If visitors to Slovenia go to only one place outside the capital then it’s almost certainly to the picture perfect, chocolate box location of Lake Bled, famed for the views of the church on the island, castle on the hill, and kremšnita on the plate.
While four hours is just about enough to do it all, if you move fast, a day is recommended if you enjoy walking in the open air, and two days if you really want to soak it all in and see a little more of what the site has to offer, which includes swimming in summer, skiing and ice-skating in winter, and fairlytale views all the time.
Essential Sightseeing in Bled: The Island and Castle
The list of essentials around Lake Bled is fairly short and obvious. You’ll want to get good view of the castle and island, visit the island, and eat a kremšnita.
When it comes to the lake all eyes are on the island, with the Church of the Assumption of Mary (Cerkev Marijinega vnebovzetja). This was built in the 17th century and is approached via 99 steps that grooms are supposed to carry their brides up, with the island and Castle here being popular wedding spots. If no one’s getting married on your visit then do go inside and look around. You can also try ringing the bell three times for good luck, something you’ll hear others do throughout your visit.
You don’t need to pay to visit the island, so well done if you choose to swim there or bring your own canoe, but there is a fee if you want to enter the church and bell tower, currently €6 for adults, 4 for students and seniors, 1 for children, and 12 for families. Other places to explore on the island include the chaplain's house, provost's house, and a small hermitage – more than enough to make the trip across the water worthwhile, whether or not you have a wedding to attend.
The most touristy way to get to the island – not that there’s anything wrong with that – is via a traditional Pletna boat, powered by an oarsman who stands up (currently €15 return for adults, €8 for children), with these leaving from the Health Park, Hotel Park and the rowing centre (for more locations, see here). If you want to hire a kayak, rowboat or stand-up paddleboard, then Google will help, while if you come in winter the lake might be frozen, and you can simply walk or skate across (at your own risk, of course)
That said, you won’t get a good view of the island from the island, for that you’ll want to get up above the water. If you fancy a a short hike, of between 45 minutes to an hour in each direction, then three popular spots for this are the 611 m hill known as Ojstrica, or Osojnica’s two viewing areas, Mala (Small) at 685 m and Veliki (Big) at 756 m.
Source: Google image search
These are where you see a lot of Instagram shots, and you can find out how to take a picture like the ones above here. However, with about 90 minutes to two hours for the round trip you might want to find other options if just here for a short visit.
In which case, don’t worry, the view from Bled Castle is just as good. What’s more, if you’re really pressed for time then the short drive, bus ride or 15-minute walk up the hill will let you kill two or three birds with one stone – see the Castle, get the view, and eat one of those cakes, which we’ll get to, I promise.
The Castle, set atop a 130 m cliff, first appears in written records in 1011, and over the years the various owners have made their own changes to the property, making it the attractive mix of styles you’ll see today. Entrance costs €11 for adults, 7 for students and 5 for children enter (although free if you book a table at the restaurant), and inside you’ll find a museum, wine cellar, forge, printing press, chapel, knights’ hall restaurant, souvenir store and yet more impressive views of the area, which are not limited to those of the island.
What to Eat in Bled
Not every place has a “must eat” dish, but Bled surely does, and – as noted above – it’s kremšnita, which you’ll find everywhere. This is a truly delicious slab of custard, cream and pastry, perhaps best enjoyed with a cup of coffee. Another dish to consider, and before the kremšnita if you have enough time, would be fish from the lake.
If you’d like to make your own kremšnita, then you can see our recipe here. It failed, in part, but you can learn from our mistakes and / or simply appreciate the craft that goes into making “the real thing”.
Things to do with 24 to 48 hours in Bled
If you stay longer, and there are plenty hotels where you can spend the night, then you can really explore the area. In this regard hikers are in for a treat, with many paths and trails offering stunning views in the surrounding hills, or you can keep close to the water and follow the 6 km trail around the lake.
In the winter months skiing is possible, as is skating, while at other times you can enjoy a winter sport on rails with a toboggan ride – the details are here and a video is below.
Turning back to the lake itself,and season permitting, fishing is allowed, with Bled recently listed among the “ten best fishing holidays in Europe”.
While we’re on the subject of “best of” lists, golfers should note that in 2018 Royal Bled was added to the list of “best and most beautiful courses”, which is hardly surprising when you consider the views on offer as you walk from hole to hole.
Finally, if you’be spent a day or two exploring the area then consider taking a soak in one of the many spas in the town, with the water coming from the natural hot springs on the north-east side of the lake. In short, Bled offers much more than a cake with a view, and will reward visitors who choose to stay a day or two longer than most.
If you want to keep up with all the news about the area, including the things they don’t tell the tourists, then you can do that here, while if you want to visit the local tourist centre’s website to find out about the latest offers, then you can find that here.