Varna is the third biggest city in the Northeast part of Bulgaria with an estimated population of 334,870. It rests in the peaceful meadows 370 km from Sofia, the country’s capital, adjoined by Lake Varna and two man-made waterways connecting it to the bay of the Black Sea. It is for this reason why Varna is known as “The maritime capital of Bulgaria”, since it is the biggest town on the Bulgarian coast constituting a popular tourist destination and a center of business activities. It is the administrative centre of the homonymous province and Varna Municipality and the eleventh-largest city in the Balkans after Istanbul, Athens, Bucharest, Belgrade, Sofia, Thessaloniki, Zagreb, Skopje, Tirana and Plovdiv. Moreover, it is home to the so-called “Bulgarian Las Vegas” or “Golden Sands”, as well as a business and university centre, seaport, and the headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy.
The city’s name is mentioned for the first time in the history of Theophanes the Confessor, a byzantine writer (8th-9th century AD), although it is believed that it could be older. During the Middle Ages, Varna was constantly changing hands between the Byzantine Empire and Bulgaria. From 1444, after the “Battle of Varna”, fought between the Christian forces, led by Ladislaus III of Poland, and the Ottoman forces, under the commandership of sultan Murad II, it was annexed by the Ottoman Empire. Since 1878, the year of the declaration of Bulgarian independence, Varna has become part of the state of Bulgaria. For a short period (1949 to 1956), during the Communist era, Varna was renamed into “Stalin” after the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
Any sightseeing would be deprived if one neglected to visit the Euxinograd Palace (19th century), the Archaeological Museum (1888), the Roman baths, and the Naval Museum (1923), which comprise the city’s main sights are. Next to these, the “Battle of Varna” Museum (1924) and the city’s park, known as “Sea World” (1912) will make for a memorable experience. In addition, like most of Bulgaria, there are many notable churches, the most famous being the temple of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (19th century), and surely that of St. Athanasius and of St. Nicolas. Furthermore, amidst the quaint corbelled streets there is much architecture for one's eyes to feast on, reflecting the many architectural movements that left their mark in the city from past centuries till modernity. Finally, Varna is a well-known center for arts and music, organizing more than twenty art and music festivals every year that have earned it a merited cultural reputation throughout Europe.