Nessebur (sometimes spelled "Nesebâr" or "Nessebar"), a rocky peninsula jutting from the Bulgarian coast, is one of Bulgaria's most popular tourist destinations. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to an amazing mix of historic architecture-including Greek and Roman remains-and some beautiful stone churches dating to the early Middle Ages. The town was originally known as Messambria and was colonized by the Greeks in the 6th century BC. Later, the Romans came and stayed through the early years of the first millennium. In the Middle Ages, the town for a time became a stronghold of the Byzantine Empire, ruled from Constantinople. The 19th century saw another building boom, this one of evocative stone and wooden houses in the style known as Bulgarian National Revival.
Cruise ships dock at the passenger terminal in the older part of Nessebur. The main sights of the historic core, as well as the most interesting shops and galleries, are a 5-minute walk from the terminal. The port area has taxis and buses that can take you across the causeway to the modern section on the mainland (a 15-minute walk) or to the nearby beach resorts.
Aside from the Old Metropolitan Church, there are around a dozen churches and ruins scattered around old Nessebur. Many are more than a thousand years old. More than 60 traditional stone and wood homes from the 19th-century National Revival Period have been preserved and are in use as private residences or housing shops, restaurants, or hotels. The term "National Revival" refers to the period of Bulgaria's reemergence as an independent nation following the centuries of occupation by the Ottoman Turks.
Church of St. Sofia (Old Metropolitan Church). This is the most impressive of Nessebur's surviving church ruins, dating from the 5th century AD. Historians speculate it was built on the site of the original agora-the main square-when Nessebur was a Greek settlement. End of ul. Mitropolitska.
Nessebur Archaeological Museum. A nice introduction to the city's history, the museum has exhibits that show the town's development from an ancient Thracian settlement through the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine eras. It's also a good spot to buy maps and booklets. Messambria 2. Admission charged.
Nearly all of Old Nessebur has been given over to shops and galleries selling everything from the mass-produced tourist junk to genuinely valuable art, jewelry, icons, and traditional Bulgarian handicrafts, including exquisite lace. The best strategy is to follow the tiny alleyways and see what catches your eye. Head to the newer part of Nessebur to stock up on toiletries and pharmaceuticals.
One of the most popular beaches is right outside the passenger terminal.
Slânchev Bryag ("Sunny Beach"). Bulgaria's largest beach resort is located 8 km (5 mi) to the north. Regular ferries make the trip in about an hour.