It’s all about the food.
No matter where you are or what you are doing – it’s all about the food. I love to make food, I love to eat food, and I really love to try new food. My recent trip to Bulgaria is no exception. I had never heard of any Bulgarian dishes before. Little did I know, a whole new world of comfort food was waiting for me. All I had to do was get out and start exploring Nesebar.
I spent a few weeks in the town working at an archaeological site. From the people to the food to our adorable site cat, it was an amazing experience to say the least. But it isn’t an experience that I can sum up in a neat little list for you. Instead, I want to walk you through the perfect day. The kind of day I would love to have when I go back to Nesebar. Along the way we will hit up all of the important sites and, yes, all of the food. Try and get through this post without getting hungry. I dare you.
Start your perfect day right.
Start out in the morning by popping to your local corner shop. Check out the pastries they have on display, grabbing a delicious banitsa. This is a flat, flaky pastry stuffed with garlic, cheese, and butter. Make sure to ask them to heat it up for you, and you are set for a good morning.
Take your pastry and go down to the main gate of Nesebar at the base of the island. Turn right and walk along the street leading through the harbour. Past the boats you can see the famous Sunny Beach, a party hotspot for European youths during the summer months. At night during the high season you can hear the pulsing club music loud and clear from across the water.
Continue down the road, walking along the beach to a concrete pier. You get a beautiful view of the seaside buildings clinging to the cliffs, but watch out for the seagulls. They will go after any food you are holding. This path loops around the base of the entire island, and you can walk the whole thing in an hour or two. Once you snake your way through the tourist shops back to the gate from the other side, head into the museum of Nesebar to catch a glimpse of the beautiful Varna gold artefacts and the exhibit of religious icons.
When you are feeling a bit peckish, head back to the city centre and stop by the kebab shop by the only ATM in town. I had never had a kebab before, but this place quickly became a regular lunch spot for me. They are around 5 lev each (₤2.30/$3), and those babies are big. They even put chips (thick cut fries) inside them. It’s genius. The guys were also really nice about adjusting the fillings based on different dietary requirements, so everyone can get in on the fun.
Nibble (or devour, your choice) your kebab and peruse some of the nearby shops. Local artists display a lot of their work, and there are plenty of antique shops to keep you entertained. See how much WWII paraphernalia you can spot. It’s impressive. There is also an amazing pearl shop with some beautiful jewelry for a student-friendly price.
The beach is never far.
If you are feeling adventurous and want some prime beach time, then grab your swimsuit and head back through the old gate. You can walk along the causeway connecting Nesebar to mainland Bulgaria. Instead of heading right to the crowded beaches of Sunny Beach, head left, following the seaside path for about twenty minutes. This will take you to my favourite spot I found during my stay: a huge beach occupied only by a few families. The farther down the beach you walk, the emptier it gets. Go for a swim, read a book, take a nap, or just soak up the sun.
Now for the main attraction – Dinner
When your stomach tells you it’s time to go, pack up and head back the way you came. After a full day of touring the sites of Nesebar, you can probably feel your hanger creeping up on you. Turn right inside the gate, following the road back towards the sea. As you round the corner, one of the restaurants will catch your eye. The outside dining area is filled with flowers and bright coloured tablecloths. A man in a ship captain’s hat calls out to you, beckoning you inside with the promise of the best sea views in Nesebar.
Walk to one of the far tables, located on the balcony perched on the edge of the cliff. You can hear the waves crashing below, and you might even get a good view of the sunset. As you sit down, the waiter hands you what seems to be an enormous menu covered in pictures, but you soon realise it is simply the same five pages repeated in three or four languages. There will be Russian, English, German, and some language you have never seen before.
To start your final meal of the day, go for the shopska salad. Fresh tomato, cucumber, green pepper, and red onion smothered in shredded sirene cheese topped with a drizzle of oil and vinegar. It is absolute perfection (and surprisingly filling). But the mains, that’s more complicated.
There is the classic satch, which I have fangirled many times before. You can’t go wrong with grilled veggies like aubergines (eggplant), peppers, and onions served up on a clay plate. The grilled chicken or lamb is a bonus, really. But maybe the breeze coming off the sea and the setting sun are making you a little chilly. You may be in the market for some kavarma, a tomato-based stew with pork cooked and served in a small clay pot. The one I got was topped with an egg. If you’re feeling brave, order an entire octopus. I can’t say I did, but I would love to hear about it if you do.
After a meal like that, an evening meander through the streets is in order. Don’t forget the fourteen churches scattered throughout the city. Each is beautifully unique and worth searching out. Well, if you like old stuff like me. Find a good spot and watch the sun set over the water.
And it wouldn’t be complete without dessert.
If you have a sweet tooth, then I have the ultimate tip for you. Beneath the museum of Nesebar rests a brightly coloured café blasting some classic 80’s tunes. The menu boasts dozens of ice cream sundaes and shakes, even some of the alcoholic variety. This, my friends, is one of those glorious moments where there are no wrong choices. One sundae, and what seems like half a box of biscuits later, you will think you are about to explode.
I know you are full, but we aren’t done yet. It isn’t a full day in Nesebar until you head to the Eco-cocktail bar. What on earth is an ‘eco-cocktail bar’, you ask? This is a Nesebar landmark fondly known as ‘the cave bar’. Yes, it is a bar designed to look and feel like a cave. While that may be a health and safety nightmare, it provides quite the atmosphere for an evening chat. Not to mention their drinks bear glorious names like ‘Heavenly Azure’ or ‘Mansoon’ (intentional spelling or happy accident, we may never know).
Then, and only then, may you say your Nesebar experience is complete. Head on home, and get a good night’s rest. You earned it.
Have any of you tried these foods before? Are there any other Bulgarian dishes that I missed out on? Let me know below!