holds not just the prettiest fountain (or Christmas decorations if you’re visiting Varna during winter), but also the stunning Drama Theatre (see below).
55. Shishkovata Garden
In Bulgarian, “Shishko” means chubby 🙂 We, the locals, call it Shishkovata Garden, as it is inside a roundabout! Actually, its true name is Ekzarh Yosif, but if you’re looking for it, just ask the locals for “Shishkovata” 🙂 It is located very close to the city center and the pedestrian alley, you just need to take one of the steep small streets down to reach it. It is currently under construction, and I can’t wait to see the results!
56. The Clock Tower
The impressive Clock Tower of Varna is located right across the street from the Cathedral. It’s over 20 meters high and pretty old – it was completed in 1888. In addition, you can find a small building that is currently a popular theatre in the city!
The Navy Headquaters are a bit out of your way if you’re going around the center (about a 10-15 minute walk from the pedestrian alley). However, you won’t regret it – the building is quite impressive. It’s built in a baroque style, which very few buildings in Varna can boast with. It’s also beautifully lit during the night!
58. TOP PICK: Drama Theatre
The Drama Theatre is one of the prettiest things to see in Varna. We, the locals, often call it “The Opera”, but the truth is that the Varna Opera is actually only renting part of the theatre 🙂 The inside of the building is gorgeous, it even reminds me of Milan’s La Scala a bit. Even if you can’t go see a play, you can still pop inside and explore the halls, provided they haven’t started their summer vacation.
59. TOP PICK: Asparuhovo Bridge
Ah, the Asparuhovo bridge! Logistically, it’s a very important bridge, but I mostly like to admire it at night. There are two secret spots where you can make a short stopover at night, here are the coordinates for your convenience:
60. TOP PICK: Varna Lighthouse
Varna’s lighthouse is definitely one of the top things to see in Varna, it’s absolutely marvellous. If the weather is bad and the waves are high, it’s even more impressive (but remember to always be careful and cautious!). The Varna Lighthouse is located at the very south of the beachline of the city (close to Varna’s South Beach). There are also a few great restaurants in the area – BM Zaliva, Captain Cook, Mr Baba (this one is inside an old ship, but don’t worry, it’s on the sand and not in the water).
61. Festival and Congress Centre
The Festival and Congress Centre of Varna is located right near the entry of the Varna Sea Garden and is one of the most important cultural institution of the city. Many film, music and theatre festivals take place there, as well as important events (one of my friends had her graduation ceremony from the Medical University of Varna held there!). One of the best events you may encounter during a summer hunt of things to see in Varna would be the “Love is folly” festival. It’s been conducted for over 20 years and you can watch many great films in the building’s movie halls.
62. Palace of Culture and Sports
Another one of Varna’s important cultural sights – with its 6 large halls, shopping center and gyms equipped with everything you might need, the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna is a great way for you to enjoy an afternoon. The building is across the boulevard from the Pantheon and it’s very dear to me – when I was little, my mum used to buy me Barbie dolls from one of its shops! One of the things Bulgaria is famous for is our rhythmic gymnastics girls, and this is the main place in Varna where you can practice this sport (even I did for a bit quite a while back!)
63. Open-air theatre
Very close to the Palace of Culture and Sports you’ll find Varna’s lovely open-air theatre. It’s very active during the summer with many different events, one of the most important which is the Varna International Ballet Festival.
64. Open-air cinema theatre
The official open-air cinema theatre is located in the resort of St Constantine and Helena, a few kilometers outside of the city. It’s pretty large and you can purchase tickets on the spot, just make sure you go a bit before dark in order to catch the movie. The movies themselves are in their original language (usually English) with Bulgarian subtitles, so you’ll be able to enjoy them without worrying you wouldn’t know what was going on.
65. State Puppet Theatre
The Puppet Theatre is one of the most fun attractions in Varna if you’re travelling with children! Now, even though the performances are all in Bulgarian, they’re still colorful enough for your kids to enjoy them. And if you still decide to skip a performance, you can still pop into the Puppet Museum mentioned in point 13.
Whew! So, which of these do you think you’d enjoy the most while exploring things to see in Varna? And if you have visited – which one is your favorite?
Note 2: I have excluded the animal attractions on purpose (the zoo, dolphinarium and aquarium). Please don’t support animal tourism!