Apres ski in Bansko is much more Costa Brava than Cote d’Azur with dozens of small bars competing for your business with drinks prices normally half that of the Alps, and sometimes even cheaper.
If you are searching for an earthy, traditional Bulgarian night out, a smattering of down-to-earth bars and clubs are located around Ploshtad Vazrazhdane in the old part of town, with The Baryakova Tavern (tel: +359 899 670 734; baryakova.bansko.org) being one of the most popular.
There’s an ever-growing selection of eateries in Bansko.
Dotted around the town are over 40 mehanas – wonderful traditional eating-houses, where fine local wine and sometimes live folk music (in busy seasons) accompany hearty Bulgarian food. There is little to choose between them; the décor usually features dark wood and menus stick to the staples of meats, salads and fish (in season).
However, as Bansko’s international appeal continues to grow, so does the variety of eateries on offer. Le Retro (tel: +359 877 660 306) is a very popular French café, while The Irish Harp (tel: +359 899 956 667) only serves County Kildare beef imported fresh from Ireland. Victoria (tel: +359 88 776 1500) is the most popular pizza option and does deliveries – invaluable after a long day on the slopes.
For those who would rather eat on the hoof, occasional snack stalls serving pizza slices, burgers or freshly-made pancakes are dotted around the town.
Beyond the slopes
Bansko's history comes to life in the Old Town. Worth visiting is the dark and peaceful Sveta Troitsa Church (Ploshtad Vuzhrazhdane), with its 30m-high (98ft) clock tower built in 1835, and the Icon Museum (Ulitsa Yane Sandanski 3), which houses works by local 19th-century painters. The magnificent Rila Monastery can be visited as a day trip by car or bus.
Back on the snow; those with a head for heights can undertake a spot of ski mountaineering, while snow mobile tours are also available from the ski school. There is also an ice rink in the town, which is open from 1800 to 2000 every evening.
For some post-ski pampering, head to the Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena (tel: +359 749 88 888; www.kempinski.com), where there is a luxury spa offering a variety of treatments available to both guests and non-guests.
Bansko is geared up for families with both on-slope facilities and off-slope attractions.
On the slopes there are plenty of ski and snowboard schools suitable for children, including Ulen Ski and Snowboard School by the lift station. This school also has a kindergarten for four- to seven-year-olds, with drag lifts, a ski roundabout and fun facilities.
Adjacent to the Hotel Strazhite (Ulitsa Glazne 7) is a bowling alley, and there is also an ice rink near the Kempinski Hotel on Ulitsa Pirin. For younger kids, Babini (Ulitsa Bratya Veleganovi 14B) is a craft centre and café offering DIY pottery, painting and sock-knitting in a cosy atmosphere.
For inexpensive gifts, head to the Sunday morning market on Ulitsa Tsar Simeon, where clothes, shoes and souvenirs are on offer. Alternatively, browse the souvenir shops dotted around the town for distinctive hand-woven striped rugs, colourful cloth bags, hand-painted pottery, huge cow bells and wooden kitchen utensils. The Crafts & Textile Exhibition, adjacent to House-Museum of Nikola Vaptsarov sells embroidered clothing and fabrics.
Although not the place for fashion-label hunting, there are plenty of clothes, sunglasses and jewellery outlets along Ulitsa Pirin.
Leap off the mountain on a tandem paragliding trip and savour the views of Bansko, the River Glazne and the surrounding Pirin Mountains (tel: +359 878 253 772; www.bansko-sports.com/paragliding)
Most of the accommodation in Bansko consists of hotels that are nestled between homes and shops, with pretty 'fairytale' architecture a major feature. There is a good choice of upmarket hotels in Bansko, as well as apartments and cheaper options around the gondola station.
Premier Luxury Mountain Resort
Bansko's newest luxury 5-star option is located a short walk from the resort centre and main slopes. The Premier Luxury Mountain Resort boasts extensive spa facilities and a highly regarded on-site restaurant to boot.Address: , 11, Karamanitza Str, Bansko, 2770
Telephone: +359 74 950 500
Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena
Bansko's first 5-star hotel is situated next to the gondola and has 132 spacious rooms and 27 suites, as well as a pool, sauna and well-equipped spa. Dining is available in three chic eateries serving Japanese, Mediterranean and international cuisine; there are also Bulgarian-themed nights to enjoy here.Address: , Ulitsa Pirin 96, Bansko, 2770
Telephone: +359 74 988 888
Pirin River Ski and Spa
This very popular, family friendly, 3-star offering, features 44 spacious apartments in a complex with an indoor swimming pool, fitness centre, restaurant and underground parking. A spa with steam bath and sauna is also available to guests.Address: , 74-78 Ikonom Chuchulain Stree, Bansko, 2770
Telephone: +359 74 985 664.
Nestled in a quiet part of Bansko near the Old Town, this medium-sized, family-run hotel has simple rooms that are well maintained. The hotel’s suites are however more jazzy affairs, and include balcony, living room and cable TV.Address: , 4 El Tepe, Bansko, 2770
Telephone: +359 894 488 226
Lucky Bansko Aparthotel
The Lucky Bansko Aparthotel is located a fair distance from the main resort and slopes, but compromises with a free shuttle bus service and desirable amenities including a small spa, free Wi-Fi access and an on-site restaurant that serves a good selection of vegetarian dishes.Address: , 4-10 Kir Blago Todev Street, Razlog, 2770
Telephone: +359 28 066 178
Bio Hotel Moravsko Village
This family-run eco hotel is located just off the main route from Bansko and Razlog to Simitli, 12km (7 miles) from the resort centre. Comfortable accommodation and friendly service abounds, and there is a focus on the use of organic produce in the on-site restaurant.Address: , Area Predela Boikov Rid, Razlog, 2770
Telephone: +359 877 433 333