Nessebar, or Nesebar, is a seaside city on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. The ancient town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 because of its abundance of historic churches and buildings, a complex fortress wall, and its original 19th century Bulgarian Revival wooden houses.
And you don’t have to stay in Nessebar to see the seaside town. The best way to see Nessebar is by staying in Burgas, which is only 35km southwest of Nessebar. Burgas is an excellent city as a homebase for visiting other towns along the Black Sea Coast including Sozopol and Pomorie.
While my one-day itinerary is packed with all the best things to do in Nessebar, I also included the Sunny Beach, a popular Bulgarian seaside resort town, at the end of the day.
Keep reading and find out how you can see both Nessebar and Sunny Beach all in the same day.
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What you need to know before going to Nessebar Bulgaria
Before you start your Nessebar day trip, take a look at some of these useful travel tips for your day trip:
- You can visit Nessebar throughout the year. But similar to other Bulgarian towns along the Black Sea Coast, most restaurants, shops and local bed and breakfasts are only open during summer. So plan your trip to Nessebar between June and September.
- I recommend starting your Nessebar day trip early. Try to arrive in Nessebar by 9am so you can comfortably follow my 1-day itinerary.
- Things to bring for your Nessebar day trip: cash, water, mobile phone (with data), beach towel and sunscreen.
- Plan your visit to Nessebar with the following festivals and events:
- The Day of Nessebar (August 15) – see festive activities when residents celebrate their hometown.
How to get to Nessebar from Burgas
The best way to travel from Burgas to Nessebar is by taking the M-Bus or DS Bus at Burgas Station South Terminal. Look for bus stop #3 at the back of the terminal and wait for the next bus to Nessebar.
The bus stops at the New Town but you should get off at the last stop, which is in front the Western Fortress Walls of Old Town Nessebar.
- M-Bus and DS Bus: from Burgas Station South Terminal bus stop #3 to Nessebar Old Town Bus Stop
- Time: 1 hour (about 1 or 2 buses per hour starting 6:20am to 10:50pm)
- Cost: 8 lev (pay on bus)
- Check: Burgas Bus website for bus schedules
Map: what to do in Nessebar Bulgaria
Below are all the best attractions of Nessebar Bulgaria. Red pins are all the must-see attractions and are part of the one-day itinerary while the blue pins are other things to do in Nessebar if you have more time.
And I organized all these attractions into an efficient itinerary. All you have to do is follow the numbered pins and read the description for each attraction.
Best things to do in Nessebar in one day
1-2. See The Windmill and the statue of St Nicholas at the entrance to Old Town Nessebar
When you approach the Old Town Nessebar Peninsula, there are two things to look for.
First, see The Windmill on the north side of the road connecting the New Town with the Old Town. The rectangular-shaped wood windmill is not a functioning windmill, but it was built in the 19th century during the Bulgarian Revival period.
Second, see the statue of St Nicholas which is located on the south side of the road closer to the entrance to the Old Town. St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and fisherman which is why he is standing tall at the entrance of the seaside town. He is the symbol of Nessebar and the sculpture itself is quite whimsical.
3. Wander around the Western Fortress Wall
When the Thracians, the first inhabitants, settled in the peninsula in 8th century BC, they built a 2m wall. Then the Romans conquered Mesembria (modern Nessebar), the towers were added.
And when the Byzantine rulers took over in 5th century AD, they restored the fortress, added the square towers on both sides of the gate, and semicircular towers were added as well.
Today, the Western Fortress Wall is the wall completed during the 5th century. Wander around and see the condition of the wall. Some parts are better than others, though.
4. See the beautiful facade of Church of Christ Pantokrator
Out of the 40 churches and monasteries in Nessebar, 15 of them are preserved. It is the highest number of churches per capita. But don’t worry, I’m not going to include all of them in this itinerary.
But I think it is important to see some of the best churches in Nessebar. After all, they are the reason why the seaside city got its UNESCO World Heritage title.
The first one you need to see is The Christ Pantakrator Church.
The 13th century church is known for its beautiful facade. Look for the segmented red and white stone exterior, multiple concave arches, and the frieze of swastikas (solar cult symbol).
Currently, the church functions as a museum. But I think the beauty of the church should be admired from the outside.
Address: ul. Mitropolitska 13 | Hours: 9am-8pm | Admission: 3 lev
5. Appreciate the architecture of the Church of Saint John the Baptist
If you appreciate architecture or want to see the original structure of a 10th century church, check out the Church of St John the Baptist.
The domed cruciform church has two cylindrical vaults which intersect in the center and the cylindrical dome sitting above the intersection while the altar has three semi-circular apses while the dome is supported by four massive pillars.
While the facade is simple compared to the complex interior structure, this Bulgarian Orthodox Church is a must-see as it is one of the best preserved churches in Nessebar.
Address: ul. Mitropolitska 19A, Nesebar | Hours: 10:30am-2pm and 2:30pm-5pm | Admission: 3 lev
6. See the remaining parts of an early Byzantine Baths
Next to the Church of St John the Baptist is a fenced open area. This is all part of the early Byzantine Baths that was built in the 6th century.
The excavation uncovered two thirds of the area so far. Five warm pools (two of them are semi-circled pools), a central hall with large marble columns, and marble floors have been discovered so far.
But what is interesting is that water conduits were found underneath these early Byzantine Baths. Other excavation activities around Nessebar also indicates that these underground water system was built for the entire town. That means this technology was already in place since 5th century BC. That’s pretty impressive!
Address: ul. Mitropolitska 17, Nesebar | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
7. See frescos at the Church of the Holy Saviour or Sveti Spas
The Church of the Holy Saviour or Sveti Spas is a small single nave church built in the the 17th century. This was the only church built during the Ottoman era and buildings built during this time were built half way into the ground.
So you don’t have to pay a fee to see the main characteristics of this church. However, the wall paintings inside the church are quite fascinating. They were painted in the 17th century and the frescos represent scenes from the life of Christ and Holy Virgin.
Address: ul. Briz 6, Nesebar | Hours: 10:30am-2pm and 2:30pm-5pm | Admission: 3 lev
8. See the decorative motifs at Church of Saint Paraskeva
Next up is a single nave church from the 13th century called The Saint Paraskeva Church. What is special about this church is the decorative design of the exterior walls.
First, the exterior walls were constructed with hewn stone and bricks. Then decorative motifs like fishbone, zigzag pattern, checkerboard, and the sun were added to the blind arches (arches in the wall that has been filled).
Again, you don’t need to pay admission to see the museum to enjoy this church (unless you want to). The best part is on the outside.
Address: ul. Mesambria 2A, Nesebar | Hours: 10:30am-2pm and 2:30pm-5pm | Admission: 3 lev
9. Admire the grandeur of Church of Saint Sophia
The highlight of Nessebar has to be the Church of Saint Sophia, which is one of the most magnificent structure in Old Town Nessebar.
Also known as the Old Bisphoric, the church was built in the central public space back in the 5th century. It had a double-sloped roof, plastered walls with frescos and mosaics. It functioned as a church during the Middle Ages but was looted and abandoned by the 18th century.
Today, you can only see the ruins of this Orthodox church including the three naves, an atrium and arched windows. But this is still the center of all current cultural activities within Nessebar and an excellent spot for photography.
Address: 8231 Staria Grad, Nesebar | Hours: 24 hours
10. See the Black Madonna at Church Dormition of Theotokos
Many locals visit the Church Dormition of Theotokos on the 15th of August to see the Black Madonna, an icon painting of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus. They visit and pray in the church of the Mother of God for good health and fortune. They believed Black Mary chases away evil spirits.
I missed this Bulgarian Orthodox Church while I was in Nessebar. But while I am putting together this post, I realized this is a must-see. So don’t miss it. It’s free to visit.
Address: ul. Hemus 16, Nesebar | Hours: 8am-5pm | Admission: free
11-12. Walk along the promenade or perimeter of Old Town to Church of the Holy Mother Eleusa
At this time, you can either walk around the perimeter of north side of Nessebar Peninsula via the seaside promenade or walk along ul. Krajbrezhna, a road within the fortress wall.
Initially, I walked part of the promenade and didn’t find anything interesting – everything close to the promenade are newly constructed. Like the playground and gym area. So I made my way back to the inside of the fortress walls and walk on ul. Krajbrezhna.
Along the way, you can see the Old Windmill. This one is different from the one earlier as this is cylindrical and is made with stone. You can see the windmill from the promenade or the road within the fortress.
Furthermore, you can see the ruins of the Church of Holy Mother Eleusa. The church was built in the 6th century and was only discovered during an excavation in 1920. It would’ve been the oldest church in Nessebar but not much of it is left except for these ruins.
13. See Bulgarian Revival houses around Old Town Nessebar
Similar to Sozopol, another seaside town long the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, Nessebar also has many residential houses from the 19th century that were built in the Bulgarian Revival architectural-style.
These preserved houses are typically two or three storeys and are built with stone ground floors and wood panelling on the upper floors.
In Old Town Nessebar, you can see many of these Bulgarian Revival houses renovated as small hotels, shops and restaurants.
14. Visit the beaches of Old Town Nessebar
There are actually only two beaches on the Nessebar Peninsula and the Buna Beach is one of them. It is a small sandy beach located near the fishing pier. Even though it is quite small, it is worth taking a look.
There’s also another beach closer to the amphitheatre called Old Town Beach but I think this one is nicer.
I did include actual beach time for this itinerary. It will be near the end of the day at Sunny Beach.
15. See preserved frescos and mosaics at Church of St Stephen
Church of St Stephen, also known as the New Bisphoric, is a three-nave church built in the 11th century. This church is worth visiting because of the preserved frescos and mosaics. There are 258 fresco murals and more than a thousand figures, including scenes like the Last Judgement and the Miracles of Christ.
Out of all the churches mentioned in this itinerary, this is the one I would pay the admission fee to go inside. Plus, you can see the current exhibit inside the church, which is actually a museum now.
Address: ul. Ribarska 117, Nesebar | Hours: 9am-5pm | Admission: 6 lev
16. See the decorative facade of Church of St John Aliturgetos
The Church of St John Aliturgetos is the only church in Nessebar that is not sanctified. Aliturgetos in Greek means “not consecrated”.
And it would’ve been the most beautiful medieval church in Nessebar if it had not been damaged by the earthquake in 1913.
However, you should still visit the church to see the facade. The exterior walls were made with stones and bricks which created a beautiful red and white segmented aesthetics. Plus, there are geometrical patterns within the blind arches. It looks like many arches are within an arch. This detail is pretty well-designed for a 14th century church, if you ask me.
Address: ul. Ribarska 117, Nesebar | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
17. Check out the Ancient Amphitheatre in Old Nessebar
The open area next to Church of St John Aliturgetos is the Ancient Amphitheatre in Old Nessebar. It was a place for locals to get together to discuss issues and an arena for performances.
And today, it is still a place for entertainment. Many seasonal events and music concerts are held in this very spot.
Address: ul. Ribarska, Nesebar | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
18-19. Visit Sunny Beach and roam around Flower Street
After all the sightseeing in Old Town Nessebar, walk 25 minutes to Sunny Beach, a popular Bulgarian seaside resort town. The golden beach is 5km long and is the perfect place for some sun and water activities.
Also, walk up Flower Street, the most famous street in Sunny Beach. It connects the beach to the main road and is full of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and high-rise hotels.
While many travellers visit Sunny Beach for its rowdy party scene and vibrant nightlife, I’m only including a few hours at this seaside town so you can see the different sides of the Black Sea Coast. (And also I’m not typically a nightlife person especially when I’m travelling on my own. But I still think its worth it to see Sunny Beach).
20. Take the bus back to Burgas from Sunny Beach Bus Station
When you are ready to return to Burgas, walk to Sunny Beach bus station and wait for the next bus going back to Burgas.
The schedules for bus #22 and bus #10 are on the wall next to the bus stop. Look at the bottom sections of the schedules below. These are the timetables for buses going to Burgas.
Buses are operated by either DS Bus (darker font) or M-Bus (lighter font) and both ends at Burgas Station South Terminal. The last bus going back to Burgas is at 10:05pm. Pay 8 lev (cash) on the bus.
Other things to do in Nesebar Bulgaria
There are other things to do in Nessebar besides the attractions mentioned in the itinerary. If you stay overnight in Nessebar or return to Nessebar another day, here are a few more things to see (see blue pins on the map):
- Archeological Museum (9am-5pm; 6 lev) – learn about the history of ancient Messambria and the medieval town of Nessebar through numerous cultural exhibits.
- Ethnographic Museum of Nessebar (10:30am-2pm, 2:30-6pm from June 1 to July 8; 10:30am-2pm, 2:30-7pm from July 9 to September 24;3 lev) – see a collection of traditional crafts and everyday items from household items, clothing and old magazines in the two-storey house built in 1840.
- Nessebar South Beach – an alternative to Sunny Beach and it’s only a 20-minute walk from Old Town Nessebar.
Nesebar food guide: where to eat
Most restaurants in Nessebar line the coast to take advantage of the coastal views. And many of them serve Bulgarian Black Sea Coast cuisine which consists of mainly seafood such as Black Sea mussels, grilled and fried fish, calamari, and so much more.
When you are famished from all the sightseeing, try one of these places in Nessebar:
- Plakamoto – a seaview restaurant with delicious seafood on the menu
- Restaurant Romantica & Panorama – an alfresco restaurant facing the fishing harbour
- Neptun Restaurant – get a table closest to the perimeter and enjoy the views of the fishing pier and beach
- ECO-Bar by Michael – have a drink at this cave-like bar with many stalactites growing from the ceiling
Are you ready to take a day trip to Nessebar from Burgas?
As much as I loved travelling the city life of Sofia, I really enjoyed my time on the Black Sea Coast, especially in Nessebar.
As much as I like Nessebar, I don’t think it is necessary to stay overnight in Nesebar. The better option is to stay in a bigger city like Burgas and use it as your homebase to visit other towns in the area, like Sozopol and Pomorie.
But whatever you decide, just make sure to include Nessebar on your Bulgarian itinerary. Let me know in the comments if you are interested in travelling solo to Nessebar or if you have any suggestions to make this itinerary better.
Thank you for reading my Nesebar itinerary post
You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Bulgaria:
- Sofia Solo Travel: 20 best things to do in Sofia
- Where and what to eat in Sofia: 21 must-try food
- Burgas to Sozopol day trip: 1-day itinerary