No trip to Bulgaria could possibly be complete without even half a day spent in the glorious and mysterious Nessebar. But the scenic old town – perched on an island linked to the mainland by a narrow strip of man-made road – also has plenty of contemporary appeal.
To help you make the best use of your holiday time, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 ways to spend your days in Nessebar.
Forage for echoes of the past at the old town fortification ruins
Nessebar’s history stretches back over 3,000 years, which has led to its recognition by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Its long history is made apparent by the architecture, where every stone in every wall seems to tell a tale. There’s a rich rusty colour to the churches and stonework here, yet for a real blast from the past, take a look at the fortification walls, which are still standing strong, even though the main towers and parapets are long gone.
You can do more than just wander the remains though, as there are light shows and reconstruction simulations that show just how these defences kept Nessebar safe enough to become the town we adore today.
Browse the exhibits in the Archaeological Museum
If you’re looking to beat the heat while also taking in some of the history of Nessebar, definitely look to the archaeological museum.
It was originally built and opened in 1954, before moving to its current newer premises in 1994, where it can more fully display Nessebar’s poignant history. Expect medieval artefacts, relics from antiquity and a few select pieces from 20th century artists and war heroes.
Keep the kids active at Aqua Paradise
Adults are just as likely as kids to make a splash at this waterpark between Nessebar and Sunny Beach.
Bathed in the eternal Bulgarian sunshine, this place has some superb places to play, with slides weaving among castle towers and some truly plucky plunges.
While the ramparts provide a rollicking ride, there are also sheltered places to eat and cool off, together with pools to paddle and swim in. If the adults are still unconvinced, kids, then send them to the sheltered tropical-style swim-up bar – we told you there’s plenty for everyone here.
Sip a drink at the ECO Bar
Everybody has been to a bar they’re convinced is a bit quirky and out there, but if you’re looking to set your social circle ablaze with anecdotes of your cocktail antics, Nessebar is where you need to be.
That’s because it’s home to the ECO Bar, which is set within a cave. It’s not a dingy and dark affair though, with a waterfall and natural stalactites in pale white adding a flash of elegance to proceedings. The coffee is strong, the wine is delicious and the pastries are something of a local legend.
Recline on South Beach
Nessebar’s South Beach is locally loved, with good cause. It’s more secluded and peaceful than many of the surrounding stretches of shore, which means you can enjoy sunsets with your beau or bright days of happy play with the kids.
The water is shallow enough for paddling, and clear enough to see your feet every step you take. As you’re right by the town, cafes and bars close by keep you topped up during your beach time.
Hike up to Cape Emine
If you want the best views of the Black Sea around, then it’s up to the heights of Cape Emine you go. Hiking here, either under your own initiative or via one of the countless organised tours operated all year round, gives you hours of outdoor enjoyment among the brisk breezes of the hinterlands.
A lone watchtower, accompanied only by the neighbouring monastic ruins, makes for a superbly photogenic venue well worth the time it takes to trek to its summit.
Taste the tipples of the Original Bulgarian Wine Shop
It’s easy to find this wine specialist in Nessebar’s old town, because the building itself resembles a fairytale store where you’d expect to find lotions and potions of the local magician.
In a manner of speaking you might just be right, because the wines here are truly exceptional.
Merlot is always in plentiful supply here, as is the distinctive Ice Wine, a local speciality with a zesty flavour. The great news is that, as well as free samples, this place also specialises in wines for every budget. Accept you’re not leaving empty-handed amid this festival of tipple temptations.
Bob the day away on a boat in the bay
You’ve been admiring the Black Sea from Nessebar from every angle, but it’s high time you took to those waves for yourself. You needn’t fret if you’re not as savvy as Jack Sparrow though, because there are numerous boat rental hotspots in the town, as well as experts on hand to steer your course swimmingly.
Whether you want a cheeky daytime booze cruise or a slow and lazy drift among the sights, boat trips around Nessebar make for a superb way to spend your time.
Take a trip to St Anastasia Island
If drifting on a boat with no direction isn’t for you, try instead turning the prow to St Anastasia Island. It’s only opened its embrace to tourism comparatively recently, and holidaymakers are delighted that it’s done so.
The island looms impressively above the water level with a monastery perched on its clifftops. Aptly enough, that religious building is known as Ascension, and its distinctive terracotta rooftops gleam invitingly in the sunshine.
The island also has plenty of wide open greenery to enjoy, so perhaps pack a picnic.
Go bargain hunting
They call Nessebar the Pearl of the Black Sea. Similarly, you’re likely to find plenty of treasures all your own as you stroll the winding streets of the city. Cobbled lanes and stonework walls secrete arts and crafts of every description.
Nessebar has a legacy in lace unlike anywhere else in Bulgaria, and those delicate woven works are easily found, as are handmade pots and urns, together with some truly evocative local art. Add local sweet baked treats like baklava to the mix, and you’ve got every reason to get some retail therapy.
Can’t wait to start your Nessebar holiday? Book today!
Marina Palace Hotel
Nessebar, Bourgas Region, Bulgaria
Nessebar is a superb destination as distinctive as they come. Yet even this magical place is just one side of the greater Bulgarian story – for a holiday unlike any other, the country’s got charm and sunshine galore to give you.