Welcome to our guide on the best things to eat in Bulgaria with a specific focus on what to eat in Bansko. This guide to Bulgarian food will go through the types of dishes available in Bulgaria and what you absolutely should put on your must-eat list, as well as where you can find some of the best options to eat during your time in Bulgaria and Bansko.
Traditional Bulgarian food is similar to that of the cuisines of other Balkan countries. You’ll find some similarities to Greek and Turkish food, due to the proximity of Greece and that fact that Bulgaria was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for several centuries. You’ll also find great use of fresh ingredients and seasonal vegetables used throughout the dishes.
We cover, in this guide, the primary dishes of Bulgaria, the specialities of Bansko and where to eat in Bansko for these specific dishes that we reference. We will also cover local secrets for eating, beers, wines and cocktails. You’ll also find the best restaurants in Bansko.
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Our guides for travelling to Bulgaria do NOT contain Coronavirus updates. You should always read the Bulgarian Government’s Travel & Health Advisory – you can find that here
Bulgarian Food Style
You will usually find that many starters in Bulgaria are salads. There is also a great deal of dairy product included in dishes. Soups are also popular and you’ll find bread galore in Bulgarian food. Main dishes are typically stews, or grilled meats and vegetables. You won’t find much fried food in traditional Bulgarian dishes.
Traditional Bulgarian restaurants are called Mehanas (механа) which also translates as a tavern or Han’s (хан). You’ll also find, especially in Bansko, a café style restaurant, when in the summer, outdoor living is very popular.
We’re always asked which is the best mehana in Bansko. And our answer is it depends. Some of the mehanas change management seasonally, others have been run by the same family for a long time. When you’re looking for the best restaurants in Bansko, you first need to decide what type of food you want to eat – whether that’s Bulgarian traditional food or more internationalized options. It’s also easy to see the latest reviews on Tripadvisor or to check out the Bansko Notice Board on Facebook.
Bulgarian menus will in most cases, and especially in Bansko have the menu items in Bulgaria, English and usually Russian. Translations are often confusing, especially when a dish is a colloquial name, the translation in the menu in most cases doesn’t make much sense. In fact, some translations are a leap of faith, others will make you smile, if not laugh and decide to order the dish for the comedy value. It is definitely worth downloading our Bulgarian restaurant menu translation guide for the primary dishes. You can do that here
Many mehanas have menus with photos of the dish – which is often helpful if you’re new to the cuisine.
Alongside each menu item, you’ll find, not just its price, but also its weight. It makes it easy to decide that what’s down as a hot starter will actually be more than enough as a main course for you.
6 Bulgarian Menu Reading Tricks
- Look at the weight of the item to see if you want to eat it as an appetiser or a main course
- Be careful asking what something is on the menu – unless you’re clear, you’re likely to end up with a portion of it anyways!
- Eat family-style it’s way more fun
- Look at the Bulgarian description (use our menu translation download) as the English translations often don’t make sense
- When you order be sure to say clearly if you want the food as a starter or “all together”
- If you are vegetarian ask what is in the dishes, not just if it contains meat.
What Type of Food is there in Bansko?
Bansko combines traditional Bulgarian and Balkan mountain food with convenient ski resort food. So, yes, you can find pizza in most mehanas and restaurants, but you may find it’s not to your taste. (we find pizza apart from at the fabulous Victoria Restaurant very salty). French fries or chips are available everywhere and burgers are easy to find too. Crepes, Italian Ice-cream and candy floss also abound in summer. You’ll also find if you look, pulled pork and chicken wings, great Italian, Indian food, steak and a fabulous deli and sandwich shop.
White (feta like) cheese, called “sirene” is present in many dishes, as is the hard yellow cheese “ kashkaval”. Fresh bread is everywhere and the freshly grown tomatoes are to die for.
Bansko is famous throughout Bulgaria for its clay pot dishes and home-made sausages. Food is fresh, tasty, filling and cheap.
Bansko Must Eats Menu List – Bansko Food Specialities
We’ll start our list with Bansko specialities, because there are dishes that originate from here, and that you will be hard pushed to find in other areas of Bulgaria. The food of Bansko comes from its origins. As the town developed primarily through traders and merchants passing through the area, the food took on the traders and travellers influences. Some of these dishes found their way into Bulgarian cuisine as a whole, others remain firmly in Bansko.
Here are dishes that you will likely only find in Bansko – and where our favourite places to eat them are. We have also included the name in Bulgarian Cyrillic script to overcome the translation issues.
Kreshchina – Bansko Proscuitto (КРЕШЧИНА)
This is a speciality of Bansko and it will be found in the appetisers section of the menu. If you see it on a menu you should order it. We recommend looking for the name in Bulgarian on a menu, as the translations are quite strange. (in one restaurant it translates as “homemade dried Pork boat”.
It’s actually dried and smoked pork, very similar to prosciutto ham and its delicious. Have as a starter.
- Favourite place to eat Kreshchina in Bansko – Zehtindijeva Kuca
Bansko Dried Sausage – Banski Staretz (Банско старец)
You’ll find this in the appetiser section of every menu in every mehana. You’ll also find it in the “supermarkets” that you find around Bansko. There are good and bad ones.
Think of this as a Bansko special salami. You might also find it on a menu as Bansko Old Man.
In the mehanas, they’re generally good. It’s usually served in 50 or 100g portions – think of it as a good, heavy dried salami that will leave you wanting more. It will arrive in thin slices. It also translates as Bansko flat sausage but is dried, cold meat, not a hot dish.
- Favourite Places to eat Bansko Dried Sausage – the Log House
Katino Meze (Katino Meze) (Катино Мезе)
Katino Meze is another traditional dish that originates from Bansko. It will likely be found in the appetiser section of the menu, but we find its more than enough for the main course for one.
Katino Mezze has small pieces of veal and pork fried in oil with chopped onions, leeks and peppers. It’s served after being baked or stewed in a clay pot with white wine, mushrooms and seasoned well with parsley.
- Favourite Places to eat Katino Mezze – Baryakova
Kapama (Kapama) (капама)
Kapama is a typical Bulgarian dish that originates from the Bansko area. The main ingredients are rice, sauerkraut, beet, veal, pork, chicken and black pudding. Cabbage leaves provide layers in between layers of this mix. White (or red) wine and water are added. The dish is seasoned with pepper, bay leaves and paprika.
The dish cooks a clay pot for 5 to 10 hours. It’s also served in this clay pot, it is traditionally a warming winter dish, but you can find it in Bansko year-round. It’s a good solid, hearty and tasty meal.
- Favourite Places to eat Kapama – Banski Han
Chomlek (chomlek) (чомлек)
Chomlek, like Kapama, is made and cooked in a clay pot. It is made in layers, starting with tomato, then seasoned pork, potatoes, onions, carrots and veal. Each layer is seasoned. You’ll also find garlic, red wine, tomato puree, water and vinegar added. 5-10 hours later, you’ll have a melt in the mouth robust meal. In some mehanas, you’ll also have it served still bubbling at the table!
- Favourite Places to eat Chomlek – Baryakova
Map of Best Bansko Restaurants & Food Shopping
Click here for a larger verision of this Bansko Restaurants Map on Google Maps
Bulgarian Breakfast (Bŭlgarska zakuska) (Българска закуска)
Banitsa (banitsa) (Баница)
The traditional Bulgarian breakfast is the banitsa. It’s a traditional pastry, which you might also have as a snack with your mid-morning coffee. Its layer upon layer of filo style pastry stacked up with butter, whisked eggs and white cheese, then baked. You might eat it for breakfast with Bulgarian yoghurt.
Mekitsa (mekitsi) (мекици)
Mekitsa is a deep-fried dought it-like pastry. It’s usually hot and sprinkled with powdered sugar (icing sugar) and served with jam, cheese, fruit, honey, or Nutella.
Bulgarian Princesses (Bŭlgarski printsesi) (Български принцеси)
These are toasted sandwiches with eggs and either white cheese (sirene) or minced meat. The eggs and cheese or meat are mixed, put on bread and then grilled or baked. It’s something of a surreal name, but very hearty breakfast.
Best Bulgarian Appetisers (Bŭlgarsko predyastie) (Българско предястие)
While we’ve covered some of the Bulgarian specialities you’re only like to find in Bansko, we’ll now outline more general Bulgarian dishes, what they comprise and where to find them. Then we’ll touch on a few specific restaurants that provide non-Bulgarian food. For each menu item, we’ll highlight locals favourite places to eat these dishes. We’ll start with favourite appetisers or starters in Bulgaria.
Patatnik (patatnik) (Пататник)
Although you’ll find this mainly in the starter menu section, it usually weighs in at around 300 grammes and for most people, it’s a solid main course. The way in which it’s prepared differs between mehanas but it contains potatoes, white cheese, yellow cheese, milk and eggs. It’s all baked together. Sometimes potato and cheese are grated, sometimes they’re sliced. Plan on a food coma after this. It’s great but always makes me feel so sleepy afterwards.
- Favourite Places to eat Patatnik – Molerite
Cheese with Honey and Walnut (SIREnê S MED I ORÊKHI) (СИРЕнє С МЕД И ОРЄХИ)
Cheese is big here in Bansko as if you hadn’t guessed by now. Whether it’s the yellow or white cheese, it’s everywhere and it’s hard to get bad cheese. Cheese with blueberries (SIRA S borovinki / СИРА С боровинки ) can usually be found on the hot starter menu. As can cheese with honey and walnuts.
The cheese is usually baked (sometimes in parchment) and then served with the accompaniment drizzled over the top. Really, really, good.
Kreshchina – Bulgarian Proscuitto (КРЕШЧИНА)
Another shout out for Kreshchina here – Bansko dried and smoked pork. A great, small, often expensive, but divinely Moorish starter.
Bansko Dried Sausage (Banski Staretz) (Банско старец)
Another favourite of ours in Bansko as a starter, the Bansko flat sausage, dried salami.
Lutenitsa (lyutenitsa) (лютеница)
Lutenitsa is a relish, chutney, puree or dip depending on who you talk to. It’s usually in the garnish section of a menu. It’s made primarily of roasted pureed red peppers, although also contains peppers, carrots, eggplant, onion, garlic, black pepper, vegetable oil, sugar, and salt, and tomatoes.
Some recipes call for it to be a little spicy, although we’ve never found it so. We usually scoop it up with fresh Bulgarian Parlenka bread.
Best Bulgarian Salads (Българска салата)
Shopska Salad (Shopska Salata) (Шопска салата)
You’ll find this traditional salad in every mehana. It’s fabulous and fresh. Made from tomatoes, cucumber, onions or scallions and sometimes raw or roasted red peppers.
A generous grating of white sirene cheese covers the salad and there’s sometimes a parsley garnish. It’s hard to find a bad version of this.
- Favourite places to eat Shopska salad – Momini Dvori
Shepherds Salad (Ovcharska Salata) (Овчарска салата)
The Shepherds Salad comes with mixed reviews. It’s got the same fabulous fresh tomato, cucumber, peppers and onions that the Shopska salad contains. However, it additionally has yellow cheese (called Kashkaval here and similar to well, regular cheese in the UK), white cheese (called Sirene here, and similar to Feta) egg and mushrooms.
It’s also topped with ham, which is where folks generally don’t like it as the ham tends to be the more processed sort.
- Favourite places to eat Shepherds Salad – Momini Dvori
Vitamina Salad (Vitaminna Salata) (Витаминна салата)
I love this salad – shredded carrots with beetroot and apple. You might also get some pumpkins seeds. Really good and fresh, the specific recipe will differ between mehanas, so check the ingredients list.
Best Bulgarian Soups (Bŭlgarski supi) (Български супи)
Bobchorba – Bean Soup (Bobchorba) (БОБ ЧОРБА)
This is a national Bulgarian Dish, it translates literally to “Bean Soup” It’s made from dry beans, onions, tomatoes, mint, summer savoury herbs and carrots. Some places will add paprika and potatoes, even meat, although this is generally viewed as a vegetarian dish.
- Favourite places to eat Bobchorba – Banski Han
Tarator – Cold Yoghurt Soup (Tarator) (ТАРАТОР)
A speciality during the warmer summer months, Tarator Soup is a cold soup of cucumbers, yoghurt, dill and sometimes walnuts. Very refreshing.
Bulgarian Cheese (bŭlgarsko sirene) (българско сирене)
Kashkaval (kashkaval) (кашкавал)
This is the typical semi-hard yellow cheese of Bulgaria. Its usually made from cows milk, sometimes a little sheep’s milk is included. You’ll find kashkaval in pizzas unless you go to a speciality pizza restaurant.
Sirene (sirene) (сирене)
Not to be confused with the Greek feta, this is the Bulgarian version of Feta and is only produced in this country. It’s unique because of the particular lactic acid strains that are used to produce it. It’s most famously used in Shopska salad.
Best Bulgarian Main Courses
Sache (sache) (саче)
A sache is a (usually) meat-based dish, cooked and served on a hot stone or hot iron plate, which is delivered to the centre of your table still very much sizzling and cooking. Main varieties are chicken, pork, mixed and Bansko special, which usually gives an additional spicy sausage to the platter.
You’ll also find onion, peppers and potatoes cooking on the sache. You more than likely won’t need accompaniments for this dish and we’ve always found it incredibly tasty and filling.
- Favourite Places to eat Sache – Zehtindijeva Kuca
Pork Knuckle / Pork Shank (Svinski dzholan) (Свински джолан)
You’d probably call this pork shank. Usually served with a bed of seriously good chips, and a lot of gravy, the traditional way to cook this is for hours in the oven and it literally falls off the bone. Portions are usually huge and this is a dish for sharing family-style!
- Favourite place to eat Pork Knuckle in Bansko – Zehtindijeva Kuca
Chicken Livers in Butter (Pileshki drobcheta v maslo) (Пилешки дропчета в масло)
Chicken livers in village style is a favourite among Bansko locals. Chicken livers are roasted in a pan with onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and spices. Water, flour and often some wine are added. They’re served with fresh parsley.
Favourite place to eat Chicken Livers in Bansko – Kristi’s Bansko Restaurant
Chicken in Cornflakes (Pileshki filentsa s kornfleĭks) (Пилешки филенца с корнфлекс)
This is a homemade Bulgarian version of chicken nuggets. They really are cornflakes and they’re attached to nuggets of chicken and fried or baked.
Fish (Riba) (Риба)
You won’t find fish on too many mehana menus, and in Bansko, it will be freshwater fish, trout usually or carp. The best places for fish are Motikata or the Krinetz Dam restaurant or Camp Banderitsa. Fish is usually grilled as is, without any additional sauces. It is served whole, although the carp at Krinetz is served sliced and fried.
Try fish at Motikata or Restaurant Iazovir Krinetz dam restaurant in summer. For more things to do in Bansko in Summer read our ultimate guide here.
- Trout – (pŭstŭrva) (Пъстърва)
- Carp – (sharan) (шаран)
- Salmon – (s’omga) (сьомга)
Pork or Chicken Skewers (svinsko / pileshko shishche) (свинско / пилешко шишче)
Usually, a fallback staple, these skewers (check the weight to see how many to order), are literally just either pork or chicken chunks on a skewer barbecued. Order side dishes to go with them, or a salad.
Kebabs – (kebapche) (кебапче)
Moulded minced meat (lamb, pork, beef or chicken), then barbecued. Served by themselves, again check the weight for how many to order and order something to accompany them.
Meatballs (kyufte) (кюфте)
Similar to the kebab, these meatballs are minced meat, shaped and then flattened. They are always well seasoned and tasty in our experience. Check the weight of the meatball as they tend to be large!
Nervous Meatballs – Various Translations
You simply must try nervous meatballs. You’ll find a great version of them at the Eagles Nest Restaurant in the main square in Bansko. In Bulgaria, meatballs are called kiufte and are a mix of beef and pork with breadcrumbs and onions. They become nervous with the addition of hot red pepper. Although you needn’t be too nervous about them, they’re tasty, a little spicy, but not enough to send you running.
- Favourite Places to eat Nervous Meatballs – the Eagles Nest in the main square
Mishmash (Mish-Mash) (миш-маш)
A mishmash is simply that. A miscellaneous collection of seasonal ingredients – tomatoes, peppers, parsley, cheese, eggs. It’s usually a vegetarian dish made of what’s to hand in the kitchen. The winter version of this dish includes roasted and peeled peppers. Usually only served in summer months.
Clay or Earthenware Pot Dishes – (Guivech)
I’ll fess up. I could live on these dishes. The name Guivech is the name for clay pot dish in which they are all cooked. The ingredients are freshly prepared, popped into a clay or earthenware pot and then baked until the cheese runs, the eggs cook and the roasted peppers assume heavenly being status.
There are a variety of names and also a variety of ingredients. Some are vegetarian, some contain chicken, spicy sausage and flat Bansko sausage. We’ve never had a bad one.
A Kapama is served in a Guivech, as is a Chomlek.
White Cheese Shopski / Thracian Style (Shopska / Trakiĭsko sirene) (Шопска / Тракийско сирене)
You’ll usually find this first in this section of the menu. There’s tomatoes, roasted peppers, egg and white cheese. The cheese is light and fluffy, so don’t just expect a big chunk of feta-like cheese. It melts and merges into the other ingredients.
You don’t need to break off a chunk of garlic Parlenka to mop it up, but you only live once. so go for it.
- Favourite Places to eat White Cheese Shopski Style – Momini Dvori
Macedonian Cheese Cheese (Makedonski sirene) (Македонски сирене)
Macedonian cheese is similar to the White cheese Shopski style dish, but with the addition of flat Bansko sausage. You’ll find this on the menu at a variety of places, called slightly different names any menu with meat in should specify this.
- Favourite Places to eat this dish – Momini Dvori
Kavarma (Kavarma) (Кавърма)
Kavarma is again prepared and served in a clay pot. Bansko sausage, pork neck, mushrooms, onions and peppers are spiced and stewed or baked together.
Don’t forget the Bansko specialities of
Katino Mezze ((Katino Meze) (Катино Мезе))
Katino Mezze has small pieces of veal and pork fried in oil with chopped onions, leeks and peppers. It’s served after being baked or stewed in a clay pot with white wine, mushrooms and seasoned well with parsley.
Kapama (Kapama) (капама)
The main ingredients are rice, sauerkraut, beet, veal, pork, chicken and black pudding. Cabbage leaves provide layers in between layers of this mix. White (or red) wine and water are added. The dish is seasoned with pepper, bay leaves and paprika.
Chomlek (chomlek) (чомлек)
Chomlek, like Kapama, is made and cooked in a clay pot. It is made in layers, starting with tomato, then seasoned pork, potatoes, onions, carrots and veal.
Bulgarian Bread (Bŭlgarski khlyab) (Български хляб)
Parlenka is the Bulgarian version of a flat or naan style bread. Best baked in a tandoori-style oven, there are many varieties, some of which are shop-bought and which should be avoided at all costs. There’s plain parlenka. Garlic parlenka. Sirene (white cheese) stuffed Parlenka, kashkaval (yellow cheese) stuffed Parlenka.
Our personal favourite is the parlenka you get from the Momini Dvori mehana on the main square in Bansko. It’s sprinkled with an amazing mix of spices that have just a hint of curry. It’s Moorish and amazing when used to scoop up their fresh lutenitsa.
- Other favourite places for Parlenka: The Eagles Nest on the main square
Banitsa (banitsa) (Баница)
Banitsa is a traditional Bulgarian pastry – whisked eggs and white cheese are sandwiched between filo pastry and baked. It’s often served for breakfast with plain yoghurt. It can be eaten hot or cold and is a great snack when hiking.
- Favourite Places to get Banitsa – Buy from a supermarket or the Bakery by Alexander Services – see map
Bulgarian Side Dishes
Unless you order a sache, which comes with vegetables included with the meats on the hot iron, you should order a side dish of vegetables. Some dishes, like pork knuckle, will come on a bed of seriously good chips. It’s usually easier to order a salad and have this as a side dish with your main course.
Grilled Vegetables (zelenchutsi na skara) (зеленчуци на скара)
Grilled vegetables are likely to be grilled on a barbecue in summer, and will be seasonal.
Bansko Style Potatoes / Sauteed Potatoes (KARTOFI SOTE) (КАРТОФИ СОТЕ)
The potatoes here in Bansko are amazing. The speciality of the area is to have them sauteed in butter and garlic and tossed with dill. These will either be on the menu as sauteed potatoes or Potatoes Banski Style Varieties you’ll see in Bansko include the addition of bacon (always good), grated cheese, either white or yellow, on the top (sometimes good) and potatoes baked in their skins and then sauteed in butter, garlic and dill.
Potatoes will usually appear on the starters menu – and be served then unless you ask for it altogether. The potatoes vary between restaurants, but we can seriously recommend them from the following places.
Bulgarian Sweets and Candies
Bulgarian Delight – Lokum (Lokum) (локум)
You’ll probably know Bulgarian Delight as Turkish Delight. The Bulgarian version is light in taste. It’s flavoured with the Bulgarian speciality of rose oil, although there are other varieties available including fig. It’s a delightfully fragrant sweet.
- Buy from any supermarket in Bansko
Bulgarian and Non-Bulgarian Bansko Speciality Restaurants – Our favourites
If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Bansko that provide more internationalised food, then look no further! We also cover in this section some of our favourite places in Bansko to eat Bulgarian food.
Smokey Mountain – Best for Ribs, Burgers, Chicken Wings in Bansko
Smokey Mountain, run by long term Scottish residents, Scott and Keira specialise in ribs, pulled pork sandwiches and burgers. All served with thrice fried fries. Incredibly tasty, Smokey Mountain is also the location for regular pub quizzes during the summer. Summer hours differ, check the Smokey Mountain Facebook Page for opening hours and specials. You’ll find the most up to date Smokey Mountain Bansko menu on their Facebook page – it changes with specialities each season.
- See other people’s reviews of Smokey Mountain, Bansko.
The Victoria – best Pizza in Bansko
A great favourite for pizza, pasta and Italian food, the Victoria can be found near the Kempinski Hote. When you’re looking for something a little more upscale it’s a great place to feed your pizza appetite. You’ll find the Victoria Restaurant Bansko menu on their website here.
- See other people’s reviews for the Victoria, Bansko
The Avalon – Best Curry in Bansko
Although primarily a hotel, it’s here that you’ll occasionally get the chance to have a curry in Bansko. You’ll need to watch the Avalon blog or Facebook page for specific dates – but if you’re lucky enough to be here while James is hosting a curry night, then you’ll be in for a feast. Naan from the tandoori-oven and poppadoms compliment all your Indian favourites. Don’t miss it, this is the best restaurant in Bansko for traditionally cooked curry from around the world.
See other people’s reviews for the Avalon
- Follow the Avalon blog for details on dates of Curry nights
Le Petit Nicholas Bansko
Located in the old town, this tiny French cafe makes amazing brunches, great sandwiches and fantastic pastries. Great to stock up if you want a special picnic to take for a hike.
The Golden Dragon Bansko
Chinese restaurant on Ulitsa Glazne. Portions are huge, so order accordingly and take home what you don’t eat if you eat in.
Happy Food Bansko
Located close to the gondola car park, but open year-round, Svetlana runs a fabulous eat-in and takeaway. She also does in Bansko delivery too! You’ll find burgers, sandwiches and a great vibe here.
5M Restaurant Bansko
Mid way down Pirin Street, this rather sophisticated restaurant has great cocktails, excellent pasta and good fish dishes.
Oscars Wine Bar and Bistro Bansko
Treat yourself and come here for excellent wine and a great selection of different dishes. You’ll find fish, pasta and a unique take on some Bulgarian favourites. House wine is excellent and extremely well priced.
Kristi’s Restaurant Bansko
Blink and you’ll miss this place. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but the food here is incredible and excellently priced, as is the beer and wine. If you visit during the summer months there’s a gorgeous garden out the back. Spot the tortoise wandering around. Be sure to try and Kristi’s salad, its both enormous and a fabulous taste! The sache here is fabulous and big and the Pork Loin with gravy will have you curling into the most fabulous of food comas. Check the map for location.
Red Hot Cafe Bansko
This place has an unfortunate name but some great food. An extenive selection of wines (and the house wine on draft is also good), this is cosy and stylish.
‘The Fish Farm” – Krinetz Dam
An awesome place to come in summer. An easy walk from town, seating inside and out and the BEST trout in Bansko. Be sure to come on a sunny day, and sit on the dam, have a beer, a shopska salad and a trout. Always excellently cooked, the beer is always cold and the boiled potatoes with onion are also a treat. Find the location on the map.
Drinks in Bulgaria and Bansko
You’ll find many international brands of drinks in Bulgaria and Bansko. Bansko has a café lifestyle especially in the summer and you can find many places for a cappuccino, especially along the pedestrianized area of Tsar Simeon near the old town.
Bulgarian Yoghurt Drink – Ayryan (aĭryan) (айрян)
Aryan is a cold yoghurt drink mixed with salt. It’s worth a try, but definitely an acquired taste.
Bulgarian Fermented Wheat Drink – Boza (Boza) (боза)
This fermented wheat drink is sweet and sour and yeasty and (IMHO) quite revolting, but anything is worth trying once. It’s usually served for breakfast with Banitsa. As it’s fermented, it does have a low alcohol level, round about 0.5 per cent.
Bulgarian Wine (bŭlgarsko vino) (българско вино)
Bulgaria has a growing wine scene. The closest wine region to Bansko is Melnik. Many of the mehanas in Bansko will sell house wine by the glass, a half litre or litre, with glasses usually costing 4-5 leva, half litres usually costing 10 leva and a litre costing 20 leva. The house wine is usually very drinkable, although strong (and while I am bad at following my own advice, I’d seriously recommend matching your wine with a jug of water as well).
For wine by the bottle, try Villa Melnik, or Orbelus. A great selection of wines is available at The Wine Bar 25.
- White Wine (byalo vino) (бяло вино)
- Red Wine (cherveno vino) (червено вино)
- Rosé Wine (Vino Roze) (Вино Розе)
The wine bar is a great place to hang out during Bansko’s festival season – especially if you need to take a break during the fabulous Bansko Jazz festival.
Bulgarian Beer (bŭlgarska bira) (българска бира)
The local beer of Bansko is Pirinsko. Its easy-drinking beer and a 500ml glass will cost around 4 leva. Other brands that are readily available are Kamenitsa and Shumensko. Sometimes you’ll find Zagorka. I personally don’t like the taste of Shumensko (it’s too strong in taste), but others prefer it!
In the summer months, you’ll want to try Radler. It’s a shandy of beer with either lemon or grapefruit. Great and light for a lunchtime drink or a refreshing light beer. If you don’t find it in mehanas and bars head to one of the supermarkets in Bansko or Razlog and stock up. (just make sure you leave some of the grapefruit for me).
Bulgarian Liquor – Rakia (rakiya) (ракия)
Rakia is a fruit brandy popular in Bulgaria. It’s strong, normally 40% ABV, but the homemade varieties served in mehanas may be stronger. Consume in moderation.
Bars and Wine Bars in Bansko
Wine bar 25
With 3 excellent house wines on offer from Villa Melnik and a host of wines by the bottle from Bulgaria and international producers, this is a great spot to come and try Bulgarian wine. They also serve beer and have speciality Gin nights too. Lovely outside seating at the back and cosy inside. See reviews here
Very popular in the winter months, but also drawing a good crowd in the summer months, this is on the main Pirin street. Outside seating along the pedestrianized Pirin Street. Good for a beer, cocktail or coffee if you’re heading from the new town to the old town.
Great for speciality cocktail nights (usually Tuesdays) and also special food theme nights for Mexican and Indian. Hosts a Shisha night on a Monday during the summer. Check specials here.
Self Catering Bansko
Self-catering in Bansko is easy. All apartment accommodation have basic kitchens and fresh fruit, vegetables and meats are easily accessible with a little forward planning. Here are
Bansko Market Stalls And Sunday Market
This for us is the staple of Bansko self-catering. Each day fruit and vegetable stalls ply their trade below the main square. They usually have a great selection of in-season fruit, vegetables and some occasional herbs. Fresh herbs tend to be parsley and dill. Parsley is strong and should be used sparingly. Coriander is rarely to be found (although you may spot it in Lidl or T Market Razlog occasionally).
The small space where the market is located fills on a Sunday morning. It’s then that you’ll get local villagers bringing their wares. Whatever fruit and vegetable are in season, freshly made cheese, dried herbs, jams and chutneys. Try the homemade wine if you’re brave enough. It’s sold in recycled plastic drinks bottles. We’ve tried it once. The Mavrud was good. The Merlot was positively terrifying.
The second Sunday market is found along Tsar Simeon, near the Gardenia Hotel, by the park. There are clothes stalls, duvets, blankets, pillows and bedding. There is also a potted plant stall, which usually has potted herbs for sale also, including, once, mint. But, no, no coriander.
Buying Bread in Bansko
You can buy bread from any of the supermarkets in Bansko, but if you’re buying pre-packaged bread be sure to check the date on the tag especially out of season and in the smaller shops. The highest recommendations for bread, though are for the “Super Bakery” on Ulitsa Angel Kanchev, 5 You can find it on our map in this post. This small locally run bakery makes delicious speciality bread. They are expensive for Bulgaria, but if you want a treat it’s a great option.
Find Super Bakery on the map included in the post.
Buying Meat in Bansko
You can buy prepackaged meat at the supermarkets in Bansko, or you can go to a butcher. You’ll spot butchers by the “MECO” sign. Our favourite is on Pri Dinko on Ulitsa Glazne, see the map included in this post.
You should learn the main Bulgarian words for the particular meat that you want, then you can at least spot it. Knowing a few Bulgarian numbers is also useful too, to indicate how many of each you’d like. We’ve included this in our downloadable menu and food translations, which you can get here.
- Pork (svinsko) (свинско)
- Chicken (pileshko) (пилешко)
- Beef (govezhdo meso) (говеждо месо)
- Lamb (agneshko) (агнешко)
Buying Fish in Bansko
You can buy frozen fish in Bansko at the supermarkets, or at the supermarkets in Razlog, there is also fresh fish available. There is a fish shop in Bansko, where you can buy fresh (as in still alive) fish, and also frozen fish and seafood. The owners speak basic English but go in with a good idea of what you want.
You can find the fish shop on the map that we’ve included in this article.
There are lots of “supermarkets” in Bansko. Although those from the UK would term most of them corner shops. During the summer months, the biggest are “BG Markets”. These are located on Glazne Street (halfway up), near the Molerite and at the bottom of Pirin Street, near the main square, you can find them on the map we’ve included in this post.
These two supermarkets are the cheapest in town. The BG located on Pirin Street generally has a wider selection, especially of frozen goods. The smaller ones get more expensive, but not by much. There is little difference in price when it comes to fruit and vegetables in these shops. Sometimes they are cheaper than the market below the main square.
A box of wine will cost 3 – 5 leva more near to the Gondola than at the bigger supermarkets. < See how I got my priorities in there?
Bigger Supermarkets in Razlog and Blagoevgrad
If you want a larger supermarket you’ll have to go to
- Lidl in Razlog (you can take the train or a bus if you don’t have a car or a bike)
- T Market in Razlog
- Kaufland in Blagoevgrad (train or bus)
Lidl and TMarket in Razlog are within easy walking distance of the bus and train stations.
You can buy tofu in Lidl in small packets (it freezes well). If you want larger packs you will have to go to Kaufland in Blagoevgrad or one of the bigger supermarkets in Sofia.
International Speciality Supermarkets in Sofia
If you’re looking for Asian food ingredients, imported brands or speciality foodstuffs (like Weetabix for instance), then you will have to go to one of the larger supermarkets in Sofia. These include:
You can easily find them on any Google map and you will need your own transport to get there unless you’re prepared for a very long day on multiple buses.
Final words on Eating in Bansko and Bulgarian Food
The quality of food in Bansko is on the whole superb. It’s fresh, well cooked and generally cheap compared to Western European costs. Many mehanas may stay in the family, but their management changes between seasons, so the quality may change from one year to the next.
Before we go. What’s your favourite Bulgarian Food? Where do you eat when you come to Bansko? What else should we put on this list?
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