Visiting Lake Bled, Slovenia

| September 13, 2014 | 27 Comments More

What it was like to return to the scenic alpine resort after 13 years.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Bled Island

When I signed up for the #TasteLjubljana culinary trip with The Travel Mob, I wondered if there would be time for a visit to Bled, about 33mi/54km from the capital.

OVERVIEW

This small mountain resort (population 5,500) in northwestern Slovenia has been a popular year-round destination since the mid-1800s.

Located alongside glacial Lake Bled in the Julian Alps and near the Triglav National Park, it draws an active crowd: athletes, water sports enthusiasts, hikers. It’s also in demand with families and couples looking for a peaceful getaway.

One of Bled’s main attractions is an island in the middle of the lake, accessible by a wooden boat (pletna in Slovenian).

Visitors can climb 99 stone steps to the top and tour the Gothic/Baroque Church of the Assumption, which up until the 8th century was a temple of the Slavic goddess of love Živa. Legend has it that ringing the bell inside the church brings good luck.

For panoramic views of the town, lake and surrounding countryside, go up to the medieval Bled Castle.

Expanded and restored over the centuries, the complex includes a Romanesque Tower, two courtyards, a history museum, chapel, and restaurant. Several rooms are decorated with frescoes. The castle also hosts seasonal cultural events, such as archery tournaments, and is a popular wedding site. 

Bled’s proximity to a protected, national park area means the shoreline avoids over-development. Most hotels are concentrated in the center of town, on one side of the lake. That’s where you will also find shops, restaurants, and places that sell kremšnita, Bled’s renowned vanilla cream cake.

The Bled Castle

Bled Castle, overlooking the lake

Bled Castle

Courtyard and chapel at the castle

INITIAL VISIT

I first traveled to the area in 2001. It was a winter getaway with a group of American expats living in Poland, including Mr. JA. As we were tight on funds, we took public transportation from Ljubljana.

I vaguely remember waiting for what seemed like hours at a rural train station. We finally hopped on the first bus that had Bled written on the sign. I also recall being happy to have found a British Pound coin on the bus floor – at that time, the Pound had a very favorable exchange rate to the Polish Zloty. Every bit counts in the travel budget…

hendos-bled

First visit in 2001

We walked up to the castle hill and caught a glimpse of the scenery, but unfortunately didn’t have time to go inside. It was getting late and we wanted to take a boat to the island. Once there, we hiked a trail to the church and took turns ringing the bell.

I don’t know how much luck it brought us, but it sure sounded good.

SECOND VISIT

My 2014 trip to Bled was quite different. This time around, I was on a small-group tour with Roundabout Travel, a Ljubljana-based company offering outings in Slovenia and neighboring countries. I opted for the half-day Alpine Fairytale, which included a visit to the castle and a choice between the island and Vintgar Gorge.

The van arrived in the morning to pick me up from a downtown Ljubljana hotel. Our guide Tomo greeted me and introduced the other passengers. I was glad there was no awkward silence, which can sometimes happen when you’re sharing a small space with strangers. We started chatting about where we’re from, what brought us to Slovenia, and where we were going next. The roughly 40-minute ride to Bled went by quickly.

Throughout the tour, Tomo shared a lot of information – about the town, lake, and history of tourism in the region. He also didn’t mind answering questions about his country, e.g. regarding popular sports (skiing, basketball) and language (he can understand Croatian friends quite easily).

Before we made our first scheduled stop, Tomo drove around the lake so that we could see more of the town, such as a 1907 railway station and Valvazorjeva Street – winner of a local competition for the most beautiful street in Bled.

Lake Bled ducks

On the shore

I wanted to see the gorge, but it was important for me to revisit the island. Coincidentally, it was my wedding anniversary and I began to feel sentimental.

The surroundings hadn’t changed, but I was disappointed with the commercialism that had taken over the experience. The boat ride was a little pricey, you could no longer go inside the bell tower for free, and I couldn’t recall seeing a gift shop on my first visit. Then again, I was able to catch Wi-Fi inside and send a message to Mr. JA…

After circling the church a couple of times, I decided to hike back down and sit on the shore. For a few minutes, it felt like 2001 again.

On the Bled Island

Hiking Bled Island

If you go:

  • Roundabout Travel operates half-day Alpine Fairytale tours Monday-Sunday, all year round
  • Price (39€/person as of September 2014) includes transportation and an English-speaking guide
  • Optional fees: Bled Castle 9€ (with museum access), boat ride 12€, bell tower 6€, Vintgar Gorge 4€.

I traveled to Slovenia as part of the #TasteLjubljana project, organized by The Travel Mob blogging team and Visit Ljubljana (more about the trip here). All thoughts and opinions expressed on Jetting Around are mine. 

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Category: Around Cities, DESTINATIONS

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Pola Henderson is a travel writer and city explorer. Besides Jetting Around, her writing credits include CNN, Yahoo, Expedia, MasterCard, among others. She also runs JA Media, a boutique agency specializing in content writing and event production. Happily multicultural, Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for 13 years, and is currently based in her soul city Paris.

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  1. City Guide: Ljubljana, Slovenia - Jetting Around | September 22, 2014
  1. avatar Lucy says:

    I’m hoping to get out to Slovenia next year so this is really useful as Lake Bled is high on the list. Always interesting to return to a destination you loved too to see how things have changed!

  2. avatar Vanessa says:

    The castle’s view of the lake is really magnificent! Im sure that though a lot has changed at Lake Bled, your second visit was still worth it. Would love to visit the place too!

  3. avatar Aggy says:

    I have had my eyes on Slovenia for a while. Lake Bled is also very high on my travel list, hoping to see this place sooner than later. It looks really magical!

  4. avatar ChrZ says:

    Just beautiful….

    Would Love to travel to Lake Bled!

  5. Lake Bled and the area looks absolutely beautiful. It wasn’t all that long ago that I wasn’t even thinking about Slovenia as a destination, but photos and articles like this have convinced me that I must visit sometime. Very nice pic of you and Mr. JA in 2001.

  6. Awww, look at young Pola & Don!! Too cute. I guess I didn’t know that you’d been to Slovenia before… How cool that you got to return!

  7. It looks so gorgeous there. Will definitely have to put Lake Bled and the surrounding area on our list to see when we get over that way. Thanks for sharing Pola. :)

  8. avatar christine says:

    Very good in depth details on what to do. The map is a great touch!

  9. I am so in love with Slovenia it’s unreal :) I hope I don’t have to wait as long as you did to return! I didn’t manage to get to the island or the castle on my first visit (we were there for 2 days & spent the first around the lake because Bled Fest was on, and the second hiking around Triglav) so I definitely have reasons to go back

    • Hi Sammi. It seems like you had a great trip the first time around (I wish I could have hiked), but yeah, you might as well go back and check out the rest of Bled. Slovenia is awesome, isn’t it? :)

  10. Gorgeous! Love that you wrote about both visits. I’ve been meaning to make it to Slovenia and Lake Bled, hopefully one day soon!!!

  11. What a lovely post about Bled Pola! I found it absolutely magical when I was out there and took the same tour with Roundabout – love to hear your experiences from both your trips and such a nice old picture from the past :)

  12. Oh yes, one of my favorite places in Slovenia! Almost unbearably magical!

  13. avatar Events Panda says:

    What an amazing place! The remains look well preserved.
    Adding to my dream list of places to visit.

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