There exists fewer places more picturesque and just so damn cute on planet Earth than Lake Bled. Take my word, I’ve visited many countries, and many lakes for that matter but this tiny little lake in northeast Slovenia trumps all others in terms of sheer cuteness. Sure Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is visually breathtaking as it is surrounded by volcanoes but Lake Bled with its perfect little island in the middle is the stuff fantasy novels are based off of. In fact, Lake Bled is the setting for the Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian.
I came here as part of my week long road trip along Slovenia which exceeded every expectation I had. If you’re visiting Slovenia or even Ljubljana for a few days (make sure to read my guide for traveling Ljubljana), or a greater itinerary around the Balkans, it is a an absolute must to visit Lake Bled. There’s no debate about it unfortunately. I spent 3 days around Bled and this guide will tell you everything you need to know to about this little slice of European paradise.
History of Lake Bled
The island in Lake Bled is not only the most popular island in Slovenia, it is the only natural island in Slovenia. Just under an acre in size, it now houses several buildings, including a 17th-century church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the thousand year old town built alongside the lake became famous as the most beautiful health spa of the then Austrian empire.
Bled also had an important role in Yugoslav history, as the site of an official residence of Josip Broz Tito which was built near the lake. Here, Tito hosted the world’s most important statesmen and held meetings that had great influence on the then Yugoslavia. In 1984 his mansion in Bled was converted into a hotel.
Where to stay in Lake Bled
There are plenty of options to stay in Lake Bled. From Airbnbs, guesthouses, hotels, hostels, there is something for every budget here.
If you want a view of Lake Bled you’ll want to stay as close to the water as possible. There are plenty of hotels that fit this description.
Grand Hotel Toplice
If you want the absolute best pictures and a fancy hotel to boot, then look no further than Grand Hotel Toplice. Book a room with a lake facing balcony and you’ll thank me later. From your balcony, you’ll see a beautiful view of Lake Bled and Bled island.
The rooms are not the cheapest here but I think it’s well worth the price even if for just a night. In the summer months, their lake side deck is the perfect place to have a sunset drink with unobstructed views of Bled Island.
What to eat and drink in Lake Bled
The area around Lake Bled is surrounded by tons of fantastic restaurants and bars with stunning views of Bled Island. I wasn’t here long enough to really try everything but the meals I did have here were delicious.
Prices in Lake bled are considerably more expensive than the rest of Slovenia. Expect to pay high prices at the better restaurants around Bled. A glass of wine is around €5-6 whereas a similar glass will go for €2 once you leave Lake Bled.
This is by far my favorite restaurant in Lake Bled. It came highly recommended by everyone I spoke to and it did not disappoint. Slovenia as a region is famous for its truffles and this restaurant had a lot of truffle dishes that showcased the ingredients of the region.
Walking around Lake Bled
Lake Bled is actually quite small as far as lakes goes. There is a walking trail that completely encircles the lake and takes around 1.5 hours to complete. I highly recommend doing this when you first get here so you have a view of Lake Bled from all angles. You can see which view of Bled Island is your favorite and go back there to take your photos and have your drinks.
Plenty of people walk their dogs or go on their morning run around the lake. Can’t think of a better view to do this in!
Your walk will also take you through the main town of Bled. This town is located on the Eastern side of Lake Bled. Unless you’re staying here, I don’t think you need to spend much time in the city as it’s a bit commercialized for me. There are much more beautiful areas of the lake!
Visiting Bled Island
You can’t visit Lake Bled without actually visiting the little island with the church that’s made it so Instafamous as it is now.
Chartering a boat
To visit the island, you will have to take one of the numerous “pletnas” (boats) you’ll no doubt see. These pletnas can be found at numerous docks on the lake front all around the lake. There is one located right next to the Hotel Toplice, and another one located on the southwest corner of the lake.
You can either take the group ferry which leaves every hour on the hour from the Hotel Toplice. This is €12 round trip. The ferry ride is about 15 minutes and you have 45 minutes to explore the island while it waits for you.
Alternatively, you can charter a private pletna boat. This is €15 round trip per person. Note that these boats do not have any windows so it will be cold in the winter months.
You can also rent your own row boat and row yourself to the island for €15. If I had visited in the summer months, I think I would have been keen for this option. Finally, in the summer months, it is popular to just swim to the island as it is not far from the southern tip (200m).
Bled Church – Assumption of Maria
St. Mary’s Church on Bled island is also known as Church of our dear Lady. The monumental staircase with 99 stone steps is leading from the harbor to the top of the Bled island and to the St. Mary’s Church. Inside the Church you can see a golden central altar, three marble side altars and other luxurious interior elements.
Throughout its history, the Church has been renovated and restored several times, as it represents an important cultural heritage of Bled. While visiting Bled Island is free of charge, you must pay €6 to enter the church. There is also a small cafe on the island as well.
Visiting Bled Castle
Just like visiting the church of assumption on Bled Island, a visit to the Bled Castle is also a must.
The castle’s history dates back to 1004 when the German king Henry II conferred the estate of Bled on Bishop Albuin of Brixen. At that time, only Romanesque tower protected by the wall stood at the place of the current castle. The first castle was built by the bishops around 1011 for defensive purposes. The bishops of Brixen never lived in the castle; therefore, it did not have any exuberant rooms.
The castle was restored in the 1960s and nowadays is the perfect viewpoint for Lake Bled.
There is a museum in the upper courtyard, where you can delve deep into the distant past of Lake Bled, from the early excavations and the castle to the individual steps of its historical development, and see period-specific artefacts. The artefacts do not originate from Bled Castle, but are important for illustrating the residential culture in all the periods the castle has faced so far. A path leads from the upper courtyard to the castle chapel, smithy, souvenir shop and restaurant.
In addition, the restaurant at the Bled Castle is one of the top rated restaurants in the region. I did not dine there but it came highly recommended by my hotel. Make sure to make a reservation for dinner but lunch can be done on a walk in basis. In the summer, you can even sit outside with stunning views of Lake Bled tableside.
Hiking to the top of Lake Bled
Another must do activity in Lake Bled is hiking to the top of the nearby hill. The viewpoint you’ll want to target is called Mala Osojnica.
This is accessible on the southwest corner of the lake and you can park your car at the entrance. The hike is about 30-40 minutes depending on your walking speed and involves a decent amount of incline. It is not a difficult hike in my opinion but the views are well worth it in my opinion. A lot of the most iconic photos are taken here!
I took photos of Lake Bled at all different altitudes and I think on this specific hike, you don’t even need to go to the very top to get the best photos. There is a point about half way up where it was just the right amount of altitude and yielded photos that I thought were better than the ones I took at the top.
Where are the best photography opportunities in Lake Bled?
It’s likely you’ve already seen countless photos of Lake Bled in your day to day wanderlust seeking lives. In fact, Lake Bled wasn’t even that popular in the early 2010s, as it was an actual hidden secret that only locals knew about. Instagram was really what blew the place up and now countless tourists come here looking to recreate those magical pictures they saw.
So where are the best places to take those magical photos?
First of all, let me preface it by saying that you’ll not have a bad photo anywhere along the lake. It is just that damn cute. However, there are areas that I think are much better than others when it comes to the most stunning photos.
Lake level or mountain level?
Lot of people think the best photos of the lake will be from above. That’s why people flock to the castles or do the hikes available to you. I mean, you can’t go wrong with the views from above like this stunning photo here.
However, I think the true beauty of the pictures lie with Bled Island itself, and the surrounding Julian Alps. I walked all around Lake Bled and I must say that as far as photos go, the best photos are taken on the lake level directly facing Bled Island with the Julian alps in the background.
Visit the southwest of the lake
I think the best photos in all of Lake Bled are in the southwest of the lake. Fittingly, there are no hotels or restaurants in this area of the lake so you can find your little area and take as many photos as possible.
In Google Maps, this area is called the “Photographers Spot”. If you’re driving, there is no parking here but you can just park the car on the side of the street without much issue.
This is my favorite area (and probably many others as well as most postcards are from this viewpoint) because it captures Bled Island, Bled Castle, and the Julian alps in the background. If you visit in winter like I did, you will be blessed with snow capped mountains that add another level of beauty to the photo. Enough words, just look at my photos!
I also flew my drone from this spot as there are no laws against drone uses in Lake Bled (yet).
Sunrise vs Sunset
This is a debate I’m still having with myself over which time of day is best for capturing the best photos of the lake? The answer? both. Really, I took photos of Lake Bled during sunrise and sunset from the same locations and they were just both equally stunning in their own ways.
Sunset offered more pinkish hues with the setting sun but sunrise offered warmer colors as the sun imbues the front of Bled Island with golden colors. You can’t go wrong with
Getting to Lake Bled
Lake Bled is easily accessible from Ljubljana. It is only a 45 minute drive from the city. We rented a car as we were doing a road trip around Slovenia but if you don’t have your own car, there are numerous ways to get here.
A taxi is probably the quickest way to get to Lake Bled. This is a very common route (as you can imagine) and if you’re multiple people, this may be worth it monetarily.
A taxi from Ljubljana airport to Lake Bled is around €40-45. From the city, it is around €60 and takes one hour.
The Ljubljana to Bled bus is one of the most common routes in Slovenia. The bus company Arriva has regular departures every day between the two towns. It starts at 6:30am and runs every 30-60 minutes between Bled and the Ljubljana bus station.
The bus is very safe, comfortable and it is only €6 one way. If you’re a solo traveler, this is definitely the go to option. If you’re visiting Lake bled on a day trip option, you don’t need to book a tour but rather just book a roundtrip ticket on Arriva and explore at your leisure!
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