Tabibito's Bulgaria Guide: Burgas, Gateway to the Black Sea

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Basic facts

  • Name: Бургас (Burgas). Once, ancient Greeks built a tower here and called it Pirgos, which simply means..."tower". I wonder if the Greeks called their cat "cat".
  • Location: Burgas occupies a stretch of land between the bay with the same name and a large lake in the hinterland, the Burgasko ezero (Lake Burgas). The bay is part of the Black Sea. It's around 80 km to →Varna in the north and about the same distance to the Turkish border in the south.
  • Population: below 200,000. Burgas is the fourth biggest city of Bulgaria - after Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna.
  • Orientation: Burgas is a comparatively young city. The international airport Sarafovo is around 10 km north of the city. All you can see on the way from the airport to the city centre are concrete blocks. The city itself has plenty of space and a handful of parks. The harbour and the train station are in the south of the centre. From there, a long pedestrian zone called Alexandrovka leads to the north, straight to Ploshtad Troikata (Troikata square). This is the heart of town with a handful of old buildings like churches etc, outnumbered by many more or less modern buildings. Everything else is dull concrete housing, industrial area or part of the harbour.
  • History: Eversince, the Black Sea coast was an important and densily populated place. This started with the ancient Greeks. However, there was no bigger settlement in or near present-day Burgas, except for the above-mentioned tower. Later, the Ottomans built a small fortress around the tower.
    Fishermen from near Sozopol (see →surroundings) founded a first small village around the 17th century, but the village remained small for a long time. When Bulgaria declared independence in 1878, only 3,000 people were living in Burgas. In 1890, the small town was connected with →Plovdiv by railway. This initiated a first boom. In 1903, first port facilities were set up. The port is still very important to the country (but unfortunately not to travelers). Today, the town has slightly less than 200,000 inhabitants, but the trend is negative. This is due to the negative migration rate and the very low birth rate.
  • Getting there: Since all the seaside resorts lining up along the Black Sea coast are close to Burgas, many charter flights from all over Europe go to Burgas. Regular buses connect the airport with the centre. The ride takes less than 30 minutes and costs a few stotinki only. There are direct trains to →Plovdiv and →Sofia; but for →Varna it's better to take the bus - they're much faster. All the small towns along the coast, eg Ahtopol, Pomorie, Sozopol, →Nesebar etc are easily accessible by bus. Numerous buses run via Malko Tarnovo to →Istanbul. It looks like there are no more passenger ferries any more - which is really a pity, because it would be very convenient to get to →Georgia, the →Ukraine, →Turkey or →Romania by boat..

  • Sights

    As already mentioned above, the "historic" city centre stretches north of the train station along the quite long pedestrian zone Alexandrovska. From there, another pedestrian zone with Burgas' finest shops runs to the east. This street is called Aleko Bogoridi and worth a walk. The street leads to the Maritime Park - a well maintained, green park facing the seashore, a nice place for strolling around. And that's basically it - Burgas itself is not very attractive; it's more about the surroundings.

    In the city centre of Burgas
    In the city centre of Burgas


    It doesn't matter whether you head to the south or the north - there are many interesting places lining up along the Black Sea. In the north, it's mostly the small, ancient town of →Nesebar attracting visitors. However, the landscape is more interesting in the south. The further you get away from Burgas, the steeper the coastline gets. Around 35 km to the south-east is the town Sozopol. The tiny town features a unique historic centre, which is like a huge open-air museum. Today, only 5,000 people live in and around Sozopol. The town itself was founded around 700 B.C. (!) by ancient Greeks, the name for the place probably derives from the Greek god Apollo.
    Further to the south, popular resorts like Primorsko and Michurin follow. In contradiction to the resorts between Burgas and Varna, there aren't any large and ugly concrete tourist ghettos in the area, so it's still a nice and partially unspoilt place. There are many more or less hidden inlets between the towns; some of them are used as campsites. The southernmost seaside resort Ahtopol, which is only 10 km away from the Turkish border (note that there's a 5 km wide no-go area along the border!). Ahtopol is very popular with Bulgarian tourists - which doesn't come as a surprise. It's much nicer (and substantially cheaper) than tourist areas like Golden Sands and Sunny Beach.

    Strandsha Mountains
    The Strandsha range (from the Turkish side)

    A few kilometers north of Ahtopol and around 75 km south of Burgas, the small and unspectacular town Tsarevo can be found. This is the starting point of a small road, leading through the hinterland to another small city called Malko Tarnovo. Near Malko Tarnovo, there's a minor border crossing to Turkey. The road is around 55 km long and, personally spoken, one of the highlights of Bulgaria. It runs through the Strandsha mountain range, which is not particularly steep but simply beautiful. Halfway you can see many traditional, partially hidden villages such as Kondolovo.


    There are more hotels in Burgas than reasons to stay here overnight. South of the town, some beautifully located campsites offer a good alternative for travelers bringing their own tents. Many of them concentrate around Primoriets and Sozopol. During the summer months, old ladies offer private accommodation around the bus stops. To give an example - in Tsarevo we were offered a private room for € 3 per night (for a double!). There's plenty of accommodation along the seashore, so finding a hotel or a room shouldn't be a problem.


  • : Official website of Burgas. In English.
  • Some pictures and information about the town. English.
  • Virtual town guide and some information about accommodation in the centre. English.
    Do you have or do you know a good website about Burgas? Don't hesitate, let me know! After checking it, I would love to add it to the link list. Please note that commercial websites will be declined. For e-mail link see menu on the left.

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