Halfway up Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, Nessebar is heaven for history-lovers, with ruins of a Greek settlement and 40 churches dating from the fifth to 19th centuries to explore. But you can also just relax by the sea on golden sand or enjoy the nightlife of the Sunny Beach resort. Here’s our roundup of the best places to stay.
Dating back more than 100 years, this stone-and-timber boutique hotel in the heart of the old town wafts you back to times of yore, with its atmospheric inner courtyard. Located on the city’s photogenic historic peninsula, it has four rooms of unobtrusive good taste (swag-curtained, with walls and fabrics in pale champagne shades). This is the perfect base for strolls among Byzantine churches the size of cottages, and on down to the beach. Back at the hotel, try a shot of grape or plum rakia (liqueur) before your Shopska salad – and you’ll be right at home in Nessebar.
If you have smaller children you’ll appreciate this family hotel, where you can keep one eye on them at all times. Plain but comfortable motel-standard rooms can accommodate up to four guests, and vary between doubles, triples and apartments. Original oil paintings covering the walls add to the general feeling of a home-sweet-home cosiness. There’s an outdoor swimming pool as well as, for young ones, a shallow alternative. They can also keep themselves occupied in the children’s corner, home to a colourful swing and a slide.
This modern check-in all but touches the powdery sands of the Black Sea, which are glinting tantalisingly just beyond the property. It is named after the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, whose name means “born of sea foam”. You, will be under Nessebar’s marine spell from the time you breakfast by the waves on the restaurant terrace, until you dine on Bulgarian dishes, cooled by the night’s sea breezes. It’s only a 15-minute walk from the hotel to the ancient world of the old town – along the beach or through a pleasant park. Either way, you’ll traverse Nessebar’s isthmus, with sea stretching away on both sides.
Holidaying with a group? There’s enough going on at this place to satisfy all interests. Fancy a dip in the Finnish sauna, or the outdoor hot tub for eight? Perhaps you’d rather a game of billiards or table tennis. There are large as well as more intimate swimming pools – for energetic lengths or idle wallowing – as well as an impressively equipped fitness studio. The property is between Nessebar and the peaceful nearby coastal village of Ravda, 3km (2mi) away. There’s plenty to do, including a visit to the large aqua park Paradise, just a five-minute walk from the hotel.
Perched above the harbour, on one of the many rocks of the tiny peninsula, this friendly three-star lodge has 26 simple, clean and colourful bedrooms with air-con and minibars. The hotel takes its name from the protector-saint of seafarers, Saint Nicholas, and it looks after its guests with corresponding care. You’re within easy reach of Nessebar’s most important attraction: its 40 churches, all as vivid as gingerbread houses. You may lose your way in the twisted cobblestone streets but, actually, that could be to your benefit, as you’ll happen upon beautiful surprises around every corner, such as another church, or an old stone-and-wood house.
If you don’t fancy even a short walk to the old town of Nessebar, or to nearby Sunny Beach resort and its nightlife, you’ll be at home at Sol Marina Palace. You can do your sightseeing more or less completely from the rooftop infinity pool and the upper terrace: from sunrise to sunset you’ll have 360 degree views, from the white boats bobbing in the harbour to the terracotta-pink roof tiles of the old town. And if you do fancy a nose around outside? A glass lift takes you from the upper deck down to the seafront thoroughfare, where you can hail one of the town’s small carriages to spirit you to Sunny Beach and back.
With its heavy overhanging eaves and its frilly wrought-iron balconies, this cosy little number adds timeworn charm to Nessebar’s tiny peninsula. A colourful yard is bursting with foliage and pink geraniums, while stone walls bear old Roman elements. Rooms are motel-simple but comfy, some with quiet balconies overlooking neighbourhood homes. An authentic fishing boat in the yard reminds you that the Black Sea is three minutes’ walk away: take one of the narrow cobbled streets in the labyrinthine tangle, and there’s something pretty to photograph at every corner.
If you’re holidaying with young ones, plan a few nights at the huge four-star Sol Nessebar Bay, one of the premier resorts on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. It’s got its own aqua park and children’s club. The kids are all right, whether you join them or choose to relax independently elsewhere – there’s a professional team of overseers on hand to take care of your little darlings. That leaves you free to indulge your body and senses in the three-storey SPA center; or disappear on to the fine sandy stretch between Nessebar and modern Sunny Beach, to work on your tan.
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