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$2 Beers, Golden Sand & Wild Nightlife: Meet Europe’s New Summer Capital

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With its combination of ancient culture and scenic coastal scenes, Europe seems to be everyone's go-to destination this summer, with the likes of Spain, France and Croatia all seeing record increases in tourism, with one slight caveat for tourists themselves:

Between the inflated room rates and rising anti-tourist sentiment across tourism hotspots, we wouldn't blame them for thinking they're not particularly welcome in the Old Continent, but truth be told, not all of Europe is actively chasing them away.

In fact, one sunny destination is keen on hosting more tourists, and with its cheap $2 beers, honey-colored sands, and riotous nightlife, it's vying for the title of European summer capital:

Sunny Beach In Bulgaria, Eastern Europe

Is Bulgaria's Black Sea Is The Next Mediterranean?

Bulgaria may not be at the top of your Europe bucket list, and unless you're one of those people who have traveled extensively around the continent, you're unlikely to even be able to pinpoint it on a map––well, don't you worry, we're here to help.

This mysterious country sits in Europe's southeastern-most end, east of Greece and north of Türkiye, but unlike its closest neighbors, it doesn't have a coastline on the Mediterranean: instead, it straddles the equally-beautiful Black Sea, which is all but black in color.

Sandy Beach In Sunny Beach In Bulgaria, Eastern Europe

Other than its rich medieval heritage and fascinating nature, Bulgaria is known for its unspoiled Black Sea coast, with golden sands that line seas of the brightest blue. Contrary to popular belief, it's not always freezing cold.

Winters in Eastern Europe may be brutal, but summers in Bulgaria specifically are scorching hot and Mediterranean-like, with temperatures soaring above 80 degrees and limited precipitation: the perfect combo for a seasonal beach getaway.

Unlike other coastal destinations in Europe, however, the Bulgarian coast is not trying its best to quash tourism, and certainly not the aptly-named Sunny Beach:

Aerial View Of A Beach In Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, Eastern Europe

The New Summer Capital Of Europe

The leading resort destination in Bulgaria, Sunny Beach is stepping in as one of Europe's new summer capitals at a time when tourists get sprayed with water guns and verbally abused in Barcelona, and Venice trials a controversial ticketing system that will bar entry to the historic city to non-ticket holders.

Much like Cancun was built to cater to vacationing Americans in the 70s, Sunny Beach was developed only a couple of decades earlier in the 50s, hosting mostly Bulgarians and other Eastern Europeans during the turbulent socialist period of the 20th century.

Coastline of Sunny Beach Bulgaria, Eastern Europe

Since the fall of communism and Bulgaria's full-swing West, it's begun attracting a diverse crowd, still mostly Eastern Europeans, but a growing number of Brits, Germans, and believe it or not, even Americans:

According to Bulgaria's National Statistical Institute, as many as 114,593 Americans entered Bulgaria in 2023, a majority of which will have flown either into Sofia, the national capital, or the sun-drenched Black Sea for a budget-friendly all-inclusive beach getaway:

Cheapest All-Inclusive Stays In The Old Continent

Woman relaxing on a resort pool

Sunny Beach is one of the most affordable summer destinations across the pond, with one-week stays in local hotels starting as low as $375, but if you're flying all the way to Eastern Europe for an idyllic summer, you might as well treat yourself:

The all-inclusive hotel is not as common a format in Europe compared to Mexico or the Caribbean, but in Sunny Beach specifically, there are as many as 60 such listings to choose from on Booking.com:

Including free transfer from the airport, two outdoor swimming pools and round-the-clock catering, a one-week stay at the adults-only Sunny Beach Club will set you back $1,259, while a far less-impressive, breakfast-only arrangement in Italy's Amalfi will run you up $1,281.

A Young Couple Sitting In Bed In A Hotel Room As They Drink Coffee And Laugh, Looking Happy On Vacation, Unspecified Location

Only 450 yards from Sunny Beach's landmark golden sands, the Smartline Meridian Hotel has listed single rooms with balcony views for $811 in August, and if you don't care so much about luxurious amenities, you can get it for as cheap as $358 for the whole week at the nearby Arkite Complex.

For those traveling with their family or larger parties, the Apartment Tourist Complex (Rose Village) is a great alternative, with one week in a one-bedroom flat for 3 adults starting from $1,303––that's roughly $434 each.

The complex has a swimming pool, a local restaurant serving both local Bulgarian, typically cheese and meat-heavy, and international food, a playground for children, and 50 parking spaces for guests who are coming with a rented car.

A Door Open Showing Luggage Beside A Made Hotel Bed In A Hotel Room, Unspecified Location

Cheap Food And Drinks

Other than lounging by their hotel poolside, spending the day enjoying refreshing drinks and basking in the Balkan sun at the well-frequented Mexo Bar, or going for swims in the Black Sea, visitors are sure to appreciate Sunny Beach's wide range of attractions:

There are boat trips with music, unlimited drinks, and lunch included for $87 per adult, an Action Aqua Park with towering slides, costing a negligible $25 to enter, and even jeep safaris across Bulgaria's lush marine reserves, from $142 on TripAdvisor.

korca beer and mussels on the beach albania

For the partygoers, Sunny Beach is synonymous with endless fun: the oceanfront is lined with beach bars and nightclubs, including the landmark Playa Beach Club, with great cocktails and outdoor seating, and the high-energy Cacao, with its terrace that offers sweeping views of the ocean.

If you're traveling on a stricter budget––let's face it, if you're swapping Italy or Croatia for Bulgaria, that's likely to be the case––you'll be thrilled to learn a pint of domestic draft beer can cost as cheap as 3.47 Bulgarian lev, or $1.92 in U.S. dollars.

seafood and wine on a table in Malaga, Spain

There are of course more expensive bars, but typically, a cocktail in a casual hangout will cost you 10-12 Bulgarian lev, or roughly $6.64, and eating out, you're just as unlikely to break the bank: on average, tourists spend $46 on food, according to Budget Your Trip.

A three-course meal in an inexpensive Bulgarian restaurant costs on average $19.36 per person, and usually includes a starter bean or tripe soup––locals call it Chorba––a meat-based main, most commonly shish kebabs, and a simple dessert (baklava, rice pudding, cheesecakes, you name it).

More Than Just A Sunny Beach

Aerial View Of Nessebar, An Ancient City On An Islet Surrounded By The Black Sea In Bulgaria, Balkan Peninsula, South Eastern Europe

As deceiving as the name may be, Sunny Beach is more than just, well, beaches:

A short 19-minute drive from the resort strip, tourists will find the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nessebar, an ancient Greco-Roman colony founded on an islet off the Bulgarian coast, now linked to the mainland by a pedestrian stone bridge.

Nessebar is famous for its unusually-high concentration of Byzantine monuments, in particular frescoed churches, city walls and picturesque cobbled streets lined by traditional, Bulgarian Revivalist houses and souvenir shops.

Historical Medieval Walls Of Sozopol On The Black Sea Coast Of Bulgaria, Balkan Peninsula, Eastern Europe

Further down the coast, 1h15 from Sunny Beach, Sozopol is yet another popular site for seasonal residents to visit: a medieval harbor town still surrounded by walls; it has a lively marina, delicious seafood, and a postcard-perfect sandy beach.

Sunny Beach is also located near the middle point between the major port cities of Varna and Burgas, and it's roughly 1h30 and 40 minutes from each respectively, making them equally-feasible day trips for resort guests.

Fly To Burgas For As Cheap As $40 From Within Europe

luggage with wizzair plane

This season, Burgas Airpot, which serves both Burgas and Sunny Beach, is expecting a 10% increase in tourism, proving that demand for cheap Bulgaria getaways is increasing, particularly among Westerners.

There are no nonstop flights from the United States to Burgas Airport, making it more difficult for Americans to get to Sunny Beach, but not impossible: if they're already in Europe for a multi-country vacation, they can find cheap flights from only $39.95 on budget carrier WizzAir.

Burgas Airport is the second busiest in Bulgaria after Sofia, and it hosts seasonal flights from a number of European cities that Americans can fly to nonstop, such as Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, Frankfurt and Warsaw.

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