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Known as the culture capital of Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, Varna is blessed with sandy bays and lush green hills. You can party into the night on the city beach or visit the ancient Roman baths during the day. Outside the city, national parks offer plenty of hiking opportunities, such as walking through The Stone Desert – one of the only deserts in Europe. Save time to taste the unique cuisine of the area: a surprising fusion of Mediterranean, Balkan and Asian flavours.
Some Varna hostels are by the sea and others are in the city itself. Discover hostels that host live music events in the evenings or ones with swimming pools to cool off in. Looking to meet fellow travellers? Choose a Varna hostel with a wood-fired oven and organise a pizza night. There are restored 19th-century homes, or you can stay in an Art Deco building with the oldest working lift in the city. Some hostels in Varna have free breakfast or guest kitchens, and free Wi-Fi is available in most places.
Varna's Old Town is the central neighbourhood with a pedestrian-only core bustling with outdoor cafés. The Sea Garden park, which is popular with the locals, lies between the centre and the beach, providing a peaceful oasis for picnics in the shade. For hiking you can go to the oaken forest just outside of Vladislavovo or drive north for 20 minutes to the Golden Sands Nature Park.
Popular sights within Varna are the copper-domed cathedral and the Retro Museum, where you can discover Bulgaria under communist rule. For a swim surrounded by wilderness try Fichoza Beach, which serves as a meeting place for locals. There are plenty of interesting day trips from Varna too. Visit Aladzha Monastery in the Golden Sands Nature Park – a series of hermit caves where 13th-century monks spent their lives – or Barite Complex, a living museum where you can eat in a traditional restaurant and hear folk music among rolling green hills.
You can fly into Varna Airport, a 20-minute bus ride from the city centre. If you're arriving by bus, the intercity bus terminal is a 25-minute walk from the centre. From here you can connect to Sofia (7 hours), Plovdiv (7 hours) and Istanbul (10 hours). Varna Train Station is close to the beach with trains running to most Bulgarian cities. Much of the city is walkable, but to reach Golden Sands, take bus 109 or 409.