National Geographic Traveller (UK)
DAY ONE CULTURE & CRAFTS
Start the day by calling into the hole-in-the-wall bakery on Tsar Simeon Street for a banitsa (Bulgaria’s beloved filo pastry snack, laced with butter and cheese), best washed down with a glass of boza (a traditional sweet-and-sour fermented wheat drink). After fuelling up, set off on a two-hour walking tour of Bansko’s old town centre with Bansko Free Tour. The route takes in the town’s key sights, including the former homes of local literary luminaries and the 19th-century Holy Trinity Church, and also explores the town’s longstanding traditions of crafts, from masterful woodwork to weaving. banskofreetour.com
Rest your legs with a stop at Banski Han, an old mehana known for its homemade bob chorba (bean soup spiced with paprika and mint) and garlic parlenka (flatbread). Afterwards, wander down to Velyan’s House, an 18th-century property that once belonged to the eponymous Bulgarian painter. It’s now an art and history museum, decorated with intricate wood carvings and striking murals. If you’re looking to pick up your own piece of local art, head to Pirin Street, the main drag, where craftspeople tout their wares — colourful ceramics and carved wooden spoons are typical of Bansko.
Nights in Bansko’s old town are about two things only: wining and dining. Settle in for a Bulgarian feast at local institution Mehana Obetsanova, an 18th-century tavern where sheepskins cover the hand-carved chairs and waistcoated waiters glide around the room. Take your pick from a menu that champions meaty mains, such as braised lamb shanks, barbecued pork and slow-cooked veal. From here, amble over to Wine Bar 25 for a nightcap. The candlelit bar serves some of Bulgaria’s finest wines and excellent cheese and meat platters, which can make a delicious dinner on their own, especially if you’re after a light dish.