The eastern coastline of Bulgaria is relatively un-chartered territory for western European tourists, but it has been a popular destination for Russian, Greek, and Turkish holidaymakers for many years. Bourgas is the second largest city on the Black Sea Coast and offers the temperate climate and idyllic scenery you would expect from any popular maritime destination. But, as an industrial, educational, and cultural centre of the region, Bourgas presents its visitors with much more than just sun, sea and sand.

Bourgas is steeped in history, dating all the way back to the era of Greek colonialism in the sixth century B.C. The name of the city originates from the Middle Ages, when Byzantine poet Manuil Fill gave it the name ‘Pirgos’. In English, this means ‘Tower’ and translates into Latin as ‘Burgas’.

Many of the city’s modern cultural and economic characteristics began to develop after Bulgaria was liberated from the Ottoman Empire in the 1870s. Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8, the country was able to shake off much of the oppressive rule of the Ottomans, and Bourgas began to flourish. Gradually, oil and chemical works emerged, as well as salt and iron mines. With this, international trade became a significant aspect of the local economy. A ‘town plan’ was then designed in 1891, reinforcing the city’s cultural and economic infrastructures. Churches, schools, a railway station, residential and administrative buildings were constructed; many of which still stand today.

For Bulgaria, the twentieth century is largely remembered for the Communist dictatorship of Todor Zhivkov in the post-World War Two era. Yet, although the cheerless legacy of this period often shapes perceptions of Eastern European countries, cities such as Bourgas have moved towards democracy, pluralism and free-market economics since 1989, which has furthered their accessibility as tourist destinations. Bourgas now has a very real cosmopolitan essence, with its two universities and endless cultural attributes.


In the centre of Bourgas, there are a number of compelling historical and cultural spectacles. A trip to the District Museum of History makes for an interesting afternoon, especially with its archaeological findings, which date back to the Ancient Greek period. The Art Gallery and the Fine Art Gallery are also two highlights of the city. Exhibits range from Renaissance icons to more recent Bulgarian and international art. While in the centre, it is also worth visiting some of the church buildings. The Cathedral of Sts. Cyril and Methodius is home to several breathtaking frescos. Equally impressive is The Armenian Church, erected in 1855. For perhaps a more sensory experience, the Philharmonic Hall, The Opera House, and The Theatre of Drama are all in the vicinity and are open for most of the year.

A short journey to the periphery of Bourgas takes you to the verdurous surroundings of The Sea Garden. This hillside sanctuary is especially charming during the summer, when you can stroll along its pathways among trees, flowers, and sculptures, all the way down the city’s central beach. The garden also has an open-air theatre, where the International Folklore Festival and Golden Orpheus Pop Festival are hosted each year. There are various other seaside spots on the city’s edge. In particular, the northern beach, near the Izgrev Quarter and the salt mines, is a popular destination. Don’t be put off by the dark colour of the sand, this is simply because it is made up of various magnetite alloys!

If you are planning a trip outside of Bourgas, there are a multitude of lakes to visit. The Pomorie Lake is 20 km north of the city, while the Mandren Lake is 10 km to the south. Both are extremely beautiful spots, full of wildlife and suitable for rowing trips. Also nearby are the resorts of Nessebar and Sozopol, which offer great beaches as well as historical and architectural treasures. For some really serious sunbathing, however, Sunny Beach is the place to be, 35 km up the coast.


The weakness of the national currency – the Lev – makes Bourgas a great place to go shopping. For a sense of city life, the outdoor market offers Bulgarian handicrafts and foods. There are also plenty of Western shops. Troika Mall, on Alexandrovska Street, has all the biggest labels – a great place to go and cash in on that favourable exchange rate.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Eating out is a must while in Bourgas and the city’s many restaurants are easily found in the centre. Local cuisine includes rich stews, spit-roasted lamb, and Danube fish soup. Of course, given the geographical position of the city, there are plenty of other fish dishes to choose from. After a good main course, Turkish delight is a favourite dessert on most menus. If you fancy a smaller bite to eat, bars usually offer a selection of snacks, such as banista, a flaky pastry filled with cheese. You can find this at establishments such as the Na Zdrave, which also serves the local Burgasko Beer, and a number of very drinkable Bulgarian wines. For something that tastes a little more of home, there are a number of restaurants serving international cuisine; especially those near the resorts.

For a no holds barred big night out it is best to head to one of the nearby resorts on the Black Sea Coast, where you will find bars, discos, and casinos. These tend to be open for most of the night. In Bourgas, bars and hotels often put on theme nights, including Russian dancing.

Don’t forget that in the summer, you can catch one of the many festivals put on in the city.

Tourist Information

Bourgas Regional Tourist Chamber12-B Lyuben Karavelov Steet P.O. Box 20BourgasBulgariaTel.: +359 (0) 56 813 595Fax: +359 (0) 56 813


Bourgas Airport is just 12 km from the city, so it’s a short journey whether you take a taxi or use the regular bus service. It’s a domestic and international airport, with all the usual abundance of restaurants, shops and facilities.