Staying in Sunny Beach in Bulgaria, on an all-inclusive basis in our hotel, we found it tricky to actually see much of Bulgaria itself. Usually, even if we stay somewhere all-inclusive, we’ll still head out on day trips and tours to see the area. However, that isn’t really easy in Sunny Beach!
Tripadvisor’s top 10 things to do in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
If you look on Tripadvisor, of the top ten things to do in Sunny Beach, you’ll find that the first choice is to go and see Nessebar, while the others are all water park after water park, and then go-karting. Apparently the tourist information centre is number 6, but as a day out in Sunny Beach, I can’t imagine that a trip to the local tourist information office would be all that thrilling. While we were there, Rob joked that the second best thing to do in Sunny Beach is to take a taxi ride. He’s not far off – it’s actually number 13. So I think from this you can surmise that a cultural holiday in Sunny Beach isn’t going to be easy.
With that in mind, we simply reclined on our sunbeds while the kids splashed in the pool, for most of our time. However, we did take a stroll along the road into Nessebar to see what the fuss was about. It must be number one thing to do in Sunny Beach on Tripadvisor for a reason, hey?
Tui Hotel Riu Helios in Sunny Beach
We stayed at the Thomson / Tui Hotel Riu Helios in Sunny Beach. The hotel was a good hotel for what we did – the food was totally acceptable, with a selection of food available at all meals to be sure that everyone would find something to eat. If you don’t really like to be too adventurous you’ll be happy. We didn’t go in the Asian restaurant, but the speciality Bulgarian restaurant was absolutely brilliant, and we were so sad to discover it wasn’t open every night. We could have eaten that deliciousness all day long.
The service at the bars was excellent, and there were self service wine and beer taps so you could take advantage of the all-inclusive basis if you wanted to. James loved the kids’ club, although he was equally happy making friends at the pool.
However, sometimes you need a break from all that napping in the sunshine, and a stroll through the markets isn’t everyone’s cup of tea all the time.
A day out at Nessebar
From our hotel, it took us about an hour to walk into Nessebar. We caught the land train part of the way back, and walked the rest.
In Nessebar, we simply wandered around. We didn’t have a map, or idea of what we could see while we were there, so what we saw, we happened upon.
Nessebar Old Town is a small piece of land surrounded by sea, connected to the main town by a narrow man-made road. So I guess technically it was an island before the road was made. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is chockablock full of pretty brick buildings. Most of those buildings seem to have been, or are currently, churches. The rest, now, are restaurants, cafes or shops. I mean, there must be other uses for the buildings, but those are the main things we saw on our walking tour of Nessebar.
Church of Saint Sophia in Nessebar
This church was built in the 5th and 6th centuries and yet it’s still standing. Amazing. Obviously it doesn’t have a roof now, but the main structure is still there and it’s possible to walk around it (and have a game of hide and seek in the pillars).
Around the edge of the ruins there are art galleries, shops, and restaurants.
The sea views
Wandering the cobbled streets of Nessebar we, naturally, bought an ice cream from one of the many displays along the alleyways. The ice cream was 1 Bulgarian Lev (about 45p) for two scoops and a waffle cone, and they were very yummy! We ate them while walking to the sea, which is all around the Old Town.
Eating out in Nessebar
I don’t think you’d struggle to eat out in Nessebar. There are all different price brackets of eateries. From pizza by the slice from vendors along the street to silver service restaurants with a sea view – there’s somewhere for everyone to eat in Nessebar.
We chose a simple restaurant which had free wifi, a children’s play area, and cheap beer. The meals we ate were fab, and I need to recreate James’ dish soon because I think it’s something he would like to help to make and then eat – chicken with cornflakes.
Nessebar land train
To be honest, the land train was a bit of a con. Noah was absolutely over the moon to be on the train, but we waited for about 15 minutes while they drummed up enough business to decide to leave Nessebar, and then it only actually travelled about half the way back to the top end of Sunny Beach. Where you’re dropped off isn’t really near to any hotels. However, we had a good time since some German teenagers were also on board, and they cheered and waved whenever they saw someone. It really is true that smiles are contagious – everyone – without exception – waved and smiled back.
Overall we had a lovely day out in Nessebar. A couple of tips, if you are heading there – firstly the street are all cobbled so you either need to have a robust pushchair or use a sling, and secondly, if you want to visit the inside of the churches, it does cost 1 BGN (actually the same price as a public toilet in Nessebar).