Last week I was lucky enough to travel to Bansko Bulgaria for a ski trip with some friends.
Though I was excited to ski and explore, I had no idea what the situation would be like for us vegans.
My misconception about Bulgarian food was very much of the stereotypical kind which included meat, potatoes and vegetables.
And I certainly didn’t think they would even know what vegan was.
Considering my expectations were low, I was very surprised and It turns out vegan and vegetarian food was a lot more readily available in Bansko than I had imagined.
Although the food scene in Bulgaria is still heavily filled with meat, fish, and dairy, there seem to be a lot more vegetarian food options available when eating out.
Not so many vegan but there are a few vegetarian options in restaurants that could be altered to make them vegan.
A Little Information
Bansko is a mountain town and a popular skiing destination. Pirin national park is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Bansko is about 160kms away from Sofia airport, which roughly takes 3 hrs by coach and approximately 2 – 2:30 hrs by taxi or private transfer.
There are a lot of stray dogs wandering the streets and the ski resort. Please be cautious!
Where To Eat
When googling vegan places to eat, not a lot of options come up. Unless you want grilled meats and chips, it will be difficult to spot anything vegan walking down Pirin street.
I googled, and used various blog posts, as well as the happy cow app and this is what I found:
When looking online for somewhere to eat, 4Directions is one of the first to appear. They aren’t specifically a vegan restaurant but do have an entirely vegan menu with the option of having western foods or traditional Bulgarian cuisine.
From the vegan menu, we ordered; Margherita pizza with vegan mozzarella, vegan pasta pesto, Garlic bread with vegan mozzarella and a Vegetable bochurmoz.
I didn’t want to travel to Bulgaria and not try their traditional dish, so I was eager to try the vegetable bochurmoz!
It came out on a hot plate on fire, a potato dish in a tomato sauce, with onions and courgettes topped with tomato slices and vegan cheese.
Really simple, delicious and hearty!
After all that I managed to squeeze in a dessert, homemade vegan baklava which was sweet, sticky and nutty.
For those meals and two drinks, we paid 60 Lev which is about £26 ($35)!
Ginger Bar & Dinner
After walking around for a while, we stumbled across Giner Bar & Dinner (not Diner, apparently!). We had already looked at other restaurants which were heavily filled with meat and fish, but we decided upon this one as it had some vegetarian options on the menu, and damn was it the right decision!
At Ginger Bar & Dinner, we ordered one main to share, which was a delicious black rice and quinoa vegetable risotto, and a few side dishes which included: sweetcorn in herb oil, onion rings, hummus with bread, and chips.
Our eyes were definitely bigger than our tummies but we did manage to eat it all!
Everything I ordered was vegetarian and I told the waiter that I was unable to have any dairy products, but I cannot guarantee that it was all suitable for a vegan diet.
Sometimes when you’re in a foreign country where you can’t speak the language, that’s all you can do and hope the person understood.
We sat on the third floor which had a lovely view of the mountains as the sun was going down. This was more of a trendy place with modern decor and it had a nice atmosphere with cocktails that were delicious!
Nearly all the cocktails were 11.95 Lev which is about £5.15 ($6.99)
What a bargain!
My favourite was a strawberry daiquiri and a golden aperol. The perfect après ski drink!
*Disclaimer: the pasta and the pizza that was ordered by our friends, which can be seen in the picture are not vegan.
There are plenty of shops to get groceries in Bansko, there seems to be one on every street once you get into the main area.
There was a slightly bigger supermarket called Aldo around the corner from the accommodation which had everything you’ll need for your stay in Bansko.
Soy milk, granola, bread, rice, pasta, nuts, lentils, fruit, and to my surprise, they had vegan cheeses and tofu which are pictured below.
Although we visited a bigger supermarket, the fruit and vegetable selection was still small.
Though, they do have the basics such as onions, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, courgettes, and red and green peppers.
Apples are available in most shops and so are bananas. However watch out for the fruit and veg you pick out, as I found that a lot of them had started turning bad or had big gouges and cuts in them.
If you’re planning a trip to Bansko, I would recommend staying in an accommodation which has some sort of cooking facilities, as I find eating in is mostly the safest and easiest way to get true vegan food.
We stayed in an Airbnb which only had a small two-plate hob, which wasn’t a problem for the duration we were in Bansko but did limit us on the number of things we could cook.
We only ate out in restaurants twice during our 5 days in Bansko (mostly because we were so exhausted from a full day of skiing, but it was also far kinder to our pockets). We ate pasta with premade sauce two of the nights with garlic bread and on another night we had creamy pepper, onion and tomato risotto.
To make the risotto creamy, we used the ‘original spread me’ that I had found in the Aldo supermarket. I haven’t come across it in England before so it was very exciting to give it a go!
I was pleasantly surprised by the taste it gave. As it was a soya product, there was no overwhelming taste instead it made the risotto lovely and creamy.
On The Mountain
All the circled areas are where you can have a break from skiing to have something to eat or drink. The three circled in red are the ones we visited the most. They tend to get very busy during lunchtime but can be a great atmosphere for apres ski.
I find the higher you go in a ski resort, the higher the prices.
Cafes on the mountain served sausage, chips, soups etc. Sadly, nothing is suitable for vegans other than chips.
So we packed vegan cheese and tomato sandwiches with us every day with a pack of crisps, a piece of fruit and a flapjack bar we bought from Aldo.
The key is to have lots of snacks up on the mountain as I was hungry all the time! That probably holds some truth with being vegan in general.
When in doubt, carry snacks!
Unfortunately, they are missing a trick at the airport.
They only have three places that sell food, none of them supplying anything of substance, with lots of meat and cheese-filled sandwiches and wraps. Luckily I had packed a banana, flapjack and crisps but I wished I had packed something more. (Snacks! 😉 )
The only thing I managed to find at the airport was a delicious but expensive salted pretzel!
So my advice to anyone who wants to take a trip to Bansko would be to pack lots of snacks and prepare as much as possible in advance. Although there are plenty of restaurants around, very few are suitable for vegans.
However, we did go to two lovely restaurants and sometimes if you want to eat out in a foreign country you just have to take a risk!
I didn’t get to explore as many restaurants as I would have liked whilst I was there, so I’m sure there are some things I missed.
If anyone knows of any vegan restaurants in Bansko that I haven’t mentioned, let me know in the comments below.
I’d love to know for the next time I’m over there!