Cruise Port Atlas | Varna, Bulgaria Day Trips | Attractions

Varna, Bulgaria Day Trips | Attractions

With limited time in port, planning is the best way to make the most of your time. Should you strike out on your own? Should you hire a local guide? Or should you book a shore excursion offered by the cruise line or an international tour company? Below we have listed the attractions and activities that many other cruisers have enjoyed. This information should help you plan.

The advantage to cruise line tours is that they are timed for your visit and give you flexibility to change your mind after your trip begins. The advantage of using a large international firm is that tours are often less expensive than cruise sponsored tours. The advantage to using a local tour company or guide is that prices can be significantly lower or you may be able to get a customized trip just to see the attractions that interest you most.

Cruise lines that visit Varna: Seabourn, Holland America, MSC Cruises

Key Attractions: Roman Baths, Cathedral of Mary's Assumption, Archaeological Museum, Sea Garden Park, Aquarium, Golden Sands, Aladzha Monastery, Madara Horsemen, Balchik Botanical Garden, Balchik Palace, Nesebur

Varna Attractions

Port to Roman Baths - 1.3 KM, 4 minutes, 15 minute walk
Port to Cathedral - 3 KM, 8 minutes
Port to Archaeological Museum - 3 KM, 7 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Varna is an ancient city that offers much to those who are interested in prehistoric and more recent history. The Varna Archaeological Museum is famous for its collection of icons which include 900 of the Medieval and Revival eras. The most celebrated collection is golden artifacts found in a Thracian necropolis from the mid-5th millenium BC. The Gold of Varna is the largest museum collection of gold in the world. The huge Roman Baths cover an area of 7000 square meters, constructed for the wealthy of the city during the 2nd century AD and demonstrate the importance of public baths in Roman Culture. A flowering Bulgarian culture during the late 19th century produced many waterfront villas, the nearby Euxinograd Summer Palace, and the Cathedral of Mary's Assumption. The Cathedral was opened in 1886 and features incredible stained glass, icons, frescos and a bell-tower topped with one of the churches 5 domes.



Photo of Cathedral of Mary's Assumption by Mihal Orel

Sea Garden Park

Port to Sea Garden Park - 1 KM, 3 minutes, 15 minute walk
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The Sea Garden Park is a huge seaside green space with several facilities that will appeal to children such as the aquarium, the dolphinarium, a zoo, a planetarium and an amusement park. On the seaside beaches, along with the usual facilities, are geothermal sulphuric water sources that feed spas and pools.



Photo of Sea Garden Park by Svilen Enev

Varna Area Beaches

Port to Golden Sands - 18 KM, 25 minutes
Port to Sunny Beach - 95 KM, 1 hour 30 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Besides the Varna Beach that is part of the Sea Garden Park, there are many others including 2 major resort areas reachable by cruisers. About 10 kilometers north of Varna are the Spa-oriented beaches of Sveti Konstantin and Helena. Farther north is the area known as Golden Sands which was developed about 50 years ago and offer the activities one would expect for a tourist beach. It is adjacent to the Golden Sands Park which is the location of the Aladzha Cave Monastery. To the south is the area known as Sunny Beach which is newer and very near Nesebur.



Photo of Golden Sands Beach area by Chicho Ficho

Aladzha Monastery

Port to Aladzha Monastery - 18 KM, 25 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Established in the 12th century by Orthodox Christian hermit monks, the Aladzha Cave Monastery is built into a karst cliff 3 kilometers west of the Golden Sand resort area. It features mosaics, murals and two catacombs. At night the management of the site offers thematic laser shows.



Photo of Aladzha Cave Monastery by Nikola Gruev

Madara Horseman

Port to Madara - 69 KM, 40 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

In the early 8th century AD on a cliff 70 kilometers west of Varna unknown craftsmen and artists created a 75 foot relief sculpture of a horseman killing a lion with the assistance of an eagle and a dog. The likely creators were the Bulgar people, perhaps to honor their Khan Tervel. Since 1979, the sculpture has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site.



Photo of Madara Horseman by Nikola Gruev, edited by Cameltrader

Balchik Botanical Garden and Palace

Port to Balchik - 45 KM, 50 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

In the resort town of Balchik, the Romanian Queen Marie (Born Princess Marie of Edinburgh grand-daughter of Queen Victoria of England) built a small summer palace between the two World Wars which is called Quiet Nest Palace. The 3 story palace features a minaret and is part of a complex of buildings and a lovely Botanical Garden which are maintained by the government as a tourist attraction. The Palace and Gardens reflect the Queen's interest in diverse cultures and styles. Two of her daughters went on to marry Kings of Greece and Yugoslavia.



Photo of Balchik Botanical Garden by Milen Laskov

Christ Pantocrator Church


Port to Nesebur - 100 KM, 1 hour 40 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The largest church in Nesebur is the St. Sophia Basilica, which is also one of the earliest, built in the 6th century AD and rebuilt in the 9th. All that remains are the side walls and the liturgical end with its semi-circular apse where the altar would have once stood. The church is sometimes known as the Old Bishopric.

The most important church that contains many of the historic and artistic features is St. Stephans (also called the New Bishopric). The building was first constructed during the period of the 11-13th centuries, but much of the interior decoration is from a wide range of later dates. There are more than 250 murals inside illustrating biblical stories. In addition there is impressive furniture carved from wood, such as the bishop's throne (right).

The most photographed is the Christ Pantocrator Church (below) because of its good condition and stunning exterior brickwork. The interior is now a commercial art gallery.

The small St. Spass Church was built during Ottoman rule. Our guide explained that the plain exterior was the result of Turkish persecution. The interior has a more rustic feel than St. Stephan. Its walls are covered with paintings of the life of Christ and Mary.

Photo Nesebur's Church of Christ Pantocrater by

Icons, Carvings and Wall Paintings   Byzantine Architecture   World Heritage Site  

Uneven surfaces and hills    Somewhat Wheelchair Accessible

Interests Key:

Art Architecture Beach Children Wild Animals Local Cuisine Flora Gardens-Parks Geology

Diving UNESCO Views Wine Dance Music Shopping History Hiking

Walking & Wheelchair Accessibility:

No Walking Easy Walking Normal Walking Difficult Walking Accessible Limited Not Accessible