11 Awesome Things to Do at Lake Bled in Slovenia (+ Helpful Tips for Visiting)

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Home to the only island in Slovenia, delicious cream cake, and one of the prettiest glacial lakes in Europe (yeah, I said it!), Lake Bled is an absolute must-visit destination. And I'm not the only one who thinks so; Lake Bled is one of the most popular places to visit in all of Slovenia!

The town of Bled is a small one of less than 10,000 people, tucked into the beautiful Julian Alps in the northwestern part of Slovenia. The town is best known for its picturesque glacial lake (Lake Bled), complete with overlooking castle and fairy tale-like island-with-church in its center.

And it's actually been popular for a long time! Europeans began flocking to Lake Bled in the mid-1800s for a form a “nature healing” being practiced by Swiss healer Arnold Rikli. Rikli promoted a form of alternative medicine that utilized natural elements like sun, water, and fresh air to treat certain illnesses, and Lake Bled quickly became a hotspot for spa and health tourism.

Lake Bled, with a view of Bled Castle atop a cliff
I mean, who wouldn't feel better here?

Today, Bled is still a tourism hotspot. It's still most popular with European tourists in the summer months, but is also becoming increasingly visited by international tourists, too.

I first visited Lake Bled in 2013, and was absolutely enchanted by it and blown away that more people didn't know about it. I was worried on my second trip to Slovenia in 2023 that Lake Bled would by now be fully “discovered” and feel overly touristy – but it honestly didn't! It's still an incredible place in Slovenia to visit.

Top things to do at Lake Bled

Bled is not a very large town – and Lake Bled isn't even a very large lake. So the good news is that you can hit up all the highlights in just a couple days!

Here are all the things you won't want to miss at Lake Bled.

NOTE: Many of the things listed here are only offered from roughly April-September, as that's the main tourism season in Bled. If you're visiting outside those months, it's a good idea to double check in advance whether you can do some of these activities!

1. Take a pletna to Bled Island

Pletna boats traveling to Bled Island
Pletna boats traveling to Bled Island

A pletna boat is a flat-bottomed wooden boat that you will only see on Lake Bled in Slovenia.

The pletna is 7 meters long and 2 meters wide, with a colorful fabric awning over the top. The boats hold up to about 18 passengers, and are rowed by a man standing at the back, kind of like a Venetian gondola (except with 2 long oars).

These boats date back hundreds of years around Lake Bled, but it wasn't until the reign of Maria Theresa of the Habsburg Empire in the 1700s that the present-day tradition of pletnas on Lake Bled was born. Back then, some local farmers lost land/were allocated poorer growing plots due to what I'm assuming was some Habsburg bureaucracy. To compensate them for their loss, Maria Theresa gave 23 families around Bled the sole rights to operate pletna boats on Lake Bled.

Today, descendants of those same families still own the 23 pletna boats operating on Lake Bled. The men who row them are called pletnar, and it's a very highly esteemed job that's passed down from generation to generation.

Pletna boats on Lake Bled
Pletna boats on Lake Bled

The pletna boats run from town to Bled Island, which is the small island in the center of Lake Bled. (Fun fact: this is the only island in all of Slovenia!) You can get on one of these unique boats at 4 different spots around Lake Bled: in front of Hotel Park in Bled town (my pick, as you get the longest ride across the lake from here), at Spa Park near the “Wooden House on the Lake,” in the village of Mlino, and at Velika Zaka.

To go on one of these trips, simply arrive at one of the four spots mentioned above, and let whatever pletna captain is there know you'd like to go on the next trip out to the island. The captains don't leave at any specific times; they simply wait until they have a full boat. (You don't usually have to wait very long during the warmer months.)

Pletna boat rower on Lake Bled
On a pletna boat on Lake Bled; yes, dogs are allowed too!

Then they'll row you over to Bled Island, allow you about 45 minutes to explore, and then row you back. Prices can vary, but from the pletna dock near Hotel Park, you can expect to pay just under €20 per person for a total trip of about 1.5 hours.

You can also get to Bled Island via an electric tourist boat (no motorized boats are allowed on Lake Bled at all), or you can rent a rowboat or paddleboard and get there under your own steam. Personally, though, I think you can't miss riding in a traditional pletna boat!

2. Ring the wishing bell on Bled Island

Stone steps leading up to Bled Island
Steps on Bled Island
Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary on Bled Island
Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary

Your arrival at Bled Island will require you to climb up 99 stone steps to reach the church (local legend says newlywed grooms are supposed to carry their new brides up these). There's been a church at the center of this island since the 9th century, though the current Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary dates back to the 17th century.

You'll need to pay a fee to enter the church, which also gets you access to a small museum and a chance to climb to the top of the church's bell tower. The main draw is inside the gold-plated altar, and the chance to ring the “wishing bell.”

The local legend of the bell goes that, long ago, a young woman living in Bled Castle became widowed, and gathered all her silver and gold and melted it down to be shaped into a bell to be placed atop the church on Bled Island. But, as boatmen were transporting the bell across the lake, a huge storm hit, and the boat with the bell sank to the bottom of the lake. The distraught woman moved to Rome, and the Pope, hearing of her sad story and being moved by it, had a new bell made and sent to Bled Island in her honor.

When you ring the “wishing bell” bell on Bled Island today, you're making a wish to the “Lady from the Lake.”

Inside the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary on Bled Island
Can you spot the rope for the Wishing Bell?

The wishing bell is a separate bell from those in the church's bell tower; the wishing bell is actually on top of the church above the nave, and a long rope hangs down into the church for people to ring. It's said you need to have the bell clang 3 times for your wish to be heard.

The fee you pay your pletna boat captain does NOT include entry to the church on Bled Island. The church entry fee is €12 (which is pretty steep, in my opinion). You don't HAVE to pay it, but if you don't you won't be able to do much during your time on the island except get an ice cream and enjoy the views from the island steps.

3. Visit Bled Castle

View from the walls of Bled Castle
View from the walls of Bled Castle

After Bled Island, the main feature at Lake Bled that you will definitely see from just about everywhere is Bled Castle (Blejski grad). The medieval structure is perched on a cliff high above Lake Bled, and dates back to at least the 1000s, making it one of the oldest castles in Slovenia.

Today, the castle is mostly a museum, with displays on the history of Slovenia and medieval life.

The coolest things you can do at Bled Castle include walking along a section of the old Romanesque castle walls, visiting the Baroque castle chapel, making a print using a replica Gutenberg printing press, shopping inside the “honey cave” for honey and other bee goods, and doing wine tastings of Slovenian wine (for just €2 each) in the wine cellar.

Bled Castle views with a giant Slovenia flag
Bled Castle views
Wine tasting at Bled Castle
Wine tasting at the castle

There's also a fancy restaurant and a more casual coffee shop at Bled Castle. If it's a nice day, definitely grab a drink on the castle terrace overlooking Lake Bled.

You can reach Bled Castle either by driving (there's a parking lot right next to the castle that costs a couple Euros per hour), or by walking up the Arnold Rikli path. This path from the shore of Lake Bled through the forest is nice, but has lots of stairs to climb to reach the top!

4. Eat cream cake at Hotel Park

Slice of Bled Cream Cake and a glass of wine
THE Bled Cream Cake

There are many unique foods to eat in Slovenia, but the must-try in Bled is Blejska Kremna Rezina (also called Blejska kremšnita), or Bled Cream Cake. This square, custardy dessert is served up in many restaurants around Bled, but you should try it at Hotel Park where it was invented.

Bled Cream Cake was invented by pastry chef Ištvan Lukačević, who moved to Slovenia after World War II and began working at the patisserie at Hotel Park. Lukačević perfected the cream cake in 1953, and it's been made here using his recipe ever since.

This cake is very special – special enough to have been awarded a certificate of national origin. It's a large square slice of cake (exactly 7 x 7 x 7 cm square) that is made up of a layer of puff pastry, a thick layer of vanilla custard, whipped cream, another thin layer of puff pastry, and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Get a slice of the original recipe at the Park Restaurant and Cafe overlooking Lake Bled.

5. Walk around Lake Bled

Bled Island and Lake Bled with some water lillies
Bled Island from a different angle

If you want to go for a nice, leisurely walk in Bled, you can actually walk around the entire lake! The Lake Bled Loop Trail goes all the way around the lake in 3.7 miles (6 kilometers), and is a wide, mostly flat trail of varying paved and gravel sections.

The trail will give you so many excellent vantage points perfect for photos of Bled Castle, Bled Island, pletna boats, and more.

6. Go for a swim

People diving of a floating dock into a turquoise Lake Bled
People swimming in Lake Bled

As you walk around Lake Bled, you'll come across several places where you can go for a swim! The water in Lake Bled doesn't get all *that* warm (during the summer months, average water temperatures in Lake Bled range from about 66-70 degrees F (19-21 degrees C)), but it feels lovely for a dip on those sunny summer days when air temperatures can reach into the 80s F.

There are some dedicated “beaches” and swimming areas around Lake Bled. The most popular is Grajsko kopališče (the “Castle Bathing Area”) just below Bled Castle, which has changing rooms, beach chairs/umbrella rental, and some features like water slides.

Other organized swimming areas include the beach at Velika Zaka, and at Mala Zaka. But there are also other areas around the lake where you can set up a towel and pop into the water.

7. Have a meal at Vila Bled

Entrance to Vila Bled at Lake Bled
Entrance to Vila Bled

Sitting on the southern shore of Lake Bled is Vila Bled, the one-time presidential palace of Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz (AKA Tito). There's been a summer villa on this part of Lake Bled since the 1880s, with the current villa built specifically for Tito and finished in 1947. Tito used Vila Bled as his summer home, and held all sorts of state visits here.

Tito died in 1980, and Vila Bled transitioned into being a hotel in 1984. It is still a high-end hotel today, operated by the Slovenian State Protocol Service and known for its museum-like interior, fine dining restaurant, and wellness and spa center.

Staying at Vila Bled would be amazing, but you can also simply visit to dine on its terrace for either lunch or dinner. Outside visitors can also go to Café Belvedere, which sits up on a high terrace overlooking Lake Bled near Vila Bled. (Just note that it's not always open, and requires walking up lots of steps!)

8. Hike to a viewpoint

View along the Mala Osojnica trail at Lake Bled
View along the Mala Osojnica trail

If you want to get your blood pumping in Bled, there are some excellent hikes you can do without driving anywhere. The most popular are the hikes up to the Mala Osojnica and Ojstrica viewpoints.

These hikes both begin at the western end of Lake Bled – the “Ojstrica Trailhead” and “Mala Osojnica Trailhead” are both marked on Google Maps.

You can do a hiking loop that goes up to Ojstrica first and then down to the Mala Osojnica viewpoint that is roughly 2 miles long in total. And while many websites have this hike marked as “easy,” in my experience it was not what I personally would call easy!

I did part of the Mala Osojnica trail only, and that trail is extremely steep in parts with loose dirt and rocks. It also gets muddy, isn't very well marked, and includes a ladder-like stair climb at the very end. If you're going to attempt this hike and are scared of falling while going back down like I am, I would highly recommend a set of hiking poles!

The views over Lake Bled, however, are undeniably awesome.

9. Ride the alpine coaster

Straža Bled chairlift, with Lake Bled behind it
Straža Bled chairlift

If you'd prefer to get a great lake view without any climbing, another option is to head over to Straža Bled. This small hillside resort is used for skiing in the winter, but in the summer offers up a “toboggan” track. (I personally would call it an alpine coaster, but they use the term toboggan here!)

You can ride the chairlift up above Lake Bled, and then ride a plastic “toboggan” down a fixed metal track that winds its way down the hill. (And if you're not into the tobogganing part but still want the views, you can actually just ride the chairlift both up and down!)

Toboggans at Straža Bled
Toboggans at Straža Bled

This is super fun and not too expensive (I paid less than €20 for 2 toboggan runs, which also includes 2 rides up the chairlift).

10. Learn about beekeeping

Did you know that the art of modern-day beekeeping was born right here in Slovenia? Roughly 1 in every 200 people in Slovenia is a beekeeper, and you'll find colorfully-painted beehives and local honey for sale in nearly every town.

You can find lots of bee-related things to do all around Slovenia, and near Lake Bled in Selo village you can visit Kralov Med. Here they sell bee products and beekeeping supplies (including even queen bees, should you need one), and also offer beekeeping demonstrations and tours for anyone interested in learning more about bees in Slovenia.

You can book a beekeeping tour complete with honey tasting from April-October. Advanced booking is required; find more info here.

11. Walk through Vintgar Gorge

Vintgar Gorge hike
Vintgar Gorge

Located just a couple miles north of Lake Bled lies the Vintgar Gorge, a beautiful little canyon on the edge of Triglav National Park. The 1.6-kilometer-long gorge has been carved out by the Radovna River, and is definitely worth the slight detour.

The hike through Vintgar Gorge is about 1 mile long on wooden boardwalks, which take you past small waterfalls and impossibly clear turquoise pools. It's absolutely stunning!

Amanda walking on a wooden boardwalk at Vintgar Gorge
This walk is amazing!

But you'll want to do some pre-planning for this hike and allow at least a few hours for it.

The hike through Vintgar Gorge requires a timed ticket, and the gorge is only open from about mid-April/early May through early October. It's also worth noting that the hike on the boardwalks is only one-way; in order to get back to the starting point, you either have to hike back (there are two trails, the Green Route and the Red Route, both of which include some uphill sections), or schedule a shuttle back from a place like the Natour Bar.

Where to stay in Lake Bled

There are plenty of options for where to stay at Lake Bled, from upscale hotels to cozy guesthouses. A few of the best choices include:

  • Grand Hotel TopliceIf you want to stay in a historic waterfront hotel, this is the one for you! It's right on Lake Bled in Bled town, and offers excellent views.
  • Hotel LovecA hotel option right in Bled town with free parking and included breakfast, this is another good option. Some rooms also have lake and castle views.
  • Penzion BercA boutique hotel inside a renovated rustic farmhouse, this hotel has updated rooms and a super welcoming atmosphere. It's a short walk from the lake.
  • Penzion MayerA family-run guesthouse-style hotel, this one is cozy and situated a few minutes' walk from the lake and Bled town.
  • Hotel Triglav Bled If you don't want to stay in Bled town, check out this hotel on the northwest corner of Lake Bled. It's a 4-star hotel and has great lake views.

Hotel prices around Lake Bled can vary a lot throughout the year; you can definitely find deals for under $120 per night, or you can pay more than $250 per night, depending on when you're visiting. Book early for the best prices!

View of Bled Castle illuminated at dusk
View of Bled Castle from Hotel Lovec

When to visit Lake Bled

Lake Bled is mostly a summer resort destination. While you certainly CAN visit during the late fall, winter, and early spring, many things only operate seasonally here – and the lake can freeze over during really cold winters!

The busiest months at Lake Bled are July and August. For the best weather and fewest crowds, I would visit in May/early June or September. (All my photos in this post were taken in mid-June; it was starting to get maybe a little busy, but it was by no means crowded yet.)

How long do you need at Lake Bled?

You can see the highlights in Lake Bled (the lake itself, Bled Island, and Bled Castle) in one day. But I recommend at least 2 days at Lake Bled to fully experience it all, especially if you want to do any hiking.

Amanda sitting on a pletna boat at Lake Bled
I love Lake Bled!
Heart photo spot on Lake Bled
I think everyone loves Lake Bled

Tips for visiting Lake Bled

Here are some tips to make the most out of your trip to Lake Bled!

  1. Book your hotel in advance – Bled is one of the most popular places to visit in Slovenia, and some of the hotels/guesthouses are smaller. Be sure to book your hotel well in advance, especially if you're visiting in the summer. Otherwise you'll definitely find yourself overpaying for a basic room somewhere.
  2. Prepare for changeable weather – Lake Bled sits at the foot of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, and the weather can change so quickly! No matter when you're visiting, pack for changeable weather! Both times I've visited Lake Bled in the summer, I've dealt with blazing sunshine changing to chilly rain in a matter of minutes. I made sure to carry a sweater and rain jacket on me at all times.
  3. Pack your walking shoes – You don't necessarily NEED a car in Lake Bled; in fact, even if you bring one, my advice would be to leave it parked at your hotel most of the time and explore Bled on foot. There's not always a ton of parking around the lake, and it's often easier to walk places. Which means you'll need comfortable walking shoes!
  4. Know that it can get busy – While “busy” in Slovenia is not the same as “busy” in, say, Paris or Rome, Lake Bled is nevertheless one of the most popular destinations in Slovenia. This means that it does get a bit busy in the summer months, and you likely will be sharing attractions and viewpoints with others.
  5. Don't skip the pletna boat – It's touristy, yes, but also so historic and cool! (And, to be frank, rowing yourself across the lake in a rental rowboat is HARD and I wouldn't recommend trying it unless you're a regular rower.)
Lake Bled views from Bled Castle
Beautiful Lake Bled views from Bled Castle

Is Lake Bled worth it?

So, is Lake Bled worth visiting?

Despite it being one of the most touristy places in Slovenia, YES, I think Lake Bled is very worth visiting. The setting is beautiful, and there are some unique things to see and do that you won't find anywhere else in Slovenia.

Definitely don't skip Lake Bled!

Have you been to Lake Bled? If not, would you like to visit?

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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