Social life, culture, sights
Performing arts professional companies
Other performing arts groups
Notable bands and artists
International arts festivals
National events + Local events
Sightseeing in Varna
Varna has some of the finest and oldest museums, professional arts companies, and arts festivals in the nation and is known for its century-old traditions in visual arts, music, and book publishing, as well as for its bustling current pop-culture scene. Over the past few decades, it developed as a festival centre of international standing. Varna is a front-runner for European Capital of Culture for 2019, planning to open several new high-profile facilities such as a new opera house and concert hall, a new exhibition centre, and a reconstruction of the Summer Theatre, the historic venue of the International Ballet Competition.
- Varna Archaeological Museum (founded 1888)
- Naval Museum (founded 1923)
- Roman Baths
- Aladzha Monastery
- Battle of Varna Park Museum (founded 1924)
- Museum of Ethnography
- National Revival Museum
- History of Varna Museum
- History of Medicine Museum
- Health Museum (children’s)
- Puppet Museum (antique puppets from Puppet Theatre shows)
- Bulgar Settlement of Phanagoria ethnographical village (mockup, with historical reenactments)
- Aquarium (founded 1912)
- Nicolaus Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium
- Naval Academy Planetarium
- Museum of Natural History
- Dolphinarium (founded 1984)
- Boris Georgiev Art Gallery
- Georgi Velchev Gallery
- Modern Art Centre
- Print Gallery
- Numerous smaller fine and applied arts galleries
Performing arts professional companies
- Opera and Philharmonic Society (opera, symphonic and chamber music, ballet, and operetta performances; earliest philharmonic society founded 1888)
- Stoyan Bachvarov Drama Theatre (founded 1921)
- Puppet Theatre (in Bulgarian, founded 1952; often cited as the finest one in the nation, performances for children and adults)
- Varna Ensemble (traditional folk music and dance)
Other performing arts groups
- Morski Zvutsi Choir School (academic choirs)
- Dobri Hristov Choir School (academic choir)
Notable bands and artists
- Lot Lorien (Ethno-Art/Indie)
- Deep Zone (Tech House/Euro)
- DJ Balthazar (Tech House/Euro)
- Big Sha and the Gumeni glavi (Rubber Heads) (Hip Hop)
- 100 Kila (Hip Hop)
- Indignity (Hardcore)
- Outrage (Hardcore)
- One Faith (Hardcore)
- Crowfish (Progressive/Punk/Indie)
- Maniacal Pictures (Alternative/Rock/Post Punk)
- Minddread (Metal/Thrash/Progressive)
- ClearLand (Rock/Classic Rock/Progressive)
- Pizza (Punk/Ska/Rock)
- A-Moral (Punk/Hardcore)
- On Our Own (Hardcore)
- Cold Breath (Hardcore)
- Sealed In Blood (Hardcore/Metal)
- ENE (Alternative/Folk/Other)
- EASTRIBE (Metal/Hardcore/Alternative)
- Festival and Congress Centre (in Bulgarian, 1986; concerts, film, theatre and dance shows, exhibitions, trade shows)
- Palace of Culture and Sports (1968; sports events, concerts, film shows, exhibitions, trade shows, sports classes, fitness)
International arts festivals
- International Ballet Competition, founded 1964 (biennial)
- Varna Summer International Music Festival, founded 1926 (annual)
- Varna Summer International Jazz Festival (annual)
- International May Choir Competition (annual)
- European Music Festival (annual)
- Operosa Euxinograd opera festival (annual)
- Sea and Memories international music festival devoted to popular sea songs (annual)
- International Folk Festival (annual)
- Discovery International Pop Festival (annual)
- Song on Three Seas pop and rock competition (annual)
- Varna Summer International Theatre Festival (annual)
- Golden Dolphin puppet festival (triennial)
- Love is Folly film festival (annual)
- International Festival of Red Cross & Health Films (biennial)
- World Animation Festival (founded 1979, to resume in 2009)
- International Print Biennial (founded 1981)
- August in Art festival of visual arts (annual) (in Bulgarian)
- Videoholica international art festival (annual)
- product Festival of Contemporary Art (annual)
- Slavic Embrace Slav poetry readings (annual)
- Fotosalon (annual)
- Golden Rose Bulgarian Feature Film Festival (biennial)
- May Arts Saloon at Radio Varna
- Bulgaria for All National Ethnic Festival (annual, minority authentic folklore)
- Navy Day (second Sunday of August)
- Urban Folk Song Festival
- Christmas Folk Dance Competition
- Easter music festival
- Golden Fish fairy tale festival
- Kinohit movie marathon
- Crafts fair
- Dormition of the Theotokos festival, cathedral patron, Varna Day (August 15)
- Beer Fest
- Saint Nicholas Day (December 6)
- Christmas festival
- New Year’s Eve concert and fireworks (Independence Square)
More to see…
The Seaside Park is the biggest park of Varna. It was designed by the Czech architect Anton Novak in 1878. Within the park area one can find the Seaside Baths, the Naval Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Aquarium (unique exposition of water organisms – Black Sea, freshwater, tropical fishes), the Astronomical Observatory and the Planetarium which organizes observation seances for visitors, the Dolphinarium with an amusing show, etc.
The Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary the Virgin is the second largest after St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. Erected in 1884-1886 by the master builder Gencho Kunev in honour of the Liberation from the Ottoman yoke, it boasts modern Byzantine architecture, spacious interior, stained glasses, wood-carved iconostasis made by masters of the Debur woodcarving school. The mural paintings were made in 1949-1950. The Cathedral is a declared monument of culture.
Varna haloclite necropolis on exposition in the Archeological Museum. In 1972 on the northern bank of Varna lake was discovered the Varna halocline necropolis, dated from the second part of the fifth millennium BC. The discovered finds prove the existence of a developed civilization in south Eastern Europe. Potter masks with golden applications, ceramic tools, copper decorations and etc were found in the excavated over 200 burial mounts. Over 3000 golden tools with total weight of 6, 5 kilograms were found there and they are considered to be the oldest cultivated gold in the world.
Euxinograd is a former late 19th-century Bulgarian royal summer palace complex and park on the Black Sea coast, 8 km north of downtown Varna. It is currently a governmental and presidential retreat hosting cabinet meetings in the summer and offering access for tourists to several villas and hotels. Since 2007, it is also the venue of the Operosa annual opera festival.
Modelled after the French Château de Saint-Cloud, Euxinograd is often considered to be one of the finest examples of post-Liberation architecture in Bulgaria. After the French château was destroyed during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Ferdinand acquired the pediment of its right wing for Euxinograd palace in 1890-1891. The palace was designed after the French 18th-century château style, with a high metal-edged French roof, figured brickwork and a clock tower.
View of the Euxinograd palace
The construction of the palace began soon after the land which it occupies was given to Knyaz Alexander of Bulgaria as a present by the Greek bishopric on 16 March 1882. There had previously been small monasteries called St. Demetrius and St. Constantine at that place, the buildings of which were subsequently converted into another small residence.
The interior Viennese architect Viktor Rumpelmayer designed the palace, which was named Sandrovo in 1885 after the Italian diminutive of Alexander’s name – Sandro. Later the knyaz extended the estate to its contemporary area of 80 hectares.
The Euxinograd park, the arrangement of which began in 1890 and took several decades, is home to over 310 plant varieties from Asia, South America, North Africa and Southern France, said to be picked out by Ferdinand himself. It occupies an area of over 550 decare. The park is a combination of English and French styles and was finished by Édouard André. It has two bridges, a metal one and a cement one, which imitates a fallen tree. The area is surrounded by vineyards.
The tiny Kestrichka Bara River flows through the park. The park also features a small lake full of lilies, French-made bronze figures and a sculpture of Neptune. More than 50,000 trees were purchased from Marseille and fertile soil was brought from the mouth of the Kamchiya River.
Pobiti Kamani is a rock phenomenon located on the road between Varna and Sofia around several villages just west of Varna. It consists of several groups of natural rock formations on a total area of 70 km². The formations are mainly stone columns between 5 and 7 metres high and from 0.3 to 3 metres thick. The columns do not have solid foundations, but are instead hollow and filled with sand, and look like they are stuck into the surrounding sands, which gives the phenomenon its name.
In order to be preserved, Pobiti Kamani was designated a natural landmark in 1937.
There are a number of theories regarding the phenomenon’s origin, divided roughly into two groups – supporting an organic or a mineral origin. According to the former, the formations are the result of coral activity, while the latter explain the phenomenon with the prismatic weathering of the rocks, the formation of sand and limestone concretions, or lower Eocene bubbling reefs.
Based on field observations and a petrographic and stable isotope geochemical study, evidence now exists that these structures represent an exceptionally well exposed paleo-hydrocarbon seep system (strongly depleted carbon isotope signatures of the dominant low magnesium calcite cement). The dynamic reconstruction of the origin of these structures, the processes of fluid migration and possible microbial interference in the process of carbonate precipitation are presently under study by researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven (Eva De Boever, PhD student KULeuven, Leuven, Belgium), in collaboration with researchers from the Institute of Oceanology (Lyubomir Dimitrov, Varna, Bulgaria), RCMG (Ghent University, Belgium), the Geobiology Lab of the University of Goettingen (Volker Thiel, Goettingen, Germany) and the University of Bologna (Barbara Cavalazzi, Bologna, Italy).
The Balchik Palace is a palace in the Bulgarian Black Sea town and resort of Balchik in Southern Dobruja. The official name of the palace was the Quiet Nest Palace. It was constructed between 1926 and 1937, during the Romanian control of the region, for the needs of Queen Marie of Romania. The palace complex consists of a number of residential villas, a smoking hall, a wine cellar, a power station, a monastery, a holy spring, a chapel and many other buildings, as well as most notably a park that is today a state-run botanical garden.
The Architectural Complex
Marie of Edinburgh, the wife of Ferdinand I of Romania, visited Balchik in 1921 and liked the location of the summer residence, ordering the vineyards, gardens and water mills of local citizens to be bought so a palace could be constructed at their place. Balkan and Oriental motives were used in the construction of the palace that was carried out by Italian architects Augustino and Americo, while a florist was hired from Switzerland to arrange the park. The main building’s extravagant minaret coexists with a Christian chapel, perfectly illustrating the queen’s Bahá’í beliefs.
Today many of the former royal villas and other buildings of the complex are reorganized inside and used to accommodate tourists. Some of the older Bulgarian water mills have also been preserved and reconstructed as restaurants or tourist villas.
The Botanical Garden
In 1940, after the reincopration of Southern Dobruja in Bulgaria with the Treaty of Craiova, the Balchik Botanical Garden was established at the place of the palace’s park. It has an area of 65,000 m² and accommodates 2000 plant species belonging to 85 families and 200 genera. One of the garden’s main attractions is the collection of large-sized cactus species arranged outdoors on 1000 m², the second of its kind in Europe after the one in Monaco. Other notable species include the Metasequoia, the Para rubber tree and the Ginkgo.
The University Botanic Gardens
The University Botanic Gardens were founded in 1977. Their mission is to provide information about the flora and to work for the conservation ex situ of rare and endangered plants. The Garden’s main objective is to carry out scientific research and design and provide ecological education programmes for various target groups.
The total area of the Botanic Gardens is 360 decares. They are designed as an eco park achieving harmony between natural and artificial ecosystems. The collection of trees and bushes includes over 300 species. The herbaceous plants are about 350 species, 260 Iris varieties are grown in the garden. There are facilities for accommodation, research and rehabilitation for 120 people.