Things to Do in Varna
Also known as the Summer Palace of Queen Marie, Balchik Palace (Dvoreca) sits along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, together with a popular botanical garden. The palace was built for Queen Marie of Romania between 1926 and 1937, when Romania controlled the region. Designed by an Italian architect, the palace is part of a complex that includes several villas, a wine cellar, a monastery, a chapel and several other buildings. Buildings within the complex feature architectural elements inspired by a variety of cultures and religions, including a minaret, a Christian chapel, Thracian, Greek and Roman symbols, and a mix of Bulgarian, Gothic and Islamic designs. The palace rooms open to the public display original furnishings, as well as some local ancient artifacts and photographs of Queen Marie. The nearby botanical garden was established in 1940 and covers 65,000 square meters. It is home to 2000 plant species, including a collection of large cactus species, only the second of its kind in Europe.
Focused on the period 1944–1989, when Bulgaria was under Soviet influence, the Varna Retro Museum serves up a dash of Communist chic in the heart of Varna’s No. 1 mall. Over 60 retro cars plus wax models of key characters from the era form the core of the collection, but you can also appreciate everyday objects from cigarettes to makeup.
Set in a grand 19th-century building, the Varna Archaeological Museum houses Bulgaria’s finest archaeology collection. Displays spread over 23,000 square feet (2,150 square meters) and run from Stone Age times to the 19th century. Highlights include some of the world’s oldest worked gold, dating back over 6,000 years.
In the Golden Sands resort town up the coast from Varna, Aquapolis is a 10-acre (4-hectare) landscaped water park with a lazy river, pools, and a number of slides. Besides adults’ and children’s areas, the extreme zone boasts the Kamikaze, a slide delivering speeds of up to 37 mph (60 kph). There are a number of food options on-site.
Set in Primorski Park on Varna’s coast, Varna Zoo (Zoopark Varna) is a small zoo established in the 1960s. Perhaps the most interesting of the 70-odd species here are the birds, which include black swans, pelicans, and local curios. There are also larger creatures here, including llamas, a camel, lions, tigers, wolves, and kangaroos.