Lake Bled is one of those places that looks like it was plucked straight from the pages of a fairytale and thrust into the real world to inspire and charm the pants off us all. Often though, landscapes this beautiful come at a cost. Namely the thousands of other tourists that arrive all vying for the perfect view and the perfect photo.
When we arrived on a chilly October evening mid-week, we realised we needn’t have worried. Bled was just as dreamy as we had imagined.
The basics of the postcard image were all there – lake, island, church – but really it was the atmosphere that bought this fairytale place to life.
The aroma of roasting chestnuts thick in the air, the white swans with their perfectly arched necks circling back and forth between tendrils of mist, the couple crossing the lake in a wooden row boat huddled beneath an umbrella, the yellowing trees hugging the water’s edge hinting that winter was on its way and the bell in the church tower on the lonely island ringing out through the silence.
Bled is a magnet for spa-goers and loved-up honeymooners who pop in to indulge on wine and cream cakes while gazing at the beautiful view, but there is also plenty awaiting those looking to enjoy the outdoors and get up close with nature. In fact, you could easily spend days exploring.
These are our tips for things to do in and around Bled for the more active travellers.
Vintgar Gorge is definitely one of the more popular spots in the area – in fact it seemed there were more people here than in Bled itself – but like most things, it’s popular for a reason. With the brilliant blue Radovna River leading the way between autumn trees into the narrowing gorge, mist hanging thick in the air, this place is definitely worth a visit.
Just 4 km from Bled, the gorge can easily be reached on foot through quaint villages and farmlands. Alternatively, take the bus to Podhom and walk the remaining 20 minutes to the entrance. A wooden boardwalk runs through the trees alongside the river and beneath overhangs in the rocky gorge walls to the Šum Waterfall.
Either return via the same route or, to avoid squeezing past all the other visitors, take the alternate path through the forest, past the Katerina Cathedral and through the town of Zasip – the path is well signposted through the forest.
As we mentioned, the gorge can get quite busy so be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds.
COST: Entry is €4
A visit to Lake Bled is not complete without seeing every inch of its shoreline and its solitary island from every angle. The 6 km track along the water is wide and paved so is perfect to explore on two feet or two wheels.
On the far side of the lake you’ll find fishermen chatting wildly, dozing beneath their umbrellas or sitting in circles devouring their dinner. There are also several points that rent out boats if you wish to row, row, row your boat across to the island.
Perched on the edge of a cliff, this red-roofed fortress only adds to the fairytale-air of the place. Whoever built it may as well have added a prince climbing up the rocky cliffs.
There are great views from the balcony although we felt the €10 entry fee was a little steep considering the outlook from Mala Osojnica is actually better, which takes us to…
We said we’d show you Bled from all angles right? And from way up here, this is easily the best one yet. The trail is steep and very slippery in parts, then there’s the metal staircase that’s more like a ladder, but once you’re up you won’t regret it for a second. That is, unless the clouds roll in 5 minutes before you get to the top obscuring the entire scene from view. Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what happened to us.
Unfortunately we didn’t get the full impact of the view, the snow-dusted mountains were completely hidden in cloud and even the castle on the otherside was barely visible, but on a clear day views are absolutely spectacular. Don’t believe us? Check out these shots.
The path is easy to miss so keep an eye out. When you’re about half way around the lake there is a small path and a road leading uphill with two signs labelled Osojnica.
Yeah, yeah, we know, this is a post about Bled but, we’ll let you in on a little secret… we loved Bohinj even more. It’s what Bled was probably like 30 years ago – wild and untouched. The autumn colours were richer, the mountains more majestic and the best part, we had the entire place to ourselves.
A 12 km trail runs around the lake but the north side is by far the better stretch. From the far side you can either take a boat or bus back to the town or continue on the full loop walk. A gondola travels to the top of Mt. Vogel and various other trails lead to waterfalls and into the mountains.
Unfortunately there was heavy cloud and mist over the mountains when we visited so we weren’t able to explore as much or get the views we had hoped for, but if the weather is clear a gondola travels to the top of Mt. Vogel and various other trails lead to waterfalls and into the mountains.
If you don’t have time to spend the night here then you should spend at least a day exploring Lake Bohinj. Buses run almost hourly from Bled and take about 40 minutes. This stunning place is not to be missed!
Need a sweet pick-me-up after all that walking? Bled’s delightfully calorific signature pastry, a slice of custard, cream and puff pastry, is the perfect remedy. And hey, we think you’ve earned it!
The ones at Slaščičarna Zima are to die for and, in case custard and cream aren’t your thing, they have a huge range of other sweet treats to choose from. We gobbled ours down so fast we completely forgot to take a picture!
At just over an hour from Ljubljana, Bled is an easy day trip if you are short on time, though if you can we would highly recommend adding a trip to Lake Bohinj as well.
Direct buses leave hourly from Ljubljana but morning buses tend to fill up quickly, even out of season. Check the timetable here.
Alternatively, take the train to the Lesce-Bled station where you will need to transfer onto a bus to take you the rest of the way into town. This station is also the best connection point for onward travel to Austria.