We love Burgas! We have spent a lot of time in this city on the Black Sea Coast, and it is one of our favorite places in Bulgaria.
Want to know what to do, what to see, and where to eat? Read on about this special seaside city.
What to Do in Burgas
Burgas is a great place to Slow Travel, because it’s a nice spot to just “be.”
Living like a local is so fun here, as it strikes the perfect balance of everyday activities plus plenty of fun things to see and do.
Burgas also has more English speakers and credit card machines, a modern convenience that I can appreciate, even if it rubs off a little of the authenticity.
Probably our favorite place to spend lots of time in Burgas, is the 5 km long Sea Garden.
You will find that Bulgaria is full of amazing parks and pedestrian areas. It’s a stark contrast from the Soviet style architecture that fills most of the cities.
In the Sea Garden there are miles of paved walking trails, perfect for bikes, strollers, or scooters. You can choose whether to walk alongside the beach all the way down to the pier, or take the path that slowly winds through a garden and ends across from the Old Town.
Alongside the beach are plenty of restaurants where you can have an oceanside meal.
In the garden side of the Sea Garden, you will end up passing fountains, a small amusement ride area, and often various street performers.
The beach in Burgas runs primarily alongside the Sea Garden. It stretches from a park area, all the way down to a long pier. You can rent an umbrella to sit under at one of the restaurants, or you can sit yourself down for free anywhere else.
The Black Sea is perfectly fine for swimming, but is not especially warm. The beach area in Burgas is not shallow or protected enough to have warm waters.
The sand in Burgas is 10 out of 10 however! It’s beautiful.
The Black Sea is home to jellyfish, and after we saw some I was a bit too chicken to venture out into the water. Apparently this is cyclical though, and there are not always jellies close to shore.
I will say that the other swimmers seemed not to care, so maybe the ones washing in were dead, or stings are uncommon.
Sand Fest Burgas (and Other Rotating Exhibits)
Near the end of the beach in the Sea Garden is a small area that has an annual “Sand Fest” or other rotating exhibits. When we have been before there were sand sculptures, but another time there was a display of animatronic dinosaurs.
Bring cash because they did not accept cards when we were there. Every time we have gone the activity was only 1 or 2 Lev each. (Less than $1.50 USD.)
The sculptures are totally worth paying to see, and whatever else they may have there is probably worth the tiny fee too.
To find the area on a map, search “Sand Fest.” It is near the Equestrian Center.
Burgas Old Town
Burgas’ Old Town is our next favorite place to spend our days!
Burgas has a good sized pedestrian only area with fountains and historical buildings lining the cobbled streets. There are also a few park-like corners, and many cute restaurants.
There aren’t a lot of really significant historical sights in Burgas, it’s more of a cute place to be than a cultural hot spot.
Shopping in Burgas
We don’t do a lot of shopping when we are traveling, besides the obvious trips to the pharmacy or grocery store, but Burgas is a place where you can.
There are modern multi-level shopping centers in Burgas with popular European shops.
In the winter, sometimes a mall is a nice place to escape the cold.
Where to Eat in Burgas
Of course eating in the Old Town or by the Sea Garden is the best! You can’t really beat the atmosphere.
Happy Bar & Grill
Happy is a Bulgarian restaurant chain that you will find in most larger cities.
Burgas has two Happy Bar and Grill’s near the Sea Garden, but the one closer to the pier is a block into the Old Town, and a great place to eat.
Happy offers a wide variety of Bulgarian cuisine, pizza, and a huge sushi menu! You can also get breakfast at Happy!
(Or at least you could prior to 2020.)
Pizza Palace is another Bulgarian chain, and a perfect place to take your kids! They have a really good pasta menu, and tasty desserts.
Our favorite thing about Pizza Palace is that they are always located in a hole-in-the-wall, and the decor is super casual and cozy.
Pizza Palace is one of the few places that I was comfortable taking our crazy tot by myself!
Full disclosure: I have never actually eaten at Neptune, but it’s on the bucket list! Neptune is in a beautiful building right on the beach with floor to ceiling windows.
If you are going to try eat at Neptune, check the time of sunset and make a reservation for then. It will be so worth it!
Neptune is a fancier restaurant, so dress and plan accordingly. It is pricey for Bulgaria, but you can still get a reasonably priced dish. A main here will cost 15 – 70 Lev (~$8.75 to $40 USD).
Eat Anywhere You Want!
The Burgas Old Town and Beach are one of those rare places where almost any restaurant is good!
You can see for yourself that basically every restaurant on Google maps is rated 4.5 or higher. Especially in Bulgaria where locals often complain about prices, that is quite a feat!
Pick a spot that looks cute and try it out! Burgas has a great variety of food.
Where to Stay in Burgas
I’m a little torn over whether I prefer to stay in the Old Town and enjoy the atmosphere, or to live like the rest of the people in a Soviet apartment block.
We have done both, and both have their charms. I will say that accommodation in the Old Town seems to be much more run down than in other parts of the city.
(I’m not particularly fussy, but by “run down” I mean…well…smelly. We had a few experiences like this.)
Best Central Hotel: Luxor
Luxor is a great choice if you want hotel amenities in the old town of Burgas. They have an elevator and are very close to the Sea Garden.
If you don’t have a lot of time to spend in Burgas, Luxor would be perfect because not only are you close to the main attractions, they also have a 24 hour (I think) front desk.
We like to stay in apartments for longer visits, but hotels are nice when you need a fast check in and don’t want to be messing around with trying to contact your host.
(Obviously, this is a slow travel blog, so longer would be better, but not everyone has unlimited time.)
Best Atmosphere: Hotel Milano
I have to include Hotel Milano because I have such an emotional attachment to it! Milano was our first ever Burgas experience, and I just remember waking up jet lagged and watching the sun rise over the Black Sea at dawn.
Not every room at Hotel Milano has a sea view, but several do. The others face the typical rectangle Soviet apartment blocks with the number stamped on the side, which I actually find quite novel too.
Hotel Milano has an amazing breakfast spread which can be enjoyed on the patio in warmer months, or in the dining room.
From Hotel Milano it is not too far to enter the walking trails and park that eventually turns into the Sea Garden, but to do the whole walk and back is quite the hike.
The rooms at Hotel Milano are quite nice, some of the better ones we’ve had in Bulgaria.
The bad? No elevator (but the hotel is only three floors) and there is not a lot to do in the near vicinity.
There is a playground and the restaurant Kish, directly behind the hotel and apartments.
The old town can still be reached on foot, but it is about 20 minutes walk.
Best Apartment: Lazur
We have stayed in a few different apartments in Burgas, but the Lazur apartment on Kalofer Street was our favorite. It’s not as close to the old town and Sea Garden as some other ones, but it was very clean and situated in a nice building on a quiet street.
The location is perfect if you plan to spend some time in Burgas, because it was close to a grocery store and a few outdoor market stalls.
I’m not sure if the Lazur apartment is often booked, or perhaps they don’t even rent it anymore, because whenever I have checked it is not available to be booked. If you are able, book it! If you can’t, the apartment Natalia is in the same building and also looks very nice.
Wifi and Air Conditioning are not guaranteed when booking accommodation in Bulgaria, so do make sure that you check the facilities list before you book.
Many accommodations offer double beds that are actually two singles pushed together, or two single mattresses on a larger bed frame. Be sure to study pictures if that will be a problem.
Places to go Near Burgas
Of course you may already know that Burgas is just 25 minutes from the tourist town of Sunny Beach, but there are more cultural things to do in the area!
Nessebar is a walled city and the whole thing has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is very charming with narrow cobbled streets and the traditional Bulgarian timber style homes.
Find a restaurant along the wall near the high point of the city, and enjoy a glass of wine with an amazing view of the sea.
Nessebar is a must-see when you are in the area! You can actually get a bus from downtown Burgas and it only takes about 30 minutes to get there.
Pomorie is an overlooked little town just outside of Burgas. I must confess that we haven’t spent time in the actual city, but we did stop to see the Thracian tomb, purely because of a road sign.
The Thracian tomb at Pomorie is amazingly well preserved and you can walk right inside and take a look around. It’s still one of my favorite discoveries in Bulgaria. Entrance was about 2 Lev, but that was a few years ago.
When we are next in Bulgaria I would like to stay in Pomorie, and see what it’s all about.
Burgas vs Varna
Burgas and Varna are the biggest cities on the Black Sea coast, and are fairly similar. If you must choose, here are a few factors to help you base your decision.
Beach and Sea Garden
Burgas and Varna both have long Sea Gardens and long stretches of beach, but the beach and Sea Garden at Burgas is 10 times better than Varna’s.
I’m sure at one point they were pretty similar, but Varna is a bit more touristy than Burgas. Nowadays the beach can’t even be seen from the Sea Garden walkway in many places, due to the crowding in of shops and restaurants. This means that the free areas of the beach are also much smaller.
I will say that Varna has a pretty large Soviet monument at the end of their Sea Garden, so that is interesting.
Varna has a better selection of seaside restaurants, due to the sheer number of them, so if beachside dining options are your priority, maybe you will prefer Varna.
I also think more beach restaurants in Varna stay open throughout the year, in Burgas many were closed during the winter.
Varna takes the cake when it comes to historical things to see and do.
The Varna Necropolis was discovered here, it is said to be the best discovery of ancient gold in the world!
In central Varna there are the ruins of a Roman bath that you can walk through. Including pieces of what were once pillars.
Burgas vs Varna Old Town
Burgas and Varna both have Old Towns that are very close to their Sea Garden and beaches, so location is not a factor.
Both old towns are very nice, and each have good things about them.
The old town at Burgas is like Varna’s in a miniature scale, so fewer streets that are more narrow, and just less of it all around. There is a charm to being smaller that I quite like.
Varna’s old town is more impressive, and it has better architecture than the one at Burgas. Varna as a whole has more of the nicer historical buildings that you see in other parts of Europe, where Burgas has just a few.
There are great things to see and do around both Varna and Burgas. Near Burgas is the town of Pomorie with it’s ancient Thracian tomb, as well as the UNESCO city of Nessebar.
Near Varna is the Balchik region, which boasts Aladzha monastery, Balchik palace, and a little further: Bolata Beach.
I honestly could not tell you which is better in terms of surroundings. I go back and forth on that one.
The good news is that the whole area is not that large, so if you have some time you can visit everything!
Burgas vs Sofia
If you have to choose between spending more time in Burgas or Sofia, I would choose Burgas all day every day.
Sofia has a lot more on offer when it comes to historical sites and famous things to do, but Burgas is a nicer place to be.
We also found the people of Burgas to be much friendlier than Sofia.
If you are visiting in the summer, Burgas (or the Black Sea area) should be an obvious choice, because Sofia is nowhere near the seaside for those hot summer days.
Getting to Burgas
Burgas is one of the bigger cities in Bulgaria and therefore one of the easier ones to get to.
You can actually fly directly to Burgas with many low cost carriers at high season and shoulder season, just not during the coldest months of the year.
Bus from Sofia would be the next most convenient “public” transportation option.
We prefer to drive in Bulgaria, because it is so much more convenient for getting to all the less popular areas. Transit links in the country are just okay.
While in Burgas you really do not need a car. Taxis are safe and affordable, and you can get most places on foot.
When to Visit Burgas
Burgas can be very hot in the summer, and windy and cool in the winter.
September is probably the best time to visit Burgas to still get some higher temperatures without the crowds.
October is still nice, but not as much beach weather.
By late November Burgas can be getting quite cold, but unlikely freezing or snow.
Burgas at Christmas
On December 6, the whole city of Burgas celebrates St. Nicholas day. Also known as Santa Clause, St. Nick is celebrated as the patron saint of fisherman and sailors, which is of course important in this seaside town.
The old town is decorated extravagantly for Christmas, and Burgas is famous for their Christmas lights and big tree.
How Long to Spend in Burgas?
We could, and have, spent weeks in Burgas, so there is not really a maximum time to spend here if you like the vibe.
To see everything in Burgas proper you do not need a lot of time, maybe three days to really enjoy the beach, Sea Garden, and old town.
If you also want to see Nessebar and Pomorie, than 5 days would be better.
If you have a week or more to spend, consider renting an apartment in Burgas and spending a night or two in the Varna area when you have some down time.
Burgas is up there for one of the cities that I would be most likely to move to, so for me, no amount of time is likely to be too much.