Varna Travel Tips
Before you start organizing your two days of sightseeing in Varna, here are a few tips that will help you plan better:
Get a Varna City Card
Varna City Card is something that will not just give you ideas on what to visit in Varna (as well as where to grab a bite!), but it will also help you save money. There are a lot of different museums with free entry included in the card, but there are also bonus orders and discounts for restaurants and bars. At “La Casa Al Mare” right across from the Festival and Congress Centre, for example, you could get a bonus drink (wine/beer) when having lunch or dinner.
One of the things I liked the most when using Varna City Card was the convenience – if you download their app, you can scan the QR code of your card (or even just buy a digital one) and use it only on your phone, rather than having a physical card that you can lose. The app is absolutely free and it’s quite well-thought out – if you allow for location tracking, it can even tell you where the closest included sights and restaurants are (even how far exactly from you)! This was really helpful and it was better than what most city cards in European capitals offer 🙂
You can buy a 24H, 48H or a 72H card (24 BGN, 33 BGN, 39 BGN accordingly), and there are even special cards for an adult+child. All the freebies and discounts can be found on the Varna City Card website, while you can click here to buy yours.
Varna Packing List
- Comfy shoes – you don’t need specialized tourist shoes, just bring shoes that are really, really comfortable, so you can explore without worrying about them 🙂
- Swimsuit – well, you’ll be going to the sea capital of Bulgaria, right? 🙂 Even if you decide against swimming, you can still do an early morning tanning session, I guarantee you’ll feel amazing afterwards!
- Sunscreen – even if you don’t plan on sunbathing, only one walk in the sun can leave you with that special t-shirt tan. So just use sunscreen even before you’ve left the house and you won’t regret it! 🙂
- Hat and sunglasses – Okay, I’ll admit it, I don’t always bring a hat with me when I walk around Varna (but then I regret it…). My sunglasses, however, are always with me!
- Camera – so you can snap all of Varna’s top things to see
- Umbrella/raincoat – even the sea capital sees rain every now and then. Take a small foldable umbrella if the weather is not on yuor side when you’re visiting Varna.
- Reusable bottle and coffee cup – if you still don’t have a reusable cup and a reusable bottle, travelling to Varna would be the perfect reason to buy these 🙂 There are lots of water fountains around the Sea Garden, so you can refill there with nice cold water. Let’s not clutter the city with extra plastic 🙂
- Varna City Card – to save money on our visit to Varna
Transportation in Varna
Unfortunately, Google Maps does not yet work for the public transport in Varna (but since recently, it does for Sofia, though!). Thus, I’d recommend that you use the Moovit app to get around Varna by public transport. You could also use a taxi every now and then – they’re not expensive at all!
Transportation outside of Varna, though, is a bit limited. In order to visit some of the top things to see near Varna you’d be better off renting a car. Top Rent A Car has offices at some of the most convenient places in Varna – at the airport and in the resort Golden Sands. Even if you can’t drive, they can send you a driver to take you around for 1 or 2 days! 🙂 Special thanks to our Top Rent A Car driver Itso, for his kindness and professionalism!
8 Top Things to See in Varna in a Weekend
Varna really has a lot of sights and you can’t see everything in a weekend. However, here are the most important things to see in Varna that you shouldn’t miss!
1. The Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological museum is often underestimated by the locals. This top thing to see in Varna is really interesting – you will see artifacts from the Varna Necropolis that are about 6,000 years old! When the Necropolis was found in 1972, almost 300 graves were excavated, but scientists believe that they’ve only discovered 30% of the cemetery. You’ll also see statues from Roman times and even part of the original fortified wall of the city that was then called Odessos.
The entrance fee to Varna’s Archaeological museum is 10 BGN for adults (and free with Varna City Card).
2. City Art Gallery “Boris Georgiev”
The city art gallery is named after a famous painter from Varna and it has 8 main halls. You’ll see pieces from not just Boris Georgiev, but also from one of the most famous Bulgarian artists – Vladimir Dimitrov – the Master. The gallery’s 3rd floor is often used for concerts and events, including the festival “Varna summer”.
The entrance fee to Varna’s City Art Gallery is 5 BGN for adults (and free with Varna City Card).
3. The Roman Thermae
The Roman Thermae in Varna are the 4th largest in the world! You can explore the ancient world, pop in and take a look at the different types of baths. If you’ve ever been to a good SPA, you probably know that it’s common practice to alternate between hot and cold showers. Well, there were 7 pools/baths at the Varna Roman Thermae and each one had different temperature. The Romans started dipping in from the hottest to the coldest one and then backwards 🙂
For many, many years, baths (and not just Roman ones!) were where life happened in cities over the weekend. Important meetings took place there and men played dice while the women gossiped. This is why the ancient thermae were usually so vast and impressive!
The entrance fee to Varna’s Roman Thermae is 4 BGN for adults (and free with Varna City Card).
Varna’s Maritime museum is one of the top things to see in Varna that I loved visiting when I was a little kid. Even outside you’ll be able to see a few curious ships, and among them – the famous torpedo ship Drazki. The collection inside is interesting as well – you’ll be able to explore different artefacts – from ship equipment to paintings and sculptures.
The entrance fee to Varna’s Naval Museum is 5 BGN for adults (and free with Varna City Card).
5. Aladzha Monastery near Varna
Aladzha monastery is one of the most famous rock monasteries along the Black sea coast. It has a few floors and one of them even has dedicated spaces for the monk’s bedrooms, a church and even a small crypt. The monastery was set on fire during the Ottoman domination and its name was lost. The brothers Shkorpil that discovered the place at the end of the 19th century believe that the name of the monastery was “Christ, the Savior”. The word “aladzha” comes from arab and it means “colorful”. There are a lot of legends surrounding the history of this monastery near Varna, and the most popular ones relate to hidden treasures, endless underground tunnels and of course – spirits 🙂
The entrance fee to the Aladzha monastery near Varna is 5 BGN for adults (and free with Varna City Card).
6. The Stone Forest near Varna
You don’t need to go to Egypt in order to find yourself in a desert. You just need to visit the Stone Forest near Varna – the only desert in Bulgaria 🙂 Even today, scientists still can’t fully explain this phenomenon. The most popular theory is that this was the bottom of a sea a few millennia ago.
Nowadays, this top thing to see in Varna is a lot of fun – a lot of the stones have names due to their peculiar forms. When you enter the Stone Forest, you will be provided with a small booklet that can tell you how we’ve named them 🙂 Try to find them all!
The entrance fee to the Stone Forest near Varna is 3 BGN for adults (and free with Varna City Card).
7. The Sea Garden in Varna
You can’t go to Varna and miss the Sea Garden! Luckily, lately there have been many improvements in this top thing to see in Varna, so if you visit during the summer, you’ll see this park in its full glory. The City Council renovated the cute Bridge of Wishes (if you make a wish and cross it with your eyes closed without holding on the railing, your wish will come true 😛 ), the Rosarium and the area right below the Pantheon.
8. Sunset Cruise by the Coast (Pinta Varna)
If you only have one weekend to explore the top things to do in Varna, don’t miss the sunset cruise with the ship Pinta Varna! Even the locals underestimate this lovely experience, and ever since I visited it lately, I want to go again and again. You won’t just see Varna’s coast in the beautiful golden light, you will also have tons of fun! There is great animation during the cruise and everyone is so nice and fun, that you will still feel these positive vibes for weeks to come.
Just take a look at these photos and I am sure that you’ll feel the incredible atmosphere on the ship:
If you’d like to visit the sunset cruise (even though they have a few different cruises), you should know that the ship leaves about 1.5 hours before sunset. Thus, it’s best to contact them in advance at +359885 962 050 to book your spot.
Best Hotels in Varna, Bulgaria
We always book hotels first before we start planning what to see in a city 🙂 Well, here are my recommendations for a few hotels in Varna for different budgets and preferences:
- Luxury hotel at Varna’s city center: Graffit Gallery Design Hotel – this is one of the most popular luxury hotels in Varna. With its impressive 9.2 score in Booking.com, you won’t regret spending the weekend there <3 It costs about 200 BGN per night.
- Average budget/quality: Hotel & Casino Cherno More – the hotel cannot really live to its former glory, but it’s still very popular among tourists – it’s right at the heart of the city. It has a score of 8.4 and costs about 100 BGN per night.
- Cheap place to stay at Varna’s city center: Central Self-Service Hostel – with cost per night about 30 BGN and being just a few minutes away from the Sea Garden in Varna, this hostel is perfect for you if you’re looking for a budget option!
- Complexes around Varna: you will love apart-complex Splendid St. Constantine and their vacation apartments – far from the city noise but close enough to explore, it’s fantastic for visiting Varna with children.
Best Restaurants in Varna, Bulgaria
Varna is SO full of restaurants and coffee shops that it can be a tough choice for someone that is not a local. Here are a few ideas from me to know which ones to trust for sure:
- BM Restaurants (BM Garden, BM City, BM Bay) – delicious food, average prices and the best service in town!
- La Casa Al Mare (right across the street from the Festival and Congress Center) – excellent food, great prices and service – the restaurant combines not just Italian food, but popular international ones as well. The serving sizes are pretty generous, so there is no way you’ll leave feeling hungry!
- La Pastaria – I dream about their tiramisu every. single. day. I’ve been to Italy quite a few times and I’ve never tried tiramisu this good!
- Old Chinar (at the Port of Varna) – it’s absolutely lovely to see the sunset there! They have not only traditional Bulgarian cuisine, but also different interesting specialties. Just recently, I had a home-made ice cream with halva that was served SMOKING (with dry ice!)!! It was sooo impressive, not to mention delicious! 🙂
- Marche – this is one of the most sophisticated restaurants in the city with a very pretty view. The prices are pretty high, but I assure you – it’s a real journey for your senses.
- Cubo & Menthol – these are the two best beach bars in Varna (we, locals, love them both!) 🙂 Cubo doesn’t really offer any food or snacks, but the atmosphere is utopical – chill music, sand between your toes and the murmur of the waves <3
The perfect Varna itinerary for a weekend
Day 1 (walking)
- 08:00 – Breakfast and coffee at one of the beach bars
- 10:00 – Archaeological Museum
- 12:00 – City Art Gallery
- 13:00 – Lunch at La Casa
- 14:30 – The Roman Thermae
- 16:00 – Naval Museum
- 17:30 – Afternoon coffee at the Port of Varna
- 19:00 – Sunset cruise with Pinta Varna
- 20:30 – Dinner at the Old Chinar at Port of Varna
Day 2 (by car)
- 08:00 – Breakfast and coffee at one of the beach bars
- 10:00 – Aladzha Monastery (travel time from Varna: 15 min.)
- 12:30 – Lunch in the Golden Sands (travel time from Aladzha Monastery: 10 min.)
- 14:30 – The Stone Forest (travel time from the Golden Sands: 40 min.)
- 17:30 – The Sea Garden (travel time from the Stone Forest: 25 min.)
- 20:00 – Dinner at BM Garden (BM Gradinata)
If you’re looking for more ideas on what to explore in Varna, check out my post on 65 things to see in Varna 🙂
Disclaimer: This post was created in partnership with Varna City Card. However, all opinions are my own.