If you’ve read this site for any amount of time, you’ll already know that Slovenia is my favourite country in Europe. From the moment I first stepped foot within its borders, I was frantically messaging friends to tell them they needed to plan a trip to this country immediately.
“Where’s Slovenia?” summed up the majority of the responses I received.
I’ve already written about what it is that makes Ljubljana — the capital of Slovenia — so special, so today, I want to turn my attention towards Lake Bled. From the moment I first set eyes on this beautiful lakeside town, I was smitten, and I’ve since returned multiple times, dragging my boyfriend or various family members with me on each subsequent visit.
What can I say? I’m obsessed with Slovenia and enjoy watching my favourite people fall just as deeply in love with it as I have.
So where even is Bled?
This Alpine town is located in the northwest of Slovenia, in the foothills of the incredible Julian Alps. What that means is that you’ve got mountains to scramble up, as well as a turquoise alpine lake to row across. Oh, and did I mention there’s a castle? On the edge of the waterfront, you’ll find a sheer cliff fact that rises up to house the medieval structure.
And in the heart of the lake, is a 15th century church on a teeny-tiny island.
It’s so impossibly picturesque.
The thing that surprised me most on my first visit to Bled? The discovery that this is an adventure sport hotspot! Yes, really. While the shores of the lake may be calm and quiet, venture outside of town and you’ll find yourself with a multitude of adventures to take part in: white-water rafting, canyoning, zip-lining, paragliding, abseiling, and more.
It was at Lake Bled where I jumped in a hot air balloon for the first time, which is, well, perhaps the most sedate of the adventure options, but it was still a little nerve-wracking. More on that in the article.
All that to say, I love Bled, and I can’t wait to share all the things that make it so special. Here, then, are the best 18 things to do while you’re in town.
Walk the Circumference of Lake Bled
Surrounded by the majestic Julian Alps, Lake Bled is something out of a fairytale. The calm, crystallized water is encased in craggy rock faces that pop out from the dense greenery. Every once in a while, you get a glimpse of a hidden home, with its terracotta roof standing out. Plus, the immutable presence of Bled Castle.
Arriving at Lake Bled is a simple task. Being such a short and beautiful walk from the town center, you’ll be ready to go in no time at all. The path is around 4 miles (6km) long and remains relatively flat throughout. So much so that it’s as much a cycling path as a walking one.
Give yourself at least two hours to complete the trail, as you’ll be stopping regularly to bask in the views. Along the trail, you’ll come across benches to rest upon and enjoy the sights. Along with the castle, you’ll want to save plenty of time for admiring the Church of the Assumption, which stands upon a lonely island on Lake Bled.
Row to the Church of the Assumption
It’s the centerpiece of Lake Bled, a historic church built in 1465 that elevates the lake to a photographer’s dream. But it’s one thing to appreciate the church, otherwise known as Our Lady of the Lake from afar, but did you know you can row over? The Church of the Assumption is open to visitors on both guided and self-guided tours.
There are multiple ways to reach the hallowed shores of Lake Bled’s island. A cheap way is to rent a boat. This puts you in control and, along with your traveling party, you can venture to the church before exploring the rest of the lake. As you make your way towards the 15th century church, you’ll spot the staircase that connects the small port with the eye-catching structure.
The bell tower and spire soars above the trees, acting like the true north on your compass. After departing the boat, head up to the church to discover the Gothic facade that leads to medieval frescoes and gilded Baroque accents. While you’re here, don’t forget to ring the bell and make a wish!
For true budget travelers, it is possible to swim to the island. But just be aware, unless you have a change of close, you’ll be restricted to only exploring the church grounds.
Explore Bled Castle
After spending some time on Lake Bled, head over to the Bled Castle, which is a splendid place to get your local bearings. That is, because of the sweeping views afforded from its high elevation. Bled Castle is the oldest castle in the country and dates back as far as the 11th century.
It’s everything you’d imagine from a medieval castle. Bled Castle is very much a fortress compound befitting of its importance to Slovenia. To get here, embark on one of three trails, all signposted with “Grad”. Some are easy than others, so if you’re looking to avoid a thigh-burner, then wander along the path that starts behind Bledec Hostel.
As you approach, you’ll spot stone towers, wide moats and ramparts. Soon you’ll be within the historic castle, most of which was rebuilt in the 16th century. You’ll immediately sense the history as you pass the Gothic chapel from the 1500s, and learn about the story of the complex within its fascinating museum. Discover armory, weapons, and ancient jewelry found in burial grounds.
Later, wander over to the castle terraces and admire the stunning panoramic views from the castle, which is perched upon a cliff 330 feet (100m) above Lake Bled.
Take a Trip to Vintgar Gorge
Just 2.5 miles (4km) northwest of Bled is one of the best excursions you can take from the village. After the brief trip, you’ll feel a world away as you venture down the mile long wooden walkway. One that guides you through the rocky gorge laden with rainforest and the jade green river. If the walkway feels a tad old and croaky, that’s because it was built in the 1890s, with the old railings showing the passage of time.
But there’s no need to worry, the path has been kept structurally up to date, allowing you to easily cross over the surging Radovna River four times. As you do so, the flowing effervescent river cascades down waterfalls, forming rapids and eddies. It’s a breathtaking walk among untouched scenery that feels every bit out of Middle Earth.
At the start and end, you’ll find a quaint kiosk slinging handy snacks to keep you fueled. You’ll know you’re at the end when reach the breathtaking Sum Waterfall. Return on the same path, or trek east to the Church of St. Catherine featuring 15th century structures.
But rather than arrange transport, embark on this self-guided e-bike ride. It’s a great way to get there and back, complete with a helmet, lock and map.
Try Bled’s Famous Cream Cake
In 1953, Istvana Lukacevic mastered the recipe of the cream cake. Working at Hotel Park, Lukacevic, a confectioner, created kremsnita which would go on to become to most popular dessert in town. In fact, over a half million kremnitas are sold around Bled every year.
Of course, you can now find many iterations of the original around town. It’s been replicated but never duplicated, as the masterful recipe has remained under lock and key in the decades since. So while they’re all downright delicious (and full of calories), to try the real thing, you must get along to Hotel Park.
As you wait at your first bite, you’ll salivate in anticipation. But soon you’ll be biting into the soft layers of vanilla cream, topped with whipped cream and layered with delightful puff pastry. The cream cake is rich, full of flavor and quite heavy. But you’ll be itching to try another one.
To do it like a local, pair your kremsnita with a local wine and enjoy it beside the lake.
Go On a Wine Tasting
If you like your wine, then you’ll be stoked to know that Slovenia makes some wonderful drops. Wine has been produced around the country since the era of Illyrian tribes, before the Romans had even ventured into France. Now, with centuries of practice and almost 30,000 wineries, Slovenia produces up to 80 million liters of the wine every year. Such is their love of wine, the most of that is consumed locally with little export.
So if you’ve never gotten your hands on a Slovenian wine, then make sure to join this wine tasting experience. Head down into an atmospheric 100-year-old wine cellar and try seven different wines from around the region. Your friendly expert will take you on a journey through the country’s ancient and revered wine-making heritage as you sip on amazing whites and reds along with scrumptious appetizers.
Each wine is carefully picked out by your sommelier, who makes sure there’s a wonderful story to go along with each local wine. The tastings last for four hours and can be done in a private or group setting, allowing for the opportunity to meet wine lovers from around the world.
Ski or Toboggan at Mount Straza
Mount Straza may not be the most exhilarating ski resort in eastern Europe, but it makes up for that in many other ways. The hill stands at 2080 feet (634m) above sea level but offers breathtaking views of Bled to complement your chosen adventure.
If you’ve arrived between spring and fall, you’ll have the lush green lawns to explore. Scream through the open fields on your toboggan with your hands controlling the speed. The track is 1700 feet (520m) long and visitors can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour (40km/h).
After that thrilling adventure, put your problem-solving skills to the test at Adventure Park Bled. This obstacle course in the dense forest features over 80 challenges across five difficulty levels.
When the snow begins to fall over Bled, it becomes a mystical and romantic location. The lake freezes over and the snow-capped mountains hold the promise of winter adventures. But it’s the local ski slopes at Straza that present the most accessible skiing in bled. Just steps from town, you’ll be skiing in no time, with the option to continue after dark as the slopes light up.
Experience the Local Cuisine
Bled has grown in popularity thanks to its spectacular location and as a haven for adventurous travelers. But any time spent in town is a chance to indulge in the local cuisine and fuel up for the next trip. Whether you’re a foodie, or have just worked up an appetite, you’ll have a blast trying the delicious local eats.
Slovenia is surrounded by other gastronomic powers, including Italy and Austria, and it has taken the liberty of adding a splash of each cuisine into their own. As you travel around Bled and Slovenia, you’ll find pastas from Italy, strudels from Austria, and the hearty carb-laden stews from the Balkan regions.
Importantly, the Slovenes have added their own twist to each, providing a fresh take on some of the best foods in the world. Additionally, Slovenia is covered in forests and farmlands, providing fresh produce wherever you look. So within your stews and dumplings you can expect delicious seasonal vegetables.
As you eat your way around town, balance the cheap and cozy with the expensive and chic restaurants for the full Bled experience.
Hike Around Triglav National Park
After loading up on the hearty and flavorful Slovenian cuisine, you’ll be ready to tackle the biggest adventure yet. Just 30 minutes out of Bled, the country’s only national park patiently awaits your footsteps. Slovenia has no shortage of natural beauty, so for Triglav National Park to earn this rare distinction, you know that it’ll be worth the effort.
The park is home to Slovenia’s tallest mountain, Triglav, which is 9,396 feet (2864m) above sea level. It’s held in high esteem, so much so that it’s even featured on the national flag. As the legend goes, you aren’t a true Slovenian until you’ve climbed the mountain. While the hike is certainly possible in summer, keep in mind it can be strenuous, with some exposed sections, including gliding along the edge of a cliff. Most hiking options require a two-day ascent.
For us mere mortals, there are plenty of “regular” hiking trails that will more than satisfy. Trek through the spellbinding Seven Lakes or Trenta Valley that will take you through high alpine forests and along turquoise rivers.
In addition to your hikes around Triglav National Park, you must add Pokljuka to the itinerary. Hardly anybody has heard of it, so most travelers leave it undiscovered.
You can find the plateau in a remote eastern section of the park. Despite its seclusion, it’s dotted with enchanting alpine villages that spread out among the meadows, letting nature be the star of the show.
Hike to Planina Zajamniki to discover 20-plus wooden cottages rising like pine trees out of the lush fields.
Dairy farmers live here in the summer, enjoying the snow-capped alps as they work. Another must visit village is Podjelje, a high-alpine farm village on a slopping meadow. You can hike between both towns via Javornica.
Go On a Road Trip
With your weary legs needing some rest after hiking around the Triglav National Park, it’s time to sit back and relax on this road trip. The Vrsic Pass runs through the national park connecting Kransjka Gora and Zaga, two beautiful mountain villages. Beginning from Bled, drive to Kransjka Gora, passing through lush forests and traditional hayracks. Upon arrival, take a break or continue to officially reach the beginning of Vrsic Pass. The epic drive features 50 hairpin turns through the national park, showcasing every bit of the mountain’s spectacular personality. Each turn brings a new view, and some bring waterfalls and historic Russian churches.
After the 24th switchback, stop to admire the roadside views at the top of the pass before heading on down to Trenta. Right before town, there is a small pull-out. Stop here to admire the rushing Soco River, a glacial knife that has carved the valley.
Continue on through the beautiful Soco Valley, which was a historic battleground in WWI and the former border between Italy and Austria/Hungary. It’s a stunning section, with less hair-pin turns as you meander through charming villages and suspension bridges that cross the river. Eventually you’ll leave the park and reach the Boka Waterfall, the last major attraction until Zaga.
From Zaga, return to Bled via Ljubljana, or hook your car up to the “car-train” in Mostna Soci. Enjoy the scenic train ride through the mountains, before jumping back in the car in Bohinjska Bistrica for a cruisey 30-minute drive back to Bled.
See Bled From Above
Having seen the charming town from the ski slopes and from the terraces of an ancient castle, you may think, “OK, I’ve enjoyed all the best views”. But things continue to get better because there’s no better view of Bled, the lake and the Julian Alps than from the heavens above.
As you wander around town, you may spot hot air balloons in the sky from time to time. While they look beautiful from the ground, I promise the lucky ones in the balloon basket are enjoying the better sight.
In order to be one of those lucky ones, get up early and embark on a sunrise hot-air balloon experience. Put on your warmest clothes, as you’ll depart around 6am slowly floating higher and higher until you’re among the clouds and shaking hands with the monstrous peaks in the Triglav National Park.
From the highest point, you’ll be able to gaze beyond the local mountains and across international borders into Austria and Italy. Upon touching back down, celebrate with your friends, and pilot along with a slice of the iconic Bled cake and a glass of champagne!
I booked my ride with 3Glav Adventures and can’t recommend them highly enough.
Explore the Postojna Caves
An hour south of Bled, the Postojna Caves is another exciting day trip from the gorgeous town. Here, you’ll discover an intricate underground labyrinth teeming with stalagmites. It’s an eerie experience wandering into the dark caves as your eyes take their time to adjust. The cold damp air wafts over your skin and your hairs jump up in anticipation.
Soon the caves open up in a spot known as the Great Mountain. With your eyes now used to the darkness, you can see things more clearly. And what you see is a vast cave formed millions of years ago by the Pivka River. All up there are 15 miles (24km) of individual caves that spread out like the London subway. With the help of your trusty torch, you’ll be able to see the artwork nature has created through the caves, from stalactites to stalagmites, which dangle from the ceiling like icicles.
Along the way, you’ll venture into several “halls” each different from the last, as if the cave network is a gallery. Beyond the unique rockscapes, discover the animals that live in the unique environment, from insects to “baby dragons” and the “human fish” which can go without eating for a decade at a time.
Date Night in Bled
Bled is as beautiful as any town or city in Europe. It’s charming old buildings, churches, castles and lakes combine to make an utterly romantic setting. If you’re traveling with your better half, leave aside plenty of time to spoil them with the perfect date. Now I’m not one to tell you how to “woo” your partner, but I can point you in the right direction.
It all begins at Cafe Belvedere. Tucked away in the sharp hills surrounding Lake Bled, the cafe offers amazing views of the lake that turns turquoise under the Slovenian sun. It’s a part of the larger Vila Bled, and designed by the beloved Joze Plecnik, whose work has shaped Ljubljana. Despite its perfect location and cozy patio, the cafe remains quiet and the perfect place to enjoy a heart-warming coffee.
From there, wander down to the lake to enjoy a traditional boat ride out to the Church of the Assumption. Even if you’ve done this before, you can’t beat the romantic journey on a pletna: traditional boats that date back to the 16th century. Navigating the boat is a pletnar. They’re held in high esteem and their job is passed down through the generations.
After returning to dry land, it’s time for something that is cliche as it is memorable. On the edge of the lake, and right in town, is a giant heart-shaped wreath. Cozy up and get a photo in front of it, with the lake, snow-capped mountains and Bled Castle shining through.
Find a Different View
After a day of romance on the lake, search for a different view of town. Stretch your legs on a splendid local trail that begins along Lake Bled, but quickly heads inland and up into the hills. The trek up to Mala Osojnica can be a bit tiring on the legs, but the views are infinitely worth it.
Most of the hike is under the shady trees, with the sparkling blues of the sky and lake breaking through the canopy every once in a while. It can get slightly technical at times when a chain appears to help hikers along. But upon reaching the narrow staircase that cuts through the rock, you’ll know you’re almost there.
In a blink of an eye, the forest disappears and out comes the lake in all its glory. Sit down on the bench and admire Bled Island, which sits almost perfectly in the center of the lake. Soak in the splendid views of every type of blue and green. But for a truly magical experience, arrive for sunrise to see the sun traverse the back of the Julian Alps, slowing bringing light to the world.
Spend a Day at Lake Bohinj
For insight into what Lake Bled was like before it found itself on the proverbial map, take a day trip to Lake Bohinj. Like its more famous sibling, Lake Bohinj is laden with outdoor activities and its glistening glacial lake is every bit as spectacular. The lake is the largest in Slovenia and is surrounded by towering mountains, the Triglav National Park. So a journey in any direction will likely lead to waterfalls and startling canyons.
As you arrive in town, you’ll already be greeted with wondrous views of the lake. But for an even better one, head up to Pec. From your spot among the trees, you’ll see the lake from end to end flanked by mountains with the charming town and church laid out below.
The calm lake waters are perfect for a kayak and SUP experience. You can hire either from various points to explore the lake, discover hidden beaches and coves. If you have more time to explore, check out the Savica Waterfall and check out the quaint village of Ukanc.
But for a true adventure, try canyoning around Lake Bohinj. Head into the wilderness on this 3.5 hour tour and jump through waterfalls before rappelling down cliffs.
Ride the Bohinj Railway
After a few days of driving to the starting points of various adventures, it’s time to put your feet up and let the scenery come to you. The Bohinj Railway belongs on the list of Europe’s great train journeys. It showcases not just the world around Bled, but much of Slovenia as it travels from the northeast edge of the Triglav National Park down to the Italian border at Nova Gorica.
The railway was originally complete in 1906 and was nothing short of a feat of engineering. The railroad cuts through the epic Julian Alips and through the Soca Valley, requiring a 4-mile (6.5km) tunnel through Mount Kolba and the 720-feet (220m) Solkan Bridge.
Jesenice, which is the very beginning of the exciting journey, is only 15 minutes from Bled, although the train will also stop in town. From there, embark on the 80-mile (129km) journey through the heart of the country over the course of three hours. Venture through the tunnel and be greeted by spectacular mountains on the other side.
The train stops around a dozen times before reaching the Italian border, with many stations appearing like the backyards of local estates. At Nova Gorica, check out the Italian-Slovenian border. Train tickets usually cost 12 euros, so a return journey won’t be hard on the wallet.
Go White Water Rafting
Bled is blessed to be within striking distance of two world class rivers. Both stemming from the Julian Alps, the Soca and Sava rivers are prime for an adrenalin pumping experience. Both have their own distinct personalities, thus providing unique challenges for those who venture down them.
The best time to go white water rafting in Bled is between April and October. Start as early as possible for the quickest flow as the snow melt fills the rivers. Towards September and October, the flow is less providing a more inviting experience for beginners, but the same spectacular scenery.
Those who have completed the Vrsic Pass will be familiar with the Soca River and the reasons its nickname is the “Emerald Beauty”. Tumbling down from the alps and through the Trenta Valley, the blue-green waters offer class II-III rapids great for all skill levels.
The closest white water rafting to Bled, however, can be found on the Sava River. Beginning from Lake Bohinj, the river surges through the valley on its way to Lake Bled. The rafting here is more technical, with rapids as high as class IV. But it can be broken down for all skill levels.
Bled Island Gallery
While exploring the island and Our Lady of the Lake, stop by the Provost’s House where you’ll find the Bled Island Gallery. Having hiked and soared to splendid views, you won’t be surprised that Bled has inspired many painters throughout the ages. As you explore the art gallery, you’ll find plenty of work that depicts the otherworldly scenery, providing you with a new perspective.
Visitors will uncover a range of contemporary historic work dating back hundreds of years. It’ll show you not just the changes that have occurred over the eras, but also the story of the church. The gallery also features a number of large-scale pieces including statues.
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