Bulgaria's Black Sea coast is often known as the Red Riviera or Bulgarian Riviera due to its high number of seaside resort towns. Almost 35% of the 370 KMs of coast is covered with white or golden sand and very warm weather for half the year making it a prime destination for beach holidays. It also means that historically it was a good spot to develop cities and ports thus today it has a rich historical and cultural significance.
Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast has two major cities; Varna to the north, and Burgas to the south. Both cities are connected to the main train lines, however, Varna is a little tougher to travel to or from as there is no train line that runs along the north of the country so it would be best
accessed from Plovdiv or Sofia. Burgas has a gorgeous beachfront promenade and a main walking street littered with bars and restaurants but it has little else to see or do. If you are lucky enough to be there during the end of May for the national holiday of Slavonic Literature and Culture Day, it is an awesome parade bringing in thousands of locals.
As Varna is almost double the size, it feels a little less like a beach city and more like a metropolis which may appeal to some people. The major difference though is the historic sites that you can see. Varna is home to an archaeological museum (founded 1888) holding the world's oldest golden treasure, dating to at least 4000 BC, as well as a number of mosques from the Ottoman Empire and the Bulgarian Navy Museum. If you are still looking for some beach time, there are numerous resort towns a short distance away allowing for a great mix of city and beach.
The entire eastern coastline is dotted with resort towns primed for the influx of tourists from May to October. These include (from north to south) Balchik, Albena, Golden Sands, St Constantine and Helens, Sunny Beach, Pomorie, Sozopol, and Primorsko. Each area has been developed at different times with different ideas on hopeful clientele so it is important to choose one that will fit what you are looking for. Golden Sands is a great spot for beach lovers who prefer a little bit of action while being able to still find a few quiet spots. Albena, just a few minutes north lacks the nightlife but is perfect for a true relaxing holiday. About an hour north of Burgas by public bus Sunny Beach is
the heart of all Bulgarian Black Sea nightlife. Running down a several kilometer stretch of beach sit dozens of high-rise hotels and even more nightclubs. While it is perfect for the young (or young at heart) partier, it is not the best spot for families or people looking for peace and quiet. Sozopol to the south of Burgas is the perfect spot for families as it has water parks, kids activities and doesn’t have the crowd the big nightclubs bring in. No spot is "better" than another as they each win in aspects.
The majority of the coast is relatively modern and developed. That is except for Nessebar- a historic island of great importance. As an important port for the many centuries of occupation, a strong religious base was developed. This has allowed the city to claim it has the most churches per capita in the world! Dating back to the 6th century, over 40 churches can be found spaced out through the island. Along with hundreds of years of fortifications, the island has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site and should not be missed. It is about an hour north by public bus from Burgas and just a few minutes south of Sunny Beach so it is easy to explore by public transportation.
Where to Stay
There is pretty much every possible style of place to stay in. AirBnbs are cheap and plentiful as are grocery stores allowing you to cook your own food, however without a central spot to meet people they can be lonely if you are wanting to socialize. Hotels are a great option but they lack cooking facilities. For those who are wanting the easiest option, we suggest looking at the all-inclusive resorts. While they lack local culture, they are an easy way to meet people while not needing to cook for yourself. They can also be very inexpensive. Our place at the south end of Sunny Beach was only $72/night for the two of us and included wine, beer, and local spirits!
How to get there and around
There is a train line that reaches from Burgas to Varna, however, it goes inland first so it takes a long time. It also doesn’t run any further north or south from those cities thus is not the best way to travel through the area. Numerous buses run all along the coast daily which are quicker and much more convenient than the train. Depending on the city, there may also be public city buses that will take you to your resort town as is the case with Golden Sands to Varna. You can also rent a car, but as most people won't be travelling around once you get set up in a resort, it may not be necessary.