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Coordinates: 43°13′N 27°55′E / 43.217°N 27.917°E / 43.217; 27.917

Bulgaria's Marine Capital - Varna

Nickname(s): Морската столица (The Marine Capital)
Varna is located in Bulgaria
Location of Varna in Bulgaria
Coordinates: 43°13′N 27°55′E / 43.217°N 27.917°E / 43.217; 27.917
Country Bulgaria
Province Varna
 - Mayor Kiril Yordanov
 - City 238 km2 (91.9 sq mi)
Elevation 80 m (262 ft)
Population (2009.09.15)
 - City 364,292
 Density 1,718/km2 (4,449.6/sq mi)
 Metro 405,329
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Downtown street scene

Varna (Bulgarian: Варна, pronounced [ˈvarnə]) is the largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and in Northern Bulgaria, third-largest in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv, and 92th-largest in the European Union,[1] with a population of 364,292[2] (503,999 in the metro area).

Commonly referred to as the marine (or summer) capital of Bulgaria, Varna is a major tourist destination, business and university centre, seaport, and headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine, as well as the centre of Varna Province and Bulgaria's North-Eastern planning region (NUTS II), comprising also the provinces of Dobrich, Shumen, and Targovishte.

In April 2008, Varna was designated seat of the Black Sea Euro-Region (a new regional organization, not identical to the Black Sea Euroregion) by the Council of Europe.[3]


Geography, climate, and transportation

The city occupies 205 km2 (79 sq mi)[4] on verdant terraces (Varna monocline of the Moesian platform) descending from the calcareous Franga Plateau (height 356 m/1,168 ft) on the north and Avren Plateau on the south, along the horseshoe-shaped Varna Bay of the Black Sea, the elongated Lake Varna, and two artificial waterways connecting the bay and the lake and bridged by the Asparuhov most. It is the centre of a growing conurbation stretching along the seaboard 20 km (12 mi) north and 10 km (6 mi) south (mostly residential and recreational sprawl) and along the lake 25 km (16 mi) west (mostly transportation and industrial facilities). Since antiquity, the city has been surrounded by vineyards, orchards, and forests. Commercial shipping facilities are being relocated inland into the lakes and canals, while the bay remains a recreation area; almost all the waterfront is parkland.

The urban area has in excess of 20 km (12 mi) of sand beaches and abounds in thermal mineral water sources (temperature 35–55 degrees Celsius / 95–131 °F). It enjoys a mild continental climate influenced by the sea with long, mild, akin to Mediterranean, autumns, and sunny and hot yet considerably cooler than Mediterranean summers moderated by a breeze and more regular rainfall. Although Varna receives about two thirds of the average rainfall for Bulgaria, abundant groundwater keeps its wooded hills lush throughout summer. The city is cut off from north and north-east winds by hills along the north arm of the bay, but January and February still can be bitterly cold at times, with blizzards. Black Sea water has become cleaner after 1989 due to decreased chemical fertilizer in farming; it has low salinity, lacks large predators or poisonous species, and the tidal range is virtually imperceptible.

The city lies 470 km (292 mi) north-east of Sofia; the nearest major cities are Dobrich (45 km/28 mi to the north), Shumen (80 km/50 mi to the west), and Burgas (125 km/78 mi to the south-west). Varna is accessible by air (Varna International Airport), sea (Port of Varna Cruise Terminal), railroad (Central Train Station), and automobile. Major roads include European routes E70 to Bucharest and E87 to Istanbul and Constanta, Romania; national motorways A-2 (Hemus motorway) to Sofia and A-5 (Cherno More motorway) to Burgas. There are bus lines to many Bulgarian and international cities from two bus terminals and train ferry and ro-ro services to Odessa, Ukraine, Port Kavkaz, Russia, Poti and Batumi, Georgia.

The public transit system (map) is extensive and reasonably priced, with over 80 local and express bus, electrical bus, and fixed-route minibus lines; there is a large fleet of taxicabs. In 2007, a number of double-decker buses were purchased; the mayor vowed that by summer 2008, all city buses would be retrofitted with air conditioners and later fueled by methane. Timetables for the city's bus services can be found here.

There is a plethora of Internet cafes and many places, including parks, are covered by free public wireless internet service. Varna is connected to other Black Sea cities by the submarine Black Sea Fiber Optical Cable System.


Climate chart

The Köppen classification for the climate of Varna is Cfa.

Climate data for Varna
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 5.5
Average low °C (°F) -1.1
Precipitation mm (inches) 38
Source:[5] 2009-09-07
Varna Bay
Cape Galata lighthouses


Remains of ancient Roman Odessus
Thermae west apodyterium with St. Athanasius church bell tower in the background
Memorial of the Battle of Varna of 1444 carved into an ancient Thracian burial mound
Ottoman period townhouse
City map of 1897
Turn of the century mansions outside the Sea Garden


Prehistoric settlements best known for the eneolithic necropolis (mid-5th millennium BC radiocarbon dating), a key archaeological site in world prehistory, eponymous of old European Varna culture and internationally considered the world's oldest large find of gold artifacts, existed within modern city limits. In the broader region of the Varna lakes (then freshwater) and the adjacent karst springs and caves, over 30 prehistoric settlements have been unearthed with the earliest artifacts dating back to the Middle Paleolithic or 100,000 years ago.

Antiquity and Bulgarian conquest

The region of ancient Thrace was populated by Thracians since 1000 BC. Miletians founded the apoikia (trading colony) of Odessos towards the end of the 7th century BC (the earliest Greek archaeological material is dated 600-575 BC), or, according to Pseudo-Scymnus, in the time of Astyages (here, usually 572-570 BC is suggested), within an earlier Thracian settlement. The name Odessos, first attested by Strabo, was pre-Greek, perhaps of Carian origin. A member of the Pontic Pentapolis, Odessos was a mixed Greco-Thracian community—contact zone between the Ionians and the Thracians (Getae, Crobyzi, Terizi) of the hinterland. Excavations at nearby Thracian sites have shown uninterrupted occupation from the 7th to the 4th century and close commercial relations with the colony. The Greek alphabet has been applied to inscriptions in Thracian since at least the 5th century BCE; the Hellenistic city worshipped a Thracian great god whose cult survived well into the Roman period.

Odessos presumably was included in the assessment of the Delian league of 425 BC. In 339 BC, it was unsuccessfully besieged by Philip II (priests of the Getae persuaded him to conclude a treaty) but surrendered to Alexander the Great in 335 BC, and was later ruled by his diadochus Lysimachus, against whom it rebelled in 313 BC as part of a coalition with other Pontic cities and the Getae. The Roman city, Odessus, first included into the Praefectura orae maritimae and then in 15 AD annexed to the province of Moesia (later Moesia Inferior), covered 47 hectares in present-day central Varna and had prominent public baths, Thermae, erected in the late 2nd century AD, now the largest Roman remains in Bulgaria (the building was 100 m (328.08 ft) wide, 70 m (229.66 ft) long, and 25 m (82.02 ft) high) and fourth-largest known Roman baths in Europe. Major athletic games were held every five years, possibly attended by Gordian III in 238 AD.

Odessus was an early Christian centre, as testified by ruins of ten early basilicas,[6] a monophysite monastery, and indications that one of the Seventy Disciples, Ampliatus, follower of Saint Andrew (who, according to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church legend, preached in the city in 56 AD), served as bishop there. In 6th-century imperial documents, it was refereed to as "holiest city," sacratissima civitas. In 442, a peace treaty between Theodosius II and Attila was done at Odessus. In 536, Justinian I made it the seat of the Quaestura exercitus ruled by a prefect of Scythia and including Moesia, Scythia, Caria, the Aegean Islands and Cyprus. The Jireček Line, or the approximate linguistic frontier between Latin and Greek linguistic influence, ran through the Balkans from Odessus to the Adriatic.

Theophanes the Confessor first mentioned the name Varna, as the city came to be known with the Slavic conquest of the Balkans in the 6th-7th century. The name may be older than that; perhaps it derives from Proto-Indo-European root we-r- (water)[7] (see also Varuna), or from Proto-Slavic root varn (black), or from Iranian var (camp, fortress: see also Etymological list of provinces of Bulgaria). According to Theophanes, in 680, Asparukh, the founder of the First Bulgarian Empire, routed an army of Constantine IV near the Danube delta and, pursuing it, reached the so-called Varna near Odessos and the midlands thereof ("...ελθοντες επι την λεγομενην Βαρναν πλησιον 'Οδυσσου και του εκεισε μεσογαιου"—perhaps the new name applied initially to an adjacent river, military camp, or area, and only later to the city itself).

It has been suggested that the 681 peace treaty with the Byzantine Empire that established the new state was concluded at Varna and the first Bulgarian capital south of the Danube may have been provisionally located in its vicinity—possibly in a city near Lake Varna's north shore named Theodorias (Θεοδωριάς) by Justinian I—before it moved to Pliska 70 km to the west.[8] Asparukh fortified the Varna river lowland by a rampart against a possible Byzantine landing; the Asparuhov val (Asparukh's Wall) is still standing. Numerous 7th-century Bulgar settlements have been excavated across the city and further west; the Varna lakes north shores, of all regions, were arguably most densely populated by Bulgars.

Middle Ages

Control changed from Byzantine to Bulgarian hands several times during the Middle Ages. In the late 9th and the first half of the 10th century, Varna was the site of a principal scriptorium of the Preslav Literary School at a monastery endowed by Boris I who may have also used it as his monastic retreat. The scriptorium may have played a key role in the development of the Cyrillic alphabet by Bulgarian scholars under the guidance of one of Saints Cyril and Methodius' disciples. Karel Škorpil has suggested that Boris I may have been interred there. In 1201, Kaloyan took over the Varna fortress, then in Byzantina hands, on Holy Saturday using a siege tower, and secured it for the Second Bulgarian Empire.

By the late 13th century, with the Treaty of Nymphaeum of 1261, the offensive-defensive alliance between Michael VIII Palaeologus and Genoa that opened up the Black Sea to Genoese commerce, Varna had turned into a thriving commercial port city frequented by Genoese and later by Venetian and Ragusan merchant ships. The first two maritime republics held consulates and had expatriate colonies there (Ragusan merchants remained active at the port through the 17th century operating from their colony in nearby Provadiya). The city was flanked by two fortresses with smaller commercial ports of their own, Kastritsi and Galata, within sight of each other, and was protected by two other strongholds overlooking the lakes, Maglizh and Petrich. Wheat, animal skins, honey, wax, and other local agricultural produce for the Italian and Constantinople markets were the chief exports, and Mediterranean foods and luxury items were imported. Shipbuilding developed in the Kamchiya river mouth.

14th-century Italian portolan charts showed Varna as perhaps the most important seaport between Constantinople and the Danube delta; they usually labeled the region Zagora. The city was unsuccessfully besieged by Amadeus VI of Savoy, who had captured all Bulgarian fortresses to the south of it, including Galata, in 1366. In 1386, Varna briefly became the capital of the spinoff Principality of Karvuna, then was taken over by the Ottomans in 1389 (and again in 1444), ceded temporarily to Manuel II Palaeologus in 1413 (perhaps until 1444), and sacked by Tatars in 1414.

Battle of Varna

On 10 November 1444, one of the last major battles of the Crusades in European history was fought outside the city walls. The Turks routed an army of 20,000 crusaders[9] led by Ladislaus III of Poland (also Ulászló I of Hungary), which had assembled at the port to set sail to Constantinople. The Christian army was attacked by a superior force of 55,000 or 60,000 Ottomans led by sultan Murad II. Ladislaus III was killed in a bold attempt to capture the sultan, earning the sobriquet Warneńczyk (of Varna in Polish; he is also known as Várnai Ulászló in Hungarian or Ladislaus Varnensis in Latin). The failure of the Crusade of Varna made the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 all but inevitable, and Varna (with all of Bulgaria) was to remain under Ottoman domination for over four centuries. Today, there is a cenotaph of Ladislaus III in Varna.

Late Ottoman rule

A major port, agricultural, trade and shipbuilding centre for the Ottoman Empire in the 16th-17th century, preserving a significant and economically active Bulgarian population, Varna was later made one of the Quadrilateral Fortresses (along with Rousse, Shumen, and Silistra) severing Dobruja from the rest of Bulgaria and containing Russia in the Russo-Turkish wars. The Russians temporarily took over in 1773 and again in 1828, following the prolonged Siege of Varna, returning it to the Ottomans two years later after the medieval fortress was razed.

The British and French campaigning against Russia in the Crimean War (1854–1856) used Varna as headquarters and principal naval base; many soldiers died of cholera and the city was devastated by a fire. A British and a French monument mark the cemeteries where cholera victims were interred. In 1866, the first railroad in Bulgaria connected Varna with the Rousse on the Danube, linking the Ottoman capital Istanbul with Central Europe; for a few years, the Orient Express ran through that route. The port of Varna developed as a major supplier of food—notably wheat from the adjacent breadbasket Southern Dobruja—to Istanbul and a busy hub for European imports to the capital; 12 foreign consulates opened in the city. Local Bulgarians took part in the National Revival; Vasil Levski set up a secret revolutionary committee.

Liberated Bulgaria

With the national liberation in 1878, the city, which numbered 26 thousand inhabitants, was ceded to Bulgaria by the Treaty of Berlin; Russian troops entered on 27 July. Varna became a front city in the First Balkan War and the First World War; its economy was badly affected by the temporary loss of its agrarian hinterland of Southern Dobruja to Romania (1913–16 and 1919–40). Also, Varna was occupied by Romania between July 15, 1913-August 10, 1913 during Second Balkan War.[10] In the Second World War, the Red Army occupied the city in September 1944, helping cement communist rule in Bulgaria.

Over the first decades after liberation, with the departure of most ethnic Turks and Greeks and the arrival of Bulgarians from inland, Northern Dobruja, Bessarabia, and Asia Minor, and later, of refugees from Macedonia, Eastern Thrace and Southern Dobruja following the Second Balkan War and the First World War, ethnic diversity gave way to Bulgarian predominance, although sizeable minorities of Gagauz, Armenians, and Sephardic Jews remained for decades.

One of the early centres of industrial development and the Bulgarian labor movement, Varna established itself as the nation's principal port of export, a major grain producing and viticulture centre, seat of the nation's oldest institution of higher learning outside Sofia, a popular venue for international festivals and events, as well as the country's de facto summer capital with the erection of the Euxinograd royal summer palace (currently, the Bulgarian government convenes summer sessions there). Mass tourism emerged since the late 1950s. Heavy industry and trade with the Soviet Union boomed in the 1950s to the 1970s.

From 20 December 1949 to 20 October 1956 the city was renamed by the communist government Stalin after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.[6]

In 1962, the 15th Chess Olympiad, also known as the World Team Championship, was here. In 1969 and 1987, Varna was the host of the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships. From 30 September to 4 October 1973, the 10th Olympic Congress took place in the Sports Palace.

Varna is running for European Capital of Culture for 2019.


One of Varna's beaches
Port of Varna East will be converted into a cruise terminal-cum-yacht marina
A new "lifestyle" shopping mall in the Troshevo district
The Palace of Culture and Sports also hosts trade shows

Varna is the second most important economic centre for Bulgaria after Sofia,[11] the country's foremost trade link to Russia, and one of the major hubs for the Black Sea region.

The economy is service-based, with 61% of net revenue generated in trade and tourism, 16% in manufacturing, 14% in transportation and communications, and 6% in construction.[4] Financial services, particularly banking, insurance, investment management, and real-estate finance are booming. As of December 2008, the fallout of the global financial crisis has not yet been hard. The city is the easternmost destination of Pan-European transport corridor 8 and is connected to corridors 7 and 9 via Rousse. Major industries traditionally include transportation (Navibulgar, Port of Varna, Varna International Airport), distribution (Logistics Park Varna[12] ), shipbuilding (see also Oceanic-Creations), ship repair, and other marine industries.

In June 2007, Eni and Gazprom disclosed the South Stream project whereby a 900 km (559 mi)-long offshore natural gas pipeline from Russia's Dzhubga with annual capacity of 31 cubic kilometers is planned to come ashore at Varna, possibly near the Galata offshore gas field, en route to Italy and Austria.

With the nearby towns of Beloslav and Devnya, Varna forms the Varna-Devnya Industrial Complex, home to some of the largest chemical, thermal power, and manufacturing facilities in Bulgaria, including Varna Thermal Pover Plant and Sodi Devnya, the two largest cash privatization deals in the country's recent history. There are also notable facilities for radio navigation devices, household appliances, security systems, textiles, apparel, food and beverages, printing, and other industries. Some manufacturing veterans are giving way to post-industrial developments: an ECE shopping mall is taking the place of the former VAMO diesel engine works and the Varna Brewery is being replaced by a convention centre.

Tourism is of foremost importance with the suburban beachfront resorts of Golden Sands, Holiday Club Riviera, Sunny Day, Constantine and Helena, and others with a total capacity of over 60,000 beds (2005), attracting millions of visitors each year (4.74 million in 2006, 3.99 million of which international tourists[13] ). The resorts received considerable internal and foreign investment in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and are environmentally sound, being located reassuringly far from chemical and other smokestack industries. Varna is also Bulgaria's only international cruise destination (with over 30 cruises scheduled for 2007) and a major international convention and spa centre.

Real estate boomed in 2003–2008 with some of the highest prices in the nation, by fall 2007 surpassing Sofia (this still holds true in April 2009). Commercial real estate is developing major international office tower projects.[14][15][16]

In retail, the city not only has the assortment of international big-box retailers[17] now ubiquitous in larger Bulgarian cities, but boasts made-in-Varna national chains with locations spreading over the country such as retailer Piccadilly, restaurateur Happy, and pharmacy chain Sanita.

In 2008, there were three large shopping malls operating and another four projects in various stages of development, turning Varna into an attractive international shopping destination (Pfohe Mall, Central Plaza, Mall Varna, Grand Mall, Gallery Mall, Cherno More Park, and Varna Towers),[18] plus a retail park under development outside town. The city has many of the finest eateries in the nation and abounds in ethnic food places.

Economically, Varna is among the best-performing and fastest-growing Bulgarian cities; unemployment, at 2.34% (2007), is over 3 times lower than the nation's rate; in 2007, median salary was the highest,[19] on a par with Sofia and Burgas. Many Bulgarians regard Varna as a boom town; some, including from Sofia and Plovdiv, or returning from western countries, but mostly from Dobrich, Shumen, and the greater region, are relocating there.

In September 2004, FDI Magazine (a Financial Times Business Ltd publication) proclaimed Varna South-eastern Europe City of the Future[20] citing its strategic location, fast-growing economy, rich cultural heritage and higher education. In April 2007, rating agency Standard & Poor's announced that it had raised its long-term issue credit rating for Varna to BB+ from BB, declaring the city’s outlook "stable" and praising its "improved operating performance".[13]

In December 2007 (and again in October 2008), Varna was voted "Best City in Bulgaria to Live In"[21] by a national poll by Darik Radio, the 24 Chasa daily and the information portal


The first population data date back to the mid-1600s when the town was thought to have about 4,000 inhabitants.[22] After the liberation in 1878, the first population census in 1881 counted 24,555[23] making it the second-largest in the principality. With unification, Varna became Bulgaria's third-largest city and kept this position steadily for the next 120 years, while different cities took turns in the first, second, and fourth places.

Since 2006, various sources, including the Bulgarian National Television, national newspapers, research agencies, the mayor's office, and local police, claim that Varna has a population by present address of over 500,000, making it the nation's second-largest city.[11][24] Official statistics according to GRAO and NSI, however, have not supported these claims yet.

In 2008, Deputy Mayor Venelin Zhechev estimated the actual population at 650,000.[25] In December 2008, Mayor Kiril Yordanov claimed the actual number of permanent residents was 970,000,[26] or that there were 60% unregistered people. In January 2009, the Financial Times said that "Varna now draws about 30,000 new residents a year."[27]

The metro area (including Varna municipality and adjacent parts of Aksakovo, Avren, Beloslav, and Devnya municipalities, and excluding adjacent parts of Dobrich Province) population is estimated by official data at 405,329.[2] Here, the "Varna-Devnya-Provadiya agglomeration" is not considered identical to the "Varna metro area".

Varna is one of the few cities in Bulgaria with a positive natural growth (6300 births vs. 3600 deaths in 2009 [28]) and new children's day care centers opening (6 expected in 2009).[29]

Ethnic composition

Most Varnians (варненци, varnentsi) are ethnic Bulgarians (92.5% in Varna municipality[30]). Turks traditionally rank second (3.8% in the municipality; by 2009, Russians and other Russian-speaking recent immigrants, estimated at over 20,000, perhaps have outnumbered them). There is a comparable number of Roma mostly in three distinctive and largely impoverished ethnic neighborhoods: Maksuda; Rozova Dolina in the Asparuhovo district; and Chengene Kula in the Vladislavovo district. Varna is spearheading several programs on Roma integration. Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and other long-standing ethnic groups are also present although in much smaller numbers, plus a growing number of new Asian and African immigrants and corporate expatriates.

Historical population

Year 1852 1878 1887 1896 1910 1920 1926 1946
Population 16,000 24,555 24,830 33,687 41,419 50,810 60,536 76,954
Year 1956 1965 1975 1982 1990 2001 2009
Population 120,345 180,110 251,654 295,038 302,841 313,408 360,985[28]

City government

The municipality (община, obshtina, commune) of Varna comprises the city and five suburban villages: Kamenar, Kazashko, Konstantinovo, Topoli, and Zvezditsa, served by the city public transit system.


The municipal chief executive is the mayor (кмет, kmet: the word is cognate with count). Since the end of the de facto one-party communist rule in 1990, there have been three mayors: Voyno Voynov, SDS (Union of Democratic Forces), ad interim, 1990–91; Hristo Kirchev, SDS, 1991–99; Kiril Yordanov, independent, 1999–present. Yordanov was reelected for a third consecutive term in 2007.[31]


As of January 2009, the city council (общински съвет, obshtinski savet, the 51-member legislature) is composed as follows: centre-left Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), 9 council members; centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), 9; Dvizhenie Nashiyat Grad (Our Town Movement, a local group supporting mayor Yordanov), 6; Red, Zakonnost i Spravedlivost (Order, Rule of Law, and Justice), 5; the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), 4; coalition of SDS and Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB), another centre-right party, 3; other groups and independents, 15. Borislav Gutsanov (BSP) is council chairman.[32]

Party politics

The largest political parties in the city are BSP, GERB and SDS, with the National Movement for Stability and Progress (NDSV) as a distant fourth; DSB, the Bulgarian Democratic Party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO, VMRO), and Ataka are also active. SDS took a heavy hit in early 2009 as its local leader's student son was charged with the brutal murder of a young woman. Local business groups have formed political parties for recent local elections, setting a national trend.

Varna is currently (March 2009) represented by five ministers in Sergey Stanishev's cabinet: Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Plugchieva (BSP, Administration of EU Funds), Nikolay Vasilev (NDSV, State Administration), Daniel Valchev (NDSV, Education and Science), Miglena Tacheva (BSP, Justice), and Petar Dimitrov (BSP, Economy and Energy). Among other noted Varna politicians are Ilko Eskenazi (SDS), Aleksandar Yordanov (SDS), Borislav Ralchev (NDSV), and Nedelcho Beronov (independent).


The city is the seat of a regional, district, administrative, and military court, and a court of appeal; regional, military, and appellate prosecutor's offices.[33]


There are consulates of the following countries: the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.[34]

Boroughs and urban planning

The city is divided by law into five boroughs (райони, rayoni), each with its mayor and council: Asparuhovo, Mladost, Odessos (the historic centre), Primorski (the largest one with official population of 102,000 also comprising the seaside resorts north of the city centre), and Vladislav Varchenchik. The boroughs are composed of various districts with distinctive characters and histories.[35] The villages too have а mayor or a mayoral lieutenant (кметски наместник, kmetski namestnik).

As of January 2009, a heated public discussion of a new draft general plan has been under way for a few months; it is expected to be passed by the city council later this year.[36] According to the Financial Times, "A new city master plan, due to be launched this year [2009], will be a 21st-century take on King Ferdinand's grand scheme. Among other projects, the commercial port will be moved to a new site on an inland lagoon to the west of the city, opening up space for what would become the Black Sea's largest and best-equipped marina. The plan will allow for a major redevelopment of the port site [with] luxury homes, hotels, restaurants."[27] The quay streets of the new waterfront are deemed important for opening the urbanscape to the sea as most of the coast is framed by parks.


The Archaeological Museum occupies an ornate 19-century former girls' school
Euxinograd palace
Cathedral dome
Saint Nicholas seamen's church
Art Nouveau mansion on Prince Boris I Boulevard
Turn of the century mansion on Exarch Joseph Circle

City landmarks include the Varna Archaeological Museum, exhibiting the Gold of Varna, the Roman Baths, the Battle of Varna Park Museum, the Naval Museum in the Italianate Villa Assareto displaying the museum ship Drazki torpedo boat, the Museum of Ethnography in an Ottoman-period compound featuring the life of local urban dwellers, fisherfolk, and peasants in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The Sea Garden is the oldest and perhaps largest park in town containing an open-air theatre (venue of the International Ballet Competition, opera performances and concerts), an aquarium (opened 1912), a dolphinarium (opened 1984), the Nicolaus Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium, the Museum of Natural History, a terrarium, a zoo, an alpineum, a children's amusement park with a pond, boat house and ice-skating rink, and other attractions. The National Revival Alley is decorated with bronze monuments to prominent Bulgarians, and the Cosmonauts' Alley contains trees planted by Yuri Gagarin and other Soviet and Bulgarian cosmonauts. The Garden is a national monument of landscape architecture and is said to be the largest landscaped park in the Balkans.

The waterfront promenade is lined by a string of beach clubs offering a vibrant scene of rock, hip-hop, Bulgarian and American-style pop, techno, and chalga. In October 2006, The Independent dubbed Varna "Europe's new funky-town, the good-time capital of Bulgaria".[37] The city enjoys a nationwide reputation for its rock, hip-hop, world music, and other artists, clubs, and related events such as July Morning and international rock and hip-hop (including graffiti[38]) venues.

The city beaches, also known as sea baths (морски бани, morski bani), are dotted with hot (up to 55°С/131°F) sulphuric mineral water sources (used for spas, swimming pools and public showers) and punctured by small sheltered marinas. Additionally, the 2.05 km (1.27 mi) long, 52 m (171 ft) high Asparuhov most bridge is a popular spot for bungee jumping. Outside the city are the Euxinograd palace, park and winery, the University of Sofia Botanical Garden (Ecopark Varna), the Pobiti Kamani rock phenomenon, and the medieval cave monastery, Aladzha.

Tourist shopping areas include the boutique rows along Prince Boris Blvd (with retail rents rivaling Vitosha Blvd in Sofia) and adjacent pedestrian streets, as well as the large mall and big-box cluster in the Mladost district, suitable for motorists. Two other shopping plazas, Piccadilly Park and Central Plaza, are conveniently located to serve tourists in the resorts north of the city centre, both driving and riding the public transit. ATMs and 24/7 gas stations with convenience stores abound.

Food markets, among others, include supermarket chains Piccadilly and Burleks. In stores and restaurants, credit cards are normally accepted. There is a number of farmers markets offering fresh local produce; the Kolkhozen Pazar, the largest one, also has a fresh fish market but is located in a crowded area virtually inaccessible for cars.

Like other cities in the region, Varna has its share of stray dogs, for the most part calm and friendly, flashing orange clips on the ears showing they have been castrated and vaccinated. However, urban wildlife is dominated by the ubiquitous seagulls, while brown squirrels inhabit the Sea Garden. In January and February, migrating swans winter on the sheltered beaches.[39]


Notable old Bulgarian Orthodox temples include the metropolitan Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral (of the diocese of Varna and Veliki Preslav); the early 17th-century Theotokos Panagia (built on the site of an earlier church where Ladislaus III was perhaps buried); the St. Athanasius (former Greek metropolitan cathedral) on the footprint of a razed 10th-century church; the 15th-century St. Petka Parashkeva chapel; the seamen's church of Saint Nicholas; the Archangel Michael chapel, site of the first Bulgarian secular school from the National Revival era; and the Sts. Constantine and Helena church of the 14th-century suburban monastery of the same name.

The remains of a large 4th-5th-century stronghold basilica in Dzhanavara Park just south of town are becoming a tourist destination with some exquisite mosaics displayed in situ. The remains of another massive 9th-century basilica adjacent to the scriptorium at Boris I's Theotokos Panagia monastery are being excavated and conserved. A 4th-5th-century episcopal basilica north of the Thermae is also being restored. There is also a number of newer Orthodox temples; two, dedicated to apostle Andrew and the local martyr St. Procopius of Varna, are currently under construction. Many smaller Orthodox chapels have mushroomed in the area. In early 2009, Vasil Danev, leader of the ethnic Organization of the United Roma Communities (FORO), said local Roma would also erect an Orthodox chapel.

There is an old Armenian Apostolic church; two Roman Catholic churches (only one is now open and holds mass in Polish on Sundays), a thriving Evangelical Methodist episcopal church offering organ concerts, active Evangelical Pentecostal, Seventh-day Adventist, and two Baptist churches.

Two old mosques (one is open) have survived since Ottoman times, when there were 18 of them in town, as have two once stately but now dilapidated synagogues, a Sephardic and an Ashkenazic one, the latter in Gothic style (it is undergoing restoration). A new mosque was recently added in the southern Asparuhovo district serving the adjacent Muslim Roma neighborhood.

There is also a Buddhist centre.

On a different note, spiritual master Peter Deunov started preaching his Esoteric Christianity doctrine in Varna in the late 1890s, and, in 1899–1908, the yearly meetings of his Synarchic Chain, later known as the Universal White Brotherhood, were convened there.


By 1878, Varna was an Ottoman city of mostly wooden houses in a style characteristic of the Black Sea coast, densely packed along narrow, winding alleys. It was surrounded by a stone wall restored in the 1830s with a citadel, a moat, ornamented iron gates flanked by towers, and a vaulted stone bridge across the River Varna. The place abounded in pre-Ottoman relics, ancient ruins were widely used as stone quarries.

Today, very little of this legacy remains; the city centre was rebuilt by the nascent Bulgarian middle class in late 1800s and early 1900s in Western style with local interpretations of Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Baroque, Neoclassicism, Art Nouveau and Art Deco (many of those buildings, whose ownership was restored after 1989, underwent renovations).

Stone masonry from demolished city walls was used for the cathedral, the two elite high schools, and for paving new boulevards. The middle class built practical townhouses and coop buildings. Elegant mansions were erected on main boulevards and in the vineyards north of town. A few industrial working-class suburbs (of one-family cottages with small green yards) emerged. Refugees from the 1910s' wars also settled in similar poorer yet vibrant neighbourhoods along the city edges.

During the rapid urbanization of the 1960s to the early 1980s, large apartment complexes sprawled onto land formerly covered by small private vineyards or agricultural cooperatives as the city population tripled. Beach resorts were designed mostly in a sleek modern style, which was somewhat lost in their recent more lavish renovations. Modern landmarks of the 1960s include the Palace of Culture and Sports (1968).

With the country's return to capitalism since 1989, upscale apartment buildings mushroomed both downtown and on uptown terraces overlooking the sea and the lake. Varna's vineyards (лозя, lozya), dating back perhaps to antiquity and stretching for miles around, started turning from mostly rural grounds dotted with summer houses or vili into affluent suburbs sporting opulent villas and family hotels, epitomized by the researched postmodernist kitsch of the Villa Aqua.

With the new suburban construction far outpacing infrastructure growth, ancient landslides were activated, temporarily disrupting major highways. As the number of vehicles quadrupled since 1989, Varna became known for traffic jams; parking on the old town's leafy but narrow streets normally takes the sidewalks. At the same time, stretches of shanty towns, more befitting Rio de Janeiro, remain in Roma neighbourhoods on the western edge of town due to complexities of local politics.

The beach resorts were rebuilt and expanded, fortunately without being as heavily overdeveloped as were other tourist destinations on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, and their greenery was mostly preserved. New modern office buildings started reshaping the old centre and the city's surroundings.[40][41]


Higher learning institutions

The University of Economics, founded in 1920 as the Higher Business School, is the second oldest Bulgarian university, the oldest one outside Sofia, and the first private one—underwritten by the Varna Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Prof. Tsani Kalyandzhiev, who was educated at Zürich and made a career as a research chemist in the United States, was its first Rector (President).

The Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy is successor to the nation's oldest technical school, the Naval Machinery School, established in 1881 and renamed His Majesty's Naval Academy in 1942. Other higher schools include the Medical University, the Technical University, the Chernorizets Hrabar Varna Free University—the first private university in the land after 1989, three junior colleges, and two local branches of other Bulgarian universities.

There are four Bulgarian Academy of Sciences research institutes (of oceanology, fisheries, aero and hydrodynamics, and metallography), a government research institution (shipping), and a now-defunct naval architecture design bureau. The Institute of Oceanology (IO-BAS) has been active in Black Sea deluge theory studies and deepwater archaeology in cooperation with Columbia University, MIT, UPenn, and National Geographic.

In 2007, Varna was home to a total of 2,500 faculty and researchers and over 30,000 students.

Kaliakra, the Naval Academy training barquentine, in Varna Bay
National Naval Museum, on display Drazki torpedo boat
Chaika apartment complex, the socialist showcase for the 1972 World Congress of Architecture
Officers' Beach at sunset
A beach at Golden Sands
Grand Hotel Hermitage, Golden Sands
Festival Centre organ

Local universities:

Other universities' local branches:

Noted high schools (gymnasia)



Varna has some of the finest and oldest museums, professional arts companies, and arts festivals in the nation and is known for its century-old traditions in visual arts, music, and book publishing, as well as for its bustling current pop-culture scene. Over the past few decades, it developed as a festival centre of international standing. Varna is a front-runner for European Capital of Culture for 2019, planning to open several new high-profile facilities such as a new opera house and concert hall, a new exhibition centre, and a reconstruction of the Summer Theatre, the historic venue of the International Ballet Competition.



Performing arts professional companies

Other performing arts groups

  • Morski Zvutsi Choir School (academic choirs)
  • Dobri Hristov Choir School (academic choir)

Notable bands and artists

  • Lot Lorien (World/Fusion/Progressive)
  • Deep Zone (Tech House/Euro)
  • DJ Balthazar (Tech House/Euro)
  • Big Sha and the Gumeni glavi (Rubber Heads) (Hip Hop)
  • 100 Kila (Hip Hop)
  • Elitsa Todorova (Ethnic & Electro)
  • Indignity (Hardcore)
  • Outrage (Hardcore)
  • One Faith (Hardcore)
  • Crowfish (Progressive/Punk/Indie)
  • Maniacal Pictures (Alternative/Rock/Post Punk)
  • Minddread (Metal/Thrash/Progressive)
  • ClearLand (Rock/Classic Rock/Progressive)
  • Pizza (Punk/Ska/Rock)
  • A-Moral (Punk/Hardcore)
  • On Our Own (Hardcore)
  • Cold Breath (Hardcore)
  • Sealed In Blood (Hardcore/Metal)
  • ENE (Alternative/Folk/Other)
  • EASTRIBE (Metal/Hardcore/Alternative)
  • Zayo Bayo Gives Me The Creeps (Metal/Grunge/Comedy)
  • Gergana (Pop/Techno/Ethnic)

Other institutions

International arts festivals

National events

  • Golden Rose Bulgarian Feature Film Festival (biennial)
  • Got Flow National Hip-Hop Dance Festival (annual)
  • May Arts Saloon at Radio Varna
  • Bulgaria for All National Ethnic Festival (annual, minority authentic folklore)
  • Dinyo Marinov National Children's Authentic Folklore Music Festival
  • Morsko konche (Seahorse) children's vocal competition (annual, pop)
  • Navy Day (second Sunday of August)
  • Urban Folk Song Festival
  • Christmas Folk Dance Competition

Local events

  • Easter music festival
  • Classical guitar festival
  • Golden Fish fairy tale festival
  • Kinohit movie marathon
  • Crafts fair
  • Dormition of the Theotokos festival, cathedral patron, Varna Day (August 15)
  • Beer Fest
  • Saint Nicholas Day (December 6)
  • Christmas festival
  • New Year's Eve concert and fireworks (Independence Square)


As early as the 1880s, numerous daily and weekly newspapers were published in Bulgarian and several minority languages. Radio Varna opened in 1934. Galaktika book publishing house occupied a prominent place nationally in the 1970–1990s, focusing on international sci-fi and marine fiction, contemporary non-fiction and poetry.

Nicolaus Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium
City Hall
New housing in the Briz district
A woman and a boy enjoying Varna's beautiful aerial chairlift ride at "Chaika Quarter"

Local newspapers

National newspapers' local editions


Publishing houses

  • Alfiola (New Age)
  • Alpha Print (advertising)
  • Atlantis
  • Kompas
  • Liternet (poetry, fiction, non-fiction: electronic and print)
  • Обяви Варна (free classifieds)
  • Naroden Buditel (history)
  • Slavena (history, children's books, travel, multimedia, advertising)

Local radio stations

Local TV stations

Web portals


  • Sveta Marina University Hospital for active treatment
  • Sveta Anna Hospital for active treatment
  • Navy Hospital
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital
  • Dr. Marko Markov Interdistrict Dispensary for Oncological Diseases
  • Sveta Petka Ophthalmology Clinic
  • Kamee Clinic, plastic and reconstructive surgery
  • Valem, plastic and aesthetic surgery
  • Kibela Consultancy Centre, psychological consultancy
  • Universum Medical, alternative medicine and massage
  • Dentaprime Clinic, dental implants and aesthetic dentistry


A municipal sports field
A municipal swimming pool
Palace of Culture and Sports

Football is the biggest spectator sport with two rival clubs in the nation's top professional league, Cherno More (the Sailors), founded in 1913 and four times national champion, including the first championship in 1925, and Spartak (the Falcons), founded in 1918, one time champion and participant in the UEFA Cup in 1983, when it reached the second knockout round and played Manchester United.

In the late 1800s, Varna was considered the birthplace of Bulgarian football with a Swiss gym teacher, Georges de Regibus, coaching the first varsity team at the men's high school. In February 2007, the city decided to replace its antiquated 1950's municipal stadium with a new arena according to UEFA/FIFA specifications.[43] The new venue will seat 30,000 (40,000 for concerts including standing room). Another state-of the-art track-and-field stadium with a capacity of 5,000 seats and training halls for professional and public use will open in the Mladost district in 2009 to compensate for the lost track-and-field capacity of old Varna stadium.[44]

Men's basketball (Euroins Cherno More), women's volleyball, gymnastics, boxing, martial arts, and sailing are also vibrant. The 4.5 km (2.8 mi) swimmimg marathon Cape Galata—Varna is a popular venue. Varna hosts international competitions, including world championships, and national events in several sports on a regular basis, including auto racing and motocross. Bulgarian national basketball and volleyball teams host their games, including Volleyball World Cup games, at the Palace of Culture and Sports, the country's largest arena. Currently (2007), three 18-hole golf courses of professional quality are being developed north of the city in the vicinity of Balchik and Kavarna, with more to come. A hippodrome with a horseback riding school is located in the Vinitsa neighborhood, and Asparuhov most is the foremost bungee jumping spot in the nation due to the local Club Adrenalin.

In early August 2007, a new municipal sports complex with fields for football, basketball and volleyball was opened as a part of a larger complex of sports facilities, mini-golf, tennis, biking alleys, mini-lakes and ice-skating rinks in the district of Mladost. Smaller municipal fields opened in the Sea Garden, Asparuhov Val Park, and elsewhere; the municipal Olympic-size swimming pool complex was rebuilt also in 2007, and the first segment of a bike lane to connect the Sea Garden with the westernmost residential districts was completed outside City Hall.[45] Paying tribute to the golf course development mania, the mayor vowed to build a free municipal driving range in the district of Asparuhovo.[46] The new urban general plan (under discussion in early 2008) envisages a large public amateur sports complex south of Lake Varna[47] and a ski run with artificial snow covering.

The number and range of fitness, wellness and recreation clubs in Varna is rapidly growing which reflects the positive change of lifestyle of the average Varna citizen.

Varna athletes won 4 of the 12 medals for Bulgaria at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Organized crime

As in other Bulgarian cities, some sectors of the economy, including gambling, corporate security, tourism, real estate, and professional sports, are believed to be controlled in part by shady business groups with links to Communist-era secret services or the military; the TIM group[48] is one example.[49][50] In 2003, Iliya Pavlov, chairman of MG Holding (former Multigroup), owner of the posh St. Elias resort at Constantine and Helena and president of PFC Cherno more, was shot down in Sofia,[51] as was Emil Kyulev, chairman of DZI Financial Group and owner of the stylish Holiday Club Riviera resort at Golden Sands,[52] in 2005. The perpetrators are still unknown. Varna has also seen gangland- (mutri-) style bombings, and is believed to be a hangout for Russian and Chechen mafias.[53]

However, it is noted that in Varna, the mutri presence is by no means as visible as it is in smaller coastal towns and resorts. Over the last couple of years, crime has subsided, which is said to have contributed to Varna's naming as Bulgaria's Best City to Live In (2007);[21] in 2007, the regional police chief was promoted to the helm of the national police service.

In January 2009, the Financial Times said that "communism [was] followed [by] a gritty transition period, including shootings of local mobsters in crowded seaside cafés. But, according to residents, a group of ex-Bulgarian marines nicknamed the Varna Seals eventually managed to expel members of the Russian, Chechen, Ukrainian and Georgian mafias vying for control of the port and the city's underground economy. And today 'you can stroll around the centre late at night without problems.'"[27]

International Relations

Twin towns and sister cities

Varna is twinned with:


Varna Peninsula on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Varna.[55]

Varna, Illinois, a small town of 400 people, was named in this city's honour. The War of Varna was going on at the time.

Varna in fiction

Varna was the point of origin of the ship Demeter in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula.[56]

British spy 07 kidnapped Soviet physicist Konstantin Trofimov from a villa in Varna in Andrei Gulyashki's novel Avakoum Zahov versus 07.


See also


  1. ^ "Таблица на населението по постоянен и настоящ адрес". ГД "Гражданска Регистрация и Административно Обслужване". Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  2. ^ a b General Directorate of Citizens' Registration and Administrative Services: Population Chart by permanent and tempoprary address (for provinces, municipalities and settlements) as of 15 December 2009, (Bulgarian). Retrieved on 2010-01-14
  3. ^ Varna Becomes Centre of the Black Sea Euro-Region (Bulgarian). Retrieved on 2008-04-16
  4. ^ a b Municipality of Varna: Information (Bulgarian). Retrieved on 2007-02-10
  5. ^ "Varna, Bulgaria". Retrieved September 7, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Borislav Petrov. "Ранновизантийската базилика". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  7. ^ "w-r- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  8. ^ Дървен град предхожда каменната Плиска (Bulgarian). Retrieved on 2006-01-28
  9. ^ Apostolov, Shanko (Director, Władysław Warneńczyk Park Museum, Varna). The Campaigns of Ladislaus of Varna and John Hunyadi in 1443–1444 (Bulgarian). Retrieved 2007-02-10
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "Дневник + | Варна градът, който изпреварва дори статистиката". 2007-09-16. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  12. ^ "Logistic Park Varna received First Class Investor Certificate - Daily News Article". 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  13. ^ a b "Business". The Sofia Echo. 2007-04-23. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ "Business Park Varna - ONE STEP FORWARD". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  16. ^ " - „Варна Тауърс" ООД взе отличие за топ - инвеститор". 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  17. ^ "Бизнес | Варна започва строителството на още един мол". 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ WebFX Studio. "Черно море - новините тогава, когато се случват". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  20. ^ "SOUTHERN EUROPE - South-eastern city of the future: Varna, Bulgaria - Foreign Direct Investment (fDi)". 2004-08-09.,_Bulgaria.html. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  21. ^ a b "Варна е най-добрият град за живеене в България - DARIK News". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  22. ^ "CEEOL Balkan Studies, Issue 2 /2004". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  23. ^ Georgi Gentchev. "varna sled 1876". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  24. ^ Plovdiv uncrowned on New Year 2007, it's now put third after Varna.
  25. ^ "Варна | Варна ще се застрои до Бяла, смята зам.-кмет". 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  26. ^ "Варна | Кирил Йорданов: Във Варна живеят близо 1 милион. 60% са без варненска регистрация". 2008-12-23. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  27. ^ a b c "/ Weekend / House & Home - Port in a storm". 2009-01-17. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  28. ^ a b "По неофициални данни населението на Варна е над 550 000 хиляди души". 2010-01-14. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  29. ^ "Мрежа | Започва битката за детските градини | Общината: Не правете обсади, класирането ще е онлайн". 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ ":-Община Варна-:". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  32. ^ ":-Община Варна-:". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  33. ^ "Окръжен съд Варна". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  34. ^ "Bulgaria - Embassies and Consulates". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ОУП%20Варна
  37. ^ "Bulgaria: Get the party started - Europe, Travel - The Independent". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  38. ^ "Graffiti Festival Organized in Varna resort, Bulgaria". 2006-05-26. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  39. ^ "In Pictures | Day in pictures". BBC News. 2006-02-01. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  40. ^ "TheShip - winner for best architect of 2005 for Vanya Karadjova". Varna Bulgaria Info. 
  41. ^ "Apollo Centre". The Sawyers Group, UK. 
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Ńďîđňĺí Ęîěďëĺęń Âŕđíŕ". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  44. ^ WebDesign Ltd. "Нов лекоатлетически стадион "Младост" във Варна". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  45. ^ "Денят - Откриват първата велоалея във Варна - Стандарт". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  46. ^ [2]
  47. ^ WebFX Studio. "Черно море - новините тогава, когато се случват". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  48. ^ "Ascent of Bulgarian TIM". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  49. ^ Former Secret Services Control the Bulgarian Economy (Бившите тайни служби контролират българската икономика, Mediapool, in Bulgarian). Retrieved 2007-04-11
  50. ^ Editor-in-chief of Varna daily brutally assaulted (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee). Retrieved 2007-02-10
  51. ^ Bullet for a Billionaire (Sofia Echo). Retrieved 2007-02-10
  52. ^ Bulgarian Banker Shot Dead (Sofia Echo). Retrieved 2007-02-10
  53. ^ Three Foreigners Expelled (Government of the Republic of Bulgaria, Information and Public Relations Directorate). Retrieved 2007-02-10
  54. ^ "Malmö stads vänortssamarbete" (in Swedish). © 2004-2009 Malmö stad, 205 80 Malmö, Organisationsnummer: 212000-1124. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  55. ^ [3]
  56. ^ "25 - Dracula - Bram Stoker (1845–1912)". 2008-09-30. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Varna (Bulgarian: Варна) is a city in Bulgaria.


Varna is the northern one of two major Bulgarian cities on the coast of Black Sea (the other one is Burgas).

  • Varna Airport (IATA: VAR) (ICAO: LBWN), 8 km west of the city centre, [1]. Easy bus and taxi connection to city centre and resorts.

Airlines and destinations

  • Air Via (Berlin-Schönefeld, Berlin-Tegel, Frankfurt)
  • Arkia Israel Airlines (Tel Aviv)
  • Austrian Airlines operated by Austrian Arrows (Vienna)
  • Balkan Holidays (Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Brimingham, Cardiff, Doncaster, Edinburgh, East Midlands, Glasgow, Humberside, Leeds Bradford, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle, Prestwick, Southampton)
  • British Airways (London-Gatwick)
  • Bulgaria Air (Amsterdam, Berlin-Schönefeld, Berlin-Tegel, Cologne/Bonn, Dublin, London-Gatwick, Madrid, Milan-Malpensa, Vienna)
  • Bulgarian Air Charter (Berlin-Schönefeld, Berlin-Tegel, Cologne/Bonn, Frankfurt)
  • Condor Airlines (Stuttgart)
  • Germanwings (Berlin-Schönefeld, Cologne/Bonn)
  • Fischer Air Polska (Warsaw)
  • First Choice Airways (London Gatwick, Manchester)
  • Hemus Air (Burgas, Sofia)
  • LTU International (Berlin-Schönefeld, Cologne/Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart)
  • Jetairfly Brussels
  • Malév Hungarian Airlines (Budapest)
  • Thomsonfly (East Midlands, London-Gatwick, Manchester)
  • Thomas Cook Airlines (Birmingham, London Gatwick)
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle (Oslo)
  • Ural Airlines (Yekatirenburg)
  • Wizz Air (Budapest) [starts June 10, 2007]
  • Vim Airlines (Moscow, Ufa)
  • Central train station is located within walking distance from city centre and cruise terminal, there is bus and taxi connection to airport, bus stations, and resorts. Regular connections to/from Sofia, Plovdiv, and Ruse.

International trains to/from Prague (Czech Republic), Krakow (Poland), Moscow, and Saratov (Russia).

NEW TRAIN Bucuresti Nord - Varna - Bucuresti Nord: from 15.June 2009 to 06. September 2009:

  1. 1131 d.06:25 Bucuresti Nord a.23:59

a.09:34 d.09:49 Medgidia a.20:27 d.20:42 a.10:52 d.11:15 Negru voda  a.19:05 d.19:20 a.11:40 d.12:02 Kardam  a.18:20 d.18:40 a.13:03 d.13:09 Dobric a.17:09 d.17:12 a.14:45 Varna a.15:30 # 1132

Link: [2]

By car

Varna can be reached by Haemus Motorway (A2) from Sofia, E70 from Rousse (and Bucharest), E87 from Constanta, Romania, and Cherno More Motorway (A3)/E87 from Istanbul, Turkey.

By bus

There are two bus stations in Varna, one serving the local area and one for longer connections to Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, Burgas, Plovdiv, Istanbul, Greece, Romania, Central and Western Europe. They aren't that easy to find, so take a taxi. As you approach them from the city centre, the station to the left is the local one, to the right is the long distance one.

By boat

Varna is Bulgaria's only cruise destination. Cruise terminal is located near city centre, close to train station, walking distance to Sea Garden and beaches. Bus and taxi connection to city centre, bus stations, airport, and resorts. There are ferry lines (buses only) to Ukraine and Georgia.

Get around

There are a pedestrian area and a coast area with a lot of fun for the tourists. There you should get around by foot. If you live in the tourist suburbs of Varna, you can come to the centre by bus, by trolleybus, by a rented car or by taxi. Take careful with the taxis: You may pay 10 times the right price, and to check for the the fair per kilometer look at the small square paper plate located at lower corner of the rear doors' windows. Good taxi companies are City Taxi 1, OK Trans (OK Транс), Varna (Варна), Evro (Евро), Maxa (Макса) and Pontea (Понтеа).


City landmarks include the Varna Archaeological Museum, exhibiting the Gold of Varna, a cache of chalcolithic grave-goods, which constitute the oldest gold treasure in the world, the large and well preserved Roman Baths, Władysław Warneńczyk Park Museum, the Naval Museum, displaying the museum ship torpedo boat Drazki, the Museum of Ethnography.

The Sea Garden is the oldest and perhaps largest park containing the Varna Aquarium, the Varna Dolphinarium (opened 1984), the Nicolaus Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium], the Museum of Natural History, a terrarium, a zoo, and other attractions. The Garden is a national monument of landscape architecture.

The waterfront promenade underneath is lined by a string of beach clubs offering a vibrant (albeit noisy) scene of rock, hip-hop, American-style pop, house, and chalga (Bulgarian pop folk). The city beaches, also known as sea baths are dotted with hot sulphuric mineral springs and punctured by small sheltered marinas. Additionally, the 2.4 km long, 50 m high Asparuhov Most bridge is a popular spot for bungee jumping.

Notable old Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox churches include the metrpolitan Assumption of Mary Cathedral; the early 17th-century Theotokos Panagia; the St. Athanasius (former Greek etropolitan cathedral); the seamen's church of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker; the Archangel Michael's chapel; and the Sts. Constantine and Helena church of the 16th century suburban monastery of the same name.

Varna's centre was rebuilt in late 19th and the earlier half of the 20th century by the nascent Bulgarian middle class in Western style, with local interpretations of Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Baroque, Neoclassicism, Art Nouveau and Art Deco.


There is a large tourist place where you can enjoy whatever entertainment that can be bought for money. There is something for every taste . But, you can also have nice walks in Varna.

BEACH - BEER - PARTY - SLEEP (repeat as required)


University of Economics and College of Tourism
Naval Academy
Technical University and Varna College
Medical University and Medical College
Chernorizets Hrabar Varna Free University
New Bulgarian University Local Centre
University of Shumen Teacher Centre (graduate)

  • Shipyard
  • Ship repair yards
  • Cargo port, East and West
  • Chemical plants near the Varna lake


In May of 2008, there were three large shopping malls (Pfohe Mall, Central Plaza, and Mall of Varna) and another five projects in various stages of development (Grand Mall, Gallery Mall, Cherno More Park, Varna Towers, and Varna Stadium) turning Varna into an attractive international shopping destination. There are also several international big-box retailers (Metro, Kaufland) on the outskirts and traditional downtown shopping streets with boutiques and gift shops. Plenty of tourist stuff in the resorts sold in small stalls.


Varna is cheap compared to Western countries, but expensive compared to Bulgarian standards. The tourist industry distorts the general price level. But, you can have a meal for 3-4 Euro.


The Happy Bar and Grill, a Bulgarian restaurant chain, is based in Varna. It's cheap - midrange, and serves tasty kebabs.


The beach at night tends to have the most night life in the summer. Best night clubs in 2007: Extravaganza, A-Lounge (Varna beach alley), Agression, Bonkers, Masai, PR Club (Golden Sands), Totally Romantic (Kabakum beach).


There are a number of hotels in the city ranging from 5 to 2 stars. North of Varna, along a continuous 20-km-long strip, are the beachfront resorts of Euxinograd, Constatine and Helena, Sunny Day, Chaika, Riviera, and Golden Sands, with a total of more than 60,000 hotel beds, plus several villa communities offering private lodgings

  • Gregory's Backpackers, tel: +359 (0) 52 379909, e-mail: [3] [4]. A great hostel just outside the center of Varna in the village of Zvezditsa. With an abundance of facilities including bar, dvd/satellite tv lounge with comfy couches and beanbags, well equipped guest kitchen, internet cafe with all mod cons, up-to-date travel information area, pool & table tennis tables, darts, book exchange. Run by a young outgoing well travelled British couple, they have a free pick-up service plus a daily shuttle to the beach and the city centre, or there is an hourly bus that takes about 15 mins (approx 75 stotinki / 0.40 euro cents.) Taxis are approximately 10 to 15 lv (5 to 8 euros) depending on the time of day.
  • Flag Varna Hostel [5] [6] 10 minutes walk from the beach and the bars. The owner goes out of his way to make all guests feel welcome, and the atmosphere is incredible. Anyone who wants to can take a free bike tour in the mornings after a free breakfast. The staff are happy to spend time showing the guests around the town by day or by night, and most people who stay here end up extending their stay! All guests enjoy free beer at 7PM every night, which usually kick starts a fun evening of games and music followed by partying at the best and cheapest bars in Varna. If there is somewhere you would like to go, either by day or by night, speak to the owner and it can be arranged! hostel outings include trips to a nearby deserted beach, trips to the clubbing resort of golden sands, and even trips to Vama Veche in Romania! It has been said that this hostel is a MUST for all back-packers. The reviews on speak for themself.
  • Varna Hostel, Apartment 9, floor 3 , 16 Dunav st., +35952/ 977 645; +359 896 928 437, [7]. Located in the very centre of Varna, 200M from the central train station. With wifi internet access , TV and multimedia systems in the communal area, Single and double bed accommodation, free tea and coffee and much more, we can offer comfortable facilities to suit everyone all in recently renovated apartment. With the city centre 2 minutes walk away and the beach 5 minutes walk away we are within easy reach of Varna's vibrant nightlife, high quality restaurants and bars, casinos, roman ruins turkish bazaar's and fantastic pedestrianised shopping areas. 11.80 euro.  edit
  • X Hostel Waikiki, [8] 16th Street 19, Euxinograd - +359 (0) 885049084, one of Varna's party hostels, as seen in the hostelworld's reviews. Its a short bus drive out of the city, close to the beach and mineral baths. Easy access to Golden Sands where they organize Foam and beach parties and huge pub crawls. Take bue 8, 9, 11, 109, 309 or 409 to bus stop Marek where you find signposts. Special deals and discounts in low season.
  • Alekta Hotel is in the northern part of the Sea Garden, on the outskirts of the town, 200 m from the sea and about a 20 minute walk from the town center, which can also be reached by regular bus services or by taxi.
  • Amfora Hotel is situated 8 km north of Varna in St. Konstantin, [9]. The hotel is nice and not far from the coast (about 15 min).
  • Ellinis Hotel built in 2005 is on the main road connecting Varna with the sea resorts "St. Konstantin and Helena" and "Golden Sands", 12 km from the airport, 1500 m from the beach, and 5 minutes away from the city center. All rooms have balconies with sea views.
  • SesBreath apartment, 21 Petar Enchev st, +359898424022, [10]. 2 nice bedrooms with a lounge, dining room, kitchen and shower room about 50m far from the central beach.  edit
  • Hotel Divesta is in the center of Varna, close to the main bus station.

Stay safe

Varna is in general a fairly safe place, though special caution should be taken in regards to the mafia. There have been several cases of tourists being assaulted by the mafia for improper behavior, such as the brutal beating of an Icelandic teenage girl in the summer of 2007. Try not to give anyone who might be driving a black sports car, wearing a suit with glasses a bad eye. Common sense, courtesy and respect is always the best thing you can pursue.

Stay away from people offering money change on the street they are all cheaters. They usually are located in the area of the Cathedral(kozirkata) and also it's a typical place for gipsy pick pocketers so be careful. If you are driving a car be careful where you stop because it can be remover from the well known machines "spiders" wich will move your car and you will need to pay a penalty fee and loose much time.

Get out

Outside the city are the Euxinograd palace, park and winery, the Ecopark Varna Botanical Garden, the Pobiti Kamani rock phenomenon, the cave monastery Aladzha, and the Kamchiya biosphere reserve (UNESCO-protected)

  • Golden Sands Resort is 17 km from downtown Varna (north)
  • Sveti Konstantin and Helena is 10 km north from downtown Varna - it is a small, but peaceful and very green resort. Many nice hotels offer mineral water SPA services, due to the abundance of hot mineral springs all over the area.
  • Albena - 30 km north from Varna. An old style resort, with an architecture from the Communist times. Peaceful area though. Since the whole resort is owned by a single private company, it is one of the very few places on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast that does not suffer from overbuilding.
  • The town of Balchik features a small palace and a beautiful botanical garden; 40 km away (north)
  • Many wild beaches south of town (Pasha Dere, Shkorpilovtsi, Karadere, Irakli)
  • The town of Kavarna (каварна) is 60 km away north. It holds the Kavarna Rock Fest in early July, the largest rock event in the Balkans and Black Sea region
  • Cape Kaliakra - the longest cape in Bulgaria. Stunning views to the sea and the red cliffs. A place with rich history and many legends. Worth visiting. 80 km away, north.
  • The high rocky coast near the small Kamen Bryag (Камен бряг, literally: Rocky Coast) village has been popular among Bulgarian's hippies; 82 km away (north)
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

VARNA, a fortress, seaport, departmental capital and episcopal city of Bulgaria; on the Bay of Varna, an inlet of the Black Sea, in 43° 12' N. and 27° 56' E. Pop. (1906) 37,155. Varna is built on the hilly north shore of the bay, overlooking the estuary of the river Devna or Pravadi, which flows seaward through a magnificent valley surrounded by mountains. It is the eastern terminus of the Varna-Rustchuk railway, opened in 1867, and is connected with all parts of the kingdom by branches of this line. The so-called "Varna quadrilateral," which has played an important part in Bulgarian military history, consists of the fortresses of Varna, Shumla, Rustchuk and Silistria. Varna is the third city of the kingdom in population, after Sofia and Philippopolis, and ranks with Burgas as one of the two principal seaports. Its deep and capacious bay is sheltered from northerly and north-easterly winds, and the construction of modern harbour works has greatly increased the facilities for trade. The principal exports are cattle and dairy produce, grain, lamb and goat skins, and cloth (shayak); the imports include coal, iron and machinery, textiles, petroleum and chemicals. In 1907 the port was entered by 869 ships of 926,449 tons, the largest number of vessels being Bulgarian and the greatest tonnage AustroHungarian. Wine is largely produced in the department, and in the city there are breweries, distilleries, tanneries and cloth factories; cotton-spinning was introduced by a British firm. There is a large and commercially important colony of Greeks; the Jews, Turks and gipsies are also numerous. Much of the city has been constructed since 1878, and the barracks, post office, college for girls and National Bank are handsome modern buildings. Near Varna is the summer palace of the king of Bulgaria.

Varna has been identified with the ancient Milesian colony of Odessus on the coast of Moesia Inferior. It figures largely in the history of more recent times, and close by was fought in 1444 the battle in which Murad II. slew Wladislaus III. of Poland and Hungary, and routed his forces commanded by Hunyadi Janos. Varna was occupied in 1828 by the Russians, in 1854 by the allies, who here organized the invasion of the Crimea, and in 1877 by the Egyptian troops summoned to the defence of Turkey against the Russians. By the treaty of Berlin (1878) it was ceded to Bulgaria. It has long been the seat of a Greek metropolitan and since 1870 of a Bulgarian bishop.

<< John Varley

Karl August Varnhagen Von Ense >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also varna






Varna (plural Varnas)

  1. Alternative spelling of varna.

Proper noun




  1. A city in northeastern Bulgaria.



Proper noun

Varna f. (plural: Varny, stem: Varn, genitive pl.: Varien)
declension pattern žena
  1. Varna


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