Varna (Bulgarian: Варна) is the third largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv, with a population of 351,552 (as at January 10, 2006). It is the capital of Varna Province and an important port in the eastern part of the country, located on the Black Sea coast close to Lake Varna. The city was named Stalin after the Soviet leader for a brief period from 1949 to 1956.
Varna, the biggest city on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, is commonly referred to as the "Sea Capital of Bulgaria". The city was also the base of the Bulgarian Navy. Currently, there is a Naval Museum with a museum ship torpedo boat Drazki. The archaeological museum contains some of the finds from the so-called "Gold of Varna", a cache of Chalcolithic grave-goods which are the oldest gold treasure in the world. The ethnographic museum shows objects connected with the fishemen's, peasants' and citizens' life and work from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
Varna was founded as an ancient Greek trading colony (apoikia), Odessos, about 580 BC. Historically, Varna is perhaps best known for its eneolithic necropolis, which is the site of the oldest gold treasure to be found by archaeologists, the Gold of Varna. The Roman city had baths, Thermae, built in the 2nd century CE, that are the largest Roman remains in Bulgaria.
The city, control of which changed from Byzantine to Bulgarian numerous times during the Middle Ages, was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1393.
On November 10, 1444, the Battle of Varna was fought nearby, with the Turks defeating an army of 30,000 Crusaders led by Ladislaus III of Poland, which had assembled at the port to set sail to Constantinople. The army was attacked by a superior force of 120,000 Ottomans, led by sultan Murad II. Ladislaus III was killed in a bold attempt to capture the sultan, earning the nickname Warneńczyk. The subsequent retreat of the crusader army made the fall of Constantinople all but inevitable. Today there is a cenotaph of Ladislaus III in Varna.
In 1829, the city was besieged and taken by the Russian army during the prolonged Siege of Varna.
Varna is an important economic centre for Bulgaria and the Black Sea region in general. Major industries include trade and transportation (see Port of Varna, Varna International Airport), shipbuilding, and manufacturing. Tourism is of great importance to the city, with the nearby resorts of Albena, Golden Sands, Constantine and Helena, Riviera and many others, each year attracting millions of visitors from all over the world. Together with the nearby town of Devnya, Varna forms what is known as the Varna-Devnya Industrial Complex, home to some of the largest chemical, electrical and manufacturing plants in Bulgaria.
In September 2004, FDI Magazine proclaimed Varna "South-eastern Europe City of the Future", citing its strategic location, fast-growing economy, rich cultural heritage and high quality education.
Some of the famous landmarks of Varna include the Varna Dolphinarium (opened 11th August 1984), the Sea Garden (designed by Czech Anton Novák), the Roman Baths, the Palace of Culture and Sports, the Varna Necropolis, the Varna Observatory and Planetarium.
The nearby cave monastery Aladzha is also a popular tourist sight. Additionally, the 2 km long bridge Asparuhov most is a popular place for bungee jumping.