Popular Varna Shore Excursions
Glorious white-sand beaches -- with evocative names like Gossip Beach and Atmosphere Beach -- lie a mere 400 yards from the dockside. Beach restaurants will have clean toilets you can change in (though they charge a half-leva entrance fee).
Alternatively, there are a few blue-painted, tin changing cubicles on stilts, scattered along the beach to preserve your modesty. Even if you just plan on sightseeing and shopping, take your swim wear along. Varna gets extremely hot in summer, and a refreshing dip en route to the ship will seem like an excellent idea after a steamy walk.
The Archaeological Museum, a 25-minute cab ride from the dock, has more than 55,000 exhibits dating from the Stone Age. The vast collection includes ancient tombs, golden treasures more than 6,000 years old and some examples of the oldest processed gold in the world. It's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Roman Baths are another close-to-the-ship attraction. The ruins of the Roman thermal baths, once the largest Roman public building in Bulgaria. Enough of the complex has been excavated to make it an impressive sight. From the ship, turn left as you enter the Sea Gardens. The baths are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Aladja Monastery, near the Golden Sands Resort, is made up of a series of caves, set 120 feet up on a cliff face; it was home to early Christian hermits in the sixth century. The monastery consists of the monks' cells and a small church, in which you can still see some of the colored wall paintings.
The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary, a 25-minute cab ride from the dock, is worth seeing for its ornate bishop's throne and icons; its fine, stained-glass windows and distinctive, onion-shaped domes; and the wonderful views over the city from its 133-stepped bell tower. It's open 8 a.m. to 8p.m. When you've finished, check out the nearby flea market.
For a bit of history -- or to escape the hot sun with an indoor activity -- Varna offers several other interesting museums. Walkable from the Sea Gardens is the National Maritime Museum (open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Or, take a taxi to the center of Varna to visit the Museum of Art and History, which has artifacts and jewelry that date back to 5,000 B.C., as well as the Ethnographical Museum, a period house that recreates life as it was lived in the city in the 1800's.
A good place to start a city walking tour is Nezavisimost Square. Take a short cab ride from the pier to the square, and from there, you can walk to the Roman fortress wall, Round Tower and Opera House.