Over the centuries, Lake Bled became a popular spa resort town with its healing climate and thermal lake water with breathtaking Alpine views. The thermal waters here are said to help relieve stress related illnesses such as exhaustion and age-related fatigue.
Today, Lake Bled is the perfect afternoon day trip to stop and walk around for a bit if you are traveling through Slovenia. Just a 45 minute drive from the capital Ljubljana, it is a popular tourist destination. Relatively easy to find, a few minutes off the highway, it is a must-see destination as it is set against the backdrop of the Julian Alps in the northwest of Slovenia with emerald-green waters with the Castle of Bled perched high upon the rocky cliffs which has been overlooking this must-see lake since the 11th Century!
Ranked the 76th best destination to visit by Lonely Planet on the Ultimate Travel List, this destination is an absolute must and should not be overlooked!
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Upon arriving in Bled, there was a tourist information center on the right which we stopped and grabbed a map before driving up to the Castle of Bled. It is more traditional to hike up the 20 minutes to the castle, but as we were only stopping here for the afternoon and arrived a little later than we intended, we decided it would be easier to drive up. And good thing because soon it started sprinkling before down pouring on us while walking around the castle! Parking is free up at the castle!
From the parking lot we had to climb up a pretty steep and rocky pathway in order to reach the ticket office! We paid 9€ per person to enter the castle. The castle is one of Slovenia’s oldest castles which offers a great panoramic view over the entire lake with the romantic Bled Island which has several buildings on it. Up at the castle, there are several different courtyards each offering a slightly different view over the lake. You can even find a restaurant and café up at the castle which you can enjoy with a coupon that comes with the purchase of your ticket to the castle.
The castle today houses a museum which takes you on journey of the history of Lake Bled from the Bronze Age to the present. The most important thing to see while up at the castle is the small chapel dating back to the 16th century. Rather small, it packs a punch with old, fading, untouched frescos on the wall. There is also printing works, a wine cellar, a herbal gallery and even Medieval performances up at the castle.
The most popular attraction on the island is the pilgrimage church of the Assumption of Mary. It is tradition for a newly married groom to carry his new bride up the 98 steps to the top of the tower and ring the bell. If he does this, they will enjoy a happy marriage and make the couple’s dreams come true. Unfortunately, the tower is no closed to the public.
The most traditional way to reach the island is with a Plenta boat with a covered awning that dates back to 1590. Only local men can be a Plenta Oarsman and it is a very respected profession here as it has been passed down from generation to generation. You can find these boats waiting to take you across the lake at the Spa Park, under the Park Hotel Bled, in Mlino and in the Rowing center Bled. Unfortunately, as it was raining on us, we decided against doing this. Each boat can hold up to 20 people and costs 12€ per person no matter the age! There is even a saying that you haven’t truly visited Lake Bled unless you have taken a ride on a Plenta Boat. Guess we missed out!
After walking partially around the lake, we found a small restaurant called Gostilna Murka which has been around since 1908. Here we enjoyed traditional Slovenian meals. I enjoyed pork chops with a creamy mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes fried with onions while Hans enjoyed a meat platter with Buck Wheat and Sauerkraut.
I found that I was slightly nervous to visit Slovenia, but there was nothing to be worried about. Slovenia became the first former Communist country to join the Eurozone in 2007 and has since seen a slight increase in tourism. Now after having visited Slovenia, I have to say that it is definitely a country which gets overlooked by travelers. It is definitely off the beaten track and has not yet been trampled over by hordes of tourists. If you are looking for something different with a unique blend of history, beauty and culture than this is the place to come!
Since Slovenia is situated between Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia, it is very diverse. The official language is Slovene while the unofficial languages also include Hungarian and Italian. However, the younger generations speak practically perfect English.
Things you need to know before going to Lake Bled:
- The castle is open every day November-May from 8:00-6:00pm and April-October from 8:00-8:00pm.
- Adults 9 €, Students 7,50 € and children 4,50 €
- The castle is not really suitable for handicapped or elderly who might have a hard time climbing the steep hill.
- While in Bled, it is absolutely necessary to try Cream Cake which is a vanilla custard and cream cake called kremšnita with powdered sugar. This little cake has become symbolic only to Lake Bled and was originally created as a means for using up old ingredients. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it but it was created at the big red Park Hotel. So maybe there you will have better luck!
- The plenta boats cost 12€ per person no matter the age!
How to get here:
- If coming from Germany, then you will certainly have to drive through Austria which requires a vignette. We had to buy a 10 day vignette for 8,70 €. **You can purchase this at any gas station nearing the border!**
- You will also need to buy a Slovenia vignette. You can buy either a 7 day or 30 day. We bought a 7 day vignette for 15€.
- To avoid summer traffic, we took the B20 back roads in the direction of Salzburg to the A10/E66 to Lake Bled. This was much better and we hit way less traffic than we heard about on the radio.
Check off your Travel Bucket List with Lonely Planet’s ULTIMATE Travelist book which ranks all of the BEST locations on the planet! It makes for great home decor or a conversation starter!
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Be sure to check out more blogs about Slovenia:
For more blogs about Croatia:
and a detour side trip to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina!
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