Guide to the Old Town of Nessebar (UNESCO)

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Attractions in the Old Town of Nessebar – What to see and visit?

The Old Town of Nessebur (UNESCO) is one of the oldest towns in Europe founded around 3000 years B.C. The first settlers in these lands were the Thracians. Nessebar is known as the richest town in architectural monuments from the Middle Ages in Bulgaria. The Old Town was declared an architectural-historical reserve of national importance on 18 July 1956. UNESCO included it in the List of World Cultural Heritage Sites in 1983.

Today’s original romantic atmosphere in the Old Nessebar is still alive: narrow cobblestone paths, two-floor houses with stone-built ground floors and wooden upper levels, standing out over the street, small workshops, traditional pubs & taverns. The town is one of the main tourist attractions on the Black sea coast and especially for the tourists who spend their holiday in the summer resorts of Sunny Beach, Pomorie, and Ravda which are very close to the city.

Nessebar is definitely a must for every tourist in Bulgaria! The best way to visit it when booking online one of our excursions:

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Nessebar
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When arriving in the Old Town you remain impressed by the charm of this ancient place. With no doubt, you can spend the whole day visiting museums, churches, small shops, walking through the labyrinth of cobbled streets, enjoying the sea view from some small traditional restaurant and taste Bulgarian wine… In case you do not have so much time, find here the most detailed list of attractions and sights in the Old Town Nessebar.

Attractions in Nessebar:

  • The Mill – this is the first thing, that catches your eyes when entering the Old Town. The mill is emblematic of the town of Nessebar and is a kind of symbol of the city. Its location is on the main road, which connects the New Town with the Old Town and is the most popular place for photos. 
  • The monument “St. Nicholas” – you will see it at the entrance of the Old Town. There is no chance to miss it.
  • Western fortress wall – hint that you are arriving at a very ancient place… Ever since it was founded, the town has always been surrounded by fortification walls. The oldest walls date from the 5th century BC. and were built only of stone blocks by the ancient Greeks. Later, the Romans conquered Mesembria and built the fortress.
  • Early Byzantine baths – they were built in the 6th century when the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I the Great was on the throne (527-565). About 2/3 of their area has been researched.
  • Ruins of the Church of Our Lady of Eleusa (Mercy) – on the north coast of the peninsula; you find it when getting to the end, by the sea. It dates back to the 5th century.
  • Remains of a windmill – next to the Church of Our Lady of Eleusa, by the sea.
  • The ancient amphitheatre in Nessebar – near the port. Some of the best Bulgarian pop and pop singers, as well as foreign ones, often appear on its stage.
  • Sea Station and the fishing port – a very romantic place, you can get a ferry to the other Black Sea resorts.
  • Yacht port Nessebar – the other place for romantic walks or boat trips.
  • Mesambria Square – is the central part of the Old town /During Antiquity the town was called Mesembria, in the Middle Ages – Mesemvria, and later – Nesebar.

Churches in Nessebar:

The greatest treasure of the city are the churches. They were built during the different periods of the Middle Ages. When Christianity became the official religion, there was a boom of Christian temples built on the territory of Mesemvria. According to the legends, there used to be about 40 churches in Nesebar. Nowadays 23 of them are identified. Among the best-preserved are:

  • “Christ Pantocrator” Church: it was made of red bricks and white stones, built between the 13th and 14th centuries. It is one of the most extraordinary and best-preserved medieval temples in Nessebar. The premises are used as exhibition halls to “Museum of Art”. It is located in the centre of Old Nesebar.
  • The church “Hagia Sophia”: the ruins of a basilica dating from the 5th century, with 3 naves, arched windows, and an atrium. It was later reconstructed and acquired its current appearance at the beginning of the 9th century. In the Middle Ages, it served as a cathedral of the metropolitan diocese of Nessebar.
  • “The Church of St. Demetrius”- it was discovered in 1968. Only the columns supporting its dome remain today.
  • “Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel” (13th or 14th century) – it is a partially preserved medieval Eastern Orthodox church. In terms of architectural design, it follows the Byzantine cross-domed plan.
  • “St. Paraskeva” (13th -14th century)- it is located north of the main street of Old Nessebar, near the church of St. Archangels Michael and Gabriel. It is built of cut stone and bricks, in an alternating sequence.
  • “Church of the St. Spas” (called also “Ascension of God”) – a small but beautiful church. It dates from the 17th century (1609) and is the only church built in Nessebar during Turkish slavery. The building complied with current Turkish laws and its eastern wall was half dug into the ground. It is built of stone and clay and has a wooden roof and small windows. Today the church hosts a museum.
  • “Virgin Mary” (“Assumption”) – There is a miraculous icon of the Holy Mother of God, also known as the “Black Mother of God” because of the dark colours with which it was painted.
  • “Church of St. John the Baptist” (10th – 11th century) – it is a typical representative of the transformation from the shortened basilica to the cross-domed church.
  • “Church of St. John Aliturgetos” (known as “St. John the Unconsecrated”) is located in the southern part of the Old town. The church was built in the 13th -14th centuries. There is a legend that says the church was not consecrated at all (from there comes the name “aliturgetos” – “unconsecrated” in Greek), as one of the workers died during the construction.
  • “Church – museum St. Stefan” (13th -14th century) – it is small by size, but unique with its beautiful frescoes – over 1000 figures in 258 compositions. It is known as the “New Metropolis”.
  • “Church of St. Clement” (17th century) – the central apse and altar table have been restored.

Museums in Nessebar:

  • Archaeological museum: one of the most visited places in the Old town of Nessebar. It has a rich collection of artifacts related to the history of the city and Christian icons from the Middle Ages. The different halls give information about the city’s existence under the control of the Thracians, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Bulgarian State.
  • Ethnographic Museum of Nesebar – its exhibition is displayed at Moskoyani House which was built during the Bulgarian Revival Period (1804). The house was a property of a rich salesman from Nesebar. The museum shows things and items used in the everyday life and crafts of the locals, as well as traditional regional outfits.
  • Film Museum – very interesting place. The exhibition includes authentic sets and props used in various films. You will find it on the “Mesambria” Square.
  • Museum of Art – in the church “Christ Pantocrator”.

After the long walk to museums and churches, it’s time for a break. You can choose from a very long list of restaurants in Nessebar. There are traditional Bulgarian restaurants, taverns, pubs, cafes, wineries, and many more. Find here The 10 best restaurants according to Trip Advisor:

A stroll through the labyrinth of cobbled streets will take you from store to store. There are small local shops with handcrafted souvenirs, pottery, leather goods, jewelry, ceramics, clothes, knitting works, and many more… The overall atmosphere will fascinate you!

There is no chance the history of this ancient town to be presented in a short story, you have to see it by yourself. And the charming spirit can not be described by words, you have to feel it! Visit Nesebar and explore the Old town of UNESCO at the first opportunity.

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