Slovenia’s slow reopening continues along with its vaccination program and those of its neighbours. At present (6 May) outdoor drinking and dining is possible, along with indoors under certain conditions, as set by set by the National Institute of Public Health. Hotels, hostels and B&Bs are also open, albeit currently limited to offering 30 rooms, and visits to galleries, museums, and so on can be made. Moreover, with the EU making plans to enable international tourism, there’s every expectation that the country will have a relatively busy summer season, as people take advantage of their new freedoms to do things they once took for granted.
Of course, when it comes to Slovenian tourism one site stands out above all in the promotional literature – Lake Bled, its island and castle, which reopened for business a few weeks ago – along with the views that surround it.
It’s this backdrop that helped Royal Bled win the honour of being added to the World of Leading Golf’s list of “Best and Most Beautiful” courses in 2018, based on the high quality of service, excellent golf courses – both 18- and 9-hole – and the fact that golfers rated it as well worth revisiting.
In February 2020, just before the world shut down, Royal Bled gained further renown when it joined golfscape’s top 100 courses in the world. The oldest and largest course in Slovenia came in at #86, just after The Blue Monster at Trump National Doral Miami, USA, and before Golf de Spérone, France. Unsurprisingly, it was again the beauty of the area that caught the imagination of the authors, with the report noting “the course is flanked by towering mountains and the impressive valleys of the Alps. With excellently manicured grounds, many hail it as one of the most beautiful courses in all of Europe.”
But can you enjoy Royal Bled today, with the epidemic still not over? The simple answer yes, Royal Bled’s golf courses and restaurant are open for business, as is the luxury accommodation that’s available in the King’s House – originally built for King Alexander I of Yugoslavia – and the Lake House, with special “Play & Stay” packages available to ensure comfort, convenience and full golfing pleasure (details here)
Golfers who plan on staying elsewhere can book a tee time online for the 18-hole championship King’s Course (€155), or the 9-hole Lake’s Course (€55), and clubs, trolleys and carts can be rented. Note that the handicap requirements to play on the King’s Course are 29.0 for men and 36.0 for women, with an HCP certificate needed to prove this. There’s also a dress code for both club and restaurant, with details here.
The tournament season at the club begins in June, with the Royal Bled International Pro Am running from the 10th to 13th, open to a maximum of 22 teams of four players including one professional, with more details here. July then sees the 47th Golden Lion Trophy on the 17th, while the 28th to 31st is the 48th Golf Week, sponsored by Tesla, Castrol, Optisis and SK Golf, all played with those beautiful views.
In short, if you’ve spent the last year trapped at home and dreaming of wide open spaces, great natural beauty, and a good walk enhanced with a game, then now’s the time to visit the Royal Bled website and plan your trip to one of the best golf courses in Slovenia.
Golf Resort Royal Bled, Vrba 37a, 4248 Lesce, Slovenia
At last count there were 14 golf clubs in Slovenia, offering both 9- and 18-hole courses. Lean more about them here.
Is there a more iconic or famous view of Slovenia than that of Bled Lake and its island? It seems unlikely, which is why it’s a definite step in the right direction and a sign of better days to come that yesterday, Saturday, 24 April 2021, saw the reopening of the island to visitors, along with the resumption of services from the unique pletna boats to take them there in style.
More broadly, cafés, bars and restaurants all over Slovenia are now free to serve customers in their outside areas, although limited to between 7am and 7pm, and thus other arrangements are needed if you wish to enjoy the sunset with a drink or something to eat.
In the three regions currently at the yellow level of restrictions, namely Obalno-Kraška (aka the coast), Goriška and Pomurje, customers can even sit indoors, although only under conditions that industry bodies have called unrealistic and absurd. To be specific, guests can only avoid the sun and fresh air and venture inside an establishment serving food and drink if they can prove they’re not infected with coronavirus by showing a negative test, or present evidence they’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. One inside customers will then need to keep 1.5m apart, and all tables are supposed to 3m apart.
While not yet able to enjoy such novel dining and drinking experiences, the other nine regions of Slovenia did move down from the red to orange level of restrictions on Friday, which in addition to outdoor hospitality service means that the ban on travel between regions was lifted – leading to a rush to the Croatian coast – along with the reopening of cinemas and theatres.
STA, 1 February 2021 - The lakeside resort of Bled, one of the country's top tourist destinations, can look forward to a museum of contemporary art. Designed by the renowned David Chipperfield, the museum will be located at the foot of the castle hill, along the main road leading up to the castle. Construction work is to begin in the spring.
The museum will feature works by world-renowned artists, above all those from the private collection of Igor and Mojca Lah. The Lah family was fourth on the Manager magazine list of richest Slovenians last year.
The couple have founded the Swiss-based Lah Contemporary Foundation. On its website the museum has also been announced, bearing the name Lah Contemporary Museum.
The news of forthcoming construction was announced in a press release from Bled's municipal Culture Institute, on Monday, soon after Artarhiv, a Ljubljana-based company, received a construction permit for the new museum.
The Culture Institute believes that the museum will raise the appeal factor of Bled, Slovenia and this part of Europe among art connoisseurs.
The press release also said that Chipperfield would come to Bled to present the design as soon as the pandemic restrictions allow.
STA, 31 August 2020 - The 15th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) boasted the most high-profile turnout in its 15-year history despite the coronavirus pandemic. Two presidents, seven prime ministers, six foreign ministers and many others attended in person, plus a number of high-profile panellists remotely. The debates focused on the future of the EU and the region's role.
The main panel featured seven Central and East European leaders, who highlighted the region's growing influence in the EU. They stressed the importance of true solidarity between all member states, noting that double standards were being used for the region.
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša said it was "dangerous to use double standards". He said the real challenges that Europe faces are different than challenges that are being discussed, a reference to extensive debates about rule of law proceedings against Hungary and Poland.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki noted that thirty years after the democratic transformation began in the region, there was still "a very peculiar approach" to the region. He said the region needed to maintain solidarity and unity, and at the same time be part of the European Union.
As for the state of the rule of law and democracy, Morawiecki rejected the notion of polarisation arguing that this was normal democracy. "We're not nationalists, populists ... it's simply a different approach in the post-communist world."
Similarly, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, asked about the state of democracy in his country, said Hungary's democracy was just as good as Germany's or Italy's by objective measures, the country just has a conservative, Christian democratic approach as it strives for "intellectual sovereignty".
The need for close cooperation, communication and the relaxing of restrictive EU state aid rules in the face of the global pandemic were in the centre of a panel debate featuring top foreign policy representatives. The broadly shared view was that the EU provided valuable support, still, the key, initial, response to the pandemic was mounted by member states.
Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok said that the EU "absolutely" provided help in addition to what was already being done by his country at home. He illustrated that while the EU was not able to provide masks when the pandemic hit, it is now leading member states out of the crisis with the recovery fund.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomaš Petriček highlighted another aspect of the crisis, saying it showed how fast the EU could revert to nation states. He illustrated that people did not complain much when the Czech Republic closed its borders at the start of the crisis.
However, when asked whether nation states or the EU would emerge stronger from this crisis, panellists expressed reservations about putting these in antagonistic terms.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbignew Rau labelled this an artificial conflict, adding that only strong member states made for a strong EU, while Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said member states and the EU need each other.
The Western Balkans was another major topic of discussion despite the absence of the traditional regional panel with foreign ministers.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, participating in the leaders' panel, thus dismissed the notion that Serbia was not keen on joining the EU. He said Serbia remained committed to the European path but expected respect from the EU.
Miroslav Lajčak, the EU's special representative for Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue, said in a special panel that the Western Balkans are part of the European story and the region's problems are also the bloc's problems. "If the EU wants to be a global actor ..., then we have to start demonstrating that we can help organise things in a European way on European soil."
There were also debates on European security and asymmetric threats, digitalisation and the future of cyberspace featuring mostly experts.
The security panel for example heard that a lot of adjustments to the European defence and security policy will be needed, including because of cyber threats and the Covid-19 pandemic. China was also discussed as an element which seeks to direct countries in the region more towards the east.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar said the forum provided an introduction to the coming debates on the future of the EU, which will be conducted under the German, Portuguese, Slovenian and French presidencies of the EU as part of the conference on the future of the EU.
According to Logar, these debates showed that "the leaders of individual countries see the EU and the consequences in which we are differently", which he said was "an excellent starting point for an open and lively debate".
Moreover, Logar said Slovenia was "returning to the diplomatic map" after a period of pursuing a distinct foreign policy. He rejected the notion that Slovenia was leaning more to the East now, arguing that "one country is not more important than another ... a community of equal countries provides a good platform for all countries to assert their interests."
Ljubljana Castle reopened 4 May, and another of Slovenia’s most visited sites, Bled Castle, will be welcoming visitors again from 14 May on. However, note that you’ll not be able to visit the island until 18 May.
In other news, Postojna Cave, by some counts the most popular tourist attraction in the country – since Ljubljana Castle gets multiple visits from locals each year – will not be opening until at least 1 June, although this date remains to be confirmed.
According to the United States Tour Operators Association annual survey, Slovenia is high on the list of emerging tourist destinations that “promise a fuller sense of discovery”.
Slovenia made the list for the first time at second place, indicating the fast growing interest in the country by the international travelers seeking more authentic, off-the beaten-path experiences.
While Egypt, Croatia and Colombia tied for first place in travel trends, Slovenia is followed by Thailand and Vietnam, with Morocco and Ethiopia tying for fifth.
An example tour of Slovenia was presented in combination with Croatian Istria by countrwalkers.com, a hiking and walking travel agency promising “places you’d never find on your own”. The seven day tour includes pletna boat ride across Lake Bled, a tour through wine and olive oil region and an excursion to Croatia for a Mirna River Valley truffle hunt. Rates start at $4,448 per person.
Royal Bled already appears on the list of the best and most beautiful golf courses in the region of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and now it has another recognition, named as among golfscape’s top 100 courses in the world. The largest and oldest course in the country comes in at #86, just after The Blue Monster at Trump National Doral Miami, USA, and before Golf de Spérone, France.
Once again it’s the beauty of the area that catches the imagination of the authors, with the report noting “the course is flanked by towering mountains and the impressive valleys of the Alps. With excellently manicured grounds, many hail it as one of the most beautiful courses in all of Europe.”
If you’d like to play a round at Royal Bled then note that it’s open from March to November, with both 18- and 9-hole course, and due to its status and appeal is one of the pricier golfing options in the country – but you get what you pay for. The website is here, while our look at all the 6-, 9- and 18-hole courses in Slovenia is here.
You can now add another thing to the list of things to do in Bled, with the ski slope Straža Bled opening tomorrow, 18 January 2020. At weekends the opening hours are from 09:00 to 16:00, with night skiing an option from 17:00 to 20:00, while on weekdays there’s only night skiing, the same time as Saturday and Sunday.
You can also go to Bled, park you car, and take the ski bus to Vogel and Pokljuka, while the Julian Alps International Ski Pass gives holders access to 14 resorts in three countries and more than 260 km of ski runs at: Soriška planina, Krvavec, Kranjska Gora, Cerkno, Kanin/Sella Nevea (Slovenia), Tarvisio, Sella Nevea/Kanin, Zoncolan, Pinacavallo, Forni di Sopra, Sappada, Sauris (Italy), 3ländereck, Innerkrems and Goldeck (Austria). This pass means you can use the Bled winter shuttle transport from Bled to Krvavec, Kranjska Gora, Tarvisio (I) and 3ländereck (A) free of charge.
Between December 20, 2019 and March 20, 2020 daily visits to ski resorts are possible with a shuttle bus from Bled.
The shuttle drives every day to Kranjska Gora, Krvavec, Pokljuka and Vogel, every Wednesday and Sunday to Tarvisio (Trbiž) in Italy, and to 3Laendereck (Podklošter) in Austria every Thursday and Sunday.
Return tickets cost €10 per adult and are free for children under 14 and holders of Julian Alps winter card.
For the timetables, tickets, reservations, and a map, please click here.
The Christmas lights are being turned on in many places around Slovenia next Friday, 29 November (see here), but things are already moving in a festive direction, and one seasonal treat for those who like to glide on blades of glory is the ice skating rink in Bled.
As usual this will be set up on the terrace of the Hotel Park, where from 22 November to 1 March 2020 a trip to this must-visit scenic area can be further enhanced by putting on some skates and either sliding with the elegance of swan or holding onto the side rails with wobbly legs, a bruised behind and wondering how soon you can get off for some mulled wine without losing face in front of the cool kids.
Related - How to spend from 4 to 48 hours in Bled
The rink is open from 09:00 to 20:00, Sunday to Thursday, 09:00 to 21:00 Friday and Saturday (as well as from 21 December to 5 January). Skates and helmets can be hired for €3 and €2, respectively. For children who require a little more stability a seal can be hired for 30 minutes for €3, and note that this a plastic device and not a friendly aquatic mammal. Entry to the ice rink itself is free for children under 12, and €5 for anyone older.
Moreover, in addition to regular skating the rink also offers curling, ice dances, children’s events and more, as outlined on the official website. The Hotel Park can be found at Cesta svobode 15, 4260 Bled.