Out of Bed: The Insider's Guide to Lake Bled, Slovenia

Jewel-toned waters and a picture-perfect mountain backdrop inspire a sense of magic on the shores of Lake Bled. In this tiny Slovenian town, the culture is influenced as much by its neighbours Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia, as it is the uniqueness of the land.

Whether you visit in the height of summer to dip your toes in the sparkling water, or during the depths of winter when snow dusts everything in sight, this place feels straight out of a fairytale.

What to do

Boasting year-round attractions, there really is no bad time to visit Lake Bled and every excuse to make the journey. However, if you find yourself in the heart of Slovenia in peak summer, you’re sure to experience the true wonders of the town.

An outdoor-enthusiasts paradise, there’s no shortage of activities on the shore and atop the glistening blueish-green waters of the lake. Rent a bike and cycle the perimeter (approximately 6km) to take in the sights, or simply stroll at a leisurely pace and discover hidden charms along the way.

Perched atop a steep hill on the northern edge of the lake, you will find Blejski Grad (Bled Castle). The fortresses-like structure dominates the face of a 130m cliff, offering sweeping vistas from its walled terrace. For even more impressive views, climb your way to the hilltop viewpoint at Mala Osojnica on the western edge of the lake. Fair warning, the hike is steep and you will need sturdy shoes to make it to the top but the panoramic views are rewarding. On a clear day, you’ll look down on the mirror-like lake and onto the snow-capped peaks of the Julian Alps behind it.

Once you’re back on flat ground, take a pletna (gondola) or hire a boat and row your way to the tear-shaped islet. On Bled Island, you will find the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary at the top of a 99-step staircase. Even for non-believers this Baroque building is worth a visit as myth has it that anyone who rings the bell in the tower will have their wish come true. Be sure to take a dive into the crystal clear water of the lake before making your return to the quaint town centre for more exploring.

A few kilometres from the township you will find Vintgar Gorge. Defined by its 1600m wooden walkway, this natural phenomenon begins to expose Slovenia’s true beauty. Rapids, waterfalls and rock pools will enchant you as you make your way through the rocky enclave. Be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds and experience a little slice of paradise.

Approximately an hour away by local bus, Slovenia’s lively capital Ljubljana makes for a bohemian day trip. The city comes alive across its many bridges which define the Ljubljanica river. With charmingly run-down appeal, an artsy vibe permeates the city, from its street performances to live music and crumbling yet colourful buildings. Buzzing bars line the riverfront, offering the perfect place to people watch. With a little effort, you’ll stumble on craft beer bars and an energetic dining scene that ranges from modern tasting menus to hearty traditional fare in the cobblestone streets.

Where to eat

Back in Bled, be sure to book a table at Oštarija Peglez'n, a family-run restaurant just a stone's throw from the edge of the lake. With a menu inspired by Mediterranean life, fish is the pick of the day at this quaint locale. Try the local trout or choose seafood caught along the country’s 46km slice of Adriatic coast.

For an authentic Slovenian woodfired meal, take a seat at Gostilna Union. Order ćevapčići (a kebab-style meat dish) and štruklji (cheese-filled dumplings) for a taste of the local cuisine.

If you have a sweet tooth, don’t leave town without trying a slice of the infamous cream cake. The best in Bled can be found at Slaščičarna Šmon, a small bakery on the edge of the town, where flaky pastry is piled high with a rich custard filling in a signature square shape.

Where to sleep

For lakeside luxury, spend a night at Vila Bled. The former summer residence of Yugoslav President Tito, this striking pastel pink building is set in a peaceful corner of the lake. For a fairytale ending to your visit in Bled, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the hotel’s park or further afield.

Enjoyed this? Check out our Insider's Guide to Puglia.

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