Bulgaria: Sun, sea, sand, and seafood in Varna

Post 14 of a series detailing our Eastern Europe road trip. View all the posts here.

After almost three weeks of driving round Eastern Europe, the port city of Varna on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast made for the perfect ending. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know I’m not a ‘beach holiday’ kind of person – I like to pack in as many sights and activities as possible. But in Varna our only plan was to go to the beach, and after the holiday we’d had, I was fine with that!

First there was some boring stuff to get out of the way – driving into Varna we stopped at a petrol station to wash and vacuum the hire car, ready for it to be picked up. We had a quick lunch at Varna’s Grand Mall. We had to ring our airbnb host to figure out where the flat was, and even then we ended up waving at another woman thinking it was her (she must have been very confused). The airbnb flat was nice enough, although the housing estate it was in seemed a bit rough.

Dinner at La Bocca

It was dark by the time we walked into the Sea Garden, a long area of parkland running along the coastline, to search for somewhere to eat.

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It wasn’t clear which of the hotel-attached restaurants in the park were open to receiving guests, and when we did check inside one it was no longer serving food, despite it only being 8pm. So we continued walking through the park until we reached the city centre, where we came across an Italian restaurant called La Bocca.

Here we were welcomed warmly, and our hunger quickly sated. I had a creamy chicken tagliatelle; Steve had the same but with salmon; and we shared a chocolate and fruit cake for dessert. Everything was delicious and filling. When we’d finished, the restaurant called us a taxi. This arrived within a minute, and took us home for around £1.80 – a bargain!

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snacks on the beach

The following day we walked down to Rappongi Beach, just in front of the Sea Garden. We found and paid for a parasol outside the Terrace restaurant, laid down our blanket, and stayed there all day.

Besides the various beachside restaurants there are two options for food – cups of sweetcorn (flavoured with butter, cheese and spices) and ice cream – and we had both as ‘main course’ and ‘dessert’. There was also a stall selling flavoured mojitos, which I couldn’t resist! The sea was gorgeously warm, and we switched between swimming in it and reading under the shade of our parasol. The beach was busy, but we still had a decent amount of space to ourselves.

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Drinks at sunset

When dusk began to fall and the beach to empty, we packed up and walked along the coast to the southern end of the beach. This end, which is closer to the city centre, is densely populated with bars and restaurants. We walked into one called Selfie bar to enjoy some drinks before dinner. Despite the cringey name, it was a lovely relaxed spot from which to watch the sun setting over the shore.

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Cocktails and seafood at El Kapan

We continued walking south until we saw El Kapan, which drew us in with its delicious-sounding menu of fresh seafood. We hadn’t booked, but were lucky enough to be seated at the outermost edge of the terrace next to the beach. We couldn’t have eaten in a more gorgeous setting. Throughout our meal we listened to the waves breaking on the shore, and watched the last of the light fading from the sky, until only the fairy lights were left.

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I had a ‘pinki pani’ cocktail, Steve had a beer, and we shared a starter of sweet and sticky shrimp and pineapple skewers on courgetti. This was followed by the absolute best salmon dish I’ve had in my life: juicy and perfectly cooked, with a slightly crisp spiced exterior, and served with yellow rice, asparagus and an incredibly tasty chimmi-churri-like dressing. Steve had fried turbot and potatoes, and we shared a decadent nutella cake for dessert. We finished with a whisky and a Baileys, before walking home.

Drinks, seafood and chocolate cake on a fairy-lit beach – I can’t imagine a better way to end a holiday.

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All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton. All rights reserved.

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