Situated on a vast rocky peninsula stretching out into the Black Sea, the UNESCO-recognised resort town of Nessebar is waiting for you to explore its narrow winding streets of history and relax on its beautiful pristine stretches of beach. From your first glance of the town, she exudes both a bolshy personality and a brave sophistication that comes as a result of simultaneously being a party hotspot and an important historical location. Scholars have traced its origins back 3,000 years and it changed hands regularly, becoming a part of various empires. From these conflicts, she has emerged largely unscathed, with many important historical treasures still intact.
At a Glance
We start our mission in the Old Town, a collection of winding cobbled streets that are highly charismatic and a veritable charm to explore. Bulgarian architecture is often overlooked on the world's stage - something we at Balkan feel needs correcting - so take this opportunity to marvel at the many arches and arcades, turrets and vaults that make this area so fascinating to explore. It's simply completely unlike anything else in the world.
Particularly worth a mention is the mediaeval fortress wall, which seems to curve and undulate like a giant snake around what used to be the area's main overseeing castle. Similarly, you should make time for the Pantokrator Church, with its sandstone and red-brick walls and beautiful arched roof.
But even if you haven't a particular goal in mind, you can get a sense of Bulgarian architecture just by wandering around Nessebar. Seek out ornamental tracery on the many churches that populate the Old Town. Take photographs of incredible structures that simply defy categorisation and deserve architectural references of their own.
You'll also be lucky enough to soak up the atmosphere here, which owes a lot to the permanent street markets that set themselves up to flog souvenirs to the tourists. These can be a haze of bright colour and sound, with the traders calling out to one another and trying to seduce potential buyers. It's worth being aware of the fact they can be quite persistent - a polite yet firm 'no' should send them on their way.
This sophisticated historical side is but one aspect of Nessebar's multifaceted personality. Beach babies are likely to be equally as enthralled as the history buffs as the town's spectacular coastline presents plenty of opportunity to throw off your blazer and jeans, and instead pull on your swim shorts or bikini. Soft golden sand dominates and you can be sure of snagging one of the many sun loungers if you get up early enough.
Whether you stick around the busy resort beaches or choose to go further afield for a quieter coastal experience is entirely up to you, but Nessebar offers both seclusion and an excitable atmosphere for those who know what they want. Safe trouble-free waters are great for the kids and you'll find the peninsular has these in abundance. If you have kids, choose an area where the lifeguards keenly scan the horizon for any sign of struggling swimmers. Those who want the choice between pool and sea will be more than satisfied as the hotels all offer pools.
To eat and drink
Thanks to its status as a tourist resort town, Nessebar has a great many restaurants catering for a varied and international crowd. These tend to serve up local dishes with an emphasis on seafood thanks to the town's proximity to the sea. Andromeda in the Old Town is often recommended, as is Gloria Mar which boasts spectacular seaside views - just what you want while you're on your holiday.
When it comes to drinking, be sure to try the local beer Burgasko. Failing that, other Bulgarian beverages including Zagorka and Kamenitza should be available. It's also worth trying Rakia, a strong substance similar to fruit brandy that is popular throughout southeast Europe. The variant in Bulgaria is particularly tasty. You can sample all of these and more at the oft-recommended Tequila Bar.
Regular buses from the surrounding resorts make up much of the public transport here - these tend to be reliable, easy to use for English speakers and reasonably priced. There is also ample opportunity to hire cars, although the narrow cobbled roads of the Old Town mean it is easier to park outside and wander around by foot. Bear in mind that the streets are not very wheelchair friendly, with the cobblestones making things particularly difficult.
You'll find Nessebar has plenty of activities to keep its tourists happy during the warmer months of the year. Historical enthusiasts have the town's valuable UNESCO World Heritage worthy charms to explore. For those wishing to get active, how about getting the blood pumping and adrenaline rushing by checking out the many watersports available along the beach? Windsurfing, snorkelling, even diving - it's all happening here and it's a lot of fun. Even if you've never tried something before, you can happily sign up to a class knowing you'll be in with plenty of other beginners who are all - forgive the pun - in the same boat.
In a nutshell
Nessebar has culture and spectacular scenery aplenty, but there's also plenty of opportunity for lying on the beach or getting into a watersport. The charming atmosphere from the cobbled streets populated by a plethora of street sellers is also worth experiencing - many sell beautiful items made out of local lace. Nessebar has seen the world age by 3,000 years, but it can't wait to see you. Get on out there!