Varna (Bulgarian: Варна, Varna ) is the third-largest city in Bulgaria and the largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Situated strategically in the Gulf of Varna, the city has been a major economic, social and cultural centre for almost three millennia. Varna, historically known as Odessos, grew from a Thracian seaside settlement to a major seaport on the Black Sea.
Varna is an important centre for business, transportation, education, tourism, entertainment and healthcare. The city is referred to as the maritime capital of Bulgaria and headquarters the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine. In 2008, Varna was designated seat of the Black Sea Euroregion by the Council of Europe. In 2014, Varna was awarded the title of European Youth Capital 2017.
Theophanes the Confessor first mentioned the name Varna, as the city came to be known, with the Slavic conquest of the Balkans in the 6th to 7th centuries. The name could be of Varangian origin, as Varangians had been crossing the Black Sea for many years, reaching Constantinople in the early Middle Ages. In Swedish, the meaning of värn is "shield, defense" – hence Varna could mean "defended, fortified place". The name may be older than that; perhaps it might derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *u̯er- "to flow, wet, water, river" (cf. Varuna), or from Proto-Slavic root varn "black", or from Iranian bar or var "camp, fortress" (see also Etymological list of provinces of Bulgaria).
According to Theophanes, in 680 Asparukh, the founder of the First Bulgarian Empire, routed an army of Constantine IV near the Danube delta and, pursuing it, reached the so-called Varna near Odyssos [sic] and the midlands thereof (τὴν λεγομένην Βάρναν, πλησίον Ὀδυσσοῦ). Perhaps the new name applied initially to an adjacent river or lake, a Roman military camp, or an inland area, and only later to the city itself. By the late 10th century, the name Varna was established so firmly that when Byzantines wrestled back control of the area from the Bulgarians around 975, they kept it rather than restoring the ancient name Odessos. The latter is often said to be of Carian origin, though no modern scholarship supports this.