It’s no secret that Bansko is Bulgaria’s most popular ski resort. Ski lovers from neighbouring Romania and Greece as well as the UK and elsewhere flock to the picturesque mountain town every winter. Yet regarding Bansko as a strictly winter destination is a huge mistake. There’s so much more in this quaint little town than its famous ski slopes and it is worth visiting all year round. You can find many articles about skiing in Bulgaria and Bansko ski in particular, so we’re not getting into this at all. Here’s our list of the top things to do in Bansko if skiing is not your thing or if you’re visiting outside ski season. Which you should, by the way.
Top 5 things to do in Bansko (No, ski isn’t on this list)
1. Wander around Bansko Old Town
Bansko’s reputation as a top ski resort attracts many tourists during high season. This is why this small town in the Bulgarian mountains sees a rapid development lately. However, this sudden development has not altered the character of Bansko Old Town. Strolling around its narrow cobbled streets in absolute peace and tranquillity holds the very first place on our list of top things to do in Bansko. The beautiful old-fashioned ambience of Bansko Old Town is not in the least spoilt and passing one traditional stone building after another made us feel like time-travellers of sorts.
One of the main attractions in Bansko Old Town is the impressive Holy Trinity Church. Its interior is adorned with beautiful frescoes and there is also a peaceful garden within the church’s walls. You can’t miss the slightly tilting bell tower soaring 30m above the picturesque town.
Pirin Street is Bansko’s main street and it is lined with shops and restaurants all along its pedestrianised part. It then continues as a road which eventually leads to the gondola ski lift and the more touristy part of the town.
Equally pleasant is walking alongside a small stream of running water at the recently pedestrianised Gotse Delchev Street.
2. Eat at traditional mehanas
Mehanas are traditionally decorated restaurants that serve typical Bulgarian dishes. Sometimes dinner is accompanied by traditional music and dance as well. Food at mehanas comes in huge portions and always served alongside fantastic house wine. Although Bulgarian cuisine is meat based, mehanas also serve mouthwatering vegetarian options that are hard to find in other Balkan countries. There are many beautifully decorated mehanas scattered in Bansko. Our guess is that you can’t go wrong with any of them.
3. Drink superb local wine
I have to admit that we didn’t have time to properly do our homework before our trip to Bansko. So we had no idea that we were in for a unique wine tasting experience. During the 2.5 days we stayed there, we tried a lot of local wine and every time it was exquisite. We had house wine at every restaurant and mehana and we liked each and every one of them.
Wine Bar 25 is well worth a visit and deserves its own place among the top things to do in Bansko. In this cosy and stylish wine bar you can actually sample some of the best Bulgarian wines and staff are more than happy to tell you a few things about each wine region in Bulgaria. Prices are as low as 2.5€/glass so try not to get too carried away.
4. Pamper yourselves at 5-star spas and heated pools
Bansko is home to many luxury hotels with exceptional spa facilities. The Bulgarian ski resort is not the only place in the world with such establishments of course. But it may be one of the few places where such 5-star hospitality is actually affordable. Most 5-star Bansko hotels offer their guests free access to their spa facilities and relaxing heated pools. Non resident guests are also welcome to use the spas and pools for a reasonable fee.
5. Enjoy breathtaking views at nearby Razlog Tower
What to do in Bansko if you have some extra time to spare? Visit the neighbouring town of Razlog. There, at the top of Golak Hill, you can climb Razlog Tower for unique panoramic views of Razlog, Bansko and the beautiful Bulgarian mountains surrounding them.
The area around the Tower is the ideal place to have a leisurely and peaceful walk in nature. There is a considerable amount of steps to the top of Golak Hill, so wear comfortable shoes, bring water and take your time.
If you’re not driving from Bansko to Razlog it’s probably best to get there by taxi. It’s unlikely that it will cost more than 20€ for a round trip. There is also a bus connecting Bansko to Razlog. You can check with your hotel for timetables but from what we understand it doesn’t run that frequently.
How to get to Bansko
Bansko is located in south-western Bulgaria, at the foot of the Pirin Mountains. Many travellers from nearby countries such as Greece or Romania drive to Bansko. Alternatively, visitors fly to the nearest airport which is in Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria.
Currency and languages spoken
The official currency is the Bulgarian lev (BGN). In some occasions, payments in Euro may also be accepted. Hotels and restaurants accept credit cards, too.
Although Bansko receives huge numbers of foreign tourists during ski season, it seems that locals don’t speak English very well. Or at all. That said, locals in Bansko are extremely kind and they go out of their way to help visitors out.
Where to stay in Bansko
Accommodation options in Bansko range from 5-star luxury hotels to cosy traditional guesthouses. As mentioned before, Bansko is the ideal place to experience 5-star hospitality services at very reasonable prices. That said, Bansko Old Town is also dotted with beautiful traditional guesthouses that promise to satisfy even the tighest of budgets. For our three night stay in Bansko, we chose Guest House Khan Kadiata for its raving reviews and central location. We paid 50€ in total for a super clean room, one of the best homemade breakfasts we have ever had and the sweetest hosts we could ever dream of.
Our Bansko trip duration and costs
We arrived in Bansko on Friday afternoon and we left very early on Monday morning. This is plenty of time to relax and enjoy everything that Bansko has to offer at a leisurely pace. The Bulgarian mountain resort is also the ideal destination for a weekend escape.
Low cost airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air operate frequent flights to Sofia airport. Our return flights cost 35€/person. They would have cost about 10€ less had we not reserved our seats in advance. This is always an extra cost for us though. Katerina is afraid of flying and she hates the idea of ending up sitting too far away from me. But this is an entirely different topic and deserves a post of its own.
There are many ways to get from Sofia to Bansko and for all budgets. Accommodation in Bansko is great value for money. As mentioned above, we paid 50€ for three nights with breakfast in the heart of Bansko Old Town. Food, drinks and mini markets were also ridiculously cheap.
Till we meet again, Bansko
We visited Bansko in order to attend the Bloggers On Top 2018 Unconference, a bloggers’ event held by the amazing team at Coworking Bansko. The latter had a fantastic yet very tight schedule planned out for us. Therefore, during our short stay, we only had time to discover the top 5 things to do in Bansko apart from skiing but we know there is more and we will definitely go back to explore all the other unique experiences the little mountain town has in store for us.
Our short but wonderful trip to Bansko proves once again that it doesn’t matter how far we go or for how long we stay in a destination. All that matters is that we jumped on a plane and we made the most of our 2.5 days in a small town tucked away in the Bulgarian mountains. Not to mention that we probably spent less money than we would have spent on a typical weekend in Athens. Sometimes, going out there and seeing the world is easier than you may think and we are here to constantly remind you that if it’s all trip to us, it can also be to you!
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