How to Have the Best Experience in Bled, Slovenia
With some European hotspots like Venice, Barcelona, and Prague looking for ways to counteract tourism overcrowding in the peak summer months, why not head for the little gem of a country called Slovenia and spend a few days on a pristine alpine lake? Our family was there just recently and we all had a blast! Want some tips to help you have the best experience in Bled too? Read on!!!
Still (thankfully!) undiscovered by mass tourism, Bled has it all – a postcard-perfect lake surrounded by forested hills, a fairy-tale island topped by a church, a cliff-hugging medieval castle, a scenic lakeside promenade, and crisp mountain air. Oh, did I also mention that it is just over 2.5 hours’ drive from Salzburg, 3 hours from Venice, and 4 – 5 hours from Vienna, Budapest, or Munich?!
Considering a trip to Lake Bled? Here is a list of recommendations on what to see and do:
- Walk (or bike) around the lake
This is probably one of the very first things to do once in Bled and is especially enjoyable in the morning or evening to enjoy the cool air, fewer people, and the best light for photos! The 4-mile-long promenade completely encircles the lake and a walk or a bike ride along it is a great way to get oriented – find spots for swimming, fishing, picnicking, or renting a boat; choose cafes and restaurants for lunch or dinner; and to enjoy views of the lake, island, and castle from several different vantage points.
- Hike to the medieval castle
First mentioned in written documents in 1011, this is Slovenia’s oldest castle and, perched atop a cliff at 420 feet above the lake, surely one of the most picturesque ones as well. The castle buildings are arranged around a lower and an upper courtyard and house a museum of local history, a restaurant, and a wine cellar. The castle is open daily and entrance fees are currently EUR 10 for adults and EUR 5 for children. Access is via series of steps and a steep cobblestone path, so please wear comfortable walking shoes.
- Take a boat trip across the lake to Bled island and climb the 99 steps to the church
Most visitors end up hiring a traditional Pletna boat with a local oarsman. Pletna boats are flat-bottomed vessels which are easily identifiable by their colorful awnings and can accommodate 15 or so people. These boats depart (when full) from several piers around the lake and the cost is currently EUR 14 per person for the return trip to the island.
We did not feel like sharing a Pletna and opted for one of the smaller private rowboats. These are available for rent at several locations around the lake shore, some of which are closer to the island, which means shorted distance to row and less time to get there and back. The cost is EUR 10 – 13 per hour and includes lifejackets and a padlock to secure the vessel at the island pier. We rented a boat from the dock in front of the Vila Bled hotel and, after a leisurely row to the island and a walk around, were back within the hour. If you are comfortable rowing, this is definitely a more private, more active, and a less touristy way to have the best experience in Bled.
- Enjoy a local festival
In the summer months, Bled offers an extensive calendar of events – torch-lit walks around the lake, yoga classes, open-air movies, music & dance festivals, food & wine tastings, and craft fairs. We were in Bled during the annual Medieval Days – a weekend-long festival featuring historical reenactments, traditional music & dance performances, artisan workshops, children’s games, and a farmers’ market. What a great way to keep the kids entertained while sampling local history, culture, and food!
- See how the natives really live
For the best experience in Bled and a glimpse of authentic Slovenian life, veer away from the hotels and restaurants on the lake shore and take one of the streets across Bled Town (like Partizanska Cesta) to see local people tending to their gardens and orchards, caring for their farm animals, or just going about their daily routines. This was an eye-opener for our kids and helped us all have the best experience in Bled.
- Take a side-trip to the Vintgar Gorge
Just a short drive north from Bled, the mile-long Vintgar canyon was cut by the waters of the Radovna River and features a series of scenic pools and rapids. Follow the trail of wooden boardwalks and bridges for a refreshing, easy, and very picturesque walk. The park is open daily in the summer season, but closes completely in the winter months. There is free parking near the entrance and tickets currently run EUR 5 for adults and EUR 2.5 for children.
- Try Bled’s signature cream cake
You can try Kremsnita at many cafes and pastry shops throughout Slovenia, but the best and original one is supposedly only made at the patisserie of the Park Hotel in Bled. This local dessert is wonderfully simple and light yet delicious and consists of a layer of custard cream, topped with whipped cream and covered by a crust of crispy butter dough with a good dusting of powdered vanilla sugar.
- For the best views, climb even higher on one of the surrounding hills
Craving that iconic view over the Lake Bled and the island from high above? There are several excellent vantage points on the surrounding peaks. 3 of these – Ojstrica, Mala Osojnica, and Velika Osojnica, are located south-west of the lake and the trails leading up to them start on Kidriceva Cesta just to the left of the Bled Camping entrance. The paths through the forest are quite steep and uneven at times and not always well-marked, so make sure you have appropriate footwear, water, and plenty of time.
- Spend a day (or more) exploring the Triglav National Park
The countryside around Bled is no less spectacular than the lake itself. This area – the northwestern corner of Slovenia – is dominated by the Julian Alps, most of which have been incorporated in the Triglav National Park. Mount Triglav (meaning ‘ three heads’) is the country’s highest peak. One of the park’s top attractions is the Soca River Valley, which saw fierce battles in the First World War and was immortalized in Hemingway’s famous ‘A Farewell to Arms‘. Nowadays, it draws canoeing, rafting, and canyoning enthusiasts as well as military history buffs and Hemingway fans. Read more about my perfect day exploring the Julian Alps!
No wonder Lake Bled is Slovenes’ pride and joy and the country’s main tourist attraction! Its postcard-perfect alpine views, fairy-tale island, and handy access to the Triglav National Park for myriad outdoor activities make it hard to beat as a vacation destination.
Have you been to this part of Slovenia? What was your best experience in Bled?