Varna (450 000 inhabitants) is
Bulgaria’s largest city on the Black Sea coast and the country’s major harbor and holiday capital. It is also the second most important economic centre of
Sofia, the country's foremost trade link to
Russia, and one of the major hubs for the
Black Sea region. It is situated on both shores of
Lake. The climate of the town is temperate with subtropical influences of breezy hot summers and mild but windy winters.
You can reach
- Varna International Airport (8 km from the downtown), which functions throughout the whole year.
Sofia (500 km) - the capital of
Bulgaria having an international airport, by plane (1 hour), bus, train or car (app. 5-8 hrs);
- Burgas (110 km), the second largest Bulgarian city on the
Coast having an international airport and harbor by bus, car (app. 1 ½ hr) or train (3 hrs);
- Russe (180 km), the largest Bulgarian city having an international river harbor on the
Danube by bus, train or car (app. 2½ hrs).
Varna is among
Europe's oldest cities. Long before the Thracians populated the area (by 2500 BC), several prehistoric settlements best known for the Varna Copper age necropolis. As well as the eponymous site of the old European Varna culture (4600-4200 BC) and the world's oldest large find of gold artifacts (mid-5-th millennium BC), were within the modern city limits. Miletians founded the trading colony of Odessos in 570 BC within an earlier Thracian settlement. The name Odessos, first mentioned by Strabo, was pre-Greek, perhaps of Carian origin. Odessos was a member of the Pontic Pentapolis and a mixed Greco-Thracian community—contact zone between the Ionians and the Thracians. In 339 BC, the city was unsuccessfully besieged by Philip II but surrendered to Alexander the Great in 335 BC, and was later ruled by his diadochus Lysimachus. The Romans annexed the city in 15 AD to the
province of Moesia. At that time it occupied 47 hectares in the present-day centre of
Varna and had prominent public baths - now the largest Roman remains in
Bulgaria and fourth-largest known Roman baths in
Europe. Odessos was an early Christian centre, as testified by the ruins of perhaps ten early basilicas, a monastery, and indications that one of the Seventy Disciples, Ampliatus, follower of Saint Andrew, served as bishop there. In 442, a peace treaty between Theodosius II and Attila was signed at Odessus. In 536, Justinian I made it the seat of the Quaestura exercitus institution including Moesia, Scythia, Caria, the Aegean Islands and Cyprus.
Theophanes the Confessor first mentioned the name
, as the city came to be known with the Slavic conquest of the Balkans in the 6th
century. Recent scholarship has suggested that the first Bulgarian capital in the Balkans was perhaps located around
before it moved to Pliska. Bulgarian Hagan Asparukh (668-700) fortified the
river lowland with a rampart against a possible Byzantine naval landing. Control changed from Byzantine to Bulgarian hands several times during the Middle Ages. By the late 13th and 14th century, it had turned into a thriving commercial hub frequented by Genoese, Venetian and Ragusan merchant ships (the three republics held consulates and had expatriate colonies there). Flanked by two fortresses with smaller ports of their own, Kastritsi and Galata, were within sight of each other. Wheat and other local agricultural produce for the Italian and
markets were the chief exports, and Mediterranean foods and luxury items were imported. Shipbuilding developed in the Kamchiya river mouth.
14th-century Italian portolan charts showed
Varna as the most important seaport between Constantinople and the
Danube delta; they usually labeled the region Zagora. The city was unsuccessfully besieged by Amadeus VI of Savoy in 1366; in 1386, it briefly became the capital of the spinoff Principality of Karvuna, then was taken over by the Ottomans in 1389 (and again in 1444), ceded temporarily to Manuel II Palaiologos in 1413 (perhaps until 1444), and sacked by Tatars in 1414.
On November 10, 1444, one of the last major battles of the Crusades was fought outside the city walls. The Turks routed an army of 20,000 crusaders led by king Ladislaus III of Poland
, which had assembled at the port to set sail to
. The Christian army was attacked by a superior force of 55,000 or 60,000 Ottomans led by sultan Murad II. Ladislaus III was killed in a bold attempt to capture the sultan, earning the sobriquet Warneńczyk (of
in Polish). The failure of the Crusade of Varna made the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 all but inevitable, and
(with all of
) was to remain under Ottoman domination for over four centuries. Today, there is a cenotaph of Ladislaus III in
The British and French campaigns against
in the Crimean War
as headquarters and principal naval base; many soldiers died of cholera and the city was devastated by a fire. A British and a French monument mark the cemeteries where cholera victims were interred. In 1866, the first railroad in
with Russe on the Danube, linking the Ottoman capital Istanbul with Central Europe - for a few years the Orient Express ran through that route. With the national liberation in 1878
, the city, which numbered 25-26 thousand inhabitants, was ceded to
by the Treaty of Berlin. Over the first decades after the 1878 liberation, most ethnic Turks and Greeks departed and Bulgarian refugees from Northern Dobruja, Bessarabia, Asia Minor, Macedonia and Eastern Thrace arrived. Following the Second Balkan War (1913) and the First World War (1915-1918), ethnic diversity gave way to Bulgarian predominance, although sizeable minorities of Gagauz, Armenians, and Sephardic Jews remained for decades.
The town offers all the connections and services required for a pleasant stay as well as nice shopping areas, crowded streets with town cafes and attractive opportunities for nightlife and sports.