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Varna - Things to do and see

Varna Archaeological Museum is home to the oldest cache of gold in the world! Archaeologists discovered the gold by accident and excavated it in 1972. It dates back to 4600-4200 BC and occupies three separate exhibition halls. My favourite piece is a skeleton adorned in gold jewellery. The museum itself is in a magnificent building, designed by the Bulgarian architect Petko Momchilov.

There are lots of interesting exhibits on show, which portray the ancient Thracian culture. The museum has a rich collection of tombstones and a collection of icons including some masterpieces of iconic painting from the National Revival period in North Eastern Bulgaria.

 

The Roman Thermae
The impressive ruins of a bathing complex, which once stood at the heart of Roman social and cultural life. Built as public monuments, everyone used them, whether rich or poor, free or slave.

A person could eat, exercise, read, drink, shop, socialize, practice politics and even have sex here. The modern equivalent would be a combination of a library, art gallery, mall, bar, restaurant, gym, and spa.

Archaeologists believe that the original baths were one of the largest buildings in the eastern part of the Empire and a proof of the wealth and importance of the town. The height of the domed construction is supposed to have been no less than 20 metres. Constructed in the second half of the 2nd century on an area of about 7000 square meters the baths were still in use until the end of the 3rd century.

 

The Ethnographic Museum
Located in an Ottoman-period area, it is a great place to learn about Bulgarian customs and culture. It tells of the life of local urban dwellers, fishermen, and peasants in the late 19th and early 20th century. The museum opened in 1974 and provides interesting information on some great national customs like Christmas and Petlyovden (Cock’s day).

 

The National Revival Museum
Housed in the former Church of Archangel Michael and the premises of Varna’s first Bulgarian school. The museum holds many artefacts left from the school and has an impressive display of 18th century Varna life.

 

The Museum of Medical History
A patriotic display, which tells how the Bulgarians inherited the medical wisdom of their predecessors and transmitted this to the rest of Europe.

 

Palace of Culture and Sports
The Palace of Culture and Sports is a popular venue for many business and scientific meetings and prestigious international sporting events. Its Congress Hall can seat 3000 persons. There are nine other halls seating from 50 to 800, air-conditioning, 10 cafes, a post office, a recreation centre, shopping area and a parking lot.
The Palace has a unique spherical shape, reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty’s crown.

 

The Cathedral of the Assumption
Varna’s most memorable landmark. An impressive copper domed Bulgarian Orthodox church completed in 1866. Maas, an architect from Odessa, Ukraine designed it to resemble St Petersburg Cathedral. Inside the walls are covered in mesmerising iconic art. It also contains the bishop’s throne, some interesting murals and beautiful stained glass.

 

 

And... saving the best until last - The Sea Gardens

 

 

If you see nothing else in Varna, you must visit this magnificent park, which provides sensational views of the sea and 14 kms of beautifully manicured parkland, which follows the coastline, together with plenty of things to do for adults and children alike.

 

 

 

There are many beautiful gardens and tree-lined boulevards and pathways: and it offers much to occupy all its visitors. You'll find an endless stream of tourists and locals here - mum's with pushprams or toddlers strolling and catching up with each other, teenagers meeting, others just taking the air.... a real "mish mash" of everyone.

If you can't be bothered to walk through the entire park, you can even catch a little 'train' and get on and off whenever you want!

At one end, opposite the Sports Stadium, there is an impressive statue, the Monument to Fighters against Fascism. This huge, impressive carved stone monument depicting faces of peasant and partisan men and women of Bulgaria looks nobly out to sea.


 

 

Within the park, there is an amazing open-air theatre, which hosts the Summer Arts and Music Festival. Events are run both night and day. This runs through June and July and includes classical, jazz and folk music, opera and ballet.

 

For the more serious, or interested, you can also visit the Nicolaus Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium, the Museum of Natural History and the Naval Museum, situated in the Villa Diana, which displays the Drazhki torpedo boat, responsible for the Bulgarian Navy’s only victory. A group of enthusiasts founded the museum in 1923 and initially it was housed in the Naval School. The museum, which is rarely open, displays a collection of marine guns and one of Bulgaria's first minesweepers.

Not forgetting children... There are many activities for children to enjoy, including a fun fair with bouncy castles and many rides, frequent play areas and plenty of cafes to occupy weary parents. At the far end of the park, there is a dolphinarium, which has regular performances throughout summer and one a day in winter. It is the only dolphinarium on the Balkan Peninsula. In 1992, a baby dolphin was born in the Dolphinarium demonstrating how much the mammals feel at home in their surroundings.

Inside the park, there is also an aquarium, which is interesting but is in need of restoration. My sons’ favourite area is the zoo, which houses amongst many other things, lions, a tiger, bears and a leopard. If you visit around three o’clock, you can watch the animals feeding. There is also a separate and rather unusual reptile house, where you can see a huge crocodile, many snakes and containers full of spiders and other interesting exhibits. The reptile zoo is more of an eccentric’s private collection, than an organised zoo and it is housed in a building which on entry makes you feel, strangely, as if you are walking into someone’s home.

The main boulevard is the National Revival Alley, which is decorated with bronze statues of prominent Bulgarians. The Cosmonauts’ Alley contains trees planted by Yuri Gagarin and other Soviet cosmonauts in the 1960s. The whole Garden is a national monument of landscape architecture.

 

From the Park you can walk directly down to Varna beach, where many locals swim and take a breather from city life basking in the sun. It's really amazing to find a city where you can be immersed in work one moment and then the other right on the beach!

 

There is also a warm sulphur spring believed to have healing properties and many older people bathe here throughout the entire year.

 

A string of beach clubs, cafes and restaurants over several kms offers a vibrant scene and lines the entire waterfront promenade.

 

Whether you want to simply relax or have fun, come and experience the charms and delights of Varna.