I was immediately taken with Slovenia’s natural beauty. While it’s increasingly hitting travelers’ radars, it’s still a place that feels largely undiscovered, and for outdoor lovers I really think it’s one of Europe’s hidden gems. The scenery is straight out of a postcard, with vibrant green landscape that gives way to the snow-capped alps. Driving is a breeze – and highly recommended so you can enjoy exploring at leisure – and takes you through some of the most charming and picturesque stretches of countryside. Plus, unlike its neighbors, Austria and Switzerland, who have earned a rep for being spendy locales, Slovenia is a value (think world-class meals at top-rated restaurants plus wine for €75 for two people). We allotted four nights and five days to Slovenia, to allow ourselves enough time in each locale to delve in just a bit. We spent two days exploring the capital city including a food tour through Ljubljana, plus visited the medieval town of Škofja Loka and the Postojna Caves. I’ve seen many itineraries that include Bled as a day trip from Ljubljana, but I don’t feel that does Lake Bled justice. It’s a stunning lake with a level of serenity that’s palpable, and a day trip – while easily doable – doesn’t allow you time to soak it in. For those looking at how to fill up a couple of days in the area, here are 5 things to do at Lake Bled for your upcoming visit:
Take a Pletna to Bled Island
1Bled Island is an image straight out of a fairytale, with a picture-perfect church built on this tiny little drop in the lake. A visit to Bled Island is practically mandatory when you’re visiting the lake, and you’ll have the choice of hopping aboard a pletna for a shared boat ride out to the island or renting a row-boat to create your own adventure. When you make it to the island, scale the stairs up to the church where you can ring the bell and send your wishes to the heavens.
Read about our visit to Lake Bled + Bled Island.
Order a Famous Bled Cream Cake
2We had a run in with a regional pastry nearly every leg of our trip: there was the Sacher Torte in Vienna, nockerl in Salzburg and potica in Ljulbjana, amongst others, but the Bled Cream Cake takes the cake – literally – for best local dessert. Vanilla cream plus whipped cream are sandwiched between two flaky sheets of dough and served up with a dusting of powdered sugar, and the cake is a veritable symbol of Bled. Hotel Park crafted the original, and you can still order one there with a gorgeous view over the lake. If you’re anything like us, my guess is you’ll want more than one (no shame in that). Head to Vila Bled, now a luxury hotel and once Tito’s summer home, where you can score a Bled Cream Cake with a stunning view over Bled Island.
Splurge on a Spa Service
3Despite our rabid research leading up to this trip, I somehow missed the part about Bled being a mecca for spa lovers (I mean, how could I possibly miss that?). Bled had been a place for wellness historically but the idea of Bled as a destination for mineral springs, natural healing, nutrition, etc. really emerged in the 1800s through the work of a Swiss naturalist who pushed the idea of hydrotherapy in the region. Now Bled’s major hotels boast a range of spa services – affordable by most Western standards – that draw people in. Spas offer up a range of services, but for those just wanted an hour or two of pampering, a massage fits the bill. My 80-minute massage at a luxury resort was around €60.
Visit Vintgar Gorge
4Easily accessible by car, Vintgar Gorge sits just on the periphery of Lake Bled. For those wanting to explore beyond the lake, head to the gorge for a walk along the scenic footpaths and bridges that line the terrain. You’ll walk along a river which gives way to a couple of waterfalls, one small and one slightly larger which marks your end point. The walk is simple – no elevation change and not many steps, if any – and takes about 30 to 45 minutes each way depending on quickly you’re moving. While there were other tourists there, there were plenty of moments that it was just us amidst the scenery. Entry costs just a couple of euros, and you can purchase water and snacks at the start or end point of the journey.
Trek up to Bled Castle
5Last but certainly not least, make your way to Bled Castle. The castle is perched on a hilltop and while we did see some bus tours who rolled right near the entrance to the castle, we opted to climb the stairs from the lakeside that deliver you to the castle entrance. To get to the top on foot requires scaling hundreds of steps (about 10 – 15 minutes of solid stair climbing) before your arrive at the castle’s base. Entry is €8 per person, and if the weather works in your favor you’ll have a lovely panorama of the lake below. I found Bled Castle, which dates back to 1011, to be much prettier than Ljubljana Castle, which was reconstructed fairly recently (1900s). The site is relatively compact, with a couple of courtyards, a chapel, a museum, and a restaurant on site. Allow yourself 1 – 2 hours to explore the site and take in the views from above.
Have you been to Bled? What would you add to this list?