Varna is the largest city on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast and lies in the Bay of Varna. The city’s structure resembles an amphitheatre as it follows the curves of the Bay of Varna. It is surrounded by gardens, vineyards and groves. The city is situated within 400 km away from Sofia and about 115 km from Burgas.

Primitive people have inhabited the area since the Neolithic period, their cultures based predominantly on fishing in the Varna lagoon. About 1200BC a Thracian tribe called the Krobisae established a settlement. Ancient Greek settlers from Miletus in Asia Minor founded a colony called Odessus in 585BC. In the 4th century BC Odessus fell under the rule of the Macedonian kings, and from 431 to 280 formed part of the state of Macedonia. Later it was a leader of the Euxine League, along with Tomi, Callatis, Mesembria and Apollonia. Odessus fell to the Romans in 15AD, and became one of the most prosperous and powerful cities on the Black Sea under their rule. The city, now called Varna, a Slav name, was taken by the Bulgarians in 681, but recaptured by the Byzantines in 970. In 1201, Varna was returned to the Bulgarian Kingdom. Varna was an important defensive fortress for the Ottomans for centuries. A Greek-speaking population remained in the city throughout the Turkish period. Varna was sieged by large armies of Poles in 1443, and Russians in 1773. At the end of the 18th century, trade prospered, with cattle exports being particularly important. In 1828 invading Russian forces established control over Varna. The port was rebuilt by British engineers after the Bulgarian Liberation in 1878, and was finally completed in 1906. Following the World War II, Varna was called Stalin, after the Soviet Union leader. In 1947, Tito and Dimitrov signed the Varna Agreement, which envisioned a custom union of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria as a step towards a Balkan Federation. Today Varna is the main port for both naval and commercial shipping.

Things to see:
In the city:

Bulgaria’s maritime capital, Varna is by far the most interesting and cosmopolitan city on the Black Sea coast. A combination of port city, naval base and seaside resort, it’s an appealing place to while away a few days, packed with history yet thoroughly modern, with an enormous park to amble round and a lengthy beach to lounge on. It’s a cosmopolitan character is reflected in the architecture: Baroque, turn-of-the-century and contemporary architecture pleasantly blend with shady promenades and lush green gardens. Near the port of Varna, the oldest gold treasure in the world (dated from 4,500 BC) was found in 1972; an ancient necropolis with 280 tombs and 3,010 golden objects were found weighing over 6 kg altogether. According to experts it is the oldest processed gold found in Europe. In the city centre you’ll find Bulgaria’s largest Roman baths complex and its finest archaeological museum, as well as a lively cultural and restaurant scene. Among the highlights of Varna, a must are the Marine Gardens, which are the largest on the Balkans as well as the Euxinograd Park - the former Royal Palace. During the summer season, the nice moderate temperatures, the pleasant parks, the beautiful beaches and buzzing party scene, make the city an attractive holiday destination. Varna does not fail to impress with its various historic sites. The former Girls High School, which used to be the biggest in the Balkans, today houses the Archaeological Museum that holds one of the country's richest collections. A special treasury displays priceless gold jewels and amazing ancient works. The icon and church plate exposition is quite interesting as well. The Ethnographic Museum has displays exhibits showing traditional means of livelihood and folklore costumes. The Naval Museum hides in the shady alleys of the Marine Gardens. The Museum of the History of Medicine is in what used to be the city's first hospital and possesses the richest anthropological collection in Bulgaria. The Museum of New History occupies the oldest house in Varna that was built in 1851. Bulgaria's only Aquarium with unique facade covered in ivy attracts many visitors. 

Outside the city:
The city of Varna makes an ideal base for day trips to nearby beach resorts such as Sveti Konstantin and Golden Sands (Zlatni Pyasâtsi), and the charming town of Balchik.

The Stone forest near Varna is a fabulous natural phenomenon also known as "Pobitite Kamani" which from Bulgarian means "stones fixed into the ground" - a name completely corresponding to the reality. The Stone forest consists of numerous limestone pillars some of which reach 10 m of height, hollow or solid cylinders, truncated cones, various rock formations and cliffs. It is believed that these carbonate - cemented sandstone structures were formed due to microbial methane oxidation around natural gas seepages also known as "bubbling". The cementation occurred in the sub - bottom marine sands some 50 million years ago and today the formed structures are exposed to the subsequent erosion of the surrounding unconsolidated sediments and the vertical tectonic movements of the earth crust. The spectacular landscape of "Pobitite Kamani" spreads out on a total area of more than 7 square km. near the town of Beloslav, Slunchevo and Banovo villages in Varna region. The stone poles were considered a sacred place for centuries but were documented for the first time in 1829 and since then they have attracted many scientists’ interest. The site was announced as a national natural landmark in 1938 and in the future may also be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List of Geological Forms.

The Wonder rocks are a spectacular rock phenomenon on the shore of Tsonevo dam, near the village of Asparuhovo and about 85 km away from Varna. The three arrays of steep 40-50 m high cliffs soaring above the lake like towers of the castle cover an area of 12.5 hectares. The water, sun and wind have formed these peculiar shapes in the soft limestone cliffs under which the people dug tunnel leading to a picturesque cave. It is a place with extraordinary natural beauty well worth the trip.

Photos from Varna

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