The city of Varna, located on the Black Sea of eastern Bulgaria, is a major cultural and economic centre of the country and of the eastern EU. With a current population of over 360,000 the city is the third biggest in Bulgaria, and some statistics even indicate that it has now surpassed the city of Plovdid and has become the second largest.
Founded in the sixth century BC, Varna is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has a rich cultural and religious heritage. The city's landmarks include several Christian Orthodox temples: the Dormition Cathedral, the 17th century Theotokos Panagia, the St Athanasius, the Sts. Constantine and Helena church and the 15th century St. Petka Parashkeva chapel.
Other sights include the Varna Archaeological Museum, exhibiting the Gold of Varna, the Roman Baths, the Battle of Varna park Museum, the Naval Museum and quite a few more. The Sea Garden Park, stretching along the cost of Varna, is one of the biggest and most beautiful parks in Bulgaria.
Varna is a major university centre and a popular venue for international festivals and events. The city is also referred to as the marine, or summer capital of Bulgaria, hosting government cabinet meetings in the royal summer palace of Euxinograd. The Bulgarian Navy has its headquarters in Varna.
Varna, and its region, is the second most important economic centre in Bulgaria, with booming local businesses and enterprise and a well developed infrastructure. Varna is the location of choice for many international companies, which have set up business in Bulgaria. In the past 10 years a few business districts have formed in the city, with newly developed business centers, office buildings with executive suites and high quality serviced office space. The city ranks third in Foreign Direct Investment per capita.
The local economy is predominantly serviced based, with 61% trade and tourism, 16% manufacturing, 14% transport and communications, and 6% construction.
It is a fast growing and diverse economy with the presence of such sectors as tourism, agriculture, aviation, shipbuilding and ship repair, food, energy, chemicals, engineering, construction and building materials.
The two most important industries in the city of Varna are marine industry and tourism. Its marine industry includes shipping, shipbuilding and repair and there is also an institute of naval architecture. The shipbuilding yard has built more than 800 vessels in its history of over 90 years.
Serviced by Varna International Airport, the city has become a major tourist destination. The suburban beachfront resorts of Golden Sands, the Holiday Club Riviera, Sunny Day, Constantine and Helena and others are internationally renowned, attracting millions of visitors each year (4.74 million in 2006, of which almost 4 million were international tourists).
Varna is also Bulgaria's only international cruise destination (with over 30 cruises scheduled in 2007) and has a major international convention and spa centre.
Economically, Varna is among the best-performing and fastest-growing Bulgarian cities; unemployment, at 2.34% (2007), is over 3 times lower than the national rate; in 2007, the median salary was the country's highest, on a par with Sofia.
In September 2004, FDI Magazine (a Financial Times Business Ltd publication) proclaimed Varna the South-eastern European City of the Future citing its strategic location, fast-growing economy, rich cultural heritage and higher educational standards.