Balchik is a town in the northeast of Bulgaria, on the coast of the Black Sea. It’s popularity is mainly due to Queen Mary’s castle. Long story short: a Romanian queen looking for a pretty and quiet place decided to have her summer residence here. The castle grounds include a wine cellar, a monastery, a chapel, and a beautiful park that now serves as the Botanical Gardens.
So naturally, I’ve visited this place a couple of times when I was younger but it was only last year when I discovered the other part of Balchik, the seafront.
The reason the seafront was a mystery to me was mainly that visiting the castle only, you don’t really get to see a beach nor much of the seafront walkway. But last year, with the pandemic keeping me closer to home, I thought Balchik might be a good idea to enjoy the seaside for a few days. I was not wrong. Which is why I went again this year.
What can you do in and around Balchik? Here are some suggestions:
Balchik has one main beach which is a medium-sized beach, with lounge chairs and umbrellas for daily rent and a bar. The entrance to this beach is not the happiest one, as it’s right next to a big abandoned building and the overall vibe is a bit depressing. But once you get past that, it should be good.
The beach I spent time at was a tiny one, at the Nomad Beach Bar. Although very small, it was clean and pleasant. However, if you plan on staying at this beach, you have to be a very early bird. There’s a no-reservation policy, but rather a first come – first served policy. A seat is considered occupied if it has a towel on it. What we did was wake up early, go to the beach, leave the towels and go back to the hotel for breakfast. However, most seats are already taken by 7:30 am.
TIP TIME: If you can’t find a spot, you can try crossing the walkway to the Nomad Beach Club, where there’s a pool and lounge chairs with umbrellas that you can rent.
Another beach or rather sand patch can be found right next to the castle. However, for that one, you have to cross the street to get into the water through a stairwell that goes down between the rocks, so I wouldn’t recommend it to families with kids, as it doesn’t seem kid-friendly.
Visit the castle and its grounds
As I mentioned, the Balchik Palace is the most popular tourist attraction here and it is definitely worth a visit. My favourite part is the rose garden that has the most incredibly intoxicating smell when roses are in full bloom.
Go to Cape Kaliakra
Cape Kaliakra is about 35km away from Balchik and can be reached by car. I think some hotels or your tour agency if you take this trip through an agency can arrange transport for you, if needed. Cape Kaliakra has steep cliffs about 70m above sea level and features the remnants of a medieval fortress. The view is quite impressive.
Dalboka Mussel Farm
Near Cape Kaliakra is the Dalboka Mussel Farm, where the Dalboka company grows…you guessed it: mussels. There’s also a restaurant where you can get fresh mussels, as well as other types of seafood or fish. It’s recommended you make a reservation, as, despite the restaurant having many seats, it tends to fill up quickly, with people waiting in a long queue to be seated. Also, the road down to Dalboka is a dirt road, partly paved, but not quite and fairly steep. So, if you’re going by motorcycle (as we were), leave it somewhere up and go on foot, it’s safer. And also, be prepared to climb back up after your meal.
Walk, eat, drink, repeat
The Balchik seafront walkway is probably one of my favourite places. Although it can get pretty crowded, particularly on Friday and Saturday night, it has the best restaurants and terraces and it can get quieter and more intimate if you get closer to the palace grounds. I recommend daily walks. You’ll notice new things every time and find some artists, along the way, playing the violin. There’s also an open air public library where you can help yourself to some reading material, as long as you know Bulgarian.
For eating, I’m not sure I found a bad restaurant yet. All of them have great food with very similar menus, most of them featuring seafood and fish, but also meat, pasta, and pizza, so there’s really something for everyone. There’s also a bunch of cafes that serve dessert and ice cream.
My favourite restaurant is Restaurant La Terrassa Balchik, part of the hotel complex Maria Palace. Besides the good food, the service was 20 (on a scale of 1 to 10). We had a particular gentleman who served us almost every day and he (as well as his colleagues) went through the trouble of speaking to us in Romanian (our native tongue) and was very nice and helpful.
For drinks, I recommend the Nomad Beach Bar. They make very good cocktails. The Raspberry Mojito was on point.
Where to stay in Balchik
I’ve only stayed at one hotel both times I went because I liked it very much the first time. And that is Hotel Antik. Located in between the two beaches I told you about, it features very large, beautifully decorated rooms and a restaurant. We had a good breakfast there, which somehow got even better this year.
Other than this, I think it depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to be close to the beach, or perhaps choose a hotel that has a pool. Many of the hotels look very good and seem to be a good value for money.
To conclude, Balchik is a great place for a short (or long) relaxing getaway. Bonus points: it’s got a lot of stray cats. Have you ever been?