Imagine a beautiful, small town surrounding a lake. The water is pristine and the trees surrounding it are a vibrant green. High above sits a majestic castle overlooking the scene with a quiet grandeur. At the center of the lake is an island, and on this island is a church with a bell that grants wishes…
Sound like a fairy tale?
This is Bled in Slovenia, a town surrounding Lake Bled. Visitors come here for the nature, to relax or try some adventure sports. And while Bled seems small, there are plenty of activities that could fill a week. I’ll summarize it down to five experiences you simply can’t miss.
Spend a day at Bled Castle
Bled Castle (Blejski grad) is a stronghold located high above Lake Bled. It’s Slovenia’s oldest castle, dating back to 1011, and one of the top attractions in the country. Reaching the entrance to Bled Castle requires a bit of a hike, but the walking path makes it a pleasant, if not tiring for some, climb. With the entrance fee (10€ for adults at the time of this post), you gain access to a stunning panoramic view of Bled, the castle museum, and various historic boutiques and eateries.
I particularly liked the printing shop, where they make a variety of cards and gifts utilizing old printing methods. There’s also an old cellar offering wine tasting, as well as a honey vendor where you can try some of Slovenia’s premier sweet product.
If you’re a fan of craft beer, the cafe in Bled Castle sells some local brews. I enjoyed the Mali Grad IPA with a table next to a view of Lake Bled below.
Ring the wishing bell on Bled Island
Bled Island (Blejski otok) is another popular draw for visitors. Apparently ringing the bell (some say thrice) inside the Church of the Assumption of Mary (Cerkev Marijinega vnebovzetja) grants you one wish. True or not, a trip out to Bled Island is an obvious must for anyone visiting Bled.
From various points along the shore, you’ll find the Pletna boats, 20-person boats of a design dating back to 1590, offering rides to the island. The process is as follows: find a boat with an oarsman (locations: Spa Park, Park Hotel, Guest House Mlino, the rowing center), ride to the island, explore for the allotted 30 minutes, then pay before riding back. It takes at least 20 minutes to reach the island by Pletna boat. You can also rent your own rowboat which would allow you to stay on Bled Island as long as you’d like. This may be the more cost-effective mode if there are at least two of you.
On the island, you’ll find the Church of the Assumption (small fee to enter), a cafe with very limited food items and a souvenir shop. There’s also a stand that serves mediocre gelato. I highly recommend bringing a snack if you think you’ll get hungry during this excursion.
Head for the hills
For those looking for the ultimate views (like the one in the photo above—I wasn’t shy about asking someone to take a photo for me after making the climb), set your sights on Mala Ojstrica and Mala Osojnica. These two hills offer the highest perspectives of Lake Bled.
From the heart of the city, it’s a bit of a walk to reach the path leading up to both Ojstrica and Osojnica. And while the hike isn’t difficult per se, there are plenty of loose rocks that can be slippery at times, so I wouldn’t advise it for those who have trouble walking or balancing. I’m relatively young and healthy, and even my street sneakers had trouble maintaining friction on some surfaces. If it’s dark or wet, pay extra attention to your path.
The photo above was taken on Mala Ojstrica. Because it was getting late (read: I was hungry and tired), I didn’t make it up Mala Osojnica, which is higher than Ojstrica. If you’d like to do both in the same day, I’d recommend that you start on the earlier side. Pro tip: I heard the sunrise view is spectacular.
For more detailed info on reaching the view points, check out this informative page by Slovenia Trips.
Hunt for the best cream cake
God save you if you come to Bled and leave without trying the Bled Cream Cake (Blejska kremšnita). This creamy, flaky, powdered-sugary dessert is the most popular food item for visitors to try. The Sava Hotel claims to have the original cream cake, though they also charge a lot for it. My Slovenian host recommended I try her favorite spot, a cozy bakery called Slaščičarna Šmon. You can order a slice of cream cake here for a lot less than the fancier locales charge. Still, if you want to conduct thorough research (because science is important), you can try the cream cake at several places. Please report back in the comments below with your findings.
Bled also has a number of non-cake delicacies. My host recommended that I try the steak at Grill Babji Zob, a restaurant near the lake with a very pleasant patio. I ordered the grilled steak salad and had two small glasses of wine for less than $12. It’s a really cozy space with friendly service, and there were several of us comfortably dining solo outside. Recommended.
Bled is a wonderful town for all travelers because it offers something for everybody. If you want to do active sports, you can sign up for it at the activities centers. But what makes this lake town so wonderful is that you don’t really have to do anything at all. It feels enough just strolling along the shore, admiring the swans, watching the horse-drawn carriages pass by, discovering hidden sculptures and watching the sky change colors throughout the day…
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