Nessebar – one of the best known and most popular resorts in Bulgaria. In contrast to Sunny Beach and Golden Sands, here there are not only great beaches, but also a lot of attractions and beautiful landscapes.
Originally, the city was called Mesembria. Now you can find the transcription Nesebar, Nessebar and even Nesebur – the town was renamed. It was founded over 3000 years ago and is considered one of the oldest city in Europe. Old Nessebar is entirely under the protection of UNESCO and is considered a museum city. Much in the old town is left of the Thracians, ancient Greeks and Romans, but it is more like a medieval than antique.
We had a rest in Nessebar for about 14 days in late summer of 2015 and had a good idea to examine it and make a lot of great photos. Since the information in the Internet is a bit scant and photos are monotonous – we decided to tell about our own experience in the form of large, detailed review.
The old town of Nessebar is one of the most exciting resorts in Bulgaria
The old part of Nessebar is located on a large peninsula connected to the mainland by a wide road and pedestrian bridge, which separates the old city from the new. On most websites peninsula called “small” – in fact, on the picturesque labyrinths of the medieval streets you can walk for hours.
In ancient times, the peninsula was almost twice as much, but a devastating earthquake not only destroyed the the antique buildings, but also plunged them into the water. Now from the city pier, you can easily go on a boat trip. When it is a good weather and a calm sea you will even be able to see the sunken city. Surprising the fact, that all the temples and churches, that were located in the territory of city, have remained on land.
Walking through Nessebar, within a few minutes you can make dozens of beautiful photos. The nature here is really beautiful, regardless of the weather in the storm, and on a sunny fine day.
It is worth noting that in recent years, the city is increasingly becoming a huge market – souvenirs are sold in almost every shop and building on the street, at every corner there is a 3 or 4 restaurants that are actively beckoning visitors. On the one hand it creates a unique color, and on the other – it spoils the magnificent image of the ancient city.
Key features vacation in Nessebar
Such increase of prices is somehow justified by the beautiful views of the historic city, where it is really nice to walk, especially in the evening (by the way, at Sunny Beach or Golden Sands prices even higher, and there is nothing to watch there – only hotels).
If desired, you can also to economize – to travel by cheaper public transport and to buy food in supermarkets.
Beaches of Nessebar – the pros and cons
If to tell honestly and objectively, the beaches of Nessebar we liked much more than advertised Sunny Beach, which starts right outside the city. In Nessebar there are a little bit less people, and therefore the beaches are cleaner. Some of these beaches are fully equipped – with the rescuers, the international system of flags and metered sunshades/sunloungers. But some beaches have remained “wild”.
Almost every beach has a free area for vacationers with towels. It always enough places and campers do not disturb each other. By the way, to buy your umbrella much more profitable than to rent it on the beach.
Plus, we have not seen in Nessebar that the rotten algae were overthrown back into the sea – this very disappointed us at Sunny Beach.
It would be useful: a detailed article about the beaches of Nessebar and their features.
Attractions of Nessebar – what to see in the city
Do you know why there are so many churches in Nessebar? After all, there were more churches, but not all of them preserved until today. This story is rarely told, but we still try. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Nessebar became a part of the Byzantine Empire. It was the place where the Emperor exiled the most powerful political opponents from the noble families, ministers, generals, merchants, whom he could not or did not want to executed.
And on a small peninsula began to live hundreds of famous and wealthy families, each of which sought to build their own familial churches. Some of them merged to and within a few years in Nessebar there were more than forty churches, some of which are well preserved now, and part is in ruins (some of them have not been excavated and are still under the ground). Even after the capture of the city, the Ottoman Empire was not able to prohibit churches. The only condition was to build them low – no higher than the growth of the rider.
Sights of the city-resort on the island begins at the bridge, by which it is connected to the mainland. There is an old mill, arranged a beautiful illumination and there are benches for tired tourists. On the right side of the bridge you can see the monument of Saint Nicholas – patron saint of fishermen. Interesting fact: in Nessebar on this monument at almost any time you can see cormorants. You can not find them anywhere else in the city.
By the way, we got the impression that Nessebar – is a city of seagulls. Here is unreally a lot of them, even more than pigeons in any of our cities. Literally in 15 minutes, you can make dozens of different photos with seagulls. Initially, we got so carried away that even joked, that eventually we will have a “blog about seagulls.”
Walking across the bridge, you will appreciate the beauty of the surrounding landscapes: the sea, distant mountains, the passing boats and the lights of Sunny Beach or the new part of Nessebar in the distance.
Just beyond the bridge begins a massive fortification, preserved since ancient times. In the evening, on the wall is playing a man. Guess the name of the instrument!
Well, of course, it is gaida – Bulgarian national instrument. This work must be very hard – a few hours long without a break at the same time to dance and to play an original, charming music. Although the melody is Bulgarian, but there is very much are felt Arabic and Turkish motifs.
Of course, the man collects donations. If desired, you can throw him a few levs.
Museums in the old part of Nessebar
Immediately behind the ramparts, you can see the Archaeological Museum of Nessebar, that was opened in 1994. There you can see the evidence of far Thracian era, found in the city, that are dating back to 2-3 thousand years – even before the advent of Christianity. Generally, in the city there are plenty of archaeological excavations, that confirm Nessebar’s status as one of the oldest cities in Europe. Also in the museum is exhibited a vast collection of Orthodox icons.
Also in the city there is the Ethnographic Museum, located near the seaport and the summer theater (amphitheater). To reach it, you will have to walk a bit. In the museum you can get acquainted with the life, customs and traditions of the Bulgarian people. The museum itself is designed as a traditional Bulgarian house and almost does not differ from the other buildings of Nessebar.
Orthodox churches of Nessebar
It should be noted that the mini-museums are located in almost every small church of the city. In our time, it is open only the Orthodox Church of the Holy Virgin on the street Slavyanskaya (see the map at the end of the article).
Most of these churches-museums have a very humble exposure, and the entrance fee is 2-3 levs. So it would be wise to visit a full-fledged “big” museum.
It may be interesting: the detailed description and photos of all museums-churches of Nessebar.
Other attractions of Old Nessebar
Besides the museums you should visit Amphitheatre. It is located in the southern part of the city, on the same street as the Ethnographic Museum and very close to the Church of St John Aliturgetos (unhallowed). To find this place, after the bridge turn right, without entering the city. Pass a little along the promenade and you will see the a staircase upwards (near the sea port).
We liked the Amphitheater not only for its picturesque and the ability to admire the beautiful view of the sea from a height, but also for the attitude of local residents – in the evenings there often are free concerts. For example, we have seen the festival of dances and songs among people with disabilities. Very nice to watch how carefully the Bulgarians are treat to the people with disabilities – they come here from around the world to express themselves and to heal a bit. A bit more about this we wrote in the article about our impressions from Bulgaria..
Another important attraction of Nessebar considered the Turkish fountain. It recalls the era of Turkish rule (1452-1878 years, more than 400 years long) in Bulgaria. Also, Turkish baths are preserved here. We can not say that the fountain and baths represent a something outstanding. If you do not know what to look for, you can just pass by. Ironically, from centuries of Turkish rule in the city is almost nothing left.
In the city also have been preserved Byzantine baths. They were constructed in VI century. Already at that time through the it was laid a city water supply system, by which the water was supplied. The therms had a large lounge and several swimming pools. It is said, that once therein rested the Emperor Constantine IV Pogonate. It is believed, that due to the elaborate system of the aqueduct, in different rooms it is supported different temperature of the water and air, allowing the locals to enjoy bathing and temperature contrast.
Unfortunately, up to now been preserved only excavations and some buildings demolished and re-built up with pretty Bulgarian houses. Of course, no carved columns or floor, lined with white marble, no other traces of luxury did not retaine.
The streets and the old wooden houses in Nessebar
The main attraction of Nessebar , in our opinion, are not museums or even churches, but the narrow, winding streets paved with cobblestones, small parks, where you can sit, and also unique, picturesque Bulgarian houses of the Renaissance period (it started when Bulgaria freed itself from Turkish rule).
The unique architecture is explained simply enough – the stone ground floors were used primarily for wine cellars, basements and warehouses. The walls were often whitewashed or were not plastered. To preserve freshness and to prevent the spoilage of the goods and wine under the action of sunlight on the first floor the windows were made very narrow.
The second floor was intended for living and constructed mostly of wood – it created a comfortable microclimate for the person in the room. Of course, on the residential floors the windows was made wide to pass a lot of air and sun. The interior walls were usually whitewashed and the ceilings were left dark, keeping the natural color of stained wood.
Bay windows of the upper floors are protruding a little beyond the first floor, so that it not soaked during a rain. All this is usually decorated with intricate carvings, small balconies and reliefs.
It should be noted that the building are usually densely pressed together – on the peninsula was not a lot of place for construction.
Walking through the streets of Nessebar is the most pleasant in the evenings – everything is romantically illuminated, a pleasant twilight forces to work the imagination and adds a non-existent parts. And if you get off the bustlingt tourist streets, you can feel at one together, allegedly you get lost in the old medieval town. Many restaurants have the live music, on the streets you can see mimes, lots of tourists are walking around the city, children’s football teams are passing by, calling out anything…
It should be noted, that the excessive commercialization of the city is slightly spoils it. There are quite a lot of restaurants, souvenir shops, stores and street barkers, that for a quiet, peaceful Bulgaria, is a bit atypical. Though, on the other side, Nessebar has always been a lively commercial city. Maybe the shops are also the part of the local colour?
Interesting restaurants in Old Nessebar
Most of the restaurants in Old Nessebar is typically Mediterranean – cozy tables overlooking the sea, specializing in fish dishes, some of which can be a bit exotic. You can easily try, for example, shark meat, frog legs, fried clams or mussels in batter, lobster tail, and much more.
If you walk around the city for longer – you can find more original restaurants. For example, we liked the restaurant in the old Bulgarian house, where in the middle of the room the tree grows, and the eco-restaurant stylized as a cave with stalactites and stalagmites. You can visit a restaurant with a pond and a fountain right next to the table or dine at a real boat.
The map of Nessebar with the sights
To reach Burgas (where is the nearest airport) you can literally in 40 minutes by public transport – it is about 30 kilometers. To Varna it is a little further – a half to two hour trip.
For your convenience we have noted all the most important corners of Nessebar on the map: you can easily find churches attractions, restaurants, supermarkets and beaches.
Additional information about Nessebar:
- What are the beaches in Nessebar? The purity of the water and the shore, the depth and conveniences.
- Meals in Nessebar – where to buy foods and how much is it cost?
- Our review about living in Nessebar – what we liked and what did not?
- More about churches and temples of Nessebar – what is worth seeing?
- A selection of photos of Nessebar, its beaches and sights
- A selection of the most interesting Bulgarian resorts
- What to see in Bulgaria – our list of cheap self-guided tours.