Port guide: Nessebar, Bulgaria
Nessebar (also spelt Nesebur or Nesebar) is an ancient city, and one of the oldest ports in Bulgaria. Located in Burgas Province, Nessebar is the administrative centre of the municipality. Many civilizations have left their stamp on Nessebar over the generations, leaving traces of multiple stages of architecture and development. This synthesis of centuries-old human history is unique and brings Nessebar its undeniable charm. Roman, Byzantine and Greek ruins remain, making the city a treasure trove for those seeking historical artefacts. From Medieval fortress walls to Ottoman architecture to a plethora of churches, the streets of Nessebar are a museum in their own right. Awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1983, the old town of Nessebar (restored after 1925) is a romantic vision of cobblestone streets and small squares lined with period stone and wooden houses. Small shops offering handcrafted souvenirs (such as pottery, crocheted pieces, and jewellery) line the narrow streets creating a delightfully ancient ambience. The Turkish bath and picturesque windmill at the beginning of the causeway are of particular interest, as well.
Today, Nessebar is a popular tourist destination and one of the major seaside resorts on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Set on a rocky peninsula connected to the mainland by a long and narrow isthmus, Nessebar welcomes travellers from around the world.
- Exploring Nessebar
Nessebar is a delightfully old city, best known for its old (around 9000 years old!) town. With more than 40 churches ranging from the now-roofless Old Metropolitan Church from the 6th century to the 12th century New Metropolitan Church, there are plenty of historic sites to see. Only 850 m long and 350 m wide, Nessebar’s old town is said to have lost up to a third of its territory over the centuries, being eaten away by the sea.
The streets of Nessebar are quaint, and great for shoppers. Many street stalls line the cobbled streets, and small shops dot the narrow lanes of the old town. Local Nessebar crafts make wonderful souvenirs, and are generally of high quality. Prices in Bulgaria are usually very low compared to Western Europe, although international goods will be quite pricey. Pop into a local tavern to get a feel for local culture, or sit down for a cup of tea at a shady café to enjoy the lovely flower gardens. The local wines are delicious, and many tours of Nessebar include a trip to a local winery.
Don’t forget, however, that Nessebar is a famous seaside resort, with beautiful sandy beaches and countless outdoor and water activities. With a generous combination of historical interest and natural features, Nessebar truly has something to offer every visitor.
- Getting around
One of the attractions of Nessebar is that that one can step off of the cruise ship and right into town. The Old City Centre (with historic sites, interesting shops and galleries) is a 5-10 minute walk away, and one can reach the Archaeological Museum in approximately 6 minutes as well. Although it is a very walkable city, Nessebar is not very wheelchair friendly as the cobbled streets are bumpy and there are many steps. Small passenger trains are another great option, as they run from one side of town to the other in less than 10 minutes and are quite reasonably priced. The port area also offers local buses and taxis that can take you across the causeway to the modern section of town on the mainland. Buses are also great for visiting nearby resorts&endash;they have great English signage and there are numerous bus stops along the main road. Car rentals are also available, but largely unnecessary in this pedestrian friendly city.
For a more unique way to travel, consider taking a water route; boats are an easy and relaxing way to get to and from Sunny Beach, just 3 km away from the city centre. You will find many boat options, too; from modified fishing boats to upscale yachts, there is something for every budget.
- Beyond the port
A trip to Nessebar wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Bulgaria’s biggest beach resort: Sunny Beach, just 3 km away from the city. Take a short boat ride to this lively resort where there are endless opportunities for fun. Beloved by British and Irish tourists, the fine sand beach at this resort stretches for over 8 km and is edged with delightful sand dunes&endash;great for adventurous children. Hiring a sun parasol is a good idea if you plan on remaining on the beach for very long.
Home to over 800 hotels, 130 restaurants, and numerous live music bars, pubs, nightclubs, casinos and discos, Sunny Beach has an exciting nightlife and offers something for everyone. Various sports and activities (such as yachting, surfing, water skiing, horse riding, and bowling) are available.
From the beach one can also take an adventure on a “pirate ship.” This full day pirate cruise includes time for swimming and fishing, and includes breakfast and lunch. The ship takes you to a quiet, private beach where you can sunbathe in peace or enjoy some family time.
- Popular shore excursions
Cruise lines that visit here offer the following shore excursions. Please check with your cruise line to see if they offer them and remember some excursions may be seasonal only!
Nessebar Archaeological Museum
With such a fascinating and long history, it is small wonder that Nessebar should have a delightful Archaeological Museum. Though small, the museum’s collection is impressive and includes artefacts from as far back as the 12th century BC, as well as the Thracian, Greek, and Byzantine eras. The exhibition area includes a lounge and four exhibition halls.
St. John the Baptist Church
St. John the Baptist Church, constructed during the 9th century, is made of rough stone and mortar, demonstrating a transition in architectural styles. The church was plastered and painted with frescoes, including a portrait of a 14th century donator and fragments of St. Marina from the 17th century. Visit the art gallery with exhibits by local artists from Byzantine to contemporary styles.
The Christ Pantocrator Church
Another historic church in Nessebar is the Christ Pantocrator (All Powerful) Church. This church dates back to around the 13th-14th century, and is one of the most well-preserved and impressive medieval churches in Nessebar. The façade is covered with highly decorated arches, and under the floor is an actual medieval tomb. This is a wonderful site for history and architecture aficionados, but is fascinating for the average tourist as well.
- Local cuisine
Bulgarian cuisine is hearty and flavourful combination of Slavic, Greek, and Turkish influences. Nessebar specialities include aubergines and peppers filled with meat, and kebapcheta–strongly spiced meat rolls. For dessert, try banitsa local pastry stuffed with cheese or fruit or baklava. Various forms of coffee are common, and rakia (a fruit brandy or schnapps) is a favourite hard drink to try.
- Where you are docked
Cruise ships sail into the Port of Nessebar located in downtown, and dock at the passenger terminal in close proximity to the old part of the city. The main historic sites, as well as some of the most interesting shops and galleries, are within a 5 minute walk of the cruise terminal. Many private walking tours that begin directly out of the cruise terminal are available.
- Regional weather
Nessebar experiences prolonged summer months from May to September, receiving winds from the Mediterranean the winter months although cold are generally considered to be quite moderate in temperature.