Well, the first thing you’re probably asking yourself is: “is a trip to Varna worth my while?”. That is a good question. There’s not really that much to see or do there maybe... But neither is there much to see or to do in Amsterdam apart from Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh and Stedelijk Museum. Varna has the Black Sea, gorgeous beaches, good food, a great atmosphere, some historic sights, nature, etc… So, actually, yes, you go visit Varna.
Where to stay
City Boutique Inn
a doubt, stay at City Boutique Inn! It's a very enjoyable experience, I promise. It’s a boutique inn, in the city. So far so good. But
Maggie, who runs the hotel, has an amazing approach. She’s bringing New England
American hospitality and level of service to Varna. That’s a very good thing in
my book. As soon as you enter the old bank building, which has been converted into
a Provincetown, Cape Cod style B&B, you’re in Maggie’s capable hands. It’s
all about a personal costumer journey. It’s quite amazing people!! SOooo rest assured, you’ll
be pampered the correct way, no fussing, no pushiness, no overacting... Maggie is also your live google for Varna: hangouts,
things to do, places to eat, how to steal a bride, wedding traditions, hangovers… she’s a beacon of knowledge. The rooms are very
very clean, homey, great beds and matrass, great shower, very good shampoos and products and soaps etc..., and the towels smell
really really nice. It’s your home away from home. This hotel was just magical, and added to my wonderful experience in Varna.
The best location you can imagine in Varna, very close to the beaches, in the old town, overlooking the Sea Garden.
Modern and comfortable.
I heard good things about it, friends of mine were very positive about Modus Hotel.
A bit further away from the beach. But it's a nice walk through the pedestrian area. The hotel itself is on a busy road though. Rooms are small but comfy and modern. A bunch of my friends stayed there and had no bad things to say about the place.
Things to see
Varna is a beach resort. In 1921 Varna was officially declared a resort city. It makes sense. The sea and the beaches are gorgeous. But then again, for us Belgians almost every beach outside of Belgium is gorgeous. Thanks to the Sea Garden and the foresty hill sides along the coast it looks very natural and disconnected from the bustling city. So no Belgian style hideous concrete wall style high rise along the beach. Good urban planning, and no Dutch were involved. The Bulgarians flew in Czech engineers.
|The Black Sea, Varna
Anyways, the beaches are thirsty places:
|Cubo Beach Life
Zeppelin Bar & Food
It's not a beach club. It's a bar/restaurant on the water. The problem with this place is that I didn't discover it soon enough. It's a hipster spot. Good coffee, well designed (it looks like a Brooklyn dive bar), and they do hipster food and beer and there is really good music playing.
Their terrace over the water is a very nice place to be though. Gorgeous view. They also have live music gigs.
There's also a Zeppeling Bar & Beer shop in town.
The roman bath houses
The Romans weren't cheapskates. They threw serious money at this complex. You'll see some very impressive mosaics.
The Sea Garden in Varna is pretty. To be honest, the first 5 minutes wandering through the Sea Garden I had a Can Tho river park feeling, but like I said, that only lasted 5 minutes, tops. It's big, it's lush, it's a very well landscaped city park. French and Czech engineers were involved with the design (guys with experience in Schönbrunn and Belvedere). So don't feel weird when you feel a link with a big Parisian or Viennese parks for instance.
There is a lot to see in the Park. Nice plants, flowers, statues, rusty war ships at the naval museum, a very impressive and professional pool and summer sault pool, a planetarium, an open air theatre, playgrounds and an exotic zoo (don't bother going there though).
About kid's playgrounds... there are a LOT of those scattered all over Varna. Good stuff. But I didn't bring my kids, so can't say if they are fun. Some do look fun though.
Sea Garden is an important place for Varna people. Locals walk, bike, jog, work out and play in the park.
It's pretty. And Marché restaurant is located in the park.
|Tight security by the pool at night
years ago, a lot of monks retreated into the Bulgarian mountains. One monastery
is near Varna, about 18km out, or a 12 euro taxi ride away.
monastery was constructed in caves on a cliff. You can still see the rooms
where the monks lived, cooked, ate, prayed, died and were buried. In the museum
next to the cliffs you can see the many mosaic tiles the monks installed inside
their cave dwellings.
The area is
located in a natural reserve, a forest. Which makes it a pleasant and chilled place to go for a walk.
The monks were all killed when the Ottomans invaded Bulgaria. So that's one of many stories that end with Bulgarians being killed by invaders.
You need one hour tops to visit the museum. Golden sands resort is close by though.
Located close to the Romanian border. Brace yourself for epic vista’s and pretty shocking stories involving more Ottomans killing Bulgarians. Well not exactly. Women went through a gate built in stone and threw themselves of the cliff to escape the invading Ottomans. Same result though.
Golden Sands Resort
This is the
original birthplace of the Bulgarian Black Sea riviera. There’s plenty of
Soviet style concrete to be seen. But some brand new resorts have been built,
and they didn’t save a penny. Think design meeting (almost) kitch. The beaches
are nice and the surroundings are very calm and pretty.
Some French dudes we had beers with sent us to Villa Chinka for steaks. So, obviously, sexy Lexy and myself went over to Golden Sands Resort and went searching for Villa Chinka. It's hard to miss. It's a combination of 'De Efteling' (Disney Land) + Pirates of the Caribbean + a Dubai hotel. It's fake as hell, but hey, it looks good. The food is alright. Service was friendly but weird, it was very hard to order wine. No body even tried to sell us a bottle of wine. Maybe it was because we spoke Dutch to eachother and didn't have jewelry covered and louboutin wearing trophy wives on our arms. Like the other patrons...
Anyway. It's still worth a 7 euro taxi ride over there. Very different vibe.
Kljuceto do Moreto
Walking north from Villa Chinka we passed an abandonned pirate ship restaurant on the rocks and soon after stumbled upon this little bar overlooking the sea. I was in the mood for a frappé, so my buddy Lexos joined me for some German weissbeer while I was drinking my frappé (delicious).
The place looks a bit like a sovjet style beach bar trying to look like a hipster tiki place. The chairs are not comfortable. But the view is great.
The very friendly waitress came over to suggest some cocktails while we were sipping our first drinks. She handed me her hand written cocktail menu, which also included the full recipe for each cocktail. Very cute. So I went for a negroni because it was 5pm.
The negroni was seriously tasty. When we asked for the check the waitress was curious to know what my impression was of the Negroni she made, as it was the first time she made that drink. I added 10 Bulgarian Dinero to the tab. Drinks are seriously underpriced at this place.
Bulgarians are coffee fanatics, brew seriously delicious beer, but... their best known export product is without a doubt the wine! To be honest, I didn't drink any bad wine in Bulgaria. Bulgaria is right across from the birthplace of wine, Georgia.(and thanks to Figo of Zuiver Wijnen I'm in love with Georgian natural wines). So let's say there is a lot of tradition, knowledge, old plants, and good taste. Bulgarian wine makers know their stuff and are involved in making interesting wines. So my next mission is to stock up on good and interesting Bulgarian wines. Bulgarian wines are as delicious as budget-friendly.
There are plently of wine tours in the Varna region and there's also a wine tasting walking tour in town.
On this trip I had the pleasure of drinking a lot of Odessos Wines. My friends Dani and Vladi are a Bulgarian couple who produce excellent wines, thanks to the wine making skills of Vladi's brother Georgi. Think of elegant, drinkable wines with a lot of character and flavour. No Cab Sauvignon haut medoc-like wine bombs. They focus to make wines they like to drink, and aren't focussed on some American boomer named Parker. All decent restaurants in Varna (Le Marché, Villa Chinka,...) have delicious Odessos Wines on the wine menu. So go buy wines from their webshop (see link below)!
Good to know: We, well I for sure, enjoyed a lot of Odessos Wines at the Varna wedding (white, rosé, red)... and no headache the next day! (keep in mind that Bulgarian wedding parties are like Belgian wedding parties, and are nothing like Dutch, UK or US wedding parties... they last waaaaay into the wee hours. Good party people and all).
|The happy couple dancing the night away not letting go
of their glasses of Odessos wine...
|Dani toasting with blushing bride Kalina
raising glasses of white Odessos wine...
|Odessos Manager Vladi throwing shapes on the dance floor
with his daughter whilst enjoying his Odessos white wine...
(C) Photography above by the talented Ivanovi - Documentary Wedding and Lifestyle Photographers
Where to eat
Chinar is a typical Bulgarian restaurant. Go to the original venue in Preslav
street and get a table on the first floor. Service is amazing, very friendly
and they know how to guide you through the vast menu.
We had beef tongue with a very lovely buttery sauce, grilled pork’s neck with an amazing sauce on the side, and roasted lamb’s neck. The food was amazing. Very well prepared, lots of flavour, and there's amazing wines on the wine list.
A very awesome and memorable experience.
City Boutique Inn is across from this Staria Chinar by the way.
This is a French restaurant. And it looks very good. The Varna cool kids and various Bulgarian Instagram Influencers love this restaurant. There is a link with the French obviously in Varna, French soldiers were here in Varna during the Crimean War.
Food here is modern French with some Bulgarian twist. I had a very tasty grilled octopus and a yummie duck à l'orange. The chef did a great job. It was really tasty. Service was good as well. On top of things. Oh bare in mind that Bulgarian restaurants don't do apetizers and main courses like elsewhere in the world. Meals come out as soon as they're ready. Often apetizers come together with the main course. Plates don't come for the entire table either. Some people at the table have to wait a bit usually for their food to come out.
A good place!
And they have good pizza as well.
A lovely lunch place. Coffee (did I mention people in Varna are very serious about coffee?), sandwiches and quesedillas. I went for beef quesedillas and Club-Mate. The young creative hip crowd gathers here. Good cities have places like these.
See above. Resort style fare. Vast menu, eclectic but modern setting, on the beach, m'as tu vu... Good food and good Italian wine. There's a link with Italian sailers/traders.
You want to
go there to sample oysters and amazing sparkling wine. The oysters come out of
the black sea, but have been imported from the Atlantic. In other words,
oysters are not native to Bulgaria.
thing is, there’s less salt in the Black Sea. Which impacts the flavour of the
oysters in huge way. They are not very salty. They are big and firm, but they
lack a bit of flavour in my opinion. But it’s a very lovely place, and an
interesting thing to do. And an excellent excuse to go and sample more stunning
Bulgarian sparkling wines. My favourite was an all natural sparkling rosé.
A nice place on the beach, close to the water amusement park. Good healthy bulgarian food. I had a very delicious avocado mousse with smoked mussels. Watch out when semi-local Dutch dudes order wine and the waitress asks how many miniliter you desire. Rakia looks like wine. They have a seperate wine list.
|Starting the day the Rakia way keeps the doctor away
Where to drink?
This is the beach bar you want to hang out at.
We chose Averi Beer and coffee shop as our gathering and meeting point. Why? Good beer. I mean seriously good beer. I discovered this place about an hour after my plane's wheels touched Bulgarian tarmac. After meeting Maggie at the hotel I decided to go for a walk in Varna. Lex was doing some wedding rehearsal stuff at Villa Burov. It was nice out, and after a 5 minute walk I stumbled upon some wooden beer kegs serving as tables on a small square. Plane rides and FFP2 masks make me very thirsty. So I stopped and ordered half a liter of porter (they don't serve the Glarus draft beer in smaller containers). So I received a plastic bottle with 50cl of Porter and a glass. Man! It was delicious. These guys are passionate about beer. But they should be more proud of what Glarus is brewing, right outside of Varna. Belgians and Dutchies: keep an eye out on my webshop (Bonvivanthipster) and my shop @DeApotheek. You'll soon understand what I mean.
What more is there to say? It's a window on the street with wooden barrels in front of it. They serve amazing beer. There are no cars. There is shade, there is sun. The vibe is relaxed. People talk to eachother. And bonus points: they have one of my favorite brews: Naparbier (Spain). What else could a Bonvivanthipster desire?
My favorite place in Varna!
|This is very very tasty porter kids!
|Another meetup at Averi Beers - (C) Ivanovi
|No better way to strategize stealing a bride
while sipping Averi beers - (C) Ivanovi
(C) Photography above by the talented Ivanovi - Documentary Wedding and Lifestyle Photographers
See above. I'll be back for lunch, and live music and so on.
These guys are so cool they don't have social media or websites.
Dim lit and seriously good cocktails. Speakeasy yes.
I say yes to that.