Welcome to the winter capital of Bulgaria!
Whether you’re a skiier, snowboarder or someone who just wants to frolic in the snow, Bansko has it all.
It’s one of those places that is nice in the summer months, but as soon as the weather starts to get colder, it becomes completely magical.
With a range of outdoor activities, beautiful historical buildings, a buzzy atmosphere and epic views of the Pirin mountain range at every corner, this Bulgarian mountain town comes to life in the winter months.
Plus, it’s easily accessible from Sofia, the capital city – which makes it the perfect place to explore if you find yourself touring Buglaria in winter.
Of course, the snowy town is a popular ski resort and you might be visiting it on a snow sports holiday, but this article will detail both snow sports and other things to do in Bansko in winter.
Let’s dive in!
This article was written by Andrej, our Balkans expert. It may contain affiliate links.
What’s the weather like in Bansko in winter?
As Bansko is located in the Pirin Mountains of Bulgaria, the weather tends to get very cold throughout December, January, and February.
On average the temperature is around 5-10°C, but in those months it can go down to -5°C, although it is usually around 0°C.
There’s also a lot of snow in winter, mostly during these three months, but it’s not uncommon to see it in November or March.
As you’d expect, the ski resort and the higher points of the mountain get snow a lot more often than the city, so you’re guaranteed great skiing conditions; but when the snow falls in town, it’s absolutely mesmerizing.
What’s Bansko like in winter?
It’s hard to pinpoint the Bansko vibe in the winter.
Imagine it as a scene from a winter fairytale. Everything is calm and peaceful and locals and tourists alike are exceptionally friendly.
The warmth of the place radiates as soon as you step into the town centre which is lined with traditional shops and restaurants.
Here, you can try some of the most delicious dishes in the region, made from fresh ingredients by expert chefs.
On the other hand, if you’re there for winter sports and the snow, you’re guaranteed great powder and an adrenaline rush.
It’s a skiing capital, and there are always lots of snow sports fanatics from all over the world.
While it’s an incredibly relaxing place, it also has some exciting nightlife if you’re a fan of apres-ski!
In recent years, it’s become a popular place with digital nomads and one of its biggest businesses is CoWorking Bansko. With epic scenery, it’s the ideal place to spend a few months!
Bansko in winter can be whatever you want it to be – it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Bulgaria in winter.
Whether you’re into snow sports, history and culture, nature or relaxation, there’s something here for you!
Things to do in Bansko in winter
While there are lots of non-snow sports things to do in Bansko in the winter, the most popular activity by far is skiing or snowboarding.
Bansko is the biggest and the most popular Bulgarian ski resort, and for a good reason – it can rival the Alps.
It has amazing ski slopes of all difficulties, from beginner to professional.
There’s always a lot of natural snow, but don’t worry if you’re there in a particularly warm year – artificial snow machines ensure that the slopes stay open.
As it’s such a popular resort, the slopes are dotted with cafes and restaurants, where you can take a seat with a hot drink and enjoy the atmosphere!
Bansko Old Town
As I mentioned, Bansko isn’t just a ski town – this Bulgarian hotspot offers so much more. In fact, If you enjoy history or architecture, you can’t miss the Old Town of Bansko.
The town originated in the 9th-10th centuries, although buildings were constructed until the 18th century.
Nowadays, you can enjoy the Medieval cobbled streets and traditional stone buildings just begging to be photographed.
Here, you can also visit the Holy Trinity Church, which dates back to the 19th century and was one of the most important buildings in the Bulgarian National Revival, and many museums such as Radonova House, which focuses on History and Ethnography.
To learn all about the history of the old town, check out this two-hour walking tour which takes in some of the best sites and is run by a friendly and knowledgeable guide.
Whether you want to visit Bansko for a spa holiday or are looking for a place to pamper yourself after a day spent skiing, head to some of the town’s hot springs!
There are both indoor and outdoor hot springs in Bansko; the outdoor ones mean that you can sit outside and witness the snow while feeling perfectly warm and toasty!
Check out this outdoor Thermal Pool Escape at Bansko Banya, which you can book online and boasts three different spa pools and a restaurant serving traditional food.
The best indoor hot spring is in the Roman bath Hotel.
It’s a bit more expensive but the experience is definitely worth it!
If you want to try more winter activities, head to the Bansko ice skating rink!
This is one of the biggest in Bulgaria and has been open every winter since 2010.
It’s open throughout most of the day, even well after sunset, so you can enjoy the stars twinkling as you whizz around the rink!
The main street of Bansko, Pirin Street is filled with numerous cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
It’s also home to a plethora of ski rental services.
As Pirin Street is surrounded by ski lodges and hotels, it always has a buzzy atmosphere.
While here, visit a traditional mehana (the restaurants of the Balkans).
Plus, enjoy a picture-perfect view of the Pirin Mountains from the street!
Although Rila Monastery is a bit further away, about 100km from Bansko, it’s a must-visit while you’re in the town (and regular day tours run here!).
It’s the biggest monastery in Bulgaria and was visited by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been regarded as one of the most beautiful monasteries in this part of Europe.
Thankfully, there are daily tours from Bansko to here, so you don’t have to worry about transport.
And the thing you’ve all been waiting for, the food!
Mehanas are tavern-like traditional restaurants in the Balkans and Turkey.
In Bansko, they serve traditional Bulgarian cuisine at affordable prices accompanied by live music and dancing to ensure a vibrant experience!
Mehanas boast so many impressive dishes that it’s easy to be overwhelmed – but don’t worry, we’ve chosen some of our favorites to help you out!
- First things first, order a shopska salad. It’s a fresh salad from tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and Bulgarian traditional white cheese – sirene.
- Afterward, you can try Chomlek, which is a beef stew, or any sort of kebabs they offer.
- If you’re veggie, try a delicious bean soup.
- With it, you should take red wine, as it’s the national drink of Bulgaria and most mehanas have their own, local red wine.
Holy Trinity Church
Bansko’s Holy Trinity Church is one of the products of the Bulgarian Revival during the 19th century when Bulgaria freed itself from the centuries of Ottoman rule.
It features a neo-byzantine style of architecture with three naves. It was built by wealthy local merchants with help of donations and voluntary work of the locals.
It’s located in the very center of Bansko so you can’t miss it, and even if you’re not religious it’s worth seeing this important slice of Bulgarian history.
You can visit it free of charge.
As we’ve already said, Bansko is famous for skiing and snowboarding, but there are a lot of other winter sports you can try too!
One of them is mountain climbing, and the perfect location for it is Mount Vihren. It’s almost 3000 meters tall and is located a little way out of the town.
Although it’s pretty tall, it’s not too hard to climb, as the trails are of great quality.
However, this is Bulgaria in winter, and it’s snowy. Don’t attempt it independently – do it with a guide who knows the area and what to do if there’s an emergency.
Once you reach the top, you’ll see many incredible alpine lakes with photogenic crystal-clear water!
Mountain biking is also a possibility depending on the snow coverage – speak to a tour company who will be able to advise.
Cultural Heritage Experiences
This part of Bulgaria has its own distinct customs, and you can enjoy it with several cultural events.
This traditional folklore experience takes place in one of the villages close to the town and is a chance to learn about the region’s history, taste food, and hear tales of folklore.
You’ll be invited to wear traditional dress and try some of their handicrafts and of course eat plate after plate of mouthwatering Bulgarian cuisine (dietary requirements can be catered to).
If you’re a fan of rustic living and mountain huts, you could choose to stay in the Bezbog Hut rather than a hotel!
This hut is located at Gotse Delchev which is a 30-minute drive from Bansko. The area has a beginner ski area and a restuarant.
After arriving at Gotse Delchev, you will have to take a chairlift to reach the Bezbog Hut, where you can find more ski slopes for beginners.
It’s perfect if you’re learning how to ski – the slopes are literally at your doorstep.
If you decide to stay a couple of nights here, make your bookings through Hotel Dobrinishte, as the Bezbog Hut and Gotske Delchev are both owned by them.
Where to stay in Bansko in winter?
Bansko town centre is filled with excellent hotels and apartments, and your choice will probably just depend on your budget. While rates are higher here than elsewhere in Bulgaria, most accommodation options have reasonable prices for what you get.
A slightly cheaper but still luxe option is Guest House Wishmore. It also has both an indoor and an outdoor hot mineral bath, as well as a restaurant and a beautiful garden. Rooms are top-quality and have everything you’ll need for a comfy stay. Click here for more information.
How to get to Bansko
While Bansko seems quite remote, it’s easy to reach from Sofia Airport or the city centre.
Simply take a bus from Sofia’s Central Bus Station; they leave every 1-2 hours and take 2 hours 30 minutes, costing about 8 euros. They run throughout the year, including in the winter!
There isn’t a direct train to Bansko, so bus is the best option if you don’t have your own car.
From the airport, you’ll need to travel into the city centre by taxi or metro and then transfer to a bus at the Central Bus Station.
There are airport transfers available too. If you want to book an affordable shuttle (costing around 30 euros per person), click here.
Be sure to check out Sofia’s best winter attractions while you’re there!
Whether you’re walking around Bansko old town’s cobblestone streets and admiring the architecture, dining on delicious local food at a Bulgarian restaurant or whizzing down one of the tallest mountains in Bulgaria on skis, you’ll love Bansko in winter!