Varna, the third-largest city in Bulgaria, has in recent years drawn thousands of Israelis who like to gamble and/or are looking for a relaxing vacation at a reasonable price.
Varna sits on the picturesque Black Sea coast and boasts a balanced combination of rich history, beautiful beaches, and vibrant nightlife, in the style of Eilat a decade ago. The trip to Varna is convenient for Israelis – just a two-hour flight, with several airlines offering direct flights. The city offers excellent accommodation options, from luxury hotels to guest houses and apartments.
For history buffs, downtown Varna is home to the fascinating Archaeological Museum, which displays an large collection of ancient artifacts, including the world-famous “Varna gold” – golden artifacts from the Varna necropolis that are believed to be the oldest gold objects ever discovered. Visitors can also explore the Roman baths and the impressive Varna Cathedral.
Another attraction located right in the center of the city is recreation at the Sea Garden. It includes an eight-kilometer path, attractions for the whole family, and excellent areas for picnics. In addition, Varna has two large malls that offer a wide mix of stores, with reasonable prices. In Varna, visitors can enjoy wandering through the streets, stopping for ice cream or coffee, going down toward the sea, and just enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.
Although the city center is impressive in terms of architecture, most Israelis choose to vacation on Varna’s beautiful beaches. The clear turquoise waters offer an excellent opportunity for swimming, sunbathing, and various water sports. In addition, nearby attractions such as the stunning Balchik Palace and the botanical gardens provide a peaceful and picturesque escape.
One of the favored beaches of Israeli and European tourists is Golden Sands, located about 20 minutes from Varna. It has hotels, restaurants, cafés, and the longest promenade in Europe, replete with booths and bars. The boardwalk is the highlight of the location. At night, it turns into a kind of one big party, when all the bars turn up the volume, and tourists jump from bar to bar. At the same time, the restaurants are filled with diners, and the air is filled with the aroma of grilled fish and seafood.
SINCE A large part of the enjoyment of any trip abroad is the food, and Varna in particular brings in hundreds of thousands of Israeli travelers every year, it was only a matter of time until a kosher restaurant opened in the Golden Sands area, with the old resort International Golden Sands picking up the gauntlet.
The restaurant, which opened on the second floor of the hotel, is called Tahini. It meets the highest standard of kashrut, certified by the rabbi of the local Chabad center. The restaurant , which is attractively decorated, is adjacent to the main dining room of the International Golden Sands. So for kashrut observant guests of the hotel, it is a wonderful solution when it comes to mealtime..
The menu focuses on Mediterranean cuisine. There are hummus and tehina dishes, as well as schnitzel and fries, grilled chicken breast with roasted vegetables, fish on the grill, grilled eggplant, falafel, and a variety of salads.
Although the dishes are not sophisticated, they are made fresh on the spot and are a welcome opportunity to enjoy kosher food away from home.
It is not for nothing that the resort decided to open a kosher restaurant. According to Vladimir Filippov, the manager of the Golden Sands resort, about half a million Israelis have passed through the hotel to date.
Apart from the restaurant, you can see the consideration for the Israeli audience in every corner of the hotel, such as the decision not to serve pork at all in the dining rooms; the signs written in Hebrew; and the endless patience of the employees, some of whom even manage to weave a few words of Hebrew into their conversation.
The hotel itself, which is quite popular because of the casino, which is considered one of the largest in Bulgaria, is located on the beach. The hotel has been completely renovated and is rated as a five-star hotel. It has 325 rooms and suites, Some rooms have a balcony, and all rooms have a view of the Black Sea and the national park.
The hotel also has an infinity pool surrounded by sunbathing pools and an elaborate cocktail bar with pleasant music in the background. There is also a children’s pool, a small children’s park, and an indoor heated pool.
One of the highlights of the hotel is the spa, where massages are offered. There is a sauna, a steam bath, a hammam (Turkish bath), facial treatments, and a hairdresser. In addition, there is a business lounge that is open throughout the day and offers gourmet dishes, coffee, cocktails, and wines.
The town of Balchik
If you stay in the Golden Sands area, you should take a walk around the environs. Another recommendation is to drive along the coast and head to the town of Balchik, about half an hour’s drive. A charming town located on the Black Sea coast, it offers a wonderful combination of history, nature, and beauty.
One of its most prominent attractions is Balchik Palace, the summer palace of Queen Mary of Romania. It is surrounded by gardens and overlooks the sea.
Visitors can explore the picturesque old town, wander through narrow cobblestone streets, and admire the traditional Bulgarian houses. Nature lovers can enjoy the tranquility of the botanical garden, which features a collection of 5,000 plants from around the world.
Another local attraction is Queen’s Winery House, a charming winery that offers free wine tastings. The winery has a wide variety of wines, from classic white and red wines to wine made from tomatoes or plums. Besides, Balchik’s sandy beaches are just great; so after all the sightseeing, you can stop for a short dip.
Botanical garden hours: Summer, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.Price: About NIS 10.
Inside a beautiful nature reserve, which is a 10-minute drive from the Golden Sands, you will find Aladzha Monastery.
The monastery, which dates back to the 13th century, is located on the side of a mountain. The monastery, which is carved into the rock, has many steps leading up to it. The monastery complex consists of a series of caves, cells, chapels, and a church, all carved out of the limestone rock.
You can see wall paintings at the site, and believers leave donations and notes with requests/prayers. The visit to the monastery gives a glimpse into the lives of the monks of the past, who, unlike today, had to make a great effort to climb into the monastery rooms.
The peaceful atmosphere, combined with the breathtaking views of the surrounding forest, create a peaceful and contemplative atmosphere. There is also a museum on the grounds of the monastery, where visitors can learn about the monastic traditions of the Middle Ages and the importance of the site.
Hours: Summer, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., all week.Price: About NIS 10.
Translated by Tzvi Joffre.