A former Royal hunting lodge perched in the Rila Mountains close to the modern-day ski resort of Borovets, Tsarska Bistritsa was completed in 1914 by architect Petar Koichev for King Ferdinand and combines Art Nouveau styling with simple Alpine influences such as carved wooden balconies. Its interior is ornamented with wood-paneled interiors executed by the craftsmen Petar and Luka Kunchev and brightened with patterned rugs, photos of the Royal Family covering the walls and display cabinets full of hunting trophies. Confiscated by the Communists in 1945, the palace was returned to Simeon Saxe Coburg Gotha, the grandson of Ferdinand, in 2006 but has again been subject of legal proceedings over rightful ownership.
Approached by a winding lane lined with pine trees, the palace is surrounded by a forested park with many rare and exotic trees planted by Ferdinand, through which the River Bistritsa runs and powers a hydroelectric station that was built in 1912 and still supplies the estate’s electricity. The lovely Orthodox mini-church of Saint John of Rila is also open to the public, crammed with glittering silver and gold icons; a small museum is located in the wooden former stable block adjacent to the palace, which houses memorabilia of the Royal Family including paintings from their private collections and hand-embroidered national costumes; two smaller hunting lodges can be found nearby, dating from 1904 and designed by Romanian architect Georgi Fingov.
Open Tue–Sun 9am–5pm (palace closed if the former Royal Family are in residence). Admission adults 3 leva; children under 18 1 leva. Best accessed by car from Sofia, Tsarska Bistritsa is 75 km (47 miles) south of the city by road. Take photographic ID when visiting.