After just half a day in Lake Bled, I was already thinking about how great it would be to spend a week there. If you can’t spare a week, you can do a whole lot with your time in Bled in a weekend that includes hiking, boating, and enjoying local delicacies. Here are some ideas for activities in Lake Bled.
If you’re a fan of quiet but tough hikes, Lake Bled has got plenty of activity for you. There are a couple of viewpoints in the surrounding hills that will get your heart pumping and give you sweeping views of the area around the lake. One is located on Straza Hill where you can also do toboggan runs in the summer. The viewpoint shows up on Google Maps as Sunset View Straza. This point is accessible by the chairlift or by a hike. The hike wraps around the back of Straza Hill away from the lake. Once you get up there, Bled Island and Castle will be beneath you.
Two other hikes in the area are on the western side of the lake, Mala Osojnica and Ojstrica. They share part of the same route up but one is shorter and less arduous. You can do both by starting with Ojstrica at the signpost that divides the two routes, then when you reach the peak, double back to the signpost and go the other way. We decided to do Mala Osojnica which was a little steeper. I had seen this described as a challenging hike. My arrogant ass was like lol please, I’ve hiked up 15,000 foot mountains, I think I can handle this little hill. False. I could not.
The route up is mostly a dirt path so if it’s a little wet, it can be slippery. There are rocks you can use to climb up but those aren’t always solidly established in the ground. And there are some precariously angled paths that are slanted downward toward a ravine of rocks and trees. To be fair, I’m extraordinarily inept with physical activity and a little afraid of heights, but there were people who got up there quickly and easily. That being said, even if you don’t make it all the way to the top, you still get above the tree line to see a clear view of the lake and Bled Island. If you descend on the route toward Zaka, there is a small sandy beach and a gorgeous wooden footpath right on the lake.
Visit Bled Castle
One of the other must-do activities in Lake Bled is to see Bled Castle. It is easily accessible by car or through a steep walkway full of endless staircases. Though it’s one of the most iconic and beautiful sights from the lake, the castle itself is a sight to see up close, as well as to admire the view from its walls. An important thing to note is that the hike itself isn’t all that worth it unless you plan to pay to enter the castle. You can’t see much until you’re inside the castle walls.
Once inside though, aside from beautiful views from a couple of the courtyards, there are a few interesting things to check out. Aside from a small museum, you can visit the castle wine cellar, where you can pay to bottle and seal your own wine from the castle’s winery. There’s also the printing press, where you can pick up a personalized souvenir using their old printing press. If you want to dine with a view, there is also a restaurant and a small cafe.
There are technically two places around the lake suitable for swimming, the Castle Bathing Area and Velika Zaka. There are also private hotel swimming areas that are cordoned off which you can use if you’re a guest or if you pay a fee. At these spots you can put down your towel and enjoy Bled’s clear blue waters. That being said, despite signs that expressly forbid swimming anywhere else, pretty much the whole lake is full of people swimming. A lot of people set up camp around the grassy areas that give you access to the lake. Even in peak season in August, it was possible to find a relatively shady secluded spot. Some people even skip the water transport and swim to Bled Island. Though I doubt you could get into the church in nothing but a soaking wet bathing suit.
Boat on the lake
There are a couple of ways to get out on Lake Bled aside from swimming. Bled is home to a traditional kind of wooden row boat called a pletna boat. These boats with their colorful awnings can be found on various locations around the lake. They shuttle 20 people at a time to and from Bled Island. The pletna boats are like the local version of a gondola; the oarsmen are dedicated and respected professionals around these parts. You pay the oarsmen directly and it must be in cash. These round trips to Bled Island usually allow for about 40 minutes of time on the island.
If you want a little more freedom, you can rent a wooden boat and row yourself around the lake. So if you do want to stop at the island, you can be there as long as you like. These are a bit more cost-effective if you consider that it costs 20 euros to rent them for an hour, which works out to 10 per person if you’re two, instead of 15 euros per person to ride the big pletna boat full of tourists. In the hopes of having a sweet romantic boating trip, we rented our own cute wooden boat. Then we discovered, rowing is hard though a lot people out there make it look easy. But don’t stress out if you can’t move quickly in the right direction. Have a laugh about it while you spin aimlessly in the middle of the lake. The views are still spectacular even if you don’t get very far from the dock.
Explore Bled Island
The adorable little island that is in all photos of Lake Bled has a couple of things to see for a quick stop. On the island, you can visit St. Mary’s Church and go up the tower if you’re not already sick of hiking uphill. Getting to the church involves going up 99 stone steps that lead from the shore to the front of the church. You can reward yourself by ringing the wishing bell of the church, which is believed to bring luck to whoever does it. If you’re up for a little more climbing, you can go up the clock tower; a one way climb and descent, so you won’t run into people coming in the other direction. Aside from the church, the small green island has a belfry and café where you can get refreshments.
Stroll around the city
Not all activities in Lake Bled require working up a sweat. For a less grueling walk, you can take a relaxing stroll around the lake and the city. Some highlights you may want to stop to see include the Bled Heart, which is a cute but tacky photo op if you’re into that kind of thing and St. Martin’s Parish Church, the one visible under the imposing Bled Castle. It’s free to enter so if you happen to be in the area, it’s a convenient stop. The best thing about Bled is that you’re surrounded by amazing sights no matter where you go
Try local specialties
Slovenia is known for quite a few things including wine and honey. In Bled, you can enjoy a flight of seven wines from different regions of Slovenia in a 100-year old wine cellar at Wine Tasting Bled. Local wines are also sold at any of the restaurants, and if you happen to run into a food festival, they’ll have some, too. Honey is also an important Slovenian staple, so much so, that Bled Castle dedicates an entire beehouse to their products. You can find different types of Slovenian honey in shops all over Bled. So you can pick up honeycomb, flavored honeys, honey skin products, and honeywine.
Last but certainly not least is Bled’s own cream cake. Though you can find this delicious vanilla cream delicacy all over Slovenia, the cake was born in Bled, where they are everywhere. You can have one at dinner, or take one to go and sit on a bench by the lake to enjoy the sweet view.
Where to stay
The best part about staying in Bled overnight is getting to enjoy a charming chalet around town. Many of the ones on the lake will be expensive, but it’s possible to find a good deal on accommodations. The farther away from the lake you book accommodations, the more reasonable it’ll be. Most of the guesthouses and hotels have beautiful mountain views, so you can spend your downtime enjoying the fresh air and the scenery from the comfort of your hotel. If you’re thinking of taking advantage of some of the hotel perks like the Sava pool deck that’s directly on the lake, then you might want to spring for a more expensive stay. Sava also has a fabulous wellness center that has natural thermal pools and saunas, though be forewarned, they’re nude saunas.
Where to eat
Lake Bled food did not disappoint. My absolute best recommendation is Sova (maybe anywhere in the world), which has a fabulous view of the lake from their upstairs deck and an incredible offering of local dishes that include fresh fish and pasta. It’s not even that expensive for being the kind of place that shaves a black truffle onto your pasta.
Beneath Bled Castle, you’ll find a cozy town with many dining options, including the busy and delicious Pizzeria Rustika. Bled, like all of Slovenia, is very vegan friendly. One of the best-reviewed restaurants in the city is Public and Vegan Kitchen, where you can find vegan versions of all your favorites like burgers and chocolate cake.
After a weekend of good eats and amazing activities in Lake Bled, you’ll definitely wonder why you didn’t spend a week.