Lake Bled is one of those places that feels like it was plucked straight from the pages of a fairytale.
The aroma of roasting chestnuts permeates the air, white swans circle between tendrils of mist, a couple crosses the lake in a wooden rowboat huddled beneath an umbrella and the church bell rings out from the lonely island.
Often, however, places this beautiful come at a cost. Namely the thousands of tourists that arrive all vying for the same perfect view and Instagram-worthy photo.
Having visited the beautiful lake twice now – once in October when autumn trees hugged the water’s edge and again in February when the area was blanketed in snow – we’ve discovered that visiting out of season often means having the place all to yourself.
Though many people visit on a day trip from Ljubljana, you can easily spend days exploring the area. These are the best things to do in Lake Bled.
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A visit to Vintgar Gorge is definitely one of the best things to do in Lake Bled and, unsurprisingly, it’s one of the most popular spots in the area. In fact, it seemed like there were more people here than in Bled itself.
With the brilliant blue Radovna River weaving between autumn trees and mist hanging thick inside the narrowing gorge, this place is definitely worth a visit.
Just 4 km from Lake Bled, you can reach Vintgar Gorge on a lovely walk 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 gorge to the Šum Waterfall.
To return, either take the same route back or, to avoid squeezing past 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, Vintgar Gorge can get quite busy so be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds.
COST: Entry is €4
A paved 6 km track runs right the way around Lake Bled beside the water and is a perfect way to see the lake in its entirety.
On the far side of the lake, you’ll find fishermen chatting animatedly or dozing beneath their umbrellas. There are also several points that rent out boats if you wish to row, row, row your boat across to the picturesque island.
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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 charming 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 brings us to…
Peeling off from the far side of the lake, the steep, slippery trail to Mala Osojnica is definitely worth the hike.
With spectacular views overlooking the lake and the jagged ring of snow-capped peaks in the distance, this is an absolute highlight of visiting Bled.
The weather can be a little temperamental in the mountains though and unfortunately, on both our visits, the views have been obscured by cloud.
The hiking trail is a little easy to miss so keep an eye out once you’ve reached the far side of the lake. Just past the camping area, you’ll see two signs pointing away from the lake which will lead you to the viewpoint.
Now, this may be a post about the best things to do in Lake Bled but we’re going to let you in on a little secret… we loved Lake Bohinj even more.
It’s what Bled was probably like 30 years ago – wild and untouched. Nestled in the Triglav National Park, the autumn colours were richer, the mountains more majestic and we had the entire place to ourselves.
A 12 km trail runs around the lake but the north side is by far the prettier stretch. From the far side, you can either take a boat back, catch a bus directly back to Bled or continue on the full loop walk.
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 gives spectacular views over Bohinj while a number of other hiking trails lead to various waterfalls in the surrounding countryside or deeper into the national park.
If you’re visiting Lake Bled in winter, Mt Vogel is also one of the best ski resorts in the area.
Lake Bohinj is one of the best day trips from Bled and can easily be reached by bus which takes around 40 minutes and runs every hour. If you’ve got more time to spare, you can also stay overnight in the area.
Need a sweet pick-me-up after all that walking? Bled’s delightfully calorific signature sweet treat, a slice of custard, cream and flaky 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 we’d highly recommend spending a day or two in the area to explore.
Direct buses leave hourly from the main bus station in Ljubljana. You can check the timetable here.
For daytrippers, morning buses tend to fill up quickly, even out of season so get there early to ensure you get a spot.
Alternatively, take the train to the Lesce-Bled station where you’ll 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.
Bled has a number of great accommodation options to suit any budget.
Castle Hostel 1004 | Castle Hostel is an excellent budget option in Lake Bled. Situated just a short walk from the bus station, this hostel boasts spacious rooms, a guest kitchen, open-air terrace overlooking the cathedral and all hours Netflix. The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful too. Check prices and availability here.
Garden House Bled | A short walk around the lake from the bus station, Garden House is decked out in thoughtful details to make this hostel feel like home. Reclaimed wood panels are a recurring theme and, as the name suggests, there’s a herb garden out front where you can source fresh produce to add to your home-cooked meals. Check prices and availability here.
Carmen Guest House | This charming guesthouse right on Lake Bled makes a wonderful base to explore the region. Rooms have beautiful lake views and simple self-catering facilities. Check prices and availability here.
Vila Bled | For something a bit nicer, you can’t go past Vila Bled. Set right beside the water, this beautiful property has stunning views overlooking Lake Bled which can be enjoyed right from your breakfast table. Rooms are spacious and luxurious and there is a restaurant on site. Check prices and availability here.