This year has taken us to places we never thought we would go, and one of those is Slovenia, a country located in Central Europe, we both knew shamefully very little about. After a week of exploring it – where I hiked and biked my way through its beautiful valleys and gorges – Slovenia ended up being one of the most significant surprise trips I’ve had.
One-third of my time was devoted to Lake Bled which is Slovenia’s most recognisable tourist attraction and its physical appearance, untold and subtle, drew me in deeply; no wonder it was nominated to compete for the 7 new wonders of the world title.
As I visited in late September, it was too cold to dip in the clear waters yet the setting of the lake with evening suns golden light taking over the scene made it for an extraordinary place to blissfully spend my first hours in Slovenia.
This place is so much more than just picture-worthy spot – although there are still many who travel to destinations solely because of Instagram – it has seen history happening and landscape change.
It’s a place, first settled by the Slavs in the 7th century and according to the local legend- who doesn’t love local legends – created by fairies. And most importantly, given the state of the planet, Lake Bled is included in the Zero Waste Society Project.
Slovenia Travel Guide: 10 incredible things to do at beautiful Lake Bled
How would you prefer to spend your days at the lake? Would you go hiking, wine tasting, sledging down Straža Hill on a toboggan or would you prefer chilling on its inviting shores?
Lake bled has everything you need for a perfect getaway, there’s a castle, ensconced high on a hillside, plenty of hiking trails, swimming spots and a cute little island worth rowing a boat to.
You can also take a trip around the lake with a traditional coach known as FIjaker, take a ride on a Bohinj Railway, spend your holiday in the self-sufficient eco-village Garden Village Bled or can visit one of many of its stunning vantage points.
Below is our take on unmissable things to do to make your stay at Lake Bled more memorable.
#1. Hike to Mala Osojonica viewpoint
Though many arrive for the lake itself, for me it was the surrounding trails and peaks that made this place utterly captivating. There are several hiking trails around Lake Bled-most of them easily conquerable with the finest views that are well worth time and effort.
For those oh, so beautiful views – Mala Osojnica hike is a must-do if you are visiting Lake Bled because being so high up above the lake gives you tons of stunning perspective.
Although the hike shouldn’t take longer than 30-40 minutes, getting to Mala Osojnica viewpoint in the pitch-black night to catch a glimpse of the rising sun was challenging and with my heavy camera backpack in tow – it took me much longer than I initially anticipated.
The hike starts on the west side of the lake, and the trail is the mix of wooden steps. If you plan in the dark, it is a good idea to bring a flashlight as well as plenty of snacks, water, good hiking shoes-the trail is slippery after rainfall and, of course, your camera.
#2. Ring the wishing bell
In the centre of the lake sits Bled Island who is considered to be an only island in Slovenia. Not only is the island beautiful, but it also homes a church known as the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria that was built in the 17th century.
Back in a day, Lake Bled was used by pagans as a temple consecrating Ziva, The Slavic goddess of fertility and love. Unfortunately, the altars of the temple were destroyed in a war between Christians and Pagans and a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built instead.
Do you believe in the magic of old folk tails? Then listen to this!
One of the fascinating facts about Lake Bled surrounds the bell of Bled Island’s church – it is said it grants you wishes if you ring it 3 times. In order to ring a wishing bell, you have to make your way to the island, visit the church and climb 99 steps of a beautiful Baroque staircase to reach the tower.
- Cost: Adults: Euro 6, Children up to 14 years old: Euro 1 + boat ride to get there
#3. Visit Lake Bled Island
If you wish to visit Lake Bled Island and explore the Pilgrimage Church of The Assumption of Maria you have to get out on the water, there’s no way around it. Gliding along the lakes glacial and tectonic waters either on a rowboat or Pletna is an experience to remember.
Although there isn’t much to do or see on the island – a gelato stand, church, and a path to walk around it are a superb way to enjoy the lake!
- Hire a rowboat
One of the options – the best options – to reach the island, which is the centrepiece of the lake is to hire a rowboat. Yes, at first they can feel unstable and wobbly but its fun and a great exercise in one.
The distance to the island is around 1.5 km – and it shouldn’t take longer than 10-15 minutes to reach its shores. By renting a rowboat and by timing your visit right you could have the beautiful island all to your self, not to mention this option provides you with more navigational freedom on the lake.
If you are not good at rowing, then hire a boat from the south side as the distance from there is much shorter.
Cost: Expect to pay around EUR 20 per hour
- By Pletna boats
Letting someone else do the hard work while you sit back, relax and take in the scenery is a great way to visit the island too. Pletna Boats are beautiful wooden boats adorned with colourful awnings that protect you from the rain, harsh summers sun and other elements.
Operated by the Pletna oarsmen, these flat-bottom boats with a pointed bow can hold up to 20 people. The trip to the island takes around 25 minutes each way with 40 minutes dedicated to the island. For the best views and photo opportunities, make sure you sit at the front of the boat.
Make sure you time your trip accordingly because before the boat can depart, you have to wait until they are full and once you reach the island always ask your boat operator at what time you have to be back.
You can jump on a boat under the Park Hotel Bled, in Mlino, in the Spa Park and in the Rowing centre Bled.
- Cost: Expect to pay around EUR 15 per person
#4. Try Bled Cream cake
No trip to a new country could be complete without trying the local dishes, it’s the best part of travelling. Not only eating local food supports the local economy and is good for the environment but also you get to discover foods you’ve never tried before.
Originally created in 1953 by pastry chef Lake Bled cream cake is light, delicious and one of the most famous local dishes. There’s a puff pastry at the bottom, followed by custard, whipped cream and puff pastry again and lightly dusted with icing sugar.
Officially called Cremeschnitte this tasty treat can be found and bought in most cafes and restaurants around Lake Bled.
- The most popular place to try one is Hotel Park Cafe.
#4. Cycle around the lake
Beyond walking around the lake to take in the views, you can also hire a bike or e-bike and spend some time cycling along its pretty paths; this way you’ll get to see the place from every angle. The cycling paths are mainly gravel and suitable for every type of traveller.
There are plenty of places where to rent your bike from, and you get to choose from 1 hour to full-day hire. You can also incorporate a trip to nearby Vintgar George, Lake Bohinj or even opt for visiting some of the rural villages where you can discover the cultural and natural heritage of the area.
- Cost / Stop at Mamut office and hire your bike for EUR7 for the day.
#6. Stop at Café Belvedere
If you are on the lookout for more incredible views of Lake Bled with an attached history, you can stop at Café Belvedere and enjoy surrounding scenery by sitting down and sipping your favourite beverage.
Designed by the architect Jože Plečnik and owned by the beautiful Vila Bled located next door, Café Belvedere is a place where back in a day you would meet King Alexander of Yugoslavia if you had an appointment arranges with him.
Whether you’ll prefer coffee, cake or bear, be prepared to pay almost double than anywhere else around the lake, yet the views from an outside terrace are amazing, service – friendly and the café feels like a world away from tourist crowds scouting the lake below.
- Note: Café Belvedere requires a short but steep walk up the hill to reach
#7. Extend your stay
Lake Bled is very popular with day-trippers arriving from Ljubljana and during the summer month, which is peak season the place can get very busy. The long traffic and masses of tourists can be quite overwhelming and even take away the magic.
One of the best things you can do is to extend your stay. Stay for a night or two, venture further inland and add few more places to your itinerary because Slovenia offers so much more than Lake Bled – you’ll find Vintgar Gorge, icy cold emerald rivers, cute towns and beautiful meadows.
Don’t rush from one place to the next just to check things off because at the end you’ll end up burnt out and need a holiday from the holiday.
#8. Watch a sunrise
There are many things worth getting up for at a crazy hour during your travels and capturing suns first rays touch mountain peaks that surround Lake Bled is undoubtedly one of them.
Lake Bled, paired with accompanying sounds of nature, can be a truly magical place to explore once the tourist crowds move away into another direction and leave more room to relax and breathe.
Going early to new places just to have them all by myself has become one of my guilty pleasures because, given the state of tourism these days, it’s a rare occurrence to find a quiet spot to reflect on a journey or take in the views. Lake Bled was no exception, by getting up at 4am just to see the sky starting to glow, I rewarded myself with an unforgettable experience to see the true character and charm of Lake Bled.
#9. Visit Bled Castle
Dating back to 1011 and overlooking the lake The medieval Lake Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia. By visiting the castle, you can take in the spectacular views over the lake, go wine tasting in cellars, tour the museum and have dinner in the Bled Castle Restaurant.
If you ever had a chance to visit at least one proper European castle than by exploring Bled Castle the lack of historical content won’t go unnoticed. The views of the lake and surrounding landscape are hard to bet, yet there isn’t much to see and do aside from purchasing some souvenirs and wine.
The walk up to the castle from the lake is very steep, and it can get very busy at certain times when tour buses arrive, but on a positive side, you’ll get to see one of the earliest printing presses.
The whole castle gets beautifully illuminated once it gets dark, which only adds more charm to the lake.
- Cost: Adults EUR 11, Children 14 and under Eur 5, Students EUR 5
How to get to the Lake Bled
Lake Bled is within easy reach from Bohinj, Tolmin, Italy and even Germany; I personally – after hours of careful planning – added more allure to my trip to Slovenia and arrived by train from Munich.
Majority of visitors choose to visit the lake, situated 45 kilometres from Ljubljana, as a day trip from the capital using different means of transport.
By bus / There are hourly departures for Lake Bled from Ljubljana and the bus station is located in front of the train station on Trg Osvobodilne. The return ticket for an adult cost EUR 12 and – depending on the time of the year and traffic – it takes up to 1h and 20 minutes to get there.
If you wish to book Ljubljana to Bled bus ticket, available only from a bus driver or ticket office in the bus station, then check the prices and timetable here.
- Important: Once on the bus, check your phone for navigation because bus drivers don’t speak much English and no one announces which stop is it. Bled Union is the first stop in Bled, and the next stop is the main bus station.
By train / Traveling from Ljubljana to Lake Bled by train is another option you can use. It takes up to 1h and 30 minutes to travel and expect to pay around EUR 7 for the ticket. There are two train stations near Bled: Jezero Bled train station and Lesce station, both of them a few kilometres away from the lake.
- Jezero Bled station is located within walking distance on the western side of the lake around 2.5 km away from Bled Castle. Check the timetable in advance as the trains aren’t as frequent.
- Lesce Station is located 4.5 km away from the lake, so you’ll need to find a taxi or a bus to get there.
Day tours / Lake Bled is Slovenia’s most visited tourist attraction and going with a guided tour and having everything planned out for you is a great way to relax, see the lake and meet other travellers too. There is a wealth of different tours to choose from with the prices starting from EUR 60. Often Lake Bled tours are combined with other noteworthy sights such as Postonjs Cave and Lake Bohinj.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to Lake Bled? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Lake Bled and have travel-related questions!