Lake Bled, Slovenia


One of Eastern Europe's best-kept secrets is finally getting the recognition it deserves and is no doubt one of the most spectacular lakes I have ever seen. Just half an hour outside of Slovenia's capital city, Ljubljana, you'll find this stunning destination hidden within the Julian Alps and within easy reach of mine and Dan's Summer holiday destination, Croatia, we had the perfect opportunity to hop across the border for the day to see the beauty of the lake for ourselves. 

Despite a six-hour round trip to Lake Bled, nothing could really put a downer on the day (other than wishing we could have stayed longer). Fortunately the tour we were on made sure we all crammed in as much as possible in the short time that we were there, starting with Blejski grad or Bled Castle. The castle sits atop a precipice overlooking the city of Bled and has been documented to have been around as early as the 11th Century, making its claim to be the oldest castle in Slovenia.

The castle now comprises of exhibition rooms, a restaurant, a working forge, castle cellar and the original Gothic chapel which is beautifully decorated. But for me, the castle was all about the view. It was purely breathtaking and I must have taken an average of 7 photos for each angle the castle overlooked as I just couldn't tear myself away. 

The Slovenian 'gondolas' or pletnas seen above are just as beautiful as the ones synonymous with Venice, yet there are no small canals to navigate here, just one straight 10-15 minute boat ride out to Bled Island and having done both, I can say that this gondola ride will have you catching your breath just as much as sharing a bottle of Prosecco with your lover down the Grand Canal would.

We had a couple of hours free time between the castle and the trip out to the island, many couples opting for either the horse drawn carriage around the lake or a local restaurant for something to eat but the fella and I had come fully prepared with a packed lunch from our hotel so opted to seek refuge in some shade whilst we refuelled.

There are loads of little shops, bars and hotels around the edge of the lake so there are many things to keep you occupied in the early afternoon, whether you choose to just sit with an ice cold beverage and soak up the surroundings. Although we never did the horse drawn carriage ride, I still feel we saw a fair amount of Bled that was accessible to us in the short amount of time we were there and I know that I would go back to Slovenia in a heartbeat if I get the chance so don't let a day trip like the one we did put you off. Take my word for it, it'll be an excursion you won't regret.

Our final destination of the trip was the gondola ride over to Blejski otok, Slovenia's only natural island, to see the Church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary where it is deemed good luck for a newly married groom to carry his wife up the 98 baroque steps to the Church before ringing the bell three times to make a wish on true love.

I'm not newly married, nor was I carried up all of those steps (much to my hot, flustered self), but I did take it upon myself to ring the bell and hope that my wish would some day come true..! It's worth a shot, right? The bell tower was a little disappointing if I'm honest, especially as you have to pay to go up there as well as for access to the Church but I can't complain for the exercise and the lovely breeze to come through the tower windows. As some wise words have spoken, if you're only going over there once you may as well make the most of it.

Lake Bled is a place I'd recommend over and over again, somewhere I would love to see again during a wider exploration of Slovenia. Bled is a great starting point though and somewhere you'd be sad to miss if you have the opportunity to go, so if it's not on your bucket list then get it on there now!

What to take
+ Swimming things
In the Summer the lake is warm and you'll find many of the locals take this opportunity to swim and make the most of the gorgeous weather. There is also a separate lido on the lake, perfect for ensuring your party don't swim too far from the edge though you will be charged between €4-7 depending on the time of day for the use of this.
+ Plenty of euros 
I say this more for the fact there are numerous spots around the lake to sit back and relax with an ice cream (think creamy, flavourful, Italian-style gelato), caf├ęs to try the local delicacy KREMNA REZINA and like most European towns, public toilets aren't usually free so it's always handy to have some change in your purse.
+ Camera or camera-enabled phone
Pretty self-explanatory. This place is one of the most beautiful places I've been to and I would have been genuinely gutted if I had missed the chance to take a piece of Bled home with me. You don't need a fancy camera, just an appreciation for the place you're in. 

What to do 
+ Bled Castle
A good hour, if not more, can be spent in the castle. There's a museum that runs through the buildings, as well as a printing works, wine cellar, forge and the well preserved chapel. More importantly don't forget the spectacular views. And boy, that's worth the €9 entrance fee alone. 
+ Bled island
A must-see whilst you're in Bled. You can get to the island by one of the many 'gondolas' dotted around the edge of the lake at a charge of €12 per person or by renting your own boat, with starting prices of €10 per person for an hour.
+ Horse drawn carriage ride
If you're after an authentic Slovenian experience, have a half an hour trip around the lake in a horse drawn carriage by coachmen in traditional dress. The experience costs €40 but it's a great way to see the whole of the lake if walking in the Summer is just a little too much. You can also take a horse drawn carriage up to Bled Castle with a 30 minutes wait and return for €50 – perfect if you haven't made any prior arrangements. The carriages leave from the water front car park by Festival Hall.

Where to stay
+ Hotel Park, Bled
On the lake front, HOTEL PARK has stunning views and in close distance to all of the attractions above. There is a lot more to discover there than what I've listed so you won't be lost for things to do.
+ Ljubljana
Slovenia's capital city is only 30 minutes away from Bled and I've heard great things, which isn't surprising after LONELY PLANET listed Ljubljana at #2 on its Best in Europe 2014 list.
+ Croatia or Italy
If like myself you already have a holiday planned, some tour operators offer the excursion to Lake Bled as part of their package deal so keep an eye out or even ask your holiday rep whether it's a trip that's possible to take during your stay.

Have you been to Lake Bled? Or have any suggestions for others looking to take the trip there? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear them!

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