The view of an elegant Baroque church sitting atop a tiny island surrounded by the tranquil teal-coloured waters of Lake Bled is one of the most iconic travel images of our time. While the term ‘fairytale’ is overused and almost clichéd, it’s tailor-made for this lovely destination and, in this case, we’re going to use it unashamedly! Because if ever you had the ability to step into a real-life fairytale, it’s here.
Of course, a place this beautiful hasn’t failed to attract the attention of the rest of the world so it’s very popular in the summer. But if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, a visit during autumn means not just fewer people but also very pleasant temperatures. Some say this is the most wonderful time of the year to visit Slovenia, and we tend to agree.
For first time visitors, below are the must-do experiences of this lovely town.
The lake is the centrepiece and main drawcard of the town, set against the backdrop of some of the country’s highest peaks. One of the simplest pleasures is to take a stroll (as long or short as you like) around the perimeter of the lake, stopping to admire the vistas at regular intervals, of course. (Hint: there’s no wrong angle for the “best” photograph!) You can choose to stay on the flat or veer off to climb up to the viewpoint on the hill of Osojnica.
Once you’ve explored the lakeside trails, take a boat trip out on to the lake itself. There are several options, including sailing and being rowed by an oarsman on a traditional sixteenth-century timber “pletna”, which are unique to the town.
Insider tip: If you’re feeling energetic you can also hire a rowboat and make your own way around the lake. It doesn’t require any great stamina and it can be very relaxing. Who says you have to come in for lunch?
This tiny green dot in the middle of Lake Bled is Slovakia’s only natural island, and at one time was home to a temple dedicated to the ancient Slavic goddess of love. Today, on that same site, the enigmatic fifteenth-century Baroque Church of the Assumption of Mary dominates the island with its quiet beauty.
Take a pletna across to the island and make the pilgrimage up the 99 steps to the doors. In Slavic tradition a groom must carry his bride up those 99 steps in complete silence in order to achieve a lifetime of happiness. Once you get there, don’t miss out on ringing the Wishing Bell, as it’s said whoever rings the bell will have their dearest wish come true.
If you can bear to turn your back on the lake (don’t worry, it won’t be for long), take a wander up to Bled Castle. Wander may be putting too light a spin on it as it is actually quite steep along a cobbled street, but there are plenty of places to stop for a breather and take in the wonderful elevated views over the lake.
Once you’ve reached the fortress itself, you can have a look around the museum and educational centre, and there’s also a lovely chapel and a restaurant for a bite of lunch. In truth though, it’s still all about those views…
Set aside half a day to soak up the wonderful nature of Vintgar Gorge. While there are some serious hiking opportunities to be had around here, the beauty of the gorge is that so much of it can be enjoyed from the vantage of the man-made forest boardwalk.
The wooden boardwalk follows the path of the river that runs through the mile-long gorge and is interspersed with observation bridges along the way. The feeling of being totally immersed within the dramatic landscape makes for an extraordinary experience, and the boardwalk’s accessibility makes this an activity for everyone – no matter what their age or ability.
The entire walk there and back should only take around an hour, but the opportunity to take it slowly and soak up this pristine environment is hard to resist.
Where to Eat
Whether you’re looking to relax with a casual meal and a glass of wine, or feel like frocking up and heading out on the town for some fine dining, you won’t be disappointed. Of course, half the fun is discovering your new favourite gastronomic experience for yourself, so how about we just get you started…
Park: If you’ve done even a jot of research into the cuisine of Slovenia you’ll have come across dozens of references to the Bled Cream Cake. Where better to sample this delightfully decadent taste sensation than at the very place it originated? Park is set right on the shores of the lake, but the sensational views are almost overshadowed by your first taste of this amazing confection, which has been crafted by the pastry chefs here for over 60 years. But, back to the views. No, the cake. No the views. It’s an enviable dilemma and one that may have to be repeated several times during your stay…
Find it: Park is the onsite café/restaurant of the Hotel Park, Cesta Svobode 15. Open 9-21.00 every day.
Julijana: For an evening to remember book a table at Julijana, one of the most exclusive restaurants in Bled. And we do mean book a table – because with a capacity for only 20 diners, you’ll need to get in quickly to enjoy this absolutely magical dining experience.
Depending on the weather you can choose to dine inside or on the terrace – where you almost feel like you can reach out and touch Bled Island. The menu certainly lives up to the expectations of the surrounds, offering traditional Slovenian cuisine with a contemporary twist.
Find it: Julijana is located in the Grand Hotel Toplice, Cesta Svobode 15. Open 19-23.00 every day.
Insider tip: Book the “chef’s table” for the ultimate gastronomic experience and one of the most memorable of your culinary life! You’ll dine at a special table in the kitchen and be able to speak with chef Simon Bertoncelj himself about every aspect of your meal.
How to Get to Bled
While Slovenia does have its own international airport, some UK visitors may find that flying into Budapest Airport offers a wider range of options in terms of convenient flights. With a flight time of just over two hours, getting from the UK to Budapest Airport is quick and easy. There are over 100 scheduled flights to Budapest every week, with most of the major carriers, including British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair, flying the route.
The most convenient (not to mention picturesque) way of getting the rest of the way to Bled is on a pre-booked private shuttle with Shuttle Direct. Book online before you leave home and one of our friendly drivers will be there to meet you at Budapest Airport and transport you directly to your accommodation in beautiful Bled. You’ll get all the benefits of a leisurely road trip without any of the hassle of driving yourself. Almost like two holidays in one!
Where to Stay:
Vila Bled: For those looking for tranquillity, fairytale views and a dose of history, Vila Bled offers the ultimate accommodation for a stay in this wonderful region. Set in an enchanting lakeside location within its own lush parkland, the hotel overlooks the iconic vista of Bled Island.
This former summer residence of the President of Yugoslavia has seen its fair share of royalty and celebrity; today, its elegant décor and refined ambience still appeal to the more discerning guest. With onsite lakeside dining in the international restaurant, spacious luxury rooms and breathtaking views across the lake, a stay in this historic hotel allows you to enjoy the full splendour of Lake Bled.
About Shuttle Direct:
Wherever you’re travelling in Europe or North Africa, Shuttle Direct is the go-to company for fast, friendly and affordable airport transfers. No matter what your budget, our range of shared and private airport transport offers a convenient, safe and comfortable service to get you where you need to go.
Make a quick and easy booking via our user-friendly website and let us take care of the rest.