Summer Palace of Queen Marie & Botanical Gardens

Top choice in Black Sea Coast

At the far western end of the seafront, this palace was completed in 1926 by King Ferdinand of Romania for his English wife, Queen Marie, when Balchik was part of Romania. Size-wise, it's a relatively modest villa, though the architecture – a blend of local, Gothic and Islamic styles topped with a minaret – is unique. Behind the palace are the extensive botanical gardens. The complex also includes a water mill, a winery and the tiny Chapel of Sveta Bogoroditsa.

The half-dozen or so rooms on show contain original furnishings, including paintings by Marie, and several photographs of the queen striking dramatic poses on the grounds. Also here is a curious collection of local archaeological finds, including Roman pottery and mammoth bones. In the garden, around 600 species of flora are featured throughout a series of themed terraces, including an impressive collection of cacti.

If you’re travelling here by bus from the southern coast, get off at the bus stop opposite the palace – either look for the tour buses and souvenir stalls, or ask the driver to drop you off at the dvorets (palace). The entrance here leads into the top end of the botanical gardens. Another entrance is off the seafront promenade.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Black Sea Coast attractions

1. Ethnographic Museum

0.91 MILES

This museum features folk costumes, housewares and jewellery, as well as displays relating to traditional trades and crafts such as fishing, barrel-making…

2. Historical Museum

0.91 MILES

The diverse collection here includes valuable remnants from excavations carried out at the nearby Kibela (Cybele) Temple (referred to at the museum as the…

3. Art Gallery

0.99 MILES

The permanent collection of this gallery holds about 1500 works of art from Bulgarian and foreign artists, though the main draws tend to be the highly…

4. Zoo Park

16.99 MILES

Varna's small zoo, in Primorski Park, has around 70 different types of animals, including some llamas, a camel, some big cats (lion, tiger, panther), pink…

5. Natural History Museum

17.4 MILES

The museum presents the flora and fauna of the Black Sea region, divided into sections representing the area's geology, botany, vertebrates and…

6. Graffit

17.64 MILES

This contemporary art gallery displays rotating exhibitions of mainly visual arts, usually of high quality.

7. Varna City Art Gallery

17.75 MILES

You can peruse two floors of 19th- and 20th-century Bulgarian art at this gallery, including works by Vladimir Dimitrov and David Peretz. Various…

8. City Hall

17.78 MILES

Varna's towering, multistory city hall is a landmark of communist-era brutalist design.