You’ve probably seen the popular pictures of Lake Bled, with its pretty island church and its stunning backdrop of mountains. The town is popular year-round for its photogenic qualities as well as the plethora of outdoors activities—including hiking, diving, skiing, horseback riding, and more—that visitors can take part in. Actually, I consider the whole area to be one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever visited, and it’s easy to get to, no matter where you’re coming from—especially since buses, flights, and other forms of transportation from various European cities are so affordable, regardless of what time of year you’re looking at!
Here are some of the incredible things that you can look forwards to doing on your trip:
# 1. Visit the church in the middle of the lake.
Of course, no trip to Bled would be complete without a trip out to the island in the middle of the lake. It’s been a popular pilgrimage site for centuries now, with the current church having been erected at the end of the 17th century. There are two different ways to get out to the church: either on the traditional pletna boats (gondola boats that can take about twenty passengers at a time) or on a private paddleboat. Personally, I preferred the latter, although if you’re not too sure what you’re doing, you may find that you spend a fair amount of time just going in circles—so make sure you pay for more time than you think you’ll need!
Once you reach the island, head into the church and check out the 15th-century frescoes in the old presbyterian. And don’t forget to ring the bell inside the church: doing so is said to bring you good luck!
# 2. Explore the medieval castle.
I’m a big fan of castles, and Bled’s castle is definitely interesting from a historical standpoint (it’s the oldest castle in Slovenia!). To be honest, I didn’t really know much about Slovenian history prior to my trip to the country, so it was great to read through the exhibits in the castle. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to explore pretty much every inch of the building. But the main reason to visit the castle is for the impressive views down over the lake and the nearby landscapes.
Another great place to get a view of the lake and surrounding scenery is from Mala Osojnica, one of the peaks in the southwestern area of the lake. It’s a bit of a hike uphill, so if you’re not in the best shape or have limited time, it might be better just to visit the castle. But either way, make sure to bring your camera—you’re definitely going to need it!
# 3. Get a birds-eye view of the scenery.
Bled Castle offers great views of the town and the lake, as do many of the hikes in the area, but by far the best way to view Bled is on an incredible hot air balloon ride up above it all. You’ll be treated to awe-inspiring views of the Julian Alps, Triglav National Park, and many other areas in the region. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a great view of the sunrise—there are some benefits to being up so early in the morning! Things can get busy during the summer, so it’s recommended that you make sure to plan ahead and book online prior to your trip.
# 4. Hike out through Vintgar Gorge.
It’s an easy walk through pretty farmland to get from Bled to Vintgar Gorge. Once you’re there, you’ll be amazed by the clear, turquoise waters of the river as well as the sheer-sided walls of the gorge. The hike isn’t too physically demanding, and trust me, even the trek back to Bled will have you oohing and aahing over the views. Be aware that the gorge is technically closed during the winter months—but honestly, you’ll find tourists and locals alike enjoying the area regardless of the month. Just be respectful of the area, watch your footing on the sometimes slippery paths, and take out anything that you carry in.
# 5. Eat a slice of the delectable cream cake.
Bled’s culinary speciality, Kremšnita, is definitely a winner in my books. Of course, I loved all that Slovenian cuisine had to offer, from Italianesque pasta dishes to heavy Eastern European stews. But the cream cake has a special place in my heart. It’s made of a couple thin layers of pastry filled with—you guessed it—two layers of whipped cream, one thicker than the other. The outside of the pastry is powdered with sugar, and the whole thing goes down well with rich, dark coffee. You can try the cake at a number of different places around the lake, and no one really seems to know for sure where the treat originated. But no matter where you try it, you’re sure not to be disappointed!
# 6. Get out into Triglav National Park.
If you haven’t already read my article on Europe’s best national parks, you should at least know that Triglav is definitely on that list! It’s Slovenia’s only national park, but what the country lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality—and Lake Bled sits right on the doorstep of the park. Admission is free, and there are a number of popular summertime activities in the park, including hiking, kayaking, and horseback riding. Probably the most popular place to hike in the park is Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak, but there’s something for everyone of every fitness level to enjoy in the high alpine meadows.
# 7. Stay on a working farm.
What better way to learn how the locals live than to live like the locals during your stay? Farm stays are a popular option in and around Bled, and they’ll give you the chance to help out with farm animals, cheese making, or other traditional activities—as well as making sure that you’re well-fed and comfortable for the duration of your stay. Bled can get a bit touristy, especially during the summer when travel to the lake reaches its peak, but a farm stay will allow you to get out and really get in touch with nature and local life.
Another great accommodation option is to stay at the campsite along the edge of the lake. There’s no better way to feel in-touch with the serene natural beauty of your surroundings than to rough it in a tent—plus, with Bled’s typical high prices (compared to elsewhere in Slovenia, at least), it’ll save you a bit of money to splash around on various activities!
# 8. Enjoy some phenomenal winter sports activities.
Visiting Bled during the winter time is a ton of fun. The lake doesn’t freeze over so you can still take boat rides out to the church, and the hiking is just as much fun—but in addition to the normal activities that you can take part in, there are also even more activities available in the area, such as alpine or nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and more. Unlike many other places in the Alps, you won’t find quite as many tourists here, which makes it the perfect place for a quiet, romantic retreat. Best of all: if you’re in Bled for New Year’s, you’ll be treated to a fantastic fireworks show right over the lake, which is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
# 9. Take a ride on the Bohinj Steam Railway.
As much as I loved hiking around Bled, one of my favorite ways to see the scenery was out the window of the Bohinj Railway. During your excursion, you’ll wind your way through the mountains and see all the best that the area has to offer. It has an old-timey feel to it, and it’s another thing (along with the paddleboats and cozy nights by the fire in the winter) that I would rank amongst the most romantic things that you can do in and around Bled. I’d definitely add it to your list, especially if you have an afternoon to kill.
# 10. Check out the subterranean Postojna Caves.
These karst caves are located not far from Bled, and even if you don’t know much about caves, you’re sure to be fascinated by the stalactites and stalagmites that you’ll find sprouting from seemingly every surface in the caves. They make for a great day trip—and you also won’t want to miss Predjama Castle, which is located about five miles away from the caves. This Renaissance castle, which is built right into the cliffs, could be the setting of any fantasy novel. Although I love the views from Bled Castle, Predjama definitely wins for the best castle in the region!
Bled is becoming increasingly popular with tourists, and with good reason! The surrounding area is beautiful, the people are friendly, the food is delicious, and really, there’s nothing not to love there! Have you ever visited Bled? Tell us your stories below!