Varna (Варна) is a cosmopolitan place, and nice to stroll through: Baroque, nineteenth-century and contemporary architecture are pleasantly blended with shady promenades and a handsome seaside park. As a settlement it dates back almost five millennia, but it wasn’t until seafaring Greeks founded a colony here in 585 BC that the town became a port. The modern city is used by both commercial freighters and the navy, as well as being a popular tourist resort in its own right.

Social life revolves around ploshtad Nezavisimost, where the opera house and theatre provide a backdrop for restaurants and cafés. The square is the starting point of Varna’s evening promenade, which flows eastward from here along bul. Knyaz Boris I and towards bul. Slivnitsa and the seaside gardens. Beyond the opera house, Varna’s main lateral boulevard cuts through pl. Mitropolit Simeon to the domed Cathedral of the Assumption. Constructed in 1886, it contains a splendid iconostasis and bishop’s throne. The Archeology Museum on the corner of Mariya Luiza and Slivnitsa houses one of Bulgaria’s finest collections of antiquities. Most impressive are the skeletons adorned with Thracian gold jewellery that were unearthed in Varna in 1972 and date back almost six thousand years.

South of the centre on ul. Han Krum are the extensive remains of the third-century Roman baths. It’s still possible to discern the various bathing areas and the once huge exercise hall. At the southern edge of the Sea Gardens, the Navy Museum is worth a trip to see the boat responsible for the Bulgarian Navy’s only victory; it sank the Turkish cruiser Hamidie off Cape Kaliakra in 1912.

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