Where to Stay on Bulgaria’s Coast

Old Nesebar, Bulgaria's Coast

For decades, mostly those east of the Iron Curtain really knew about the golden beaches that lie on Bulgaria’s coast. Today that’s not the case, with an increasing number of visitors from Western Europe and the UK choosing to spend their summer holidays soaking up the sun on the Black Sea. A big factor in the rush to Bulgaria’s beaches is the country’s affordability, being one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. Considering the ever growing number of tourists and rising prices of holidays in Adriatic and Mediterranean spots like Dubrovnik and the Greek Islands, Bulgaria has become an inviting alternative.

Since there are so many options along the country’s extensive coast line, here is a rundown of what the main spots along Bulgaria’s coast have to offer.

 


Old Nesebar

Old Nesebar, Bulgaria's Coast

There’s a reason that Old Nesebar is one of Bulgaria’s busiest tourist spots along its coast. This small historic port town situated out on an islet in the Black Sea is exceptionally scenic. What draws people to this town is its picturesque 19th century houses, numerous Roman and Byzantine ruins and close proximity to some of the country’s best beaches. Essentially, Old Nesebar has something for everyone.

Nesebar’s history dates back over 3000 years, when it was a Thracian settlement known as Menebria. However, in the 6th century BC it was colonised by the Greeks. From there it fell under Roman rule for a while and centuries later became a very important Byzantine coastal city during the Middle Ages. As such, throughout the town you will find ruins from each of these distinct periods. In fact, Old Nesebar is one of only a handful of spots in Bulgaria listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Hagia Sophia Church, Bulgaria's Coast

Among the ruins, Old Nesebar has an abundance of preserved churches, as the city was once a regional centre for Christianity. The most striking of the churches is the Hagia Sophia Church, which dates from the 5th century, still has its brick arched columns and the main apse intact. Looking at the remains, you can very easily picture what the church would have looked like.

The most charming aspect of the town is the style of houses found in Old Nesebar. Most of the houses are in a style from the 19th century known as “National Revival”, which refers to the time period when Bulgaria regained independence in 1878. If you choose to stay in Old Nesebar it will likely be in one of these buildings that has been converted into a boutique hotel.

Old Nesebar Buildings, Bulgaria's Coast

Perhaps the main shortcoming of Old Nesebar is its beaches. Rather than the soft sand beaches found at Sunny Beach and New Nesebar, the beaches by the old town are rather small and gravel. Luckily, both Sunny Beach and South Beach are close enough that you could walk, but taking the bus would be easier. There’s also the option of taking the regular boats that run between Old Nesebar and Sunny Beach.

Old Nesebar Beach, Bulgaria's Coast

Staying in Old Nesebar, you’ll find many reasonably priced hotels as mentioned earlier. There’s also plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants serving local and international cuisine. Unfortunately, the prices at restaurants in the old town are higher than those found in New Nesebar and the restaurants tend to be more touristy. And speaking of touristy, you won’t be able to walk 10 metres along any of the main streets without coming across souvenir shops. Still, these businesses seem to do a cracking trade, so there must be demand, even if it’s not my thing.

Old Nesebar is a fascinating destination on Bulgaria’s coast, with its broad history and prime location. Those looking for a little more than just sitting by the beach will be decidedly pleased.

 

Getting There: Burgas Airport is the nearest airport to Old Nesebar, only 25km away. Regular buses run between Burgas Airport and Nesebar and their are plenty of airport transfers available. For those coming from within Bulgaria or neighbouring countries, buses can be taken from the cities of Burgas or Varna. Bus Information can be found here.

 


New Nesebar

New Nesebar, Bulgaria's Coast

For those looking to escape the crowds or save some money, New Nesebar is your best bet. The new town to Old Nesebar is found across the causeway on the mainland with modern low rise buildings and a subdued atmosphere. While quiet, it’s home to plenty of cosy cafes, affordable restaurants and an immensely pleasant beach.

While Old Nesebar is a historic and visually enticing place, New Nesebar is simply functional. The town was built in  the 1920s and feels like a quiet seaside town, rather than some tourist hotspot. In the centre part of town, you can walk down the middle of the road in a singlet and shorts and look perfectly at home. It was this relaxed, simply atmosphere that appealed to me during my visit and I ended up spending over a week here.

Despite its slow pace, New Nesebar does see quite a few tourists. This seems to be where many Bulgarian and Eastern European tourists choose to stay. Also, since there is finite places to stay within Old Nesebar, it’s inevitable that people visiting there will end up staying in the new town. As New Nesebar is located between Old Nesebar and Sunny Beach, both are easily accessible on foot or by bus. You’re removed from the action bus it’s close by.

New Nesebar Sunset, Bulgaria's Coast

Accommodation in New Nesebar seems to come in two speeds, budget hotels or large semi-resorts. While the semi-resorts are fairly expensive by local standards, being generally on the beach, the budget hotels are several streets back from the water. These hotels are great for budget travellers, with rooms at comfortable budget hotels for less than 20€ a night.

There’s also a more obvious local community, which means you can find many bakeries, fast-food shops and reasonably priced places to eat. Most of the restaurants and cafes also do cheap breakfasts, further helping backpackers save money. While things are generally cheap in New Nesebar, there’s also some quality spots to go to. My favourite place to have coffee, lunch or dinner was the Foyer Cafe and Bakery down near South Beach. While generally a little dearer than other places nearby, the staff are super welcoming and it has a really pleasant outdoor seating area.

South Beach, Bulgaria's Coast

New Nesebar lacks any real attractions of its own, aside from South Beach. South Beach stretches quite a ways down the peninsula, alternating between free public beach and paid sun lounge sections. While generally busy, the beach was never full. At the far southern end of the beach near the headlands is a nudist section. South Beach doesn’t have beach bars so much as it has cafes and bars that are beach adjacent and usually part of a hotel.

It may not be the flashiest, or particularly beautiful, but New Nesebar can be great value for money and thoroughly peaceful.

 

Getting There: Burgas Airport is the nearest airport to New Nesebar, only 25km away. Regular buses run between Burgas Airport and New Nesebar and their are plenty of airport transfers available. For those coming from within Bulgaria or neighbouring countries, buses can be taken from the cities of Burgas or Varna. Bus Information can be found here.

 


Sunny Beach

Sunny Beach, Bulgaria's Coast

When it comes to resort towns in Bulgaria, there’s none bigger than Sunny Beach. The fact that it’s better known by its English translation rather than its Bulgarian name speaks volumes. Stretching along a large, golden beach in the middle of Bulgaria’s coast are a string of resorts, hotels and apartment towers that host many of the country’s beachgoers. In particular, Sunny Beach seems to be the top choice for Brits – they almost exclusively visit here in Bulgaria it seems. This is reinforced by countless chalkboards advertising Full English Breakfasts and Premier League viewing hours outside of many restaurants and bars.

When it comes the beach here, Sunny Beach earns its name. Sunny Beach had I think the best beach I came across along Bulgaria’s coast. The beach stretches forever, so there’s heaps of space and the sand is soft. There’s also plenty of beach bars and cafes to pick from, meaning you really don’t have to leave the beach all day.

Ice Cream, Bulgaria's Coast

Because the town runs along the beach, it spans several kilometres end to end, with a loosely defined town centre. This isn’t so much a problem as you generally find restaurants, cafes, bars, mini markets throughout Sunny Beach. If you do want to head into the centre or get about, frequent buses run right through town and only cost 1.3lev (0.65€). Also popular for getting about are electric scooters which you can rent nearly everywhere, which usually cost 20lev (10€) for an hour.

Now I have to admit I’ve read some articles that don’t look favourably on Sunny Beach. While I have no personal insight on the party scene, a large majority of people I saw in Sunny Beach were families. Also, when I visited the beach was certainly not full of either people or sun lounges and there was plenty of space. This was in late June, ie. the start of Summer, so I can’t imagine it drastically changing. I had been told right across Bulgaria that tourists numbers were low this year, so perhaps that had some bearing.

Sunny Beach Town, Bulgaria's Coast

All of this is of course if you even want to leave where you’re staying. In Sunny Beach, you can find many all-inclusive options, making seeking out restaurants and mini markets purely optional. Most also have large swimming pools, so you won’t even need to make the short walk to the beach if you don’t want to.

Basically, if you’re looking for a simple, comfortable holiday by the beach in Bulgaria, Sunny Beach is a no-brainer.

 

Getting There: Burgas Airport is the nearest airport to Sunny Beach, only 25km away. Regular buses run between Burgas Airport and Sunny Beach and their are plenty of airport transfers available. For those coming from within Bulgaria or neighbouring countries, buses can be taken from the cities of Burgas or Varna. Bus Information can be found here.

 


Varna

Varna Beach, Bulgaria's Coast

I don’t think the city of Varna is not the most obvious of destinations to visit across Bulgaria’s seaside. Varna is actually the third biggest in Bulgaria and is often known as the country’s maritime capital. This is due to its thriving merchant port and the headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy. However, what it has to offer tourists is lovely beaches combined with the convenience and facilities of city living.

Varna has what you’d come to expect from a moderately large city. In the city centre you’ll find large pedestrian areas lined with the usual conveniences and even several large shopping malls. If you want to spend your days shopping, relaxing in cafes and people watching, then Varna can give you that. Considering the size of the city, it’s a good thing Varna has an easy to use bus network. Simply hop on the bus and a ticket lady will come by and will give your ticket for just 1 lev.

Varna Ruins, Bulgaria's Coast

While Varna has a long and storied history dating over 2500 years, there are only a few remnants left. Found in the city centre are two ruins of Roman Baths, the Large and the Small Roman Thermae. From later periods, you will come across the occasional Ottoman house, but for the most part the city reflects its 20th century history. That said, there are a number of museums that delve into the city’s history, from the city’s Archaeological Museum to its Naval Museum.

For those that enjoy interesting architecture, visitors can find buildings in a range of period styles, from Art Nouveau to Neo Baroque. These buildings tend to be found on the city’s lively pedestrian streets and squares. One particularly beautiful building is the city’s Opera Theatre.

Varna Opera Theatre, Bulgaria's Coast

The city of Varna has several stretches of beach along its extensive coastline, the most popular being at the end of the main pedestrian street, Bulevard Slivnitsa. These wide open beaches are open to the public with plenty of space. Along the main beach you will find the usual plenty of beach bars and clubs, with the restaurants mostly grouped at the northern end of the beach. What joins each of the beaches together is Primorski Park, a long park that runs alongside the beach and a pleasant space for those looking to stroll in the shade. While Varna’s main beaches are public, the city does have its own resorts on the coast somewhat nearby at Golden Sands.

Compared to the other destinations on this list, Varna’s great strength is the comforts that come with being in a major urban centre, while still being able to spend time at a nice beach.

 

Getting There: The city of Varna has its own airport with connections across Europe. Regular buses run from Varna to many parts of Bulgaria and up to Constanta in Romania. There are even occasional buses running to Bucharest. Bus Information can be found here.

 


Sozopol

Sozopol Coast, Bulgaria's Coast

Sozopol has a lot going for it. In a sense, Sozopol is quite similar to Nesebar. It has a historic old town surrounded by the sea and hosts many beautiful revival houses. What makes it different is that it mostly lacks the touristy stuff and the crowds, allowing you to soak in its charms in peace. This is in large part due to the fact that it is yet to draw much attention from tourists, overshadowed by the towns and resorts to the north.

The town as it is today dates back to Ancient Greece, when it was known as Apollonia after its impressive temple to Apollo. For the Greeks it was an important trading port on the Black Sea, something that hasn’t changed over the centuries. Throughout the following thousand or so years it passed hands between the Byzantines, Bulgarians and Ottomans the same as the rest of Bulgaria. With the return of the Bulgarian nation, much of the Greek population was removed in 1912-13.

The main tourist attraction of Sozopol is to simply wander its cobbled streets and admire the 19th century houses. There is also the stone promenade that runs along the south side of the peninsula which has wonderful sea views and a reconstructed ancient gate. You’ll only find the occasional ruin, there’s one by the entrance to the old town and one at the point of the peninsula.

Streets of Sozopol, Bulgaria's Coast

Sozopol is quite easy to get around with the gap between the Old Town and New Town being relatively small. This means you can move between the two easily on foot. This matters because quite a lot of the accommodation – and also the beaches – are in the New Town.

South of the Old Town there are a series of coves, each with their own beach. Between the nearest two, there was no real difference in quality or facilities. Like the other beaches above, the beaches have both sections of sun lounges and free public area. There is another beach further along the coast, accessible by one of those little tourist trackless trains.

Sozopol Beach, Bulgaria's Coast

The majority of the restaurants can be found by the water, either overlooking a beach or on the Old Town promenade. In the middle of the New Town you’ll find bakeries, supermarkets, plus the occasional restaurant. While not as cheap or budget friendly as New Nesebar, there’s still good value to be found in Sozopol.

If you’re looking for something more off the beaten track, with a mix of cultural experience and beach time, Sozopol is a great choice.

 

Getting There: Burgas Airport is the nearest airport to Sozopol, 35km away. Buses to Sozopol only come from Burgas, so you will need to transfer there if coming from the airport, within Bulgaria or neighbouring countries. Bus Information can be found here.

 


Have you spent time on Bulgaria’s coast? Where would you recommend people stay and visit? Please share in the comments below.

Why Not Pin It for Later

Where to Stay on Bulgaria's Coast, via @travelsewhere

Two Traveling TexansWeekend
Shares

20 Comment

  1. Angie says:

    Fabulous! I love Hagia Sophia Church, and those cobbled streets – beautiful! Although I have to confess, you lost me at Sunny Beach! I mentally plonked myself down on that gorgeous sand and started dreaming of popping to Varna’s lovely beach next 🙂 Hubby has been to Bulgaria ski-ing, maybe it’s time to return to see it in the summer! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Kevan says:

    I’m always looking to find hotspots before they become hotspots, and the places here sound amazing. Places with such long histories fascinate me. The ruins, quaint homes, and oh year the beaches look terrific. I think I’ve just added one more place to visit on my ever growing list.

  3. Lauren Barratt says:

    Great read! Defiantly opens my eyes up to Bulgaria and given me a few places I should visit thanks for sharing!

  4. My grandmother told me stories of her holidays in Bulgaria when she was young. I always associated the country with her. I am yet to visit but I like the look of some of these places, especially Sozopol! I would love to explore inland as well but there is always time for a relaxing day or two at the beach!

  5. Lolo says:

    OMG, I DID NOT imagine that Bulgaria’s coastline would be that remarkably beautiful! I’ve definitely pinned THIS for later!!! Nice to know that it’s also affordable and hopefully, still a bit off of the beaten path since everyone and their mother is going to Croatia at the moment. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  6. Ahila says:

    I am intrigued by old Nesebar. Thanks for sharing #TheWeeklyPostcard

  7. Kreete says:

    What a great and informative post! I have a lot of friends from Estonia who have been to Bulgaria this summer and this was a great way of “walking” through of what they might have experienced. I would certainly love to go there myself once I’m back in Europe. I have met many lovely Bulgarians and despite having a plan 1,5 years ago to visit this beautiful country, it ended up not happening due to time restrictions. Thanks for sharing! I have pinned this for the future. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  8. I know very little about Bulgaria but your post is a real eye opener. I will be looking into Bulgaria as well as that entire area around the Black Sea.

  9. Anna says:

    Bulgaria looks so beautiful! Thanks for sharing – goes to my bucket list! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  10. Lisa says:

    This is a wonderful post. I wasn’t familiar with these areas at all. I like that most of these aress are more lowkey and less crowded. Would love to visit the church and other historical places and just stroll those roads & small cafes. This is right up my travel alley!

  11. Anisa says:

    I had no idea there were so many nice places on Bulgaria’s coast. The beaches look lovely, so hope I can make it there someday. Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  12. It’s not quite true that in the past Bulgaria and neighbouring Romania were off the tourist radar – at least not for Europeans! In the communist days these countries offered outstanding value for money and most general travel agencies had them in their program. I remember visiting Romania as child with my parents – around 1968 or 69!
    But it is true that Bulgaria’s beach towns still receive less Western tourists than they deserve; most seem to come from the former USSR.
    Thanks for sharing this list of Bulgaria’s beach resorts on #wkendtravelinspiration !

  13. Anda says:

    I’ve heard Bulgaria’s coast was beautiful but never had chance to go see it, although I lived in Romania for 33 years. I’m planning to go there soon, however. Your post is really convincing.

  14. Garth says:

    I’ve heard good things about the coast resorts of Bulgaria, thanks for all the insights, they look good! were you tempted by the Full English?!

  15. Bulgaria looks absolutely delightful. I love the history! The cobblestones, the old buildings, the old ruins and the gorgeous looking beaches. I think Bulgaria is now on my list! 😀

  16. Becki says:

    I’d never really considered Bulgaria as a holiday destination before now, but it looks so so beautiful! The combination of beaches and historical towns sounds perfect!

  17. Jenn says:

    I must admit that other than my friend who moved to the States from Bulgaria, I don’t know much about the country. Looks like it’s full of charm, beauty, and is a place we need to visit for sure!

  18. Apparently I should put Bulgaria on my list…

  19. Fantastic! We’ve heard a bit about Bulgaria – at least, Varna and Nesebar – thanks to friends from Romania and Turkey, but this detail is great. Rob’s been wanting to visit Eastern Europe for quite some time. The more we learn, the more we both want to go. Especially having seen the beaches! Thanks for sharing.

  20. Corinne says:

    The Bulgarian coast is so pretty. I’ve only been to Nessebar, but obviously I need to go to more places now. Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

Comments are closed.