Once the favorite palace of the Bulgarian Royal Family, Vrana is found in the suburbs of Sofia, surrounded by 100 hectares of parkland that were acquired by Tsar Ferdinand in 1889 for 56,000 lev. He created a farm and transformed the remaining land into gardens scattered with lakes and meandering pathways, planted with more than 400 exotic trees and shrubs garnered from his travels overseas. By 1906 a two-story wooden hunting lodge had been built by architect Georgi Filov, and this was followed by the Vrana Palace itself; designed by Nikola Lazarov and completed in 1914, it is a gigantic confection of Baroque and Art Nouveau styling.
With the advent of Communism in 1946, the Royal Family was exiled from Bulgaria and their land repossessed by the state. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the palace and grounds were returned to Simeon, the grandson of Ferdinand (and Prime Minister of Bulgaria from 2002 to 2005), who promptly donated the park back to the city on the understanding that it was opened to the public. It may only be open at the weekend but free, guided tours depart every hour, explaining the history of the palace and detailing the landscaping of the gardens. Today there are many shady walks past wooded copses, flower beds and rock gardens to enjoy but the palace remains closed to the public as it is once again the official home of the former Royal Family.
Boulevard Tsarigradsko Shosse 387, Sofia. Open Sat–Sun 10am–4pm; admission adults 5 leva; children aged between seven–18 2 leva; family ticket 8 leva. Take the metro to Interexpo Centre or No 505 bus from Orlov Most.