A Perfect Day in Bled, Slovenia
The island on the lake
In the shadow of the Julian Alps, sits a small Slovenian town quite positively out of a storybook. It’s surrounded by thick forests and small villages and is called Bled. Chances are you've seen pictures of the sweet little island on the lake and wondered about this magical place. Our family of four had the opportunity to visit last month and we loved it!
Keep reading to find out how we spent
a perfect day in Bled, Slovenia!
We began our day with a visit to the Info Center located at Ljubljanska cesta 27, 4260 Bled, and were glad we did. This is a helpful first stop because of all the information available (not only for Bled, but also the whole country of Slovenia). It is very family-friendly, and the colorful and interactive exhibits were fun for everyone. We learned about indigenous animals, Slovenia's history, unique geography, and the people that make up this beautiful country. We learned that the people of Slovenia have been long-time iron forgers, bee-keepers and cheese makers. We learned about the magnificent Triglav National Park and the many outdoor activities available there for tourists. The Info Center is also a great place to pick up free maps and brochures. A snack bar, free WIFI and bike rentals are also available.
Bike Ride around Lake Bled
After visiting the Info Center, we decided to take a bike ride around Lake Bled. We had noticed our bed and breakfast, Garni Hotel Berc had bikes available for guests to use and we figured this would be an excellent start to our day. There are also a number of bicycle rental shops located around the lake. The loop around took us approximately 45 minutes and that included plenty of stops for pictures. The route is flat and paved most of the way. Seeing the island from every angle and also the castle above the lake was a great way to build anticipation and look forward to what we'd be seeing next.
Stopping along the way for pictures
Pletna Boat & the Church on the Island
After our bike ride, we decided it was time to visit the island on the lake and also the church on the island (as it is commonly called). Seeing this dreamy image of a church on an island in the middle of a lake on many travel websites is what enticed us to visit Slovenia after all. In fact, when we first rolled into town the evening before, we promptly went to the lake shore to see it. “There it is,” we all sighed. So, how does one get out to the island? I was told there were two choices, row yourself in a small row boat or ride in a traditional flat-bottomed pletna boat and be rowed out there. We opted for the latter. In fact, I didn’t see anyone rowing out there on their own the day we were there.
Row boat option
A traditional pletna boatThese pletna boats are so interesting. They date back to 1590 and are known only in Bled. They each hold about 20 passengers and are easy to spot from afar with their brightly colored awnings. Oarsmen stand and row with two oars and they glide along the water remarkably with ease. We were told that not just anyone can become an oarsman, but instead the tradition is handed down from generation to generation.
Once on the island, we immediately were looking up at a very steep set of stairs. These 99 steps have a unique legend to them. Apparently, if a groom carries his bride up all 99 steps they will have a happy life together. Of course our boys wanted to know why my husband was not attempting to accomplish this feat and we replied that it only works on your wedding day. Not sure if that’s true or not, but I no more wanted to be carried up those steps than my husband wanted to carry me. The boys counted as they climbed and reported the number 99 to be accurate. For a small fee you can see the inside of the church and the bell tower. Inside the church, you’ll want to ring the wishing bell. Constructed in 1534 and hanging in the church’s nave, legend has it that all who ring it will have their wish granted. In all we spent about 2 hours total taking the pletna boat out to the island and touring the church and bell tower.
99 steps to the top!
Ringing the bell inside the church
Bled Castle is a stunning structure that sits high on a steep cliff overlooking Lake Bled. You can see it from just about anywhere around the lake and a visit is a must-do if you’re in Bled. This medieval castle is over 1000 years old and is the oldest castle in Slovenia. Our family enjoyed visiting the museum dedicated to showcasing the people and their way of life through the years, the printing shop where we learned about a Gutenberg press that was once used at the castle, and the iron forge shop where we received a fascinating demonstration from a craftsman. We spent about two hours taking in all the exhibits and the incredible views down toward Lake Bled and the surrounding area.
Bled Castle sits high above the lake
The entrance to Bled Castle
Iron forging demonstration
The print shop
Then it was time for a treat! We had been hearing all about Bled’s famous cream cake (also known as kremšnitas) and when we saw gigantic slices available for purchase at the outdoor snack bar, we decided it was time to give it a try. It is basically a delicate puff pastry sitting on top of layers of light vanilla cream and custard. I need not tell you… WE LOVED IT! How could we not?
Cream Cake - a Bled specialty!
Taking in the view from Bled Castle
Bled Castle is open all year. Check their website for daily hours. Admission is 10 Euros for adults and 5 Euros for children 13 and under. There is a steep walking path up to the castle from the lake and it is also accessible by car with a parking lot available for visitors.
After already enjoying a full day around Lake Bled we wondered if we really wanted to take the time to venture out to Vintgar Gorge. We are all so glad we did!
Welcome to Vintgar Gorge!
Located less than 5km from town is Vintgar Gorge and I can’t even tell you what a beautiful and completely unique place this is. I’m hoping that our pictures here will convince you to do the same. We used our navigation and followed signs through several small villages and found the parking lot and beginning to the gorge with ease. The admission price to the gorge is 5 Euros for adults and 3 Euros for children and they only accept cash. The gorge is part of Triglav National Park and has a wooden walkway built in 1893 that leads you on an out and back path along the Radovna River. The total time we spent walking to the end and back was about 1.5 hours and that included lots of stops for pictures.
This is an excellent family hike as it is flat and the trail/wooden walkway is nicely maintained. It’s really hard to put into words the beauty of this place, but the color of the water with the dramatic rock formations and lush greenery is just spectacular!
Time for Dinner
After a full day, it was time to relax with a delicious meal. The boys decided they were tired out and would rather just get a pizza and hang back in our suite. That sounded like a great idea to my husband and me! We ordered take-away pizzas from nearby Pizzeria Gallus. They thought the pizza was awesome! For our "adults-only" evening out, we opted for Finefood Penzion Berc. Not only was it right across the parking lot from the Garni Hotel Berc, it also had raving reviews on Tripadvisor. Sitting outside under the stars, with a pianist playing in the background, sipping on Slovene wine and enjoying local specialties including produce from their own garden, we were in culinary heaven. It was a truly wonderful end to our day. And it was also fun to learn that the owner at Finefood Penzion Berc and the owner at Garni Hotel Berc are brothers. Their family turned from farming to tourism in the 1950s and have been welcoming guests ever since.
Where to Stay
Like I’ve mentioned before, I love to rely on Tripadvisor for where to stay (and where to eat). Garni Hotel Berc was everything we hoped it would be. Sort of like a gingerbread trimmed hotel, this warm and cozy establishment has 15 rooms including a family suite that fit us well. Our suite had a spacious common area and one of the largest bathrooms I’ve ever seen in Europe. There was a separate master bedroom and a small room off of the main room with bunk beds for the boys. The breakfast was quite generous and the breakfast room was cheerful and a lovely place to begin the day. We also enjoyed the free parking and the free bicycle use.
Welcoming entrance at Garni Hotel Berc
Time for breakfast!
Other things to do in and around Bled
Our boys would have absolutely loved the adventure park, ropes course and alpine slide here at this outdoor park nested in a forested area by the lake. Unfortunately, they had limited hours since it was still May and hadn’t begun their main season. Check it out if you’re there in the summer!
Triglav National Park Tours
Slovenia is often called the New Zealand of Europe and when you see what incredible outdoor adventures await you and the spectacular scenery, you’ll know why. Whether you like hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking or river rafting be sure and check out the many options available with local tour guides.
Just a half hour away sits the lovely old town of Radovljica. Dating back to the Middle Ages, this well-preserved medieval town is a museum in and of itself and worth a visit. We especially loved the bee keeping museum, Cebelarski Muzej. We made a quick stop after leaving Bled and on our way to Ljubljana, but it was one of those places we would have gladly spent more time.
PIN FOR LATER
We would like to thank the Slovenia Board of Tourism who hosted our Pletna boat ride, our admission to the church on the island, and Bled Castle. All opinions expressed are our own. We absolutely loved our time in Bled and can’t wait to return.
Have you been to Bled, Slovenia? What did we miss? I can tell you without a doubt, we plan to return!