Lake Bled is the perfect place to spend a cozy weekend!
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Nestled in the mountains of Slovenia is a tiny town, Bled. Lake Bled is one of those spots that you’ve probably seen photos of on Pinterest or on someone’s TV screensaver. The iconic shot is of the tiny island on a lake surrounded by mountains – gorgeous.
If you find yourself nearby, it’s a great little mountain getaway! I think it hits the sweet spot for a relaxing weekend away: there’s enough to do to enjoy a few activities, but not enough that you feel like you need to go-go-go. Perfect for holing up for a few days to escape from the real world.
The number one thing you should do is go visit Bled Island, that tiny island that’s captured so many photographers of stock footage. There are a few ways to get there, but two I’ll recommend. If you’re feeling ambitious, rent a rowboat yourself for a visit on your own timetable. There are various points you can leave from, some closer than others to the actual island, so make sure you know what you’re committing to before you leave. But the good news is that you need no navigational skills – the island is in sight from the entire shoreline.
The other option, which we chose, was to jump on one of the group rowboats. For 15€ each, you can take a round trip visit to the island with about an hour to explore in between. You really don’t need more than that, so it’s great if you didn’t want to get in an arm workout on the way. The rowers are pretty impressive with their constant speed and standing up style of rowing. The journey takes about 15 minutes, and you get some great views of the island and the castle on the northeast side of the lake.
Once on the island, head straight up to check out the buildings first. The number of people on the island varies drastically, so I like to do the things that might involve lines or indoors before wandering around soaking in the views. If you made it this far, it’s worth paying the 6€ to see the inside of the chapel and bell tower.
The chapel is beautiful and small, striking a perfect balance of simple white walls on the outside and an ornate gold altarpiece in front. They also allow you to pull the church bell’s chord, calling it a wishing bell. It looks a bit out of place; no more than a large rope hanging near the front of the chapel. But pull it three times for your wish to come true!
You can also climb the bell tower next door. It has a surprising amount of information available on the technology, both historic and current, involved in keeping up the bell tower and how it works. The view from the top isn’t bad either.
It’s a gorgeous little island, perfect for a bit of wandering. I highly recommend going in the fall because you get all the gorgeous leaves changing as the backdrop for exploring, and even on a gray day felt like we were transported back in time somehow.
The other big tourism draw in Bled is the castle. It sits high above the city, still standing guard after all these years. You can either drive up or walk, and my friends gave me a hard time for underestimating the number of steps it took to get up to the top. The walk is only 15 minutes from the waterfront, but it’s fairly steep, so whatever you prefer.
Honest opinion? This one didn’t blow me away. Especially after some of the other castles we’ve seen recently, Bled Castle seemed a bit shabby on the inside, with creepy mannequins displaying period costumes and duct tape-covered artifacts on display. I did learn a lot about the history of the town – how long humans have lived in this area, how the lake formed, how spa tourism popularized the area in the 1900’s – and several fun tidbits – the inventor of the lithograph is from here. The print shop (a separate bit of the castle, but inside the walls) was very cool, and the guy was happy to answer all my questions about the process and do a demonstration right then. But the entry fee seemed high for the limited offerings inside.
All in all: I don’t know if it’s worth the cost. I always want to be 100% honest with y’all about what is and isn’t worth seeing. If you love local history and amazing views, definitely take a chance here. If you want a castle that, well, feels like a castle in all its opulence, maybe skip it. Up to you.
If you do decide to enter, don’t miss the incredible views from the top of the castle wall of the lake below! Definitely a highlight of the cost of entry.
Hiking Around Lake Bled
Lake Bled has some great hiking options! There are several hikes taking you up the mountains on the west side that take you up to vistas, perfect for photos of the Lake.
One of the best ones is to head up the Mala Osojnica. It’s short, only 15-30 minutes depending on how you handle stairs. Best of all, it’s easy to find the trailhead on Google maps. Make sure you wear good shoes, though, it’s pretty steep! There are longer trails too, perfect for spending an afternoon exploring.
Restaurants in Lake Bled
Full disclosure: I don’t have a ton of food recommendations. We were there on a holiday, so many shops and restaurants were closed.
We did try Park Cafe, likely the most well-known of restaurants in Bled for claiming the creation of cream cake, the local specialty. We tried it and loved it! It tasted a bit like a custard pie, but with a more fluffy texture in the “custard” and a flaky top crust. We had a tasty if overpriced lunch there. I’d say it’s not a bad choice, but I suspect you can do better.
Two places were recommended to me that I want to try next time. Hitri Krunhek is supposed to have excellent pastries and pizza for a quick and cheap breakfast or lunch, and Gostilna Union came highly recommended for a local Slovenian meal.
Lake Bled is a gorgeous spot for a weekend away!
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