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Black Sea Coast: Nessebur and Bourgas

The two largest towns on the southern Black Sea coast are Nessebur and Burgas. Both have their own attractions and are well worth a visit.

 

Burgas

With a population of some 229,000, Burgas is the second largest city on the Black Sea coast but its main attraction is without doubt the sea. With its international airport, Burgas is a great starting point for visiting the southern coast.

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Art and culture are mixed together in Burgas and there is much to see and do in the city and surrounds. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The Museum of History - Hosts a large collection of archaeological items, and is an impressive building in itself.

Close to the marketplace in Bourgas you will find the lovely St Cyril and St Methodius Cathedral which contains some beautiful frescos.

The Ethnographic Museum is located in a house built in 1873, which is now a cultural monument. It has some fabulous exhibits including kukeri masks, traditional costumes, fabric and embroidery.

The Museum of Nature and Science has an exhibition of plants from the Strandzha region, and houses over 1,200 exhibits of insects and reptiles.

There is also a delightful Art Gallery displaying art by renowned Renaissance artists.

The Sea Garden - Located next to the sea up on a hill, this is a great place for a relaxing walk. Here you will find flowers, shaded paths and sculptures. The park covers a few kilometres and encompasses an open air theatre, small zoo, casino and several cafes and restaurants. The main Bourgas beach is found just down the garden steps.

Accommodation in Bourgas is easy to find. There are plenty of hotels to suit any pocket from the large expensive ones to small and cheerful. If you’re the outdoor type, then camping sites can be found nearby too.

Bourgas is not short of restaurants and bars either! Often they offer live music too. You will probably be spoilt for choice. Eating out in Bourgas is pretty reasonable cost-wise. If you want somewhere to sit and watch the world go by, then head for one of the numerous cafés on the tree-lined Aleksandrovska Street.

Around the city there are plenty of places to visit and admire. North of Bourgas, between the airport and the city, you will come across the Atanassovo Lake. The lake is popular for swimming and fishing, and part of it is a nature reserve. At 10 kms long, there is plenty of room for everyone!

Bourgas Lake is a great place to relax and watch the pelicans and herons, and Pomorie Lake (20 kms north of the city) is surrounded by salt mines.

Rowing tours are available on the Mandren Lake, which is located around 10 kms south of Bourgas ... this lake also has an abundance of water birds, especially during the summer months

The Mineral Baths were built over an old Roman town in the 16th century during the rule of the Ottomans. They offer treatments said to cure a variety of ailments. The water in the baths is chemically similar to those at Nessebur and Sunny Beach, although the water temperature here is slightly cooler. The baths can be found 15 kms from the city.

You may also like to visit Kraimorie village, just south of Bourgas, where there is a pleasant beach close by.

Nessebur

No mention of the Black Sea coast is complete without including Nessebur - an ancient town and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town of Nessebur is located on a small peninsula, 20 kms to the north of Bourgas on the southern Black Sea coast. The town is divided into two parts - the old town and the new town.

History
Nessebur has existed as a settlement for around 9000 years. In fact, it’s one of the oldest towns in Europe! In Roman times the town acted as a garrison, but apart from that its importance was quite low-key. In the second century AD it was settled by the Thracians, and at that time was known as ‘Mesambria.’


 

Around 510 AD Dorian settlers in the area turned it into a Greek colonial town, building a theatre and temple to the Greek god, Apollo, there. Khan Krum conquered the town in 812 AD, and the town was taken over by the Byzantines in 864 AD. The Slav name of ‘Nessebur’ (or sometimes ‘Messebar’) has been in use since the 1100’s.

During King Alexander I’s reign the town was one of the most important in the Bulgarian State. Evidence from official documents in Nessebur show that the town was given many donations with which to build monasteries and churches - it is believed that as many as 40 were built!

In 1366 Nessebur was back in the hands of the Byzantines again, after being captured by Amedei VI and his crusaders. The Turks took over control of Nessebur in 1371, and used it as a harbour for exporting corn and wood, and also for ship-building. Following Bulgaria’s Liberation, Nessebur became a small fishing town.

The town was given the status of an architectural and archaeological reserve in 1956, owing to the beautiful medieval Bulgarian and Byzantine architecture that exists there. The town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Things to Do
If sun-bathing by the side of a clear blue sea is your thing, then Nessebur is surely one of the places to be. A lovely golden, sandy beach awaits you!

Pass through a gateway in the old town walls, and you are transported into Nessebur Old Town. The romantic atmosphere is preserved in the cobbled streets and old houses, interspersed with pretty gardens, taverns and gift shops (selling everything from wood carvings, paintings, pottery and more). The Old Town can get busy at times, so take some time out to relax and ‘people watch’ in any of the attractive restaurants either on the coast or in the town centre.

There are many churches to stop and take a look at in Nessebur. Here is a selection of some of them.

Old Bishop’s Residence - This could be considered the most impressive church in Nessebur with beautifully decorated colonnades and arches to marvel at. You can find this church in the centre of town.
St Stefan Church - Sometimes known as the ‘New Bishop’s Residence’, can be found near the harbour. The façade is covered by many-coloured glazed ceramic figures. This church was built in the 10th century.
St Ivan the Baptist Church - This church dates from the 11th century and contains fragments of frescoes which date back to the 13th century.
The Basilica - Built on the coast, this sanctuary is believed to date from the 5th century.
St John Aliturgetos Church - Whilst the Old Bishop’s Residence is considered the most impressive, this church is considered to be the most beautiful. Its location high above the harbour, and its impressive facades, make this church simply stunning.


However, there are also many lovely buildings and points of interest that are worth seeing too.
Ancient houses - These are built in a unique style dating from the 16-19th centuries. Of particular interest are the houses of Diamanti, Panayot Mouskoyani, and Captain Pavel. The craftsmanship that went into these buildings is truly something to be marvelled at.
Old Town Gate - Have a look at the remains of the fortress walls here. There are further examples down in the port area.
Turkish Baths and windmill are also ‘must sees’ in Nessebur.

Accommodation
There are lots of hotels to choose from - something for every pocket. In the Old Town you will find plenty of smaller hotels and guesthouses. Usually you can just turn up and find a room, but in high-season it’s a good idea to make a reservation in advance.

Eating out in Nessebur can be somewhat pricier than some other spots along the coast, although the prices are generally higher in the coastal resorts than in-land towns and villages anyway. For eating and drinking you will probably be spoilt for choice as there is an abundance of authentic taverns and restaurants, with a wide range in prices too.