Bansko: Your Winter Tale in the Balkans
This winter I got the chance to visit Bansko and stay at the nice St. George Ski and Spa Hotel. I don’t ski, but I do enjoy the snow as well as spa centers, thus I knew that this last trip of mine had potential to be excellent.
I traveled by car from Skopje and went to Sofia first; my friend and I did some shopping there before heading towards Bansko during the cold and snowy night.
How Many People?
How Many Nights?
Type of Travel?
Relaxing, tasting local cuisine, exploring.
December 18 – 21, 2017
I must say that I plan on writing two additional Bansko reviews; one from the point of a person looking for relaxation and another for those looking for a ski adventure. I believe that a general overview of the place couldn’t cover both of the aspects appropriately and hence you can look forward to two more Bansko-related posts soon.
As a mentioned several times before, we arrived in Bansko during an extremely snowy night; it was a scary ride up the mountain, I’m not gonna lie. However, once we settled in our hotel room, had some dinner and coffee – everything seemed better. Actually, the place was gorgeous all covered in white, even though it was literally freezing outside.
The place in general – Bansko is a small little town and a popular ski center in Bulgaria. It has an Old Town and a kind-of-new Town where visitors can enjoy a great time eating, exploring and relaxing.
Plus, there’s the middle point of the mountain, which can be reached with the Gondola cable car. Even those that don’t ski can simply enjoy the snow during a lovely, sunny day. In general, Bansko was clean, the air was fresh, and the roads were always clean;
Parking – we had a parking in front of the hotel, St. George Ski and Spa (affiliate), but I noticed several parking lots across the town. At the Gondola, there was a one with a ramp, for which you pay 12 BGN for the whole day.
There were also several open parking lots where visitors can park for free. Just read any signs and you’ll be able to understand whether you have to pay or not;
Nature – well, Bansko is a ski center after all and it’s placed on a mountain. This should tell you enough when it comes to nature. It’s beautiful and clean and it has a river running along the town. So, you can expect lots of picturesque spots that will steal your heart;
Shops – there are lots of supermarkets with affordable prices in Bansko. Also, there are many stores where you can buy ski and sports equipment as well as hundreds of souvenir shops. Don’t be tricked by the Mall Bansko because it’s really small and has only a few stores overall.
During the Stay
As we spent time in Bansko, our experience only improved. You really don’t need to worry about the snow and ice, since the authorities clean the roads almost instantly. The Gondola cable car works until 5 PM, so you may want to go up earlier; also the ride is around half an hour one way, so have that in mind as well.
Naturally, it’s better to buy stuff from the supermarkets. The one in the Mall Bansko it’s called Aldo and I was very satisfied with its offer and prices.
Also, check the prices in the restaurants, because there were some serious differences depending on location. Resturants and cafes are more expensive by the Gondola (Ski cable car) compared to the center of the old town. For example, we had an entire lunch for two including alcoholic drinks in a pizza place called Adela, by the center, for 23 BGN, while at another place a single pizza was around 18 BGN.
In case you’re traveling by car, you’ll need a vignette that must be placed on the windshield. The vignette allows you to use the main roads, highways, etc; consequently, there are no pay tolls. These can be purchased upon entering the country at the border. If renting a car within Bulgaria, ask the rental agency if it’s in the car, so you don’t get a ticket.
Also, in Bulgaria, you pay with Bulgarian levs and the rate is around double the euro. So, more or less, for 10 euros you’ll get a bit less than 20 BGN.
Things to see in the area:
Old Town – the Old Town is the heart of Bansko; this is where most of the important historical sights are as well as most of the traditional restaurants called “mehanas” are located. It’s characteristic of its traditional Bulgarian houses, cobblestone roads, and narrow streets that make you feel the historical value of the place;
Holy Trinity Church – anyone walking around the Old Town can’t miss the Holy Trinity Church and its grandiose building. It’s popular for its historical value as well as amazing murals;
House of Velyan Museum – this was the first painted house in Bansko and it belonged to the artist Velyan, who married a girl from Bansko and moved in the town. The entrance fee was 3 BGN (around 2 euros) and I think it was worth it; the house is not big, there are several rooms you can see and photograph. Probably you’ll spend around 10-15 minutes there, but you won’t regret spending the money;
Pirin Street – this is possibly the main street in Bansko and it is filled with lots of restaurants and souvenir shops. It’s wonderful to walk along the street, regardless whether you’re moving towards the Old Town and the center or towards the Gondola cable car;
Ski Bansko – enjoy a long Gondola cable car ride, witness mesmerizing views from inside of it and get to the ski center. There, you can either sip hot tea and get a snack in the restaurants or go even higher using the ski lifts. Either way, you’ll enjoy the snow, nature and overall atmosphere.
Bansko Ski: Official Site
Sad to Leave
All in all, I had a great time in Bansko; this is a spot where you can enjoy luxurious spa and wellness hotels as well as have thrilling ski adventures. There are more than enough shops for shopaholics to explore as well as affordable restaurants for foodies.
Good for skiing and relaxing
Interesting historical and architectural sights
Gondola cable-car is too expensive for non-skiers
Cheaper than other European ski centers
Numerous spa hotels
Plus, there’s the charming Old Town where you can enjoy wonderful architecture and visit several museums. Most importantly, unlike other ski centers across Europe that would cost you a fortune, Bansko is a place where you can expect excellent experience for a lot less.