Bankya Residence - Atlas Obscura

Bankya Residence

Bankya, Bulgaria

Now a ruin, this grand resort was coveted by a communist autocrat and an eccentric Japanese golfer. 


Communist leaders were known to enjoy high-end luxury, and Bulgaria’s Todor Zhivkov, the prime minister from 1962 to 1971, was no exception. One such opulent display of power was the Bankya Residence, which sported a sauna, indoor swimming pool, and landscaped park, among other features.

Built in the 1970s as a sanatorial complex, the Residence took advantage of the thermal properties of Bankya, whose mineral waters and mountain air had made the town a health destination for centuries. But Zhivkov seems to have taken a liking to the facility, with its distinctive Soviet-era architecture, and used it as a personal residence until his ousting from power in 1989, just a few months before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

In its post-communist era, the complex attracted the interest of Masako Ohya, an eccentric Japanese billionaire who enjoyed golfing in her distinctive pink outfits. The “Pink Billionairess” became a bright blotch of paint in the gray landscape. She bought a controlling share in the property with plans for a hotel, golf course, and private homes. But Ohya died in 1999, and her pink-hued vision with her. Today, her only visible legacy on the abandoned site is the Golf and Country Club’s crest, painted above the main entrance, and brochures scattered in the west wing.

The building was occasionally guarded and used for events, but it has been vandalized. While some of the most unique features in the main lobby and restaurant area have been lost to arson and theft, it is still worth a visit, as both the trashed interior and overgrown exterior offer unique views and a calm, relaxing atmosphere.

Know Before You Go

Parking is available on nearby streets and near the “Path of Health” trail. When facing its starting arch, head right until you reach a metal gate, then up the hill: The main building will be in front, with the guard building to your right. Follow the asphalt-then-dirt road on the left around the golf course, now overgrown, and you will reach the villas, with an unmistakably pink one near the end.

The building is in an advanced state of decay, so caution is advised.

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