Bulgaria is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches and holiday beach resorts stretching along the Black Sea coast. However, away from the overcrowded package-holiday resorts like Sunny Beach lie charming seaside towns full of antiquity and rich cultural heritage, standing over smaller sandy bays. Sozopol is one of those unique places that takes you back through its historical foundations with its impressive architecture and archaeology. It enchants you with its cliff-backed shore views, golden beaches and crystal clear waters. It’s truly one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria and this Ultimate Guide to Sozopol will give you everything you need to know when planning your trip. So let’s dive in!
Best time to visit Sozopol
Bulgaria is blessed with having all four seasons and therefore the best time to visit the seaside town of Sozopol is during the warm summer months of June to September. During that period the temperatures range between 25° and 30° which is ideal for both sunbathing and exploring the ancient town. However, hotels in Sozopol open their doors for tourists as early as May so that’s also an option if you prefer colder temperatures (around 15°-20°). Just keep in mind that not all restaurants and bars open before the ‘official’ start of the summer season in late May/ early June.
Where to stay in Sozopol
I was determined to find a hotel with the best views of Sozopol. And so I spent a long time researching and looking for the best accommodation options to fit that requirement. Hotel Coral, a small boutique hotel caught my eye and after seeing pictures of the view I had to book it immediately. It is conveniently located a few minutes’ walk from the Central beach and offers one of the most magnificent views of the surrounding bay. Stepping onto your balcony, a feeling of tranquility overtakes you as the relaxing song of gentle waves rolling onto the beach is only overshadowed by the coastline panorama opening up in front of you.
Book a table for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant’s terrace overlooking the sea for an enticing meal under the sunset sky. Can you think of anything more romantic than that?
Things to do in Sozopol
1) Explore the Old Town of Sozopol
Sozopol is considered the oldest town on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast and the “Old Town” has been preserved as part of an architectural reserve. Stroll around the Old Town to truly feel the historical vibe of Sozopol where remains of the ancient architecture and life can be seen around the town and in the local museums. The narrow stonelaid streets lined with antique houses, small churches, galleries, small boutique hotels and plenty of restaurants and shops add to the autenticity and take you back in time. Walk along the partly restored ancient city wall where you will find a picturesque promenade with breathaking views over the sea cliffs.
Apart from the stunning medieval architecture, while walking around the Old Town you will most likely stumble upon the open medieval and antique ruins. They are open and free to admire. If you would like to dive deeper into the history of Sozopol and want to discover more of its ancient remains you can visit the local archaelogical museum. The museum has a small but fascinating collection dating back from the Appolonian glory days and would be perfect for you if you’re interested in history!
2) Explore Sozopol’s beaches
Sozopol has some of Bulgaria’s best beaches have everything a sea lover could ask for – soft sand, calm clear waters and a relaxing ambiance. There are two main beaches in Sozopol – the Central beach and Harmani beach and a few others which are a short drive away from the town. My favourite one was the Central Beach mainly due to the stunning view over the other side of the bay. However, it is worth checking out the others if time allows you so you can see for yourself.
Central Beach Sozopol
The Central Beach is nestled in the bay between the Old and New town with just a short 500m stretch of sand line. The water is very shallow and perfect for snorkeling near the rocks. The beach gets quite busy during the peak months of July and August so make sure you secure yourself sun loungers and umbrellas from early in the morning (both umbrellas and sun loungers cost 3.50lv each). There’s also a ‘free’ area at the end of the beach if you just want to place your towel on the sand. There are plenty of restaurants nearby where you can grab a drink, have some staple summertime Bulgarian lunch (fries with feta cheese, fried sprat and bear) or enjoy an appetizing dinner with a view.
Harmani beach is located in Sozopol’s New Town part just a few short minutes walk from the Central beach. It has a long and wide sand stretch and has been presented with the prestigious Blue Flag award for its crystal blue water and immaculate cleanliness. Same as the fore mentioned, there is an area where you can hire sun loungers and umbrellas as well as a ‘free’ zone where you can place your towel on the sand and use your own umbrella if you have one. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from for lunch or dinner alongside the coast.
Bamboo Beach Sozopol
Bamboo Beach Sozopol is a small sand stretch just off Harmani beach, which gets its name from the bar/restaurant Bamboo Beach Music & Food which serves most of the beach zone. The exotic vibes are guaranteed with stylish loungers and bamboo straw umbrellas where you can chill with a cocktail served in a chic coconut cup. The bar/restaurant offers a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, a good food selection and even shisha. The prices are slightly higher in comparison to other beach bars but nothing too extreme. There are regular DJ parties and events being organized here, so it’s the perfect place for you if you’re looking for a little more upbeat and lively atmosphere.
Prices – one umbrella with two sun loungers – 12lv
Address: Budzhaka 8130, Sozopol, Bulgaria
Smokinya / Kavatsite beach
Smokinya/Kavatsite Beach has long been a popular campsite spot for domestic tourists, perfect for bungalows, caravans and tents. Nowadays, the beach is more urbanized with the introduction of beach bars, restaurants and paid zones with umbrellas in sun loungers. However, you might still be able to find a vacant spot in the ‘free’ areas where you can enjoy the surrounding wilderness and beach waves.
Zlatna Ribka, Gradina and Tsarski Plaj Camping sites
“Zlatna Ribka”, “Gradina” and “Tsarski Plaj” Camping sites – these three are located on the same beach curve between the towns of Sozopol and Chernomorets. This is one of the most well-known camping sites in the country. The beach is 4km long and 100m wide. “Zlatna Ribka” is on the side of Sozopol and “Gradina” is on the side of Chernomorets. The sea here is shallow and calm and there are plenty of food and drink options. The water is perfect for surfing, and for those wanting to learn the water skill there’s a surf school offering lessons for beginners. The emphasis is placed on the natural surroundings and water sport activities. The area is beautiful and parts of the sand stretch are pristine and perfect for someone looking to be closer to nature and away from the urbanized beaches.
Address: The name on Google maps is different for some reason, so you can find this beach by searching for ‘Beach Gold Wheelhouse.
3) Explore Sozopol’s surroundings
The Castle of Ravadinovo
Just a 10-minute drive away from Sozopol you can find The Castle of Ravadinovo, also known as “In love with the wind” – big, bold, at times over the top and at times simply mind boggling, and most likely the only castle in Europe that has been built by one man only. The castle is often described as ‘one of the most unusual buildings in the most unusual locations’ being built in the middle of a farm field right next to the highway. Despite being around only for about 20 years, the Bulgarian attraction ranked 3rd among the best and most beautiful castles to visit in Europe in 2018 in the ranking European Best Destinations.
At the entrance of the residence, an elegantly designed stone gate takes you through to the castle which combines various buildings and styles, with brass ornaments decorating the exterior of the building. In the summer months the walls and towers are covered in lush green ivy mantle, complimenting the blooming flowers in the garden and providing for a fantastic photo opportunity.
The Castle is a plethora of wonders
Take a stroll in the beautifully landscaped alleys and stop by the lake to enjoy the performance of the swans gliding effortlessly along the surface of the crystal clear water. The shady shelter provided by the trees alongside the lake provides a blissful rest from the blistering summer sun. Enjoy the symphony of the singing birds which is only interrupted by the peculiar calling of the local parrots and peacocks. The plethora of decorative water features and antique statues in the garden add to the palatial elegance and sense of wonder which further enchants this beautiful place.
Nevertheless, visiting this fairytale castle can almost be mistaken for entering a Disney film, which as a matter of fact was used as the set of Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” in 2013. So with its romantic surroundings and mystery in abundance why not come and pretend to be Princess Aurora for a day (just remember to bring your own pillow :D).
Opening hours: 8am – 8pm
Entrance fee: Adult – €7.50, Child – €5.00
Neptun Aqua Park in Ravadinovo
Situated next to the Castle of Ravadinovo and only 5km away from Sozopol, Neptun Aqua Park provides for a fun day for the whole family with its numerous waterslides, bars, restaurants and spa services. Why not use the opportunity to combine the fairytale experience of the Castle with some water entertainment for a full day of recreation?
Opening hours: 10am – 6:30pm
Full day (from 8am – 6:30pm)
Over 1,30m – €19
0,90m to 1,30m – €10
Under 0,90m – free
Half day (from 1:30pm-6:30pm):
Over 1,30m – €15
0,90m to 1,30m – €5
Under 0,90m – free
Places to eat in Sozopol
There’s plenty of small restaurants all around Sozopol so there is no doubt you will find delicious food with a good view! Below are some of my recommendations for places we tried and loved!
1) Morskite Dyavoli (Sea Devils)
Morskite Dyavoli (Sea Devils) – located on the Central Beach with stunning views over the sea and the little bay, this place is perfect for lunch or a sunset dinner. The food is very reasonably prices and delicious, and is served from morning till late evening. Try the chef’s specialty dish or simply a portion of fries with Bulgarian cheese, Shepherd’s salad (shopska salata) and freshly fried fish or kebapche (Bulgarian meat sausage).
Address: ul. “Lazuren bryag” 6, 8130 Tsentar, Sozopol, Bulgaria
Opening hours: 10am – 11:30pm
2) Del Muro
Del Muro – Located in the heart of the South Fortress Wall overlooking the sea, the views from here are incredible. The restaurant prides itself with its varied menu and delicious food inspired by the French and Italian cuisines while still offering local delicacies and traditional dishes. It’s best if you make a reservation to dine here as it can be very busy, especially if you want a table by the sea!
3) Restaurant “Lotos”
Restaurant “Lotos” – A nice dinner spot next to the “Harmani” beach with a wide variety of food options and beautiful scenery. Try the deep-fried cheese with fries (very popular with locals) or chicken strips with cornflakes for the meat eaters.
Tip: there’s plenty of similar restaurants alongise the Main street both by the beach and opposite it with live music and a similar menu offerings. Just follow your nose and the atmosphere and spend an enjoyable evening in Bulgarian style.
Address: ul. “Odesa” 14, 8130 Tsentar, Sozopol
Opening hours: 8am – 11pm
Nightlife in Sozopol
There are a few bars spread around Sozopol so you will definitely find a cocktail spot! Keep in mind Bulgarians don’t normally go out before 11pm so don’t be surprised if bars are empty if you go earlier than that. The two bars we went to and I can recommend are:
1) Malkata Tequila (The Small Tequila)
Malkata Tekila (The Small Tequila) – a cool, lively bar serving as a popular hangout for both locals and tourists. The party here starts after 11pm and it’s the perfect spot if you’re looking for a glimpse of Sozopol’s night life. The cocktails and shots variety is endless and if you want to try something local make sure you order their own label craft beer (pictured below).
2) Hedon Beach Bar
Hedon Beach Bar – Located right on the beach and bursting with lively atmosphere and delicious cocktails, this is the place to be if you want to be sipping on your drink while enjoying the refreshing sea breeze. During peak summer months the party here runs from early in the day till late at night with the occasional theme parties.
How to get to Sozopol?
There are three main international airports in Bulgaria and here is how to get to Sozopol depending on where you’re landing.
1) Getting from Sofia Airport to Sozopol
If you are flying to the capital you have a couple of options for getting to Sozopol.
The quickest one is to fly from Sofia to Burgas (around 50 minutes) and from there take the bus from Burgas to Sozopol (around 30 minutes).
The other option which works out a lot cheaper is to take a bus from Sofia to Burgas, and then another bus from Burgas to Sozopol. If you pick this option, you’ll have to take a taxi or the underground from Sofia Airport to Sofia Central Station. From there buses to Sozopol cost approximately 23lv (£10) and the journey takes around 6hr. Apart from this option being more budget friendly it also gives you the opportunity to enjoy some beautiful scenery along the way.
Click here to book your bus tickets to Sozopol.
2) Getting from Burgas Airport to Sozopol
Flying to Burgas is the quickest option. You would need to take a taxi from the airport to Burgas bus station and then take a 1hr bus from Burgas to Sozopol.
Click here to book your bus tickets.
3) Getting from Varna Airport to Sozopol
If you are flying to Varna, again the easiest option is taking a taxi from the airport to Varna bus station (cost between 5-10lv). From there you would need to take a bus to Burgas and then change to a bus from Burgas to Sozopol.