Ancient City of Nesebar

Nesebar is an ancient town and one of the major seaside resorts on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, located in Burgas Province. Nesebar has on several occasions found itself on the frontier of a threatened empire, and as such it is a town with a rich history.


The ancient part of the town is situated on a peninsula (previously an island) connected to the mainland by a narrow man-made isthmus, and it bears evidence of occupation by a variety of different civilisations over the course of its existence.


Its abundance of historic buildings prompted UNESCO to include Nesebar in its list of World Heritage Sites in 1983. According to a reconstruction the name might derive from Thracian Melsambria. Nevertheless, the Thracian origin of that name seems to be doubtful.


Moreover, the tradition pertaining to Melsas, as founder of the city is tenuous and belongs to a cycle of etymological legends abundant among Greek cities. It also appears that the story of Melsas was a latter reconstruction of the Hellenistic era, when Mesembria was an important coastal city.


Originally a Thracian settlement known as Menebria founded in the 2nd millennium BC, the town became a Greek colony when settled by Dorians from Megara at the beginning of the 6th century BC, and was an important trading centre from then on and a rival of Apollonia (Sozopol).


Remains from the Hellenistic period include the acropolis, a temple of Apollo, and an agora. A wall which formed part of the Greek fortifications can still be seen on the north side of the peninsula. Bronze and silver coins were minted in the city since the 5th century BC and gold coins since the 3rd century BC.


The city’s wooden vernacular architecture, which is enriched by dressed stone elements and decorated with ceramics, dates to the Bulgarian Renaissance of the 18th and 19th centuries.


It creates a harmonious ensemble with Nessebar’s older monuments, including churches and chapels constructed during the Byzantine ET Bulgarian Medieval era; these are clad in comfortable combinations of brick and stone.


A small street, which  connects the peninsula with the mainland, leads through the narrow gateway in the ancient fortress wallright to the quaint, tiny historic down town area with numerous well preserved buildings (mainly mediaeval churches) and narrow cobbled lanes, winding amongst wooden houses of the 18th and 19th century.


Nessebar’s typical houses have stone foundations and broad, overhanging wooden superstructures. Nessebar is the historic treasury of Bulgaria and in 1956 it was declared and recognized as museum city archaeological and architectural reservation.


Today the old part of the town is an attractive place for romantic walks along the narrow cobbled streets, among the little shops offering hand crafted souvenirs pottery, crocheting, and jewelry.


At the beginning of the 6th century BC, the city became a Greek colony. The city’s remains include the acropolis, a temple of Apollo, an agora and a wall from the Thracian fortifications.


Among other monuments, the Stara Mitropolia Basilica and the fortress date from the Middle Ages, when this was one of the most important Byzantine towns on the west coast of the Black Sea. Wooden houses built in the 19th century are typical of the Black Sea architecture of the period.