Living in Varna: The Ultimate Expat Guide

Living in Varna: The Ultimate Expat Guide


Your first connotation when thinking about Varna, Bulgaria, is probably the Golden Sands resort. While it is true the city is primarily famous for its golden, sandy beaches and beautiful coastline, there is so much more Varna has to offer.


Embark on a journey through the Sea Capital and discover its hidden gems, best places to eat, things to do, and all the steps you need to take in order to call it your new home. 


  1. Work in Varna, Bulgaria
  2. Getting around Varna, Bulgaria
  3. Housing in Varna
  4. Living like a local
  5. Fun things to do around the city
  6. Cost of living in Varna, Bulgaria 


  1. Work in Varna, Bulgaria


It is much easier to find work opportunities, especially for foreigners, in bigger cities in Bulgaria. Therefore, Varna, being one of the country’s main cities, is a great place to start looking for your next job. 


Additionally, Varna is the biggest city on the Black Sea coast. Its size offers a competitive job market in both industry and tourism. 


Useful job boards for finding work in Varna, Bulgaria


At Europe Language Jobs, you will find attractive job offers with different languages in Varna. Alternatively, you can also use the most popular local websites in Bulgaria:


Sectors and languages in demand


Varna is, first and foremost, known as a tourist hotspot. Its location by the Black Sea and the accumulation of 5 different large sea resorts create a huge demand for jobs in hospitality and services. 


Seasonal employment is not all you can count on in Varna, though. International companies are increasingly opening new offices in this growing economic hub, creating new opportunities in the corporate sectors of HR, web design, outsourcing, consulting, customer service, marketing, and advertising. 


Especially IT engineers are sought-after in Varna. Thanks to the digital development of this city, new roles in the IT sector open up literally every day. 


The beauty sector is very well-developed in Bulgaria, and Varna is no exception. Locals and tourists alike enjoy frequent visits to the numerous beauty salons, so hairdressers, beauticians, and manicurists are always needed.


Language teaching jobs enjoy growing popularity as well. Varna is a modern city, which keeps an open mind and is aware of the possibilities brought on by language learning. The interest in language courses is increasing for both children and adults, so teachers are in demand, especially in languages such as: English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian. 


When it comes to languages in demand across all industries, Bulgarian employers are mostly looking for German, Dutch, Italian, Danish, Finnish, French, Spanish, Czech, Portuguese, and Hungarian speakers. English is often the first language in many international companies, so knowing it is essentially a must these days. 


Working culture


The working culture in Bulgaria has a hierarchical structure, with lines clearly marking levels of authority and decision-making. Showing respect to your supervisors and colleagues by addressing them with their title or surname is customary. 


While not exactly strict, Bulgarians are dedicated to their work. They take their duties seriously and have strong work ethics. Dedication, motivation, and diligence are respected. 


Punctuality is another important aspect of the Bulgarian work culture. Employees on all levels are expected to follow schedules and keep deadlines. You must show up to a meeting set for a specific time at the exact hour or - preferably - a bit earlier, but never later. 


The Labour Code in Bulgaria sets the regular working hours at 40 hours a week, and 8 hours a day. Bulgarian employers expect employees to work efficiently and fit within set deadlines, so working overtime is not as common as in some other European cultures. However, the number of hours worked overtime is regulated by the law.


They cannot exceed 30 hours a month, 6 hours a week, or 3 hours a day on two consecutive days. This amounts to a maximum of 150 hours you can work overtime during a year in Bulgaria. 


The remuneration for hours worked outside of the standard 40 hours a week is an extra 50% of the basic hourly pay on workdays, 75% on holidays, and 100% on public holidays. 


Work and residence permit 


EU citizens


EU citizens can live and work in Bulgaria without the need to obtain a visa or any additional permits for up to 3 months. After that time, they need to apply for a long-term EU residence permit. 


The application has to be submitted to the Migration Directorate branch of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior. Prepare the following documents:


  • Filled-out long-term EU residence application form (available at the local Migration Office)

  • Proof of paid application fee

  • Valid ID document issued by a member country of the EU

  • *Certified translations of any additional documents in a language other than Bulgarian


Disclaimer: the documents you need to prepare may differ depending on your individual situation, so be safe and inquire at the local Migration Office to make sure you don’t omit anything important. 


The long-term EU residence permit is issued for a period of up to 5 years and can be extended once that time is up, if relevant requirements are met. Be aware that the residence permit may lose its validity sooner if your other documents, which you used to obtain it, expire sooner than the uniform 5 years. 


Non-EU citizens


If you move to Bulgaria for work from outside of the European Union, you will need 3 things:


  • residence permit 

  • work permit

  • D-type visa


Each of those documents is unique to this country and cannot be used interchangeably. This means that if you have a non-EU passport but have lived and worked in another EU country, those permits and visas are not valid in Bulgaria. You will need to get new ones.


For example, if you come from India and have been employed in Greece, the work permit, residence permit, and working visa you obtained for your stay in Greece aren’t valid in Bulgaria (or any country other than Greece).

Residence permit


If you come from outside of the EU and don’t hold a valid European passport, you will need to obtain an extended residence permit to legally stay in Bulgaria. This document is granted on the basis of owning a D-type visa first. 


There are 31 conditions under which you can be granted an extended residence permit in Bulgaria. You can find all of them listed on a dedicated page by Visa for Bulgaria


When applying for an extended residence permit, you must prepare the following documents:


  • Filled-out extended residence permit application form (available at the local Migration Office)

  • Proof of paid application fee

  • Passport (must be valid for the entire duration of your stay in Bulgaria) with D-type visa

  • Proof of accommodation (eg. tenancy agreement)

  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay in Bulgaria (eg. bank statements, employment contract stating your salary, etc.) - you must prove you have savings equal to at least 12 consecutive Bulgarian minimum salary wages 

  • Proof of health insurance (must be valid for at least 1 year)

  • Criminal background check 

  • *Certified translations of any documents in a language other than Bulgarian


The extended residence permit is valid for 1 year. It must be renewed every time it expires if you intend to continue living in Bulgaria. The application for the permit’s renewal must be submitted at least 2 weeks before the previous permit’s expiration date. 


Work permit

All non-EU citizens who relocate to Bulgaria with the intention to work for a Bulgarian employer must obtain a Bulgarian work permit. You will usually be assisted in this process by your employer in Bulgaria. 


Work permits in Bulgaria are usually issued for a specific job. This means that you need to obtain a new work permit every time you change your job in Bulgaria. 


If you stay at the same job, the work permit has to be renewed every year, as it is valid for exactly 12 months. 


When you find a job in Bulgaria, your new employer has to submit an application for your work permit to the National Employment Agency. They may ask you for assistance in completing the following documents:


  • Copy of employee’s valid passport

  • 3 identical passport-style photos of the employee

  • Employee’s employment contract

  • Legal documents proving the employee’s education, qualifications, and skills for the job

  • Any other documents which might be relevant to the position 


According to Lawyers Bulgaria, the processing time for a work permit in Bulgaria takes no longer than 3 days. 


D-type visa


All non-EU citizens must obtain a D-type visa in order to be able to enter the territory of Bulgaria and be granted an extended residence permit. 


The D-type visa can be issued for a period of 6 or 12 months and allows multiple entry into Bulgaria. 


There are 18 terms on which non-EU citizens can obtain a D-type visa. All of them are detailed in the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. You must fulfil at least one of those 18 conditions in order to be eligible for the D-type visa.


An application can be submitted through an in-person appointment at the Consulate or Embassy of Bulgaria in your country. You will need to bring with you all the necessary documents, and a visa interview will be conducted with you. This appointment must be scheduled no later than 3 months before you intend to enter Bulgaria. Book it in advance, as the waiting time can be sometimes very long.


The documents you need to provide with your D-type visa application are similar to the ones necessary to obtain an extended residence permit. They include:


  • Filled-out visa application form

  • Proof of paid visa application fee

  • Passport (must be valid for the entire duration of your stay in Bulgaria)

  • 2 identical passport-style photos 

  • Proof of accommodation (eg. tenancy agreement)

  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay in Bulgaria (eg. bank statements, employment contract stating your salary, etc.) - you must prove you have savings equal to at least 6 consecutive Bulgarian minimum salary wages 

  • Proof of private health insurance from a Bulgarian company

  • Criminal background check 

  • *Certified translations of any documents in a language other than Bulgarian


Disclaimer: the documents you need to prepare may differ depending on your individual circumstances, so be safe and inquire at your local Consulate to make sure you don’t omit anything important. Failure to attach all the necessary documents to your application may result in a delay in the process.


The D-type visa for Bulgaria is normally issued within 1 or 2 months. This is why you need to attend a visa appointment no later than 3 months before your intended departure for Bulgaria. 


Important: this is just an outline of what the standard visa application procedure looks like. The visa procedures and regulations vary for every country, so we recommend conducting your own research, depending on where you’re from. 


Europe Language Jobs is not legally authorised to provide specific legal advice regarding visas or offer any aid in the area of obtaining visas and visa sponsorship. 

EU citizens and non-EU citizens


Permanent residence permit (EU and non-EU citizens)


In Bulgaria, you can also obtain a permanent residence permit. It is available for both EU and non-EU citizens. 


In order to apply for a permanent residence permit, you need to first be granted a long-term EU residence permit (for EU citizens) or an extended residence permit (for non-EU citizens) and hold it for a minimum of 5 years. 


Owning a permanent residence permit serves as a basis for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship.


The application process for the permanent residence permit is very similar to that of the temporary residence permits. You need to prepare the following documents:


  • Filled-out permanent residence application form (available at the local Migration Office)

  • Proof of paid application fee

  • Valid passport

  • Valid European ID (for EU citizens)

  • Valid long-term EU residence permit (for EU citizens) or valid extended residence permit (for non-EU citizens)

  • *Certified translations of any documents in a language other than Bulgarian


Social Security


Upon signing an employment contract in Bulgaria, you need to obtain a foreigner’s identification number from the National Revenue Agency (NRA). This number is necessary for paying taxes and gaining access to the Social Security services in Bulgaria.


Generally, each employee at a Bulgarian company is automatically insured. 60% of the contributions to the national Social Security system are automatically deducted from your salary by the employer. You must pay the remaining 40% on your own. 


According to Bulgaria Labour Law, the rates are as follows:


  • Basic social security: 17.3% of the gross salary

  • Health insurance: 8% of the gross salary

  • Pension insurance: 5% of the gross salary

  • *Occupation accident insurance: 0.4% - 1.1% of the gross salary (paid entirely by the employer)


  1. Getting around Varna, Bulgaria 




Buses are the most common means of public transport used to get around Varna. You can purchase tickets at the ticket machines at bus stops or online. 


For timetables, use websites like Bus Varna or Varna Traffic. They enable you to access real-time updates about arrival times, roadworks, and other reasons for possible delays. Both websites are also available as mobile apps you can download onto your phone.




There are 3 trolleybus lines in Varna. They are a common alternative for regular buses, if you happen to be going somewhere connected by one of the lines.




There is no city train in Varna. There is no need for one, as you can easily get everywhere by buses or trolleybuses.


Overall, Bulgaria has over 4000km of railways. The trains are operated by BDZ and connect cities within the country, but also run to neighbouring foreign destinations such as Romania, Turkey, or Serbia. 


Bulgarian public transport, including trains, is very affordable. When staying in Bulgaria, make sure to take advantage of that and travel as much as you can.




Taxis in Varna are inexpensive. But be mindful - if the driver hears you speaking English or with a foreign accent, they might charge you extra. Uber does not work in Bulgaria, so you will have to use local taxi companies.




Holders of a driver’s license issued by another member country of the EU don’t have to obtain an international one. Drivers with a permit issued by a non-EU country have to get an international driver’s license to be able to drive in Bulgaria.


Bulgarian highways have a no-toll system, but foreign cars need to have a vignette sticker on the windshield. Cars rented in Bulgaria usually already come with vignettes, but double-check just to be safe. You normally have to be at least 21 years old to rent a car in Bulgaria.


During the winter period between the 1st of November and the 1st of March, you need to keep your headlights on at all times. 


Varna Airport


Bus number 409 operates between Varna Airport and the city centre. The journey to the centre takes about 20 minutes, and you need 30 additional minutes to get to the Golden Sands resort. 


The bus station is located in front of Terminal 2. The buses run roughly every 15 minutes. Check for real-time updates at Bus Varna or Varna Traffic. 

  1. Housing in Varna, Bulgaria


Flat hunt


Varna is a seaside resort and a tourist hotspot. The real estate market in such locations can be competitive due to the demand for short-term accommodation and many landlords choosing to convert their flats into Airbnbs. 


However, it is much easier to find a place to live in Varna than in Barcelona or Lisbon. The rent prices are tied to the tourist season and may skyrocket over the summer. Avoid moving to Varna during the holiday period. 


Varna is known for its beautiful apartment complexes lining the seafront. They are the most luxurious location, and therefore the most expensive one. However, due to the generally low cost of living in Bulgaria, luxury flats in Varna are often still more affordable than in other top European locations. 


Like in most places, flat hunt in Varna has moved online. You can search for your new home on dedicated real estate websites, expat forums, and Facebook groups. Be careful with the latter, as private listings are not always verified and it’s easy to fall prey to scams.


Helpful websites for finding accommodation in Varna:



Where to live? Districts in Varna


Galata - a small neighbourhood in the North of Varna. It is a bit removed from the city itself, which gives it a rural climate. Residents enjoy the proximity to nature paired with living just a short drive away from the centre. Galata offers access to forests, parks, and a panoramic view of the sea.


Briz - slightly removed from the city centre, Briz enjoys an international climate. It is situated on a hill overlooking the city and the sea, offering stunning views. The distance from the centre is small enough that you don’t have to waste a lot of time commuting, but far enough that the area is quiet and peaceful.


Tsentr - the city centre of Varna promises all the attractions and amenities as the heart of any other city. If your goal is to live close to an array of restaurants, cafés, and shops, then this district is perfect for you. It’s a good choice for everyone looking for a bustling, lively area rather than a tranquil suburb. 


Vinitsa - a popular choice for families and fans of suburban life. The abundance of green areas mixed with access to city amenities makes it the perfect neighbourhood to live in Varna. 


Mladost - located West of the city centre, Mladost is known for its quick development. It is an area of modern apartment complexes, shopping centres, and entertainment venues. Living there guarantees easy access to schools, shops, and sporting facilities. 


Izgrev - a mix of villas with access to the beach and post-Soviet blocks of flats. This part of the city offers great views and a quiet atmosphere.


Asparuhovo - a southern neighbourhood spread along the coast of Varna Bay. Perfect for those who like engaging in activities - watersports and trips to the sunny beach during the day, and amazing nightlife after sunset. 


Primorski Park - this district stretches along the coastline of the Black Sea, offering breathtaking views and proximity to the beach. Living there, you can also enjoy access to multiple sports facilities, beach clubs, and the Sea Garden.  


  1. Living like a local




Bulgarians are known to be warm and friendly. They are a very hospitable nation - their welcoming nature will make every newcomer feel at home. If you are hosted by a Bulgarian person, you will never go around hungry or uncomfortable. 


Varna’s location by the sea creates a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere. The city hosts a mix of locals, expats, and international students, which creates an inclusive, open-minded attitude. As it is a popular holiday destination, many people go there to forget about the hardship of everyday life, relax, and make friends. 


Useful resources to meet people in Varna:


The LGBTQ+ community in Varna


Sexual activity between the same sexes was legalised in Bulgaria in 1968. Laws protecting individuals against discrimination based on sexual orientation were introduced in 2003. 


However, there is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Bulgaria yet. 


The people’s approach itself varies. They tend to be more open-minded in bigger cities like Varna, but public displays of affection may still attract unwanted attention. Legally, nobody can be discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality, but same-sex relationships and the fluidity of genders are not as commonly discussed in Bulgaria as in some other European countries.


The attitude is changing for the better, especially among young generations, but it is important to be aware of the local culture before visiting Varna. Stay mindful, but don’t be afraid to be yourself. 




Bulgarian is a Slavic language, which means it has some ties with Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Slovak, Slovenian, Polish, Czech, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, and Macedonian. 


Once you speak any of those languages, understanding (and learning) others will come more easily to you. It can be compared to the Romance languages: knowing Polish and understanding some parts of Bulgarian is similar to knowing Spanish and roughly understanding Portuguese. 


What makes Bulgarian more difficult to learn than some other Slavic languages is the fact that, just like Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian, it is based on the Cyrillic alphabet. Learning a whole new alphabet can be challenging, but once you overcome it, everything becomes easier!


Here are a few basic phrases in Bulgarian to help you get started:


  • Good morning - Добро утро

  • Good afternoon - Добър ден

  • Good evening - Добър вечер

  • Hello - Здравейте

  • Goodbye - Сбогом

  • Goodnight - Hyvää yötä

  • How are you? - Как сте?

  • Thank you, I’m okay. HBU? - Благодаря ви, добре съм. А ти?

  • What’s your name? - Как се казвате?

  • My name is… - Името ми е...

  • Nice to meet you! - Приятно ми е да се запозная с вас!

  • Cheers! - Наздраве!

  • Have a nice day -  Хубав ден

  • Enjoy your meal! - Насладете се на храната си!

  • Yes - Да

  • No - Не

  • Maybe - Може би

  • I don’t know - Не знам

  • I don’t understand - Не разбирам

  • Please - Моля те

  • Thank you - Благодаря ви

  • You’re welcome - Моля

  • Do you speak English? - Говорите ли английски?

  • How much is it? - Колко струва?

  • Where is the toilet? - Къде е тоалетната?

  • Help! - Помощ!


Save the Date


National holidays in Bulgaria


The national holidays in Bulgaria follow the Christian Orthodox calendar. Most of the holidays are celebrated in the company of family and friends, sharing food and spending quality time together.


Baba Marta (March 1st) - a holiday celebrating the arrival of Spring. People exchange Martenitsa (red and white tassels) as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.


Liberation Day (March 3rd) - commemoration of Bulgaria’s liberation from the Ottoman rule in 1878. Although it’s a nationwide celebration, Varna actually played a crucial role in the Russo-Turkish War between 1877 and 1878.


St George’s Day (May 6th) - dedicated to the patron saint of Varna. Various religious services take place, accompanied by cultural events and processions.


Day of the Cyrillic Alphabet (May 24th) - did you know that the Cyrillic alphabet was created for the Bulgarian language? For this reason, it constitutes a source of national pride for Bulgarians. They express their appreciation for their very special alphabet at the end of May.


Varna’s City Day (July 27th) - a variety of festivities, events, exhibitions, concerts, and fireworks commemorates the founding of the modern city of Varna. 


Unification Day (September 6th) - a celebration of the unification of Bulgaria in 1885. Prior to that event, the country was divided between what was known as the Principality of Bulgaria and the Province of Eastern Rumelia. Bulgarians commemorate this event by participating in various ceremonies and events.

Events in Varna


The sunny climate of Varna encourages various events happening throughout the warm months. Aside from the many smaller ones organised by local museums and entertainment venues, the city hosts 2 major annual events:


Varna Summer International Music Festival (June - August) - the festival is dedicated to classical music, which is celebrated in various ways. The programme includes choral, operatic performances, performing chamber, and symphonic music. 

It is divided between 4 venues: the Summer Theatre, the City Art Gallery, the Opera House, and the Congress Centre. 


The Golden Rose Bulgarian Feature Film Festival (September / October) - an important milestone in the festival calendar for Varna. Famous Bulgarian directors and actors visit the city to showcase their films and documentaries during this prestigious festival celebrating high-quality national cinematography. 


  1. Fun things to do around the city


Bulgarian cuisine


Bulgarian food is typically filling and hearty. The country experiences harsh winters, so many dishes were designed to fill the stomachs and warm up the hearts. 


The Bulgarian cuisine as we know it today carries a great influence of Ottoman cuisine, and shares some dishes with Middle Eastern cuisine. It is, therefore, a mix of European and Western-Asian flavours. 


Varna, in particular, is known for its fresh seafood and fish. Delivered straight from the Black Sea, they are grilled, fried, or prepared in delicious stews. Popular kinds include turbot, mackerel, sprat, and sea bass.




Like in many Eastern European countries, a big chunk of the Bulgarian cuisine is reserved for soups. Thick, warm, and hearty, they are meant to fill the stomachs in the winter months, feeding the heart, body, and soul. 


Bob chorba - a mix of white and kidney beans with peppers, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots. It often also includes meat for a richer flavour, but the goal of this soup is to use up all the meat and vegetables you need gone from your fridge, so the recipe depends on the day. The soup is also spiced with lots of paprika.


Shkembe chorba - a popular soup made of beef or lamb tripe with vegetables, with lots of herbs and spices.


Supa topcheta - meatball soup. Although there is no set recipe, the soup usually contains (other than meatballs) vegetables such as onions, potatoes, celery, and carrots, and is thickened with yoghurt and egg yolks.


Tarator - a cold soup made of yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, and dill. It is very refreshing, usually consumed in the hot summer months. Perfect for the climate in Varna!


Main dishes


You may know some of the dishes below from your visits to other countries. It is true that the influence of Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East on Bulgaria is big, and that the Eastern European countries share many national delicacies.

However, we guarantee that the Bulgarian take on the food you might be familiar with adds something unique to every dish!


Sarmi - different variations of this dish can be found in many Eastern/Central European countries. It is essentially minced meat, sometimes mixed with rice, wrapped in cabbage leaves and often served with a thick tomato sauce.

A vegetarian version of this dish can be served if we swap the minced meat for thinly-chopped mushrooms. 


Palneni chushki - stuffed peppers. Usually, the filling contains meat mixed with rice, but in a vegetarian version, meat can be replaced with mushrooms or any other vegetables. 


Deep-fried sprats - especially popular in the Black Sea region (including in Varna). These small fish from the herring family garnished with salt, lemon, and garlic powder are the Bulgarian version of fish and chips. 


Kavarma - a slow-cooked stew, and an element of the national cuisine many Bulgarians are proud of. It consists of pieces of meat (beef, pork, or chicken) and vegetables (peppers, carrots, leeks, onions, tomatoes) traditionally stewed in a special ceramic pot called guyvetche.

As it cooks, wine can be added to bring out more flavour in the dish. At serving, the meat is tender and the vegetables soft, wrapping everything in a thick, sticky sauce. 


Moussaka - this dish is perhaps more commonly associated with Greek cuisine, but don’t be fooled - it also figures in Bulgarian menus. After all, we have already established that Bulgarian cuisine was influenced by other countries.

Whereas the Greek moussaka consists primarily of aubergines, courgettes, and minced meat in thick tomato sauce, the one in Bulgaria also contains other vegetables, such as carrots, peppers, or tomatoes. Instead of bechamel, you will also find it topped with yoghurt. 


Kebapche - sometimes also known as ćevapčići in the Balkans, they are long pieces of seasoned minced meat, grilled to perfection.


Kufte - a Bulgarian take on a burger patty. This piece of minced meat is usually seasoned with a variety of spices and grilled. The final result is perfectly roasted on the outside, but full of flavour and juicy on the inside.


Meshana skara - a feast for carnivores. It is a plate full of different kinds of grilled meat - kufte and kebapche are mandatory ingredients. It comes with a variety of sides, usually chips, salads, vegetables, and lyutenitsa. 





Bulgarians love their salads. They can function as appetisers, sides for bigger meals, or just meals on their own. 


Shopska salad - this type of salad comes in varieties in the whole region of Eastern Europe. It consists of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and onions, dressed with a little bit of sunflower oil and sprinkled with sirene cheese. All ingredients are refrigerated before serving, so the salad is cold and fresh. 


Mish-mash - a unique type of salad featuring vegetables, eggs, and sirene cheese. Visually, it resembles scrambled eggs with vegetables and sprinkled with cheese.


Sausages and cheeses


As a country with well-developed agriculture, Bulgaria couldn’t possibly be found lacking in the cured meats and dairy department. Alas, Bulgarians are proud to present their very own kinds of sausages and cheese:


Sudjuk - salami-like fermented sausage. It is quite spicy, thanks to the variety of spices such as black pepper or hot paprika. It can be eaten raw or fried in a pan to serve as a warm dish.


Lukanka - very similar to sudjuk but even spicier. The intense flavour of this dried sausage makes it more popular eaten cold, as a snack or an appetiser.


Sirene - white cheese, similar in style to feta. It is usually a bit softer and grainier than its Greek cousin. It figures as an ingredient in many Bulgarian dishes (for example the shopska salad) but works perfectly served on its own as an appetiser. 




The Bulgarian cuisine is full of variety. Some dishes escape the traditional categories but, nevertheless, deserve recognition as well:


Lyutenitsa - vegetable chutney made of eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and garlic mixed with spices and vegetable oil. Just like peanut butter, it can be served smooth or chunky and comes in 2 versions: spicy or mild.


Kiselo mlyako - Bulgarians are passionate about their yoghurt. If you call what you can find on supermarket shelves anywhere else in the world yoghurt, they will likely scream at you.

Bulgarian yoghurt is made with a special kind of probiotic bacteria, which is incredibly healthy for your bowels. Its creamy consistency and excellent flavour earns it the right title of the best yoghurt in the world. It can be consumed on its own, or served as a side with almost any dish you can imagine. 


Snenhanka - the Bulgarian version of the Greek tzatziki: yogurt mixed with chopped cucumber, lots of garlic, some olive oil, and fresh dill. It is served as an appetizer, side dish, or salad.


Banitsa - last but not least, THE national dish of Bulgaria. Layered phyllo pastry stuffed with fillings ranging from sweet apples to savoury traditional Bulgarian cheese. It can be served hot or cold, and although it is a classic breakfast choice for many Bulgarians, they also happily indulge in it as a snack. 




It is impossible that a Bulgarian feast will leave your stomach craving more. But, just in case you have a special compartment in your belly reserved just for sweets, here are some of Bulgarian killer desserts to fill that void:


Palachinka - thin crepes with a variety of fillings. The most common - and at the same time, most simple - one is butter mixed with honey. Those with a sweet tooth can sprinkle their palachinki with powdered sugar, or garnish it with fresh fruit (preferably berries of all kinds). 


Tikvenik - a sweet version of banitsa with a gourd (a special kind of pumpkin) filling, spiced with cinnamon and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Mouth-wateringly delicious. 




Next to its delicious dishes, Bulgaria offers also a range of unique drinks to help you wash down all that food:




Boza - a peculiar drink made of fermented grains (corn, wheat, or barley). It has a refreshing, sweet / tangy flavour and is primarily consumed for breakfast, accompanied by banitsa. People either love it or hate it, but you definitely must try it when visiting or living in Bulgaria.


Aryan - you may know this drink as a common delicacy in Turkey, but it is equally popular in Bulgaria. It is based on yoghurt mixed with water, but don’t expect a sweet flavour. The drink is more savoury than sweet due to the small addition of salt. 




Rakia - the essence of Bulgarian alcoholic beverages. A very strong fruit brandy, typically made of plums, grapes, apricots, or peaches.


Wine - Bulgaria has a long history of wine-making. The climate in Varna makes it the perfect region for wine-making. It is especially known for its white wines made from the local grape variety called Dimyat. Tours around vineyards and wine tastings are popular attractions in the regions surrounding Varna. 


Varna’s best food places


When going out to grab a bite in Varna (and all of Bulgaria), remember to leave a tip. The average rate is 5% to 10% of the meal’s value, but be aware that it is considered impolite to leave money on the table. It is recommended to round up the sum while making your payment. 




Restaurants in Varna pride themselves on fish and seafood dishes. But don’t worry if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or simply not a fan of anything that came out of the sea. The city is home to a variety of venues serving a mix of traditional and innovative meals!


Mr Baba - the venue of this restaurant is as attractive as the menu it offers. It is hosted in a perfect reconstruction of a 15th-century galleon close to the Varna Port. The establishment has a grill at its disposal - therefore, the top positions on the menu are grilled meats and fish. It is also famous for its seafood. 


The Bay - a classy place with wonderful beach views, serving food that may be on the pricy side, but every lev is justified. The restaurant’s interior rivals the seaside landscape outside, and the dishes bring your culinary experience to a new level. 


Staria Chinar - the best place to explore traditional Bulgarian cuisine. The restaurant’s location in the very heart of the city makes it the perfect destination, no matter where you are headed. It is not the most vegan and vegetarian-friendly place out there, but carnivores will be thrilled.


El Kapan - a beachfront bar/restaurant with pretty wooden chairs in all colours of the rainbow. You can enjoy a good meal while admiring an unobstructed view of the Black Sea and feeling the sea breeze in your hair. Top recommendations include seafood and artisan cocktails.


Parmy Family Restaurant - this family-owned restaurant is mostly known for its big, delicious portions and an even bigger, beautiful garden you can relax in while enjoying your meal. Located in the Sea Park, it is an obligatory stop on the culinary map of Varna. 




The coffee culture in Bulgaria is strong. Additionally, the relaxed, seaside lifestyle of Varna leaves plenty of time for its residents to have some quality time in cosy little cafés and coffee shops. 


Stories. Coffee & More - a cosy, lively place full of laughter and good vibes. You can enjoy a pastry, a slice of cake, a cup of tea or coffee, or a refreshing lemonade. A classic café which finds its magic in its simplicity. 


43.12 - what hides under this enigmatic name is an innovative café with a modern European climate. They are strictly focused on coffee, offering a variety of their own blends you can drink on the spot or bring home with you. 


Cherry by Mary - a cute name for an equally cute place. Where 43.12 specialises in high-quality coffee, Cherry by Marry is known for its delicious desserts. They turn cakes into works of art, and you can enjoy them in the small, cosy interior or get them delivered straight to your doorstep anywhere in Varna. 


Jasmin Specialty Coffee Roastery - the place to go for all coffee lovers. If you ever wake up feeling groggy and missing a few more hours of sleep, head over to Jasmin for a freshly brewed cup of coffee. It is sure to set you right back on your feet and plaster a genuine smile onto your face that will stay there for the rest of the day. 


Sweet Parmy - this place figures on all of the lists of best cafés in Varna, and rightfully so. Their number of followers on Instagram doesn’t do justice to the number of people visiting Sweet Parmy every day, looking for their delicious fresh pastries and great coffee.




Just like most seaside resorts, Varna knows how to party. Beach bars rule the nightlife scene in the city, but there are some other options for those looking for something else as well.


Club Horizont - one of the most popular nightclubs in the city. Classy and lively, it attracts patrons of various nationalities, creating a diverse climate. 


Cubo - a cosy beach bar, which turns into a lively nightclub at night. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to party the night away right by the sea. Tasty cocktails, good music, cool sand beneath your feet, and the hum of waves… Can you think of a better scenario?


Rubik Art and Music - not your typical nightclub. It is more of an entertainment venue, where you can enjoy a good drink while attending live music performances, jam sessions, and art events. It is THE place to go if you are looking for something more than a classic night out by the beach.


Kultura Speakeasy Bar - a hidden jazz bar offering the full speakeasy experience. Jazz music streaming from the speakers, classy drinks, and an elegant interior create a unique ambience. A modern take on a venue taken straight from the 1920s. 


Menthol - as a resort city, Varna’s nightlife is centred around beach bars. No wonder then that the list is dominated by seaside venues! Menthol is open all day long, so you can sunbathe there during the day, and come back for a beach party at night. 


Places to go / things to do




The beautiful location of Varna encourages long walks in parks and spending time in the fresh air. The wide array of parks leaves you plenty of options to choose from:


Morska Gradina (Sea Garden) - this vast park stretches along the coastline of the Black Sea. As one of the biggest parks in Europe, it hosts the Dolphinarium and the Naval Museum. Visitors can also stroll along miles of walking paths offering an unobstructed view of the sea, admire the flowerbeds, greenery, and sculptures, and rest in the numerous shaded areas.


Zlatsi Paisatsi (Golden Sands) Nature Park - you need to travel just outside of Varna to visit this one, but the journey is not far, and it is definitely worth taking! Visit the pristine sandy beaches and sand dunes, and admire the diverse flora and fauna in the lush forests.


Borisova Gradina - a beautiful green area in the heart of the city. It hosts a lake where visitors can rent paddleboards and other recreational areas. The visitors can also simply stroll along the tree-lined paths, escaping from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.


Asparuhov Park - the place to go to admire the stunning views of Varna Bay. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll, a hike, a playdate with your children at one of the many playgrounds, or have a picnic with your friends or family. 




Varna is proud of its heritage. Beginning with its Roman roots through its naval history and all the way to the Communist regime, its past is full of interesting turns. You can take a trip back in time through all of those stages, thanks to the variety of museums available in the city:


Retro Museum - Bulgaria is a post-socialist country. One must visit the museum to understand what life in Bulgaria looked like when it was still part of the Soviet block in the years 1944 - 1989. You will find out why socialism is a state of mind and have the chance to admire real-life gadgets from that time, such as cars, vacuum cleaners, and other everyday appliances. 


Archaeological Museum Varna - primarily known for its world-famous collection of the oldest processed gold in world history, dating back more than 6000 years - the Varna Necropolis. Other than that, you can also see artefacts from different periods of human history such as jewellery, pottery, and sculptures.


Museum of Ethnography Varna - the place to go to discover the way of living of the people of Varna. The traditional costumes, tools and everyday objects tell the story of Bulgarian folklore, traditions, customs, and craftsmanship.


Naval Museum - as the main seaside resort of Bulgaria, it seems fitting that the National Maritime Museum would be located in Varna. It outlines the history of the Bulgarian navy, exhibiting uniforms, documents, photos, cannons, and even a Torpedo Boat. 


Other spots


Entertainment in Varna is never-ending. Even if you somehow manage to visit all the delicious restaurants and cafés, dance in all the nightclubs, walk in all the parks, and visit all the museums, there are still plenty of things left for you to do:


Varna Zoo - zoos are often a controversial topic, but the one in Varna is focused on pleasing animals more than pleasing the visitors. Not that it doesn’t care about its guests, but it surely doesn’t mistreat its residents! Out of the 60 species hosted at the zoo, 17 are protected species. The zoo also acts as a rescue centre for animals, providing a safe environment for furry, scaly, or feathered individuals who need human help. 


Alazdha Monastery - a medieval monastery curved in limestone rock. It used to be inhabited by monks between the 13th and the 19th century. It is made available for visitors who can see the monks’ cells, kitchen and common dining room, church, crypt, and farm. It is truly a unique experience of sightseeing living premises shaped into rock thousands of years ago. 


Roman Odeon - Varna has a rich Roman heritage. One proof of that are the well-preserved ruins of an ancient amphitheatre in the centre of the city. Other than being a historical spot, it continues to host open-air concerts and theatre plays to this day. 


Roman Thermae - contrary to the amphitheatre, the ancient Roman baths, unfortunately, no longer serve their original purpose. They are solely a tourist spot, but one still worth visiting! You can admire the well-preserved mosaic floors, the meticulous hypocaust (central heating) system, and the hot and cold chambers. 


Pobiti kamani (Stone Forest) - the Bulgarian Stonehenge. It is a group of naturally-shaped stone formations sticking out from the ground like trees. There are many of them, but the most famous cluster is located around 18km West of Varna. The short trip is definitely worth admiring the 300 stones - some of them up to 6m tall! - with a mysterious origin. 


Astronomical Observatory and Planetarium Copernicus - who doesn’t like a trip to a planetarium? Named after the famous astronomer Nicolai Copernicus, this place is a must-see both for those who live and breathe physics, and those who don’t quite grasp its complexity. Sit back, relax, and let yourself be taken for an enchanting trip across Space without leaving Varna!


Cathedral of the Assumption - the very building you see in most pictures upon typing “Varna” into Google Images. This Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral is a magnificent specimen of architecture. Decorated with beautiful murals and icons and tipped with a stunning golden dome, it constitutes an important religious site in the city. 


Festa Dolphinarium - this modern building is home to several dolphins and seals participating in shows and performing tricks. You can also swim with the dolphins, get kissed by a seal, or organise a private event in the venue. While in Varna, stop by to make friends with Dolly, Joanna, Kimbo, Bimbo, and Flipper. 




Bulgarians love their football. They love to watch it, they love to play it, and they love cheering on their favourite teams. There are several to choose from in Varna, with PFC Cherno More Varna being the most important one. 


Volleyball also plays an important role in the lives of Bulgarians. The local clubs in Varna compete in national leagues and tournaments. 


Varna’s proximity to the sea and access to plenty of water creates opportunities for practising water sports. The city hosts sailing regattas as well as swimming and diving championships. You don’t have to feel pressured to compete though - many of Varna’s residents enjoy swimming, playing water polo, and sailing in their free time. 


Shopping in Varna


Hali Targovska (Varna Central Market) - a traditional market and your go-to place for fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, spices, and, most importantly, fresh seafood. Getting your groceries there, you can be sure to bring home only high-quality produce from local providers.


Grand Mall Varna - the name says it all. It is truly THE Grand Mall of Varna. Although located on the outskirts of the city, it is the biggest shopping centre in Varna offering numerous shops, restaurants, entertainment facilities, and a cinema.


Sea Garden Art Market - every summer, the huge Sea Garden becomes a venue for a market where local artists and artisans display their arts and crafts including jewellery, pottery, and pieces of art. Everything is handmade, beautiful, and original. It is the perfect spot to find a gift for a loved one or a pretty trinket for yourself. Available only during the summer season. 

  1. Cost of living in Varna, Bulgaria


The cost of living in Bulgaria is described as low by many expats, especially those coming from Northern or Western Europe. However, be mindful that since Varna is a popular resort and a tourist hotspot, prices there can be elevated in comparison to other parts of the country, especially in the summer season. 


Don’t worry too much about it because before you know it, you will have learnt all the overpriced touristy spots to avoid. Making friends with locals will help you navigate the city like a pro and save money in no time.


Food / Grocery shopping


The most popular discount supermarket chains in Bulgaria include Billa, Lidl, and CBA. 


Remember that despite being part of the European Union, Bulgaria hasn’t adopted Euro as its official currency. Although it is possible to pay in Euros, Pounds, or Dollars in some places - especially tourist resorts like Varna - the rates are usually calculated in a way that leaves you at a big disadvantage. Therefore, make sure to arm yourself with enough leva when moving to Bulgaria. 


Here is an estimation of what costs you can expect when doing your weekly shopping for one in Varna:


Other expenses


A mobile plan and data need to be included in your monthly budget while living in Bulgaria. It is not a big country, and its compact size allows for smooth and fast connections, no matter where you are. 


Additionally, if you already own a SIM card purchased from a provider in another European country, you can continue to use it in Bulgaria without additional fees. This is because Bulgaria is part of the European Union and covered by mobile roaming. 


Some of the most common telecommunications companies in Bulgaria include:





The Bulgarian tax system is based on a flat tax rate of 10%, regardless of income. The same rate applies to income from self-employment. Bulgarian tax residents are obliged to submit tax from their income earned within the country, as well as abroad. Non-residents are only taxed based on their Bulgarian income. 


Medical care


Access to the healthcare system in Bulgaria is based on compulsory payments to the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). All newcomers must register with the NHIF and register with a GP in order to be granted access to the public healthcare system. 


Many residents who aren’t happy with the waiting time or the quality of medical facilities choose to opt for a private medical care provider instead. Holders of the EHIC card can also access the public healthcare system in Bulgaria on the basis of a valid card. 


The staff at hospitals and clinics in Varna should speak English, but this is less likely when you go outside of the city and try to access medical aid in smaller towns. 


Bulgaria is also a popular destination for medical tourism. As we have already mentioned, cosmetic and aesthetic medicine salons are numerous and frequently visited in the country. Another sector enjoying a good reputation is Bulgarian dental care. Many foreigners travel there to undergo affordable and high-quality dental treatments. 

Films and books set in Varna




  • Varna is the Sea Capital (Варна е морска столица) (1962) 


This classic Bulgarian film directed by Dimitar Petrov showcases the maritime history of Varna and reflects the vibrant atmosphere of the city.


  • Godless (Безбог) (2016)


A nurse finances her morphine addiction by trafficking the IDs of her demented patients on the black market. She lives in constant fear of being discovered as a member of the identity theft market in post-communist Varna. A strong film by a female director Ralitza Petrova.




  • The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner by Ilya Troyanov 


A boy named Alex sets off on a journey across Europe, accompanied by his charismatic grandfather. As it is a travel story, the story unfolds across multiple places, but the main character grew up in Varna. The main themes are family ties, a thirst for adventures, and searching for a sense of self. 


  • Zift by Vladislav Todorov


The struggle of a convict to come to terms with the harsh reality of the totalitarianism dominating Communist Bulgaria, after having spent 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The novel explores the absurdity of the Communist regime and vividly exposes the nitty and gritty of life back then. Written in the climate of the American noir genre, this dark crime novel is a true page-turner.


Varna playlist


When lying on the sunny beaches of Varna or strolling through its many parks, you need good music to accompany you. We have created a special playlist inspired by the city to help you settle into your new home:

Varna has undeservingly earned the patch of a place you only visit for a holiday before returning home, carrying the memories of golden sands and turquoise waves with you. But there are so many reasons why you should stay in the Sea Capital for longer - maybe even forever?


We hope that if you had been dreaming of moving to an affordable, lively, charming seaside destination, this guide has helped you discover that Varna is just the place for you. 

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