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a full nightclub with confetti in Bansko Bulgaria

Fancy hitting the slopes without forking out a fortune? If so, you can't beat ski holidays in Bansko. The resort - the biggest in Bulgaria - is perfect for a cheap ski getaway and has a nice range of slopes to suit every level of skier.

The resort town is effortlessly picturesque thanks to its centuries-old heritage, plus you'll find around 70km of prime pistes to tackle across the majestic Pirin Mountains. The majority of the runs here are blues and reds, making it an ideal option for newbies to skiing or family groups. After more of a challenge? You'll still have opportunities for off-piste exploits with a guide.

Bansko itself is a pretty unique mountain town and has loads to keep you entertained off the slopes, including the UNESCO World Heritage Pirin National Park. Sample traditional Bulgarian cuisine, buy a round of pints for an absolute steal and then fall asleep at a luxurious hotel where rooms cost a fraction of those in more mainstream resorts. What's not to love?

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Bansko ski resort

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Bansko is pretty big by ski resort standards, with the town itself split into two main areas. At the heart of the older side is the charming UNESCO-listed Old Town that boasts cobbled streets and dozens of heritage sites. Bansko's so-called 'new' town is where the party's at though, with the resort's main strip of shops, eateries and bars running right through the centre.

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Due to the sheer size of the resort, you might have to walk a bit to reach the gondolas if you've chosen accommodation around the outskirts. Nevertheless, there are handy buses you can hop on if you're trying to save time or are a little too tipsy to stumble back to bed in the dark. Most of the accommodation provides private transfers to and from the lifts.

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When it comes to eating and drinking, Bansko has a huge selection of venues. The vibe is much more Eastern European than your typical Alpine resort, with bars and clubs typically cheap and cheerful - and a whole lot of fun. What's more, Bansko's proximity to the Pirin National Park affords you awesome views of forests which are rumoured to house bears and wolves.

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Bansko après

Bansko has an impressive range of après ski bars to contend with, from pub-style places where you can get a pint for a couple of quid to more traditional Bulgarian joints with wine and folk music.

The resort's top après destinations are generally found at the bottom of the gondola. This includes Happy End, the biggest après venue in Bansko, where table dancing is the norm from 3pm onwards. Directly opposite is 360 which has friendly bar staff, a resident DJ and an epic happy “hour” between 3pm and 6pm.

Continue on down Pirin Street and you'll find a mish-mash of bars which tend to get busy in the early evening. Competition is fierce, so expect staff to lure you in with drinks deals.

On the slopes themselves, drinking holes are few and far between, with most venues focusing on food. As a general rule, pints are cheaper in the town itself than on the slopes but, as it's Eastern European prices, neither will break the bank.

Restaurants in Bansko

Bansko's restaurant scene is as varied as its bars, with options ranging from budget snack bars and quaint Bulgarian inns through to bistro-style eateries inside the fancier hotels.

If you want a true taste of the local culture and cuisine, look out for restaurants with mexaha or mehana in their titles. These are traditional taverns where you'll be able to tuck into tasty meat sharing platters and wholesome stews (get your waiter to recommend some dishes if you're new to Bulgarian cuisine). Colourful Obecanova mehana is a particularly good option which usually has a live folk band that makes their way around the tables as you eat.

If you want to change things up one night, sleek Leonardo inside the Lucky Hotel serves up tasty Italian grub and has a decent selection of wine. Fancy a full English before you hit the slopes? Check out The Smokey Mountain.

Bansko nightlife

Bar 360 is a great spot to begin a night out in Bansko (especially if you catch the last half of the three-hour-long happy hour). A few metres up the road is Amigo's where you can catch up on the latest sports matches and enjoy music from a fantastic live band depending on the night. Their staff are as friendly as their name suggests, too.

Also on the same street is The Lions Pub - a favourite among Brits - which fills up in the early evening. Later on, when you may have had a few, check out Jack's House which is known for their loud music, professional dancers and fire-breathing bartenders.

Depending on what kind of Bansko ski holiday you're after, you'll also find a handful of seedier clubs in the town but also contemporary cocktail bars perfect for a more low key night out.

Mountain bites

If you're feeling peckish on the pistes, Bansko has a few places where you can get your fill. 180 Degrees (owned by the same people as Bar 360) is nestled towards the bottom of the Shiligarnik blue run and is known for their tasty pizzas.

There aren't a huge number of decent places to grab a bite elsewhere on the mountains, however every so often you'll spot gazebos with yellow and blue roofs. Known as glass tents, they're ideal for picking up a refreshing drink and a few snacks to tide you over between meals.

Overall, your best bet is to have a break before you head back up the gondola as there are loads of eateries to choose from near the bottom station.

Bansko or Borovets?

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Another Bulgarian skiing hotspot is Borovets, a purpose-built resort which sits around two hours north of Bansko. The resort is at a higher altitude than Bansko (so a better chance of great snow!) plus you can ski straight from the slopes into the village.

While Borovets is marginally closer to Sofia airport and a fraction cheaper, Bansko still takes the trophy for the most pistes and the best après ski in the Balkans. The town and its many amenities just gets bigger and better year on year, plus at least 90% of its ski slopes are equipped with snow cannons, so you're almost guaranteed good coverage.

Whether you stick with a Bansko skiing holiday or want to check out Borovets, the main difference between the two is size. Groups after a greater selection of slopes for all abilities and a livelier nightlife scene will prefer Bansko, while families or smaller groups might like the calmer atmosphere and ease of Borovets.

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Ski Holidays in Bansko

While typical mountain chalets aren't a big thing in Andorra, you will find a deluge of other awesome Pas de la Casa accommodation.

Pas de la Casa hotels are popular and there are various options to suit your needs and budget. If you'd rather have your own space, check out the resort's self-catered apartments. Residence Pas de la Casa Princesa sleeps up to eight guests and has direct access to the slopes, while Aparthotel Alaska has a luxurious sauna and steam room.

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