The most popular image from Slovenia has to be that of the stunning Alpine lake with a small island with a church on top in the middle. That’s Lake Bled, one of the best places one can visit in Slovenia and even the Balkan countries. Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, the crystal-clear waters of the lake attract people year-round. But this is not all, the region is also fabulous and there are a lot of things one can do, on the water or not.
About Lake Bled, Slovenia
Located less than 1 hour north of Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, Lake Bled is a place that should not miss from any itinerary around the beautiful country. The two main touristic attractions of the lake are a castle perched high on a hill and a pretty tiny island with a church in the middle of it. Visitors can also try water activities, several hiking trails and indulge in Bled cream cake, the local sweet treat.
The town of Bled, situated on the eastern shore, has less than 10000 residents. However, you won’t have any difficulty in finding hotels and restaurants in the town or more peaceful places around the lake:
- Budget accommodation option: Hostel Bled Paradise
- Medium-budget apartment: Apartments Lana
- Medium-budget hotel: Hotel Park – probably the most popular accommodation in Bled
- On the expensive side: Vila Bled – one of Tito’s former residences with fairy-tale views of the lake and its island
- Luxury hotel: Adora Luxury Hotel
How to get to Lake Bled?
Lake Bled is a very popular day trip from Ljubljana. If you have time, I’d advise against it. You should stay 2-3 days at the lake to experience most of the things it offers, be able to enjoy them and relax. However, if you have very limited stay in Slovenia, a day trip is better than nothing and Lake Bled is definitely worth the effort. But expect a long and busy day ahead.
Lake Bled is just 55km away from Ljubljana. If you have a rental car, you can just drive there and back yourself. If not, it is possible to get to Lake Bled by public transport. Bus is a much better idea than train, as there is no direct one and the train station is far from the town. You can check the connections here.
Or, to make things easy, you can join a guided tour, which I recommend in case of a day trip. With an organized tour, you get to see more and enjoy your trip to Lake Bled to the fullest. Here are some of the highly-rated tours from Ljubljana to Lake Bled:
- Lakes Bled & Bohinj and Vintgar Gorge Small-Group Day Trip from Ljubljana
The Best 10 Things to do at Lake Bled, Slovenia
Here’s a list of the best things to do at lake Bled to make it easier for you to plan your trip.
1. Walk or Cycle Around Lake Bled
Lake Bled is surrounded by a paved road around 6 km long. So it is pretty easy to take a walk or rent a bicycle and pedal around it. The path is mostly flat. All the way takes around 1.5-2 hours on foot, including lots of breaks for photos.
We walked and regretted afterwards that we didn’t know one could also cycle around it as the day included more than 30km walking at the end. Now you know and can plan accordingly. The most amazing views were from the south and western sides of the lake, in our opinion.
If you circle the lake, you’ll be able to see the castle and the small island from different angles. In summer, you can also stop for a quick swimming session along the way. There are also a couple of spots to grab a coffee or a cocktail.
2. Board on a traditional pletna or row a boat to the Bled island
The island in the middle of the lake is probably the main attraction of Lake Bled. It is topped by a small Baroque church built in the 17th century. However, legends say that in this very place once stood an ancient temple dedicated to the Slavic goddess Živa.
In order to get to the island, you’ll have to cross the mass of water that surrounds it. For this, you can either hop on one of the traditional pletna boats and relax or rent a boat and row. Pletnas, similar to gondolas, date back to the end of the 16th century and can fit up to 15-20 people. Regular rides take you to the island and back and allow you around 30 minutes to explore. The price is €15 per person.
The price for a rental boat usually starts at €15/hour. If there are more of you and you’re on a budget, it might be a good option. But keep in mind that it might take longer than one hour to get to the island and back. Make yourself a favor, if you choose this option, and rent the boat from the western side of the lake, as it’s closer to the island.
If you’re not a big rowing fan, just hop on a pletna, sit back and enjoy. No motorboats are allowed on the lake.
3. Ring the wishing bell
Once you get on the only island of Slovenia, you’ll have to climb 99 stairs to get to the church. The entrance fee to the Church of Assumption is €6. According to legends, if you ring the bells in the middle of the church, your biggest wish will be fulfilled. This is why most tourists head to the island. So you’ll hear a lot of bells from the direction of the island all around the lake.
The legend says that once upon a time robbers entered Lake Bled castle and killed the man that lived there. His widow cast a bell in her husband’s memory and wanted to take it to the island. But a storm came, the boat and bell sunk. In her grief, the widow entered a nunnery in Rome. Upon her death, the Pope sent a new bell to the church in her honor. This the the one you can ring and the Lady of the Lake will grant any wish in your heart.
One can also climb up the bell tower for a totally different perspective over Bled Lake. But make sure you get to the pletna on time, as the rower will not wait in case you’re late.
Fun fact: men that get married here have to carry their future wife all the 99 stairs.
4. Visit Bled Castle
The other most popular attraction on Lake Bled is the castle built high on a rocky hill. This is the oldest castle in Slovenia, dating back to the 11th century, and probably also the most impressive one. Tourists can visit the castle, take a look around the museum, the chapel, go wine tasting, dine at the restaurant and enjoy the amazing views over the lake from the terrace.
In Ljubljana you can enter the castle and tour it for free, if you don’t want to see the exhibitions and climb the tower. In Bled, this is not possible. If you want to enter the courtyard, you’ll have to pay €13. Before climbing for 20 minutes to get there, decide if it fits your budget or not, as we’ve seen several people go back once at the door at the castle.
In our opinion, it was worth it. In Ljubljana we felt like the price was mostly for the tower, as the exhibitions were not that interesting. But not here. We loved Bled Castle entirely.
Get updated hours and pricing on the official website.
5. Get on/in the waters of Lake Bled
Did you know that you can go scuba diving in the Bled Lake? If you want to see unique species of fish and water plants, this is one of the most interesting things one can do at Lake Bled.
If diving is not your thing, there are several designated swimming spots around the lake. One can take advantage of them in summer, when the weather is perfect for a refreshing dip, with a bit of luck.
Another thing one can do to get closer to the water, but not too close, is rent a stand up paddle board or kayak. This is best done on the western shore, where the water is calmer and the views are great.
6. Explore Bled’s Town Center
Bled is a cute small town on the eastern shore of Lake Bled. In the center you’ll find pretty cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. The little town hall park and the lake promenade are also nice to explore.
READ ALSO: TOP 15 THINGS TO DO IN BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA
7. Try the famous Bled cream cake
If you rowed to the island and back, you deserve this more than anybody else. A double one for you! If not, you should still try the local dessert. It is made out of a crispy butter dough crust and a huge layer of vanilla cream, whipped cream and icing sugar on top. You won’t have any trouble finding it as all the cafés and restaurants around Lake Bled serve it. Find one with a lovely view and try the yummy cream cake.
Tip: If you don’t like vanilla cream, you’ll find a version with chocolate and fruits at Hotel Park.
8. Have a picnic with the stunning view of Bled Lake
One of the best things one can do at Lake Bled is find a spot with a nice view and have a picnic. This time, I’d recommend you look for one on the eastern shore at sunset. Pack a bottle of wine and some snacks, a blanket and go enjoy the panoramic views! Some playful ducks might also glide around.
9. Hike to Mala Osojnica viewpoint
We didn’t get to do it this time, as we decided to hike to Vintgar Gorge instead, but we promise to do it next time we get there. You actually can choose between three viewpoints, Ojstrica, Mala Osojnica and Velika Osojnica, but the most popular one is the second one. Mala Osojnica is marked even in Google Maps. The start is labelled Mala Osojnica Trailhead. I’ve read that the round trip takes around one hour and is a bit strenuous, involving wooden steps, some chains and a metal staircase. So, it might not be for everyone.
Whichever you choose, make sure to relax once you get up and enjoy the gorgeous scenery of the serene lake. If you’re too tired for any of them, don’t worry, Bled Castle also offers some splendid views.
10. Take a ride on the toboggan at Straza Bled
During summer one can go for a ride on the toboggan track on the shore of the lake. This is fun not only for children, but also for adults still kids at heart. A chair lift will get you up the hill and you’ll slide down on the toboggan with the view of Bled Lake in front of you. In winter, there’s a ski slope in the same area.
BONUS: Other attractions and things to do near Bled Lake
1. Vintgar Gorge: one of the most beautiful places in Slovenia
Crossing Vintgar Gorge is a must while you’re at Lake Bled. It’s located a 10 minutes drive or one hour by foot from the lake, but the effort is more than worth it. In summer, there’s also a local bus connecting Bled with Vintgar Gorge.
The 1.6 km long trail on a wooden boardwalk along the Radovna River is indeed spectacular. This is an almost flat walk and a fun activity for everybody. Vintgar Gorge is one of the most beautiful hikes we’ve ever done, right next to Paiva Walkways in Portugal.
The entrance ticket costs €10 per person and there’s a limited number of people allowed in the gorge each hour. If you want to make sure you’ll get in, you’d better buy tickets in advance online. In October, we could get them from the small wooden ticket booth at the entrance, but there were still some people around. At the same time, it’s not open all the time. I suppose we were lucky.
At the end of the path, there’s a small rest area with souvenirs, coffee and potica, the national dessert. You can also use the bathroom or walk for 5 more minutes to the pretty Sum Waterfall.
It’s important to know that the trail doesn’t end at the same place where it starts. You can either take a cab to the parking lot or hike back to the start of the trail or to Bled, as we did.
If you want to make it a little more adventurous, you can also do it on a 4-hour self-guided e-Bike tour.
2. Go to Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj is located just 26km away from Lake Bled in Slovenia, but the landscape and atmosphere couldn’t be more different. It is the largest glacial lake in Slovenia. The mountains are rolling right around the crystal-clear waters. From Ukanc, on the shore of Bohinj Lake, one can take the cable car to Mount Vogel, for more scenic views. You can also check out Savica Waterfall, but keep in mind that you’ll have to climb 500 stone stairs to it and pay a €3 entrance fee.
There are frequent buses connecting the two lakes, so it’s pretty easy to visit this amazing lake.
3. Rafting on Soca River
Another popular activity to do around Lake Bled is rafting on the Soca River. If you like adventure, the 13 km long route with waves and thrills is for you. There are easy rides, for the entire family, and more difficult ones. For some of them you don’t need any rafting experience. Trained guides will accompany you and equipment is provided. Reserve your rafting spot here.
4. Canyoning in Bled
A canyoning tour is another challenge one can try around Lake Bled. Accompanied by a guide, you can climb rocks and jump in small waterfalls and rapids. Even if it sounds a little dangerous, I’ve read good reviews and it seems pretty safe. Wetsuits, helmets and zip lines are provided.
5. Ziplining Tour
If you don’t like being too close to water, but still would love some adrenaline, this is an activity for you. Close to Lake Bled in Slovenia there’s a succession of five different zip lines which combined reach a 2.4 km length. Sounds good? A minivan will drive you from the down of Bled to the valley.
Lake Bled is one of the most scenic spots one can visit in Slovenia and the Balkans. If you fancy to see the fairytale church on the lake, don’t miss the chance, as it will for sure meet your expectations. It is indeed amazing. And there are a lot of things to do around Lake Bled and in the area. If you have more time, you can even get to Postojna cave and Predjama Castle and make your Slovenia trip one that you’ll never forget.
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