"As Contender for European City of Culture 2019..." Top 5 Page for this destination Varna by johngayton

Varna Travel Guide: 424 reviews and 1,119 photos

...she certainly gets my vote!

From the moment I saw the luminously blue-lit clocktower at the railway station as the train drew in I knew I was going to like Varna. Even though it was just after nightfall on a cool, damp, early May evening and I had just had an 8 hour train journey across country from Sofia I still had good feelings about my arrival. First impressions count for so much when arriving in a new place and as simple a thing as the well-presented rail terminus immediately conveyed the message: "Welcome To Varna!"

The Black Sea's Industrial Hub

Varna is Bulgaria's 3rd largest city and is the country's main commercial and naval port as well as being the main industrial centre on the Black Sea coast. Whilst the city is surrounded by heavy industry the city centre itself is a delight with its open spaces, wide streets and the magnificent Sea Gardens. Despite being densely populated in the suburbs Varna still manages to maintain a "small-town" feel and the pace of life belies its position as Bulgaria's 2nd most important economic city.

None of the stereotypes associated with a major industrial port town apply here. Try as I might I couldn't find any really dodgy dockfront bars, nor even a red-light area! Instead finding a pleasant mix of continental-style cafes, traditional and trendy restaurants and of course some decent pubs!

Other stereotypes which failed were the reports of Varna being in the thrall of organised crime and Bulgaria's oft reported levels of corruption in high places. I'm sure that, as with any city, there must be some degree of underworld activity and I'm sure too that dodgy deals must be done but the overall impression that I got from my two weeks here was of a clean, successful, forward-looking and happy-with-itself city where the local people seem proud of the environment that they have created for themselves. Smiles and laughter on the streets speak tomes about a place and in Varna these are thick tomes indeed.

Aspects of Culture

As one of Bulgaria's oldest cities Varna has a rich cultural history dating back into pre-history as evidenced by the discovery at Varna Necropolis of various gold and other artifacts from around 4,000 BC. Unfortunately on my last visit I only managed to find the time to get the merest tongue-tip taste of the diverse cultural life that Varna has to offer, both historically and contemporaneously, but on my next visit...(UPDATE Nov 2009 - thoroughly enjoyed!!).

Even though I only had the merest taste I did find Varna to have a great deal to offer and the city abounds with museums, theatres, art galleries, and magnificent architecture. Even just wandering the streets and parks one comes across a wealth of interesting (and usually unannounced) bits and pieces, including some rather pretty women ;)

During the course of the year Varna hosts a multitude of festivals and events ranging from an International Ballet Competition in July to its Summer Jazz Festival and all in all has something to offer even the most discerning visitor. Try this link: Events Diary

From my personal cultural viewpoint a big plus is the fact that it has its own brewery!!

Yep, definitely getting my vote for 2019's City of Culture.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:City Life without A City's Hurry!
  • Cons:Nothing Is Signposted Properly!!
  • In a nutshell:A Week's Visit Became 2 and I was tempted to make it 3!
  • Last visit to Varna: Jan 2010
  • Intro Updated Jan 7, 2010
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Reviews (65)

Comments (19)

  • May 1, 2013 at 6:20 AM

    Varna is a great seaside city. Still largely unexplored by western tourists. An eastern european, favourite holiday hotspot!

  • kenHuocj's Profile Photo
    Jan 28, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    appricate your Restaurant guide , with much insight. I know know of Varna, thanks ;-)))

    • johngayton's Profile Photo
      Jan 28, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      Thanks for the visit Ken - glad you found it useful (ditto with my Ottawa tip).

    • kenHuocj's Profile Photo
      Jan 28, 2013 at 1:05 PM

      and i'll be back perusing and digesting your other pages and pages of well researched pages

  • arturowan's Profile Photo
    Dec 21, 2012 at 2:24 AM

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only 1 who thinks Varna needs some proper signage for the tourist - & as for the corruption, I got sick of hearing this about 0dessa around the coast, but it all passed me by - maybe I was lucky?

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Nov 15, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    So many great sights there.... I would like to pay a visit some day....

  • Gillybob's Profile Photo
    Jul 1, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Not on your nelly!! Its my turn first - you stay home for a change!!! Gillybob greetings

  • Arkeolog's Profile Photo
    May 11, 2010 at 6:43 AM

    John, I always wanted to see neighbor's Varna. After reading your page realized that I should not postpone it any longer. Great page. Bora

  • May 11, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    Thanks John! Just to add that as we try all the time to improve the service and to entertain all the guests we will start very soon dj parties on non-football nights. As because of that we are changing our trade name to The ABSOLUT Bar. See you there!

  • Durfun's Profile Photo
    Feb 24, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    I too found the Bulgars very kind & helpful. Hats off to them & the super-soupy angels ;)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Jan 6, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    Varna sounds like a fine travel destination for the summer of 2019, if not sooner.

  • Dec 15, 2009 at 9:10 PM

    Sounds more like a vote for 2009 City of Beer

johngayton

“The slow lane often gets you there faster”

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