The Royal Palace Vrana and its beautiful park near Sofia, Bulgaria

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An exciting place for both nature lovers and Bulgarian monarchy enthusiasts

The Saturday starts a little bit early for us, 2 hours before the official opening time of Vrana park near Sofia. We have just entered the park and walk by one of the main alleys, leading to the former stables of the Vrana royal palace. We are lucky to be let in at that early time because we have a meeting with a group of photographers, enthusiastic to take pictures of the many birds around. Me, Anna and Maria are not such bird enthusiasts but enjoy our walk in the cool morning, listening to the songs of the hundreds of birds around.

Magnolias in front of Vrana palace near Sofia Bulgaria

Magnolia in front of Vrana palace

Vrana park is a place absolutely unknown for a large part of the residents of Sofia. Many of them do not even suspect it exists, neither do most of the tourists. Others have heard of it but have never been there. But we are among those who have visited many times since its opening to the public in 2013, despite the park is only open on holidays and entrance is paid. For us Vrana is a very special place, with real royal atmosphere, despite the monarchy has been gone for more than 70 years. It was created by the model of Western European landscape parks of 19th and early 20th century and this spirit is still present there.

The alleys of Vrana park and Vrana palace near Sofia, Bulgaria

The alleys of Vrana park

The favourite residence of Bulgarian monarchs

Park Vrana is located outside the Sofia city life but hides many secrets and stories about dramatic moments of Bulgarian history. The estate Vrana was created in 1899 on the site of a former Ottoman homestead. The idea was to create an intimate family residence of Bulgarian monarchs, beginning with Tzar Ferdinand I that ruled the country after the Liberation of Ottoman rule in 1878. Ferdinand I was the person who bought the homestead and the lands around to create this unique place for him and his heritage. The residence became the main and favourite home of the last Bulgarian monarchs.

Little Anna running in Vrana park in the autumn

Little Anna running in Vrana park in the autumn

A park or a piece of art?

Nowadays Vrana still keeps the spirit of something intimate, very personal, created not only for official needs but mostly by personal interest and passion. Those of Tzar Ferdinand. The monarch was famous for his passion for botany and ornithology and the enormous diversity of plants in the park is due to his great interest. In the process of building the park thousands of plants were brought in Sofia from all over the world. Today in the park can be seen 821 botanical species, some of the very rare and as old as the park itself.

Beautiful alleys at Vrana Park near Sofia Bulgaria

Beautiful alleys at Vrana Park near Sofia

If you, like Tsar Ferdinand, are passionate botanists, you will discover and enjoy this amazing ensemble straight upon entrance. Even if not (just like us), you will not be left indifferent how special and different this park is from the other parks you are used to visit daily. Luckily, there are information plates around the more important species and objects and you can quickly learn the story of some of the most interesting inhabitants of the park. It is always exciting to learn something new.

The bungallow next to the lake with lillies

The bungalow next to the lake with lilies

This Saturday we were lucky to be let in an area of the park that is not usually open for the public, because it has not been yet restored. There we were shown the amazing Magnolias, more than 100-year old. There are few so old Magnolias in Bulgaria.

100-years old magnolias in Vrana park

100-years old magnolias in Vrana park

A kind of a zoo in 1905

During the monarchy times Vrana estate was not only a botanical garden but also had a zoo. The first zoo was established in 1905 and there were grown reindeers, lamas, camels, yaks and even elephants. The latter were used not only for entertainment of the royal children but also for heavy agricultural work, even to plug the land. There were also numerous birds around the estate and in the lake with lilies lived wild ducks, white and black swans and wild geese.

The elephant at Vrana estate

An elephand plugging the land in Vrana estate, early 20 century. Source

The lake with lilies is one of the top attractions in the park nowadays. 100 years ago across the park there were many other lakes but they were dried because of lack of maintenance. The lake with lilies is usually filled in early spring so there were no lilies yet during our last visit.

The lake with lilies in the autumn, Vrana park, Bulgaria

The lake with lilies in the autumn

Royal Palace Vrana

The palace has always been the main attraction in the area, despite raising more questions than answering them. It had been completed in 1912 and until then the royal family used to live in a hunting villa, known also as the Old Palace. It is located nearby and is a residence of the exiled king Simeon II even now.

Signs at Vrana park pointing to Vrana Palace near Sofia Bulgaria

Signs at Vrana park

The palace itself was the official residence of tsar Ferdinand. It was both cosy and intimate but still elegant and official. After Ferdinand abdicated in 1918, the estate was inherited by his son Boris III, the last tsar of Bulgaria, and later by his son Simeon II (Simeon Saxe Coburg Gotha). However, in 1946 the estate was nationalised and the royal family sent in exile. Then Vrana became a temporary residence of communist leaders and later turned to a residence for accepting foreign guests and organizing state parties. Vrana was returned to Simeon II in 1998. In 2001 he donated the park to Sofia municipality and part of the area was open to the public in 2013.

Royal Palace Vrana in Sofia Bulgaria

Royal Palace Vrana

What did the palace look like from the inside?

It is a pity for all visitors that the Vrana palace can still be seen only from the outside. It was supposed to be reconstructed and open to the public shortly after the opening of the park but this has still not happened. While we wait for this lucky event, we read from the many historical sources what life in Vrana looked like 100 years ago.

On the first floor was the office of the tsar, reception salon and some other official rooms and halls for the state affairs and events. One of them, a dining room, was a gift from the Russian emperor Nicholas II for the 18th birthday of Boris III, the future tsar of Bulgaria.

Vrana royal palace Sofia Bulgaria

Vrana royal palace

Inside Vrana, property of Bulgarian monarchs were luxury firniture, 128 carpets and 282 paintings. There were rooms named Ladies Saloon, The salon with the golden desk, the Russian Dining room, the Green salon and many others.

Vrana royal palace near Sofia Bulgaria

Vrana royal palace near Sofia

Reading about this amazing palace, we strongly hope that the restoration will be completed soon and we will have the opportunity to see it from the inside.

When and how to visit park Vrana?

Luckily, park Vrana is now open for everyoen willing to visit it and enjoy this real piece of art. The park is located 11 km from Sofia city centre and there are several ways to reach it.

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Двореца Врана 42.639957, 23.432894

By car:

If you are coming from Sofia, you need to drive by Tasrigradsko Shose boulevard to the junction with the Ring road and then turn back to Tsarigradsko shose. After 1 km there is a brown sign pointing to the right – this is the sign for Vrana park, despite only in Bulgarian. You will see the same brown signs when making the turn on the ring road. Parking is orgainzed in front of the park against a fee of 1 lv (0,5 EUR).

A taxi from the city center to Vrana should cost approximately 15 lv or slightly more.

By public transport:

Bus 505 travels every Satirday and Sunday from Orlov bridge (Orlov most, Eagles bridge) directly to Vrana, one bus an hour. Note that the line is not operating in the winter. The first one leaves at 9.25 from Orlov bridge and the last one is at 15.35. You can also take it from Hotel Pliska, Saint Anna Hospital and Metrostation Tsarigradsko shose. Find the full timetable at the Sofia transport website.

Opening hours of the park:

The park is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 16 h and also on some national holidays like 3 March. All visitors should leave until 17.30 when the park is being closed and all gates are locked.

Where to eat at Vrana park?

Consumption of food and drinks inside the park is strongly prohibited, as well as smoking. Inside the park you can drink water from several fountains. If hungry, just before the entrance there is a small restaurant with modest menu and cheap prices. Far from fine dining but still delicious.

Entrance fees to the park:

Entrance to the park is paid. The fee for adults is 5 lv per person and children up to 7 y.o. enter for free. There is a family ticket costing 8 lv, valid for a family with up to 2 children under 18. Every hour there is a guided tour and I strongly recommend to ask for it and join it.

Мимето се раздава докато снима магнолии

Maria taking photos of magnolias

More about our photo safari in the park

During our last visit to Vrana we were taking part in a photo fest organized by Olympus Bulgaria to test their portfolio of cameras and lenses. It was a wonderful opportunity to visit the park together with people keen on animal and bird photography. Olympus cameras proved to be very nice and extremely compact and comfortable which is something any traveller would appreciate.

Little Anna playing in the park

Little Anna playing in the park

Largoto, Sofia

Two days in Sofia: Discover the best places in the Bulgarian capital that locals also love

November 11th, 2018 Мария Андреева Hello! We are Andrey, Maria and little girls Anna and Adriana – the Andreev family. We live in Sofia, Bulgaria. Some of us have been living here for a long time, others for less and others their whole life.Now we want to show you our lovely city and take you to a walk through the…

 In our Instagram account we share more photos and thoughts from our trips and daily life, so if you are curious, follow us there, too.

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