The Seven Best Things to do in Lake Bled
Surrounded by the better known Alpine destinations of Italy and Austria, Lake Bled in Slovenia can easily be overlooked. However it has much to offer by way of spectacular scenery, clear blue/green water in its lakes and rivers and a range of outdoor pursuits on offer. It includes physical features like The Julian Alps, lakes, gorges, waterfalls, wooded mountains, small mountain villages, castles and a vibrant capital city in Ljubljana.
We chose to stay at the Astoria, a 3 Star hotel, which I feel deserved more. A short walk to the lake, with a modern design, it had its own spa and offered a range of beauty treatments and well cooked food with a local slant.
Although touristy at times, Bled served as a good base for exploring the area. Just a thirty-five minute easy drive from the airport, Bled would also make a good long weekend destination from England, with flights from Stansted Airport taking under two hours. A car is certainly convenient, but I understand public transport is also good from Bled. There is a Bus Station just opposite the hotel where organised tours and public transport begin.
What to do
1. Walk around the Lake
When I first saw the lake I was overwhelmed by the blue/green colour of the water, surrounded on one side by the snow capped Julian Alps and wooded hills on the other. In the middle is an idyllic small island with a typical Slovenian style church. Walking around the edge takes in all these views and should take about an hour without stopping. However with numerous bars, restaurants, benches and the centre of Bled itself, it will probably take longer. It is perfect to rest in the shade with a cool beer or glass of wine and enjoy a generous lunch, whilst also enjoying the views.
2. Visit the Island
A visit to the island in the middle of Lake Bled is a must. Either take a motorised boat, row yourself over, or as we did take the traditional canopied Pletna and sit back and enjoy the views. It is best to go early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the rush, as the little island can get busy. On arrival there are ninety nine steps to take you to the top where you can enjoy an ice-cream or cold drink or go inside the church. Don’t forget your camera to capture all the views .
3. Go to Bled Castle and Eat Bled Castle
The castle is another point of interest around the lake itself. Good paths take you from the lake to the Castle or you can drive. The walk is worth it as the views here are the best in the area of the whole lake and island. After taking your photos and looking round the museum and Bee House honey shop (where you can sample many locally made honeys), I would recommend having refreshments in the Castle Coffee House. It offers the best views in a more peaceful setting. We tried the local speciality of Bled’s signature cream cake whilst there and it was as good as it looked. Then the walk back down soon burns off many of the calories eaten.
4. Visit Lake Bohinj, Savica Waterfall and Vintgar Gorge.
With Lake Bled popular with day trippers (a lot of Japanese and Chinese visitors especially), it is good to also visit Lake Bohinj (about a half hour drive away), which is totally unspoilt and peaceful. It is more a centre for outdoor pursuits like walking, camping and canoeing. If this is what you enjoy I would thoroughly recommend staying here, with campsites on hand.
Whilst in the area, it is also worth visiting the Savica waterfall at the western end of the lake – follow the path uphill from the car park along a well maintained path. I appreciate it might not be the Niagara Falls, but spectacular in its own way. A well deserved rest on your return can be made at the small cafe in the car park. The menu is mainly limited to locally caught fish, but we chose the enormous Apple Strudel, one portion of which was big enough for two people to share. If staying in Bled, a visit to Vintgar Gorge is a must. We found the main part of the path was closed for essential maintenance work. We were however able to walk partway to the footbridge to see the rapids, before returning to take a higher route along the valley through the woodlands. This was a most pleasant walk passing through a farming community to a mini waterfall. It is possible to walk back to Bled from here but we returned to our car at the bottom.
5. Visit Ljubljana
Ljubljana is also well worth a visit, being about thirty-five minutes drive from Bled (we used the Park and Ride), with hourly buses from Bled also running. The City is centred around the river with the Old and New Towns either side.The riverside hosts many places to eat and a popular destination with locals and tourists alike. One of the key features of the City is its bridges, in particular the Dragon Bridge. The Dragon according to legend once ruled over the Ljubljanan Marshes.Another bridge of interest is the Triple Bridge, where two pedestrian bridges were added either side of the original one, when traffic became busy. The City also has its own version of the Parisian Bridge , where lovers can attach their padlock.
The Old Town has a Castle reached by walking or on a Funicular railway), a lively outdoor market, a Cathedral and narrow cobbled streets. It reminded me of parts of Italy, but showed signs of its Austrian links too.The New Town has many pretty Art Nouveau buildings and colourful facades. We visited The National Gallery which is an elegant building with a modern extension for new exhibitions, a shop and cafe. It contains art work from religious to Impressionist work from local Slovenian artists. Although not as well known as their French counterparts, it is interesting to see their influence on the area.
Nestled alongside the Sora river, Skofka Loka’s network of little streets, will soon entice you with it’s charm. Once a Medieval trade and Craft Centre it has now been rebuilt in Baroque style following an earthquake. The market place is a good spot to rest and have a drink or lunch as you overlook St James Church.The Town also boasts a Castle which you can walk up to. We visited the town on our last day, on the way to the airport, which is only a twenty minute drive away. Other options whilst in the area might be to go Kranjska Gora, a popular skiing destination in Winter, with hiking on offer in Summer. The Soca Valley which offers adrenaline- filled sports like kayaking and rafting is also a good choice. There are organised tours available for here and other areas. Sadly because of the forecast we didn’t visit this area, but look forward to going some time in the future. With regards the weather, if its favourable weather you’re seeking, you won’t be disappointed. Despite the forecast showing rain for the whole week before we left, we saw very little, usually overnight. Temperatures were higher than in the U.K. as it is quite southerly, on the same latitude as Provence which we visited at the same time last year.
7. Food Visiting any new area also involves sampling its local food. I have mentioned several ‘food stops’ already, but I was pleasantly surprised by the food on offer. It was always cooked to order, with good portions. Sharing puddings seems to be common there, probably due to their size . Menus generally featured fresh fish and roast potatoes Slovenian style, but because of its position was influenced by Italian and Austrian cooking too. There are many places to eat in Bled, but we favoured the Ostarija Peglez’n which seemed popular every night, I guess because of its varied, well cooked but reasonably priced menu. You can eat outdoors or in depending on the weather. I hope this has been useful and that one day you try out some of my ideas when you visit yourself.
Here are some photos related to the top seven things to do in Lake Bled above