With rocky beaches and chic hotels facing the shores Balchik attracts thousands of tourists each year. Spend a week-end in Balchik, and discover its beauty.
Balchik is a corner of paradise, the beloved residence of Queen Mary of Romania, a place of unparalleled beauty as many tourists describe it.
The city of contrasts
Balchik is a small town located on the Bulgarian shore of the Black Sea, 460 kilometers from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Do not be fooled by the view at the city gates, which is desolate: small blocks of flats, abandoned factories, places and things that make you think about the communist period. This is only a part of the limestone mountain on which is situated the small town. On a narrow road, you should reach the other side of the mountain, where everything is different. Sloping roads, beautiful homes on hills covered by green forests, narrow streets paved with stone, fences that go up or down. Known as the White City because of the limestone mountains surrounding it, Balchik reveals to visitors a beautiful golf course, the rocky beach, the little port with yachts and vessels of all kinds, and Queen Mary’s Castle, with its famous botanical garden, a true paradise of flowers.
Queen Mary’s Castle
Between 1913 and the 1940s the Balchik area belonged to Romania, but after the Second World War, it was annexed to Bulgaria. Queen Mary of Romania fell in love with the peacefulness of the place, and she had built on the waterfront, in 1922, a summer residence. The castle is famous mainly because of its impressive Botanical Garden. The park was designed using the famous model of Cretan labyrinth, and each stone that was used to build the church in the castle garden was brought from Crete.
The castle is called the “Quiet Nest”. It is, in fact, a villa with white walls and red-tile roofs bordered by a minaret. It is built over three terraces and combines elements of Moorish, Mediterranean style homes and the Bulgarian houses. Only the promenade separates the castle from the sea. The Botanical Garden was designed by the best gardeners and architects of the time following the Queen’s plans.
The entrance ticket, to visit the castle and gardens, costs 10 Bulgarian levs (about 5 euros). It will take you 4 hours to visit the royal domain, and you should use a map bought at the entrance if you don’t want to get lost on the paths of the garden.
Queen Mary’s last wish was that after her death, her heart to be placed in Chapel “Stella Maris”, the castle’s chapel. After 1940, the heart was taken by Princess Ileana, her daughter, to the Bran Castle in Romania, another place that Queen Mary loved.
What to do in Balchik
There aren’t many attractions and recreation opportunities for tourists in Balchik, besides visiting the castle. A holiday here is not for the adventurous ones, but for those seeking relaxation and the tranquil atmosphere. You could spend a whole day at the beach sun bathing or at the swimming pool at your hotel. Many hotels have modern pools with umbrellas and beach chairs.
A trip to Cape Kaliakra
One choice for spending a day away from your hotel would be a trip to Cape Kaliakra. Go to one of the local travel agencies and book one. Cape Kaliakra is 40 minutes away from Balchik, by car, and offers magnificent views to those who dare to walk there in the summer heat. Cape Kaliakra is a natural reserve, a place where tourists can observe dolphins and cormorants. However, the ruins of fortified walls, placed 70 meters above the sea level, have an individual charm.
Local Bulgarian delicacies
Whatever you choose to do during morning or afternoon don’t hesitate to sample the local dishes. The restaurants are simple and cheap with abundant menus. Try a local stew made with pork, poultry, mushrooms, carrots, eggplants and pickled cucumbers. The waiters and chefs will not tell you the recipe, but they promise you’ll ask for another one. Eat Katak, a cheese cream with garlic and pimientos, with toast or try the Shopsky style tomatoes (layers of tomatoes and cheese baked in the oven with an egg topping). At dessert have a teaspoon of rose jam, the local sweet treat.
Balchik can be visited any time of year. Of course, during spring, summer and autumn the town’s beauty is at its peak. However, in winter, cold and dominant landscape becomes extraordinary beautiful.