It was a hot summer Friday in July – my kind of day – when our feet (let’s make it wheels) lead us, in the arduous need of escaping the heat in the scenic small town of Balchik, right on the edge of a cliff in the Bulgarian shore of the Black Sea where the air is crisp and salty, where mornings and evenings are spiced with slants of cool air.
Starting with the last few years, I somehow always end up in this small town, fascinated by the magic it holds and by the peacefulness it brings to my soul. It might be that I have fallen in love with this place long before I have ever placed a foot on its grounds, when, in high school, Cella Serghi’s books carried me in Balchik with every page turned and with every emotion felt by the main character.
Many years later, fate brought me back here, to the place I used to dream about with my eyes wide open, where I was dreaming about falling in love for the first time. And I didn’t fall in love for the first time, but for sure it was love that was filling my soul, thus I decided to come back, over and over again.
Getting back to the title, I guarantee that if you are not from Romania or Bulgaria, chances are you haven’t heard about this wonderful place I love so much on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. And if you have, then you are lucky. I am talking about Balchik and more precisely about Queen Mary of Romania’s castle and Botanical Gardens.
Walking along the seashore, with cats running around you, having the cobalt water on one side and the green hill on the other, you will most certainly end up in front of the entrance to the beautiful Botanical Garden. Stepping inside this oasis of peacefulness, you will feel like you have places your foot in Paradise, a place out of a fairy tale also called the “Quiet Nest”. Everything about this place is romantic, from its story to its gardens and the view you get from the inside.
The story is easy, in 1921 Queen Mary of Romania visited this small town on the shore of the Black Sea and (like me) fell in love with the place, thus her husband Ferdinand I of Romania built her the Summer Palace, or better yet had some Italian architects do it for them. Since she had a great passion for flowers, the botanical garden was arranged by a Swiss florist and trust me, you will find everything here, from Ginko Biloba trees to the beautiful cactus gardens and the perfect rose garden (the garden is home to over 2000 species of plants and around 250 types of cactuses, making it unique in the Eastern part of Europe).
The palace itself has Balkan and Oriental motifs and you might mistake it with a mosque when you will see the big minaret overlooking triumphantly over the two terraces where the Queen used to enjoy spending her days and evenings. But don’t expect anything too fancy, the Castel itself is rather simple with white walls, not having many rooms to be seen on the inside because here, the outside is all that matters.
What to have in mind when visiting Balchik Palace, Bulgaria
- The Palace is placed on a hill, thus you will have many stairs to climb and maybe it would be better to plan your trip on a not very sunny day and also be careful what shoes you are wearing
- You will have to pay for two tickets, one for the garden and one for the palace itself (you cannot have one without the other and the price is 14 leva in total)
- Prepare yourself for a wine tasting experience, because here you will find the best fruity wine there is – the cellars hide many different types of wines, from fig wine to rose and honey wine and my all time favorite, the almond wine.
- The Palace has also a restaurant where you could stop and enjoy a bite of some traditional Bulgarian dishes
- You could also choose to stay inside, in one of the holiday cottages
How to get there?
- Traveling from Romania, Balchik is located some 65 km away from Vama Veche and the border between the two countries, thus making it easily accessible by car in around 1 hour
- Coming from outside of Romania or Bulgaria? The airport of Varna is only 45km away and you can rent a car, hire a transfer to where you will be staying or even better, hotels or resorts offer shuttles directly to their location.
Where to stay?
- Hotel Antik – this lovely beachfront hotel is a walking distance from the Palace and also only a 3 min away from the beach. I was plesantly surprised by the good taste and comfort this hotel offers, at a fair price. Try also the restaurant where I guarantee the food won’t let you down.
- Kaliakria Resort – some 20 min away from Balchik you can find this beautiful place where you can sit back, relax and enjoy the view. More impressions here.
- Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort – a 5* resort with an incredible view that you definitely need to try at least once