zondag 29 mei 2022

Long weekend in Varna, Bulgaria

 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.

Varna Opera

Where to stay


City Boutique Inn

Ok, without 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.

City Boutique Inn Website

Modus Hotel

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.

Reverence 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

The beach

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:


It's a beach club. Good music, caribbean flair, good drinks, a good selection of craft beers, good snacks. Not tacky. Well it sort of is, but it's so tacky it's alright. 

What I'm trying to say is: we usually hung out here. Afternoons, evenings, nights.

Yeah there is also a bar that seems to be one of the Varna nightlife hotspots. Good DJ-ing as well. 

Cubo Beach Life


It's a bit like Cubo, it's also located next to Cubo, but the music is a bit more commercial, it's cleaner, less raunchy, no hipster beers.

Well it looks pretty, but we didn't go there often.

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

Well, you should definitely read Varna's history. I'll spare you though. But Varna has been a settlement for a very very long time. Funny thing is: people came and went. So did the Romans. They figured Varna, aka Odessos in those times, would be a great spot to chill by the Black Sea and live life the Roman way. So they installed one of their largest bath house and Thermae complexes. With large, I mean huge. 4th largest complex they built. You'll be impressed with the engineering. I know I was, but then again, I work for a company who instals large swimming pool and spa techniques in Belgium. The floor heating system with pipes was quite impressive. These guys didn't have lasers, pumps and reverse osmosis.

The Romans weren't cheapskates. They threw serious money at this complex. You'll see some very impressive mosaics.

You'll find the impressive complex right in the middle of town: San Stefano + Han Krum.

Check it out.

The cathedral

Well, it made the list. But it's not old. It's also not mind blowing. No Hagia Sofia sort of experience, you know. But it has golden roofs and is shiny. So it's sort of cool. And it sure looks like an Orthodox Church. Also the Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral was openend in 1886, same year my house in Ghent was finnished. It's the third largest cathedral in Bulgaria, but that didn't impress me. Then again, us Flemish are known for being cathedral builders. The seriously high and impressive ones.
It's pretty though, not only because it's shiny, the interior is very pretty and there is definitely the cathedral sort or grandeur.

Pop over and have a look when you go check out the tourist office.

Oh about the tourist office. Do talk to the staff there and ask them questions. There are a lot of leaflets on display: you can go visit beaches, monasteries, museums or shoot with big guns... but the really good city guides are behind the counter and only handed out to people who speak to the staff. Must be some Bulgarian thing.

Sea Garden

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

Aladzha monastery

About 1.500 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.

The 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.

Kaliakra Point

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.

Villa Chinka

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.

Bulgarian Wine

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). 

Odessos Wine Website

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

Lovers buying a huge stock of Odessos wines.
Being guided by the actual maestro wine making wizard: Georgi.
Not sure we drank it all, but I know we tried hard!

Where to eat

Staria Chinar

Staria 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.

Website Staria Chinar Preslav St.

Sea Terrace

Definitely check this place out! Overlooking the Black Sea, on the beach is Sea Terrace. Don't get scared by the cheesy Sovjet meets Dubai sort of entrance. This is a very good restaurant. Classy, sofisticated and they run a tight operation. Staff is friendly, very professional and very capable. We had an amazing entire fish, grilled to perfection and perfectly deboned. We were seriously hung over, but enjoyed our lunch at Sea Terrace immensely.

Oh, have desert! Really! You must. Maggie (City Boutique Inn) will also suggest you have desert there. In case you crave for more desert, without having a meal at Sea Terrace... you can: The chef recently opened a pastry store on Preslav street, close to the original Staria Chinar.

Sea terrace website

Le Marché

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.

Le Marché website 


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.

Highly recommended.

The website

Villa Chinka

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.

Villa Chinka Website



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.

The funny 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?

Cubo Beach

See above.

This is the beach bar you want to hang out at.



Averi Beer

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!

Averi website. 

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.


Kultura Speakeasy

Dim lit and seriously good cocktails. Speakeasy yes.
I say yes to that.

Kultura Insta


Hashtag Studio

Very very very good coffee, a chilled atmosphere, cool design and eggs benedict. Good right?

Hashtag Studio Varna Website

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