WOW! Lake Bled in Slovenia is one of the prettiest places I’ve been to.
Take the train from the charming capital Ljubljana, stay in Tito’s summer residence, eat rich Bled cream cake, sail out to the picturesque island, catch a glimpse of the Slovenian Alps through the clouds and just try not to take too many picture. As written by the Slovenian national poet:
Slovenia is a really nice country. People are friendly, the food is delicious and it’s green. More than half of the country is forest. Slovenia is also the place for mountains, turquoise waters and relaxed atmosphere. Besides all this, Green Destinations international organisation declared Slovenia the first green country in the world.
And Slovenia’s top sight is Lake Bled. I’ll guide you to what to see, do and where to stay in this turquoise gem.
So did I feel like I was in paradise? You’ll find out.
HOW TO RELAX CHILL BY LAKE BLED
Lake Bled is picture perfect and postcard ready. This beautiful scenery looks like a postcard. And you will be taking a lot of pictures.
The city itself is quite small, but you don’t come here for bustling nightlife. It’s all about the lake. 4.000 years old and made by glacier water from the Julian Alps towering in the background. The stunning area has been a tourist hot spot since 1885. Especially for the elite (obviously you and me…)
I visited in the beginning of June. I hear from other visitors arriving in July, that it’s best to avoid the school breaks. June was supposed to be perfect. Alas, we had both heatwave and cold stormy weather. You never know these days.
WHAT TO DO AT LAKE BLED
I was here to relax and just looking for the perfect place to calm down in a busy year. Hence, I didn’t try all the activities offered. We also had really bad weather on the 2. day, so that narrowed down the possibilities.
Walk the lake
This is obviously the main thing to do here at Bled. The entire tour around the lake is easily walked and only 6 km. Don’t expect to be the only one. But all the other tourists – we met anyway – were casual outdoor types (and not a frantic city slicker like me) creating a chill atmosphere.
Along the way, you’ll find several spots from where you can jump into the lake – if the weather is with you. The water temperature in the thermal lake can reach 26 degrees, and Bled has the longest swimming season of any Alpine resort. It was perfect cool, but not cold, when we jumped in. Apparently, the water is curating and with a incredible turquoise colour, no excuse to not bring your swimsuit in your backpack.
The most child friendly place is near the camping site. There’s also a pretty good ice cream truck at the beach. I got one with Russian(!) blueberries.
At the opposite end of the town are the training lanes for Olympic rowers. At the time of our visit, there was a regatta.
Along the lake, we saw numerous guys fishing. Young and old. Even when the weather turned to somewhat stormy, they just covered themselves in a tent. That’s dedication.
Also at the opposite end of the town is the only decent restaurant we could find. Sova might not look like much, but it has Czech grilled meat and vegetables, local wines, delicious desserts and the service was great. Sure, only tourists, but Lake Bled is probably the most visited place in Slovenia.
The primary sight near the lake is the castle.
High up on a cliff lies the castle of Bled. Actually 604 m. On the way up to the castle, you get the best view of the lake.
Bled castle is one of the oldest in the country – from 1011! The ruin has been renovated. The old Gothic chapel for instance was re-made 500 years after an earthquake only to be destroyed by a new earthquake.
The castle was also ransacked during WWII, the castle isn’t that authentic, but still more interesting than the one in the capital Ljubljana. The oldest music instrument in the world (!) can be seen in the National Museum in the capital, but was found here.
The castle has a small café (with Bled Cake of course) and a magnificent view.
Everyone goes sailing. Despite our hotel gave us a free boat ride, we didn’t get the opportunity. Not because I get seasick (which is my usual reason for not going sailing), but the weather was too stormy and rainy on the 2. day.
Hire your own rowing boat or join one of the many colourful wooden boats and go out to the iconic island with the old church: Church of the Holy Mother of God. Every picture you see of Lake Bled (including many of mine) includes the tiny island in the middle of the lake. The church has a famous wishing bell from 1543.
More activities at Lake Bled
If you have more time and already feeling too chilled, you can also climb the hill for Ojstrica Viewing Point, which allegedly is perfect for sunrise pictures. If you have kids, there’s a lake bath for 9 euro per day.
Triglav National Park
If you have more time you can drive or join a trip to Triglavski Narodni Park. Triglav is the country’s highest mountain and the symbol of Slovenia. This is the only one of its kind in Slovenia. Here you find a 500 year old church, but most come for the 13 meter high waterfall.
The 1,6 km hike through the Vintgar Gorge takes 1 hour. People have been visiting and walking this path since 1893.
WHERE TO STAY AT LAKE BLED
The main city is Bled is where the bus will take you. But don’t stay here: It’s boring! If you want some peace and quiet, you should stay somewhere down the lake.
There are a few beautiful lakeside cottages or villas for rent. Like this one: Villa Zlatorog. Often used for weddings.
But as a cultural traveller, I seek out historical places to stay. And luckily, a special place was within our budget: the summer house of Tito – the former president of Yugoslavia. Well, one of his summer houses. It’s now a luxury hotel named Vila Bled.
Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and the communist leaders of the USSR all came here to enjoy some of Tit’s lavish lifestyle. And the list goes on: from Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, King Hussein of Jordan, Indian Prime Minister Nehru, Egyptian President Nasser, Emperor Akihito of Japan to President of North Korea Kim Il Sung. As a hotel, it’s guests include Prince Charles, Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Spanish King Juan Carlos, Paul McCartney and William Hurt. And of course now The Travelling Dane.
The decor is unmistakably 50’s, communist and opulent at the same time. It even had a zoo once. Weird, but fun as frozen in time. Like the mural depicting ‘’the glorious victories in World War II and years under Tito”… The man in the mural turned away from us is apparently Tito himself.
With it’s own private lake swimming platform with sunbeds, towels, cold drinks and a life guard and free rowing boats, this place is just right for relaxing. Unfortunately, we had horrible weather our second day (even though it was June), so we never got out in a boat. And the famous tea house Belvedere was closed.The hotel has a spa, but it was not something to write home about.
But the view from our room definitely was! OMG!
The mansion was built by Slovene architect Jože Plečnik in 1947 at the same site of an earlier mansion made used by royals and nobilities. Plecnik is also behind most of the landmarks in Ljubljana – including the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
So was it a trip of pure relaxing and tranquillity? In summary: No!
2 nights is already making it a bit tight in order to wind down, but with the bad weather, it was confining us to a (not that fantastic) hotel, when you just want to swim in the lake or row a boat.
Was it Lake Bled’s fault? No!
HOW TO GET TO LAKE BLED
No doubt many arrive by car. There was a long line into the small city of Bled, when we arrived. We took the train.
We got on the train at the capital Ljubljana. The train takes 1 hour and
costs 5,10 euro. The trains are new and great, but they stop frequently.
The view is not as pretty as the train trip from Zagreb in Croatia to
Slovenia’s Ljubljana, but still nice. Get off at Lesce Bled and take the bus (1,3 euro) for 10 mins to the small city Bled. From here you can walk.
If you like beautiful nature, I recommend the Nurata Mountains in Uzbekistan. If the Balkans is just up your alley, head for the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.
Do you have a tip on another pretty lake?