Ancient Nessebar, Bulgaria

Popular resort in Bulgaria – Nessebar and its main attractions

Nessebar is considered one of the most popular Bulgarian resorts. It is simply impossible to admire the cobblestone streets and ancient houses of the city. With every visit tourists discover something new.

The town is located on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. Next to Nessebar is another famous resort of the country – Sunny Beach. It belongs to the municipal territory of Nessebar.

In the middle of XX century the city was awarded the status of an archaeological and architectural reserve. And in 1983, UNESCO listed Nessebar on the World Heritage List.

The climate at the resort is moderately continental. The tourist season lasts from May to early fall. Already in May it is possible to sunbathe on the beach, but for bathing the water is still cool.

The border between Russia and Bulgaria is open! What additional documents are necessary for traveling and how to get to the country, see here.

A bit of history

The history of Nessebar dates back to 3000 years ago. Already at that time the inhabitants built two ports on the island – the northern and the southern. The nature allowed the building of bays, which were protected from the wind.

The first name of the settlement was Melsambria. The name was given in honor of the founder of the city, Melsa. Mention of it was recorded even in the writings of the geographer and historian Strabo, dating back to the I century BC.

The ancient inhabitants of Nessebar were actively trading along the Black Sea coast. They made weapons of wood and metal, and also made fine wine. Legend has it that the first famous fabulist Aesop was a resident of Melsambria.

A little later the city was settled by the Greeks, who fortified the defenses, built temples and theaters, and opened schools. The inhabitants began minting their own coins of silver, gold, and bronze.

In 71 BC, the city was attacked by the Roman general Marcus Lucullus. In order to save the constructions the citizens decided to surrender without a fight. Since then Nessebar became part of the Roman Empire, its cultural and commercial center.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, the settlement became part of the Byzantine Empire. Already in the IV century the inhabitants of the town became Christians. In the city was built the church of St. Sophia, the ruins of which remain to this day. After that the city for a long time was under the dominion of the Turks.

It is noteworthy that during the period of Turks rule not a single Christian church was destroyed or converted into a mosque.

Liberated Nessebar from the Turkish oppression the troops of the Russian Empire. Now St. Petersburg and Sochi are twin cities of Nessebar.

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Nessebar became a tourist town only in the 50s of the 20th century. Before that time the main profit of the townspeople was fishing and winemaking.

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The main sights of the Old Town: photos and descriptions

Walking around the Old Town for just a few minutes, you can take a lot of pictures. The city is dotted with monuments and unique buildings.

The old part is located on a peninsula which is connected to the mainland by a vehicle and pedestrian bridge. The area of the Old Town is small, but it takes a few hours to walk around all the cozy colorful streets of the old part.

In ancient times, the peninsula was almost twice as big. But a powerful earthquake not only destroyed the architectural monuments, but also took part of the peninsula under the water. If the sea is calm, it is possible to discern the sunken part during a boat trip.

Windmill

One of the favorite places for tourists. The base of the windmill is wooden, while its body is made of stone. It is already blackened from old age, but it is still as strong. Artists, dance groups and vocalists often gather near the mill.

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Basilica of Christ Pantocrator

The church was built in the 14th century in the Byzantine style. Inside the walls are decorated with frescoes and mosaics. On the vault of the dome are windows with eight arches.

The temple is relatively small, its length is 16 meters and width is 6.5. There are concave arches on the outside along the perimeter, as well as blind niches. Entrance is paid: 3 leva for adults and 2 leva for children.

The ruins of St. Sophia.

The inhabitants also call the church the Old Metropolia. The building dates back to the VI century AD. The temple was built on the ruins of the ancient marketplace. In the XIX century, the church was reconstructed, but it retained its original appearance. The length of the temple is 20 meters, and its width is 13. Basilica entered into the list of UNESCO heritage.

Church of St. Stephen (New Metropolis)

The temple was built in the 11th century, and in the 16th century it was completed. The building was built of brick and stone blocks. Inside the church is decorated with frescoes and mosaics, and images from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary. There are more than a thousand such paintings in the temple.

The iconostasis of the 16th century is still preserved in the church and you can see it if you buy an entrance ticket for 6 levs (3 levs for children).

The Basilica of St. John Alitourgetos

The temple was built in the traditions of Byzantine culture, the construction lasted for XIII-XIV centuries. The main feature of the church is that it is not consecrated and has never performed a direct function. All this is due to the fact that during the construction a worker fell from the wall and died.

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In the early twentieth century, the church was partially damaged by an earthquake, it can not be restored.

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Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built relatively recently – in the late XIX century. Since then it has become a religious center of the city and gathers hundreds of tourists and pilgrims. As a building material used white stone and burnt bricks, which were laid in rows.

The church keeps an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, painted in the XIII century. Every year on the day of veneration this icon is carried through the city. In the church you can visit the church museum.

Church of St. Theodore

The temple was erected at a time of national flourishing in the XIII century. The building was built of brick and white stone. The facade has blind arches framed in stone. The temple has been restored and now houses an art gallery. Entrance is paid: adult ticket – 3 leva, children’s – 2 leva.

The temple of St. John the Baptist

This temple is one of the majestic religious buildings of the city. It was built at the turn of the ninth and tenth centuries, and the Byzantine style was chosen for it. For construction of the church the river stone and rubble were used. The building is 12 meters long and 10 meters wide. The entrance is paid: the adult ticket – 3 leva, the children’s ticket – 2 leva.

Church of Saint Paraskeva

The church did not retain its original ceiling – the dome. Now it is covered with a tile roof. The exterior of the church is decorated with stone and tile ornaments.

Church of St. Archangel and St. Michael

At the moment the temple is not functioning. At the time of its construction it was one of the best temples in terms of functionality and style.

Church of the Holy Virgin Eleusa (Amelioration)

The temple was built in V century during the reign of Emperor Justinian. The central part of the building is demolished. Previously its full length was 28 meters and width was 18 meters.

Church of the Holy Savior (Ascension)

The building has survived only partially, but this does not reduce the flow of tourists to it. The church was built in the 16th century in the northern part of the city. The entrance is decorated with columns, which have also been preserved in fragments. Inside there are frescoes and mosaics depicting the saints. The entrance fee for an adult is 3 leva, for a child 2 leva.

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Byzantine Baths

Ancient baths, dating back to the VI century, are situated in the north of the Old Town. Marble columns are combined with walls decorated with mosaics and frescoes. Metal is also present in the decor.

Monument to St. Nicholas

The monument looks like a man standing on the edge of a boat. He has a cross in one hand and a dove in the other. The faithful pray to the monument before going out into the open sea.

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Where else to go?

Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum of Nessebar was opened in 1956 and the first exhibition was housed in the church of St. John the Baptist. In the museum you can see archaeological finds that are more than 2000 years old. They have been preserved since the Thracian era. The entrance tickets cost: 6 leva for adults, 3 leva for children.

Ethnographic Museum

The museum offers to get acquainted with the customs and traditions of the Bulgarian people. Outwardly the museum looks like an ordinary Bulgarian house and does not stand out.

In the expositions of the museum one can see the household items, clothes of the locals, as well as engravings and descriptions of travelers who visited Nessebar in the XVII-XIX centuries. You can visit the museum for 3 levs for adults and 2 levs for children.

If you buy a single ticket for 22 leva from the Archaeological Museum of Nessebar, you can visit six other churches and the Ethnographic Museum.

Ancient Theatre

From the height of the amphitheater you can see the beauty of the city and the sea. In addition, locals here often hold free evening concerts.

Turkish Fountain and Baths

Fountain and baths are a reminder of the times of Turkish rule in Nessebar. Both the baths and the fountain are not easy to find in the city. I recommend you to use the map.

Western fortress wall

A large part of the defense wall went under water after the flooding. Only a part of the wall that was 100 meters long and 8 meters high remained.

Film Museum

It is a private museum complex dedicated to the world cinema. Here you can see figures of famous modern characters from movies and cartoons, such as “Star Wars”, “Harry Potter”, “Superman”. Entrance to the museum is 10 levs, but it is better to clarify the hours and days in advance.

Messembria Winery

In the winery you can see the stages of wine making from the grapes of the best varieties. There is also an opportunity to taste the beverage and buy it at a reasonable price.

Park Zornica

In the park you can enjoy a beautiful view from the hill and visit restaurants with local cuisine. In the center of the park there is a memorial plaque in memory of the residents who took part in the battles of World War II.

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The ancient streets

The streets of the city are the main attraction. All the streets are narrow, winding and paved with cobblestones. Walking through them, you are fully immersed in the life of the locals and feel the color of the city. It’s hard to find a few houses that would be completely similar. The houses are decorated with carvings and paintings.

On the square Mesembria there are many old buildings and monuments, the creation of which dates back to the XV-XVI centuries. From here begins the main streets of the city. During the holidays there are fairs and concerts.

On the central waterfront you can admire not only the beauty of nature, but also dolphins, which in the morning swim close to the shore.

Take a guided photo walk through the old town to learn about the history of the city and take great pictures.

Beaches

The beaches are not overcrowded with holidaymakers, no one walks on their heads. On paid beaches equipped with sun loungers, there is a free zone where you can sit on towels.

There are also “wild” beaches in the city. According to the reviews of tourists on the beaches of Nessebar are less crowded and more comfortable than on the neighboring beach of Sunny Beach.

Comments from travelers

I publish a review Krasilnikov Dmitry, who visited Nessebar with his family in July 2019:

Last summer we just fell in love with Bulgaria we decided to visit as a family. We visited this place with my wife Sofia, my youngest son Evgeny and daughter Anastasia. In many ways this event contributed to a visit to the city, which I will tell you about today. To visit Nessebar while in Bulgaria is a Must Have task. Several reasons contribute to this.

First, the pearl of Bulgaria, an ancient museum city, preserved after thousands of years in the open air. The old town of Nessebar is extraordinarily picturesque: picturesque remains of ancient buildings, remnants of churches and ancient walls, sea views, sunset.

The Old Nessebar itself is separated from the New Town by a small isthmus and is situated on a peninsula. The view from the top and from the New Nessebar is impressive. The entrance to the city is the old fortress gate. There are old castle walls around the city. They are not preserved everywhere, but those that are are are of interest even to inexperienced tourists. Inside the city there are ancient sidewalks, old buildings, houses dressed in “wooden attire”, so that the sandstone under the influence of sun, wind and salt would wear out less. In Nessebar there is a large influx of tourists, so if you want to explore the narrow streets in a comfortable atmosphere, go there early in the morning.

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Secondly in Nessebar there are lots of seafood restaurants where you can enjoy delicious fish dishes. What is more, from the second floor of any of these restaurants there is a wonderful view to the sea, to the Sunny Beach and the sunset in the distance. We have been to “Le Terrazza” restaurant and we are very pleased with the price, the quality of the food, the service and the wonderful views.

There are different ways to get to the Old Nesebar: you can rent a car, take a bus, order a tour, arrive by boat from Sunny Beach. But, in my opinion, the most interesting way for Sunny Beach guests would be a walk along the coast. We lived in the very north of the resort, so it took us about 2 hours one way to get there. But we liked it so much that we repeated our walking tour.

Third, the opportunity to choose unusual souvenirs. Of course, souvenirs in Bulgaria are sold anywhere on the Black Sea coast, but their range in Old Nessebar is much wider than anywhere else.

Fourthly, the promenade in Nessebar, which encircles the town. During the walk on one side you will see the sea, and on the other side – the Old Nessebar, located on a height. Even in the evenings it is not as crowded as in the town itself, so you can walk around comfortably.

Old Nessebar is not just a historical monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a populated area. The bulk of the inhabitants – the owners of the shops. The stores occupy the first floors of the buildings, and the owners live on the second. There’s even a school for children.

To summarize: it is irreparable mistake not to visit the Old Town of Nessebar to be on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. This atmospheric place you will surely like – you’ll want to come back here again. Of course, I recommend to visit Nessebar. And when I will come to Bulgaria again, I will certainly visit this city again!

You can choose a tour on the coast of the country below:

Map of Interesting Places

If you’re going on a walking tour of Old Nessebar don’t forget to bring a map with the sights listed on it, photos and descriptions of which you’ll find in the article. You can download it here.

Useful Videos

Watch the overview video about the Old Town:

Nessebar is a huge number of architectural and natural monuments. Apart from that it is a colorful presentation of Bulgarian people which can be felt at every step. The city is full of impressions for a long time.

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