Discover the very best things to do in Lake Bled, the jewel in Slovenia’s crown
Lake Bled in Slovenia has badly behaved sheep to thank for its existence. Or so legend tells us.
Once upon a time, young shepherds tended their flock in a fertile valley, in the centre of which was a chapel. These shepherds didn’t care that their sheep were in the habit of wandering off to this chapel to – ahem – do their business.
To prevent further desecration of this holy place, God or fairies – depending on which version of this story takes your fancy – created a lake around the chapel. And so, Lake Bled was created.
Believe this or not, what is beyond doubt is that this picturesque corner of Slovenia has many of the ingredients for a perfect European break. There are lakeside walking trails, a castle perched on a hillside, that island to visit, not to mention a deliciously gooey sweet treat.
Let’s take a closer look at why you should visit Lake Bled and how to make it happen.
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The Best Things to do in Lake Bled for Sightseers
Ring the Wishing Bell on Bled Island (Blejski Otok)
Let’s start by making a wish where Lake Bled’s story began, on its tiny tear-shaped island in the middle of the lake
It’s safe to say that you’ll hear the wishing bell of the island’s 17th Century Church of the Assumption long before you see it. Wish fulfilment attracts tourists to the church in their droves.
According to local legend, 500 years ago a widow had a church bell made in memory of her late husband. But this didn’t end well. As the bell was being transported across Lake Bled a storm sunk the boat, the bell and all of those on board.
Moved by her story, the Pope consecrated a new bell, the wishing bell that is in the church’s belfry today. Ring this bell and your wish will be granted.
Pity poor the Slovenian groom. To ensure a long and happy life, he has to carry his new bride up all 99 stone steps of the church’s Baroque staircase.
After ringing the bell, climb the bell tower to take in the view and see the mechanical oscillation clock in action.
Cost: Adults: €6
How to reach Bled Island
Unsurprisingly, to reach the island, you’ll need to take to the water.
Getting to Bled Island by pletna
The easiest – and most fun – way to get to Bled Island is to climb on board one of the lake’s pletna boats. These wooden, hand-propelled gondolas date back to the 12th century, and taking a ride on them is one of the fun things to do in Lake Bled.
Expect to pay from €12 for the return trip.
Getting to Bled Island by rowboat
If you’re in the mood for a workout, row your own way to the island in a rental boat. Expect to pay around €20 per hour to rent a rowboat.
Visit Bled Castle
Perched on a steep cliff overlooking the lake, Bled Castle is straight out of casting central for a medieval fort. Dating back to the 11th Century, the oldest castle in Slovenia has ramparts, towers, moats and a terrace offering panoramic views of the Karavanke and the Julian Alps.
But the standout for me was the castle’s Gothic chapel, which is richly decorated with illusionist frescoes.
Bled Castle is open year-round. Adult ticket price is €13 (2021 price).
The castle has a restaurant, serving local and regional dishes for lunch and dinner. There is also a coffee shop in the castle’s lower courtyard.
Take a hike (or cycle) around the shores of Lake Bled
This easy 6 km walk was my favourite thing to do in Lake Bled.
Starting at the Grand Hotel Toplice, walk clockwise and prepare yourself for gorgeous views. You get to admire Bled Castle and The Church of the Assumption from different angles and pass linden, chestnut and willow trees cascading over the water, boat slips and innumerable anglers and swimmers.
The entire circuit will take you no more than an hour or so, longer if you make stops (which I encourage you to do).
For a twirl around the lake on two wheels, rent a bicycle from the cluster of outlets on the eastern shore of the lake.
Take a ride on a historic steam train
From hopping on board the Jacobite steam train in Scotland to exploring Provence by rail, I am addicted to travelling by train and was delighted that this part of Slovenia is home to a historic steam train.
Close to Lake Bled, the Bohinj Railway is the final section of the line connecting Prague-Jesenice-Gorizia-Trieste. This 110-year-old railway line meanders its way through mountains and forests, across the Solkan Bridge, the largest stone railway bridge in the world, and through Slovenia’s longest railway tunnel (over 6 km in length).
An unbeatable Lake Bled activity for rail enthusiasts.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bohinj Railway will not be operating in 2021.
The Best Things to do in Lake Bled for Food & Wine Lovers
Indulge your sweet tooth with a slice of Lake Bled Cake
If there’s one food that you must try around the shores of this Slovenian Lake, it’s kremna rezina or cremeschnitte.
Commonly known as Lake Bled cake, this is a light-as-a-feather cake made of puff pastry, custard, lashings of vanilla cream topped with a dusting of icing sugar. As cremeschnitte has been granted ‘protected designation of origin status, it is only available from cafes and restaurants at Lake Bled.
Slurp Slovenian wine
It was a revelation to me that Slovenian wine is pretty good.
Learn more and sample seven wines at this two-hour wine tasting in a 100-year old cellar in Bled. Appetisers included.
Fun Things to do in and around Lake Bled for Outdoor Enthusiasts
Take a dip in Lake Bled
Take a dip in Lake Bled’s turquoise water to cool down during Slovenia’s hot summer months.
To avoid being rammed by a pletna, the lake has a designated swimming area: Castle Bathing Area (Grajsko Kopališče), just below the magnificent castle rock.
The Castle Bathing Area is open from April to September (closed when it is raining). Admission for adults costs €4 – €7. It has sun loungers and beach umbrellas to rent.
Climb the Mala Osojnica
A popular, albeit strenuous, walk is to the viewpoint on Mala Osojnica.
This walk starts at the pretty western side of Lake Bled (follow the sign for the trail). The steep (and sometimes precarious) climb through a forest rewards you with a stunning view of the lake, castle, island and the distant peaks of Karavanke mountains.
It should take you around an hour to get there and back. Sturdy shoes are recommended.
Take an e-bike tour of Vintgar Gorge
The lovely Vintgar Gorge, just 4km northwest of Bled, is a spectacular half-day trip from Lake Bled. For €39 you can hire an e-bike to take a self-guided tour of this dramatic gorge.
All equipment, maps and information is provided and you even get a slice of Bled Cake thrown in!
Go canyoning in Triglav National Park
If you’re feeling a wee bit more adventurous, why not try your hand at canyoning in Triglav National Park? No previous experience is needed and the tour operator will provide all the gear.
The 3.5-hour trip costs €60 and you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
Raft the Sava River
Another one for adrenaline junkies out there. That said, as the rapids of this river are level 2, this should be a relatively sedate ride.
This three-hour rafting tour costs €45 and you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
Go underground kayaking in a former mine
Drive two hours from Bled to an abandoned mine and navigate through its waters with only the illumination of headlights to light your way.
This eight-hour excursion costs €109 and you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
The Best Lake Bled Activities for Shutterbugs
Lake Bled’s setting makes it a photographer’s dream. But for those extra special images, enhance your photographic portfolio by capturing this super scenic destination at sunrise or sunset.
Photograph Lake Bled at sunrise
Although sunrise over Lake Bled is spectacular, you will need to work for it. The best spot to watch the sun make its ascent over the lake and mountain is from the viewpoint on Mala Osojnica. It goes without saying that an early start is needed.
Photograph Lake Bled at sunset
Capturing those postcard-perfect images of Lake Bled at sunset requires less effort on your part. Pack a picnic and watch the sun go down from the water’s edge. Better still, order a glass of Slovenian wine and a slice of Lake Bled cake and take it all in from a lakeside terrace.
Take a hot-air balloon ride over Lake Bled at sunrise
For a truly bucket-list experience, float over Lake Bled in a hot-air balloon. This doesn’t come cheap – expect to pay around €200 for a one-hour ride – but you are unlikely to forget it.
Planning Your Visit to Lake Bled, Slovenia
When is the best time to visit Lake Bled?
The warmest months in Lake Bled are June, July and August, when the mercury can hit the high 20s. However, these are also the busiest months so expect crowds.
April, May, September and October are cooler but still pleasant and crowds are fewer.
Winter in Lake Bled is from November to February.
Weather is unpredictable at any time of year so pack for the worst and hope for the best.
How long should you stay at Lake Bled?
I recommend staying at least two days in Lake Bled. If you’re short on time you could fit in the main things to do in a day – the lakeside walk, the island and the castle – but it will be rushed.
Staying an extra night will allow you to see the sights in a more relaxed and way and give you the opportunity to visit nearby Lake Bohinj.
Is Lake Bohinj worth visiting?
Lake Bohinj’s beauty equals that of Lake Bled but it attracts fewer visitors and is perhaps less touristy. What it lacks in razzmatazz, it makes up for in natural beauty.
How to get to Lake Bled from Ljubljana
Unless you rent a car, you have three options for travelling between Ljubljana and Lake Bled: bus, train or on an organised tour. I travelled there by bus and back by train.
Ljubljana to Lake Bled by bus
The easiest way of travelling between Lake Bled and Ljubljana is by bus. The journey takes 60 – 75 minutes and buses are frequent. A one-way ticket costs €6.30 in 2021 (€11.97 for a return ticket).
Ljubljana’s main bus station (Avtobusna Postaja) is located in front of the train station on Trg Osvobodilne. Check the timetable here.
If you are returning to Ljubljana, buses depart from Bled’s bus station at Glavno Postajališče.
Ljubljana to Lake Bled by train
I chose to return from Lake Bled by train as it’s a scenic ride. It takes around the same time as the bus to make the journey from Lake Bled to Ljubljana, or a mere 40 minutes if you manage to catch a fast train. The downside is Bled Railway Station is located 4km from the lake, and you’ll need to take a local bus or pricey taxi to complete your journey.
Trains leave Ljubljana’s main station (adjacent to the bus station) frequently. Alight at Lesce-Bled. Check the train times here.
Expect to pay between €5 and almost €7 for a one-way journey, depending on the type of train.
Taking a day tour from Ljubljana to Lake Bled
Due to its proximity to Ljubljana, it’s easy to visit Lake Bled on an organised day trip, albeit a long one. I highly recommend booking your day tour through Get Your Guide. I have used this platform many times before and it offers an excellent range of itineraries from independent tour providers, and a very generous cancellation policy.
For example; this day trip from Ljubljana visits Lake Bled, Vintgar Gorge and the medieval town of Skofja Loka and includes lunch.
You can also visit Lake Bled on a day trip from Vienna (13 hours duration), Trieste (7 hours) and Zagreb (11 hours).
Where to stay in Lake Bled
Although Bled is an easy day trip from Ljubljana, resist the urge to cover its main sights in one day, and stay at least one night. This will give you the opportunity to enjoy the place when it has emptied of day-trippers.
You can choose to base yourself in the town of Bled, adjacent to the lake, or at the lakeside itself. The town of Bled has the widest range of accommodation options and restaurants
Luxury hotel in Bled
Rikli Balance Hotel
I stayed at this superb 5-star hotel in an excellent location in the centre of town. Its terrace offers panoramic views of the lake and it also has a spa and indoor and outdoor pools. Highly recommended.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
Here are some other options that I have found that are worth looking at:
Luxury lakeside hotel
Grand Hotel Toplice
Hotels don’t come much more swanky in Lake Bled than this 5-star establishment, one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Sitting right on the lakeside, its location is dreamy.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
Old Bled House
Located 350 yards from Bled Lake, this rustic property has garnered excellent reviews.
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Another centrally-located accommodation option, close to the northeastern shore of Lake Bled. In addition to the expected amenities, this one-bedroom apartment has a sun terrace and offers grocery delivery.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
Where to eat in Bled
You won’t struggle to find somewhere to eat during your stay at Lake Bled here are a few places that I can recommend:
Gostilna Pri planincu (Grajska cesta 8)
For inexpensive traditional food and the best mushroom soup of your life.
Slascicarna Zima (Grajska cesta 3)
The best place in town for Lake Bled Cake
Is Lake Bled Expensive?
By European standards, Slovenia is not an expensive destination. Although Lake Bled is popular with tourists, it is no more expensive than Ljubljana.
Is Slovenia Safe for Solo Travellers?
Safety as a solo traveller is a particular concern of women travelling alone. Slovenia is a relatively safe place in which to travel alone in Europe. Unlike other countries in the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia hasn’t fallen victim to targeted religious or ethnic violence.
Whilst you shouldn’t be complacent, if you use your common sense, watch your belongings, drink alcohol in moderation and share your itinerary with someone back home, your trip to Slovenia should be trouble-free.
This is a small country and has a good travel infrastructure, making it easy to get around. With plenty of outdoor activities on offer, there are ample opportunities to meet other travellers. You’ll be too busy to let travel loneliness bite!
However, like any other European tourist hotspot, beware of petty crime and pickpockets. Unfortunately, taxi scams are ever present (a driver tried to scam me in Ljubljana). To avoid getting scammed by an unlicensed taxi on arrival at the airport, book a taxi transfer in advance.
Is Lake Bled Worth Visiting?
Although Lake Bled is Slovenia’s most popular tourist attraction, it is in the minor league compared to other European destinations. But overlook it at your peril; Lake Bled is easily one of the most beautiful places that I have visited.
Inevitably, it will make it to the first-division of European stops with the associated visitor numbers. Go before the word gets out.