Of the “new” countries that came out of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, it could be argued that Slovenia has most quickly and effortlessly carved out its own niche. It’s viewed by many as a desirable location for a holiday or even to begin a new life due to its charming architecture, cheerful way of life and, not least, its beauty. If you’re looking for the ideal sight-seeing trip, this is one that’s hard to beat. Many would argue that the jewel in Slovenia’s crown is the mountainous town of Bled. Right on the banks of the lake that share its name, Bled offers attractions in all directions; up into the mountains for skiing or hiking, or around that lake. Or, indeed, you could check out one of its historic buildings. Whatever you choose, you’ll be glad you did.
1. You really have to see Bled Castle
Let’s get it out of the way right now - this medieval castle is very much at the centre of Bled’s thriving tourist industry. And no wonder; built in the 11th-century, it looks out over the lake from the edge of a dizzying precipice. Periodically it has been through renovations, but the castle itself looks much as it did a millennium ago. A magnificent castle in a stunning setting; you’re cheating yourself if you come to Bled and don’t block off half a day for a trip here.
Address: Grajska cesta, 4260 Bled
Website: Bled Castle
2. Walk, cycle, swim or row around Lake Bled; just make sure you spend time there
Lake Bled is, along with the castle, one of those spots that simply define Bled. It’s not just the lake itself, although it looks beautiful from anywhere in the town (and wherever you stay, you’re liable to have some sort of lake view). What really makes it is the setting - it’s hedged all around with forests and mountains, and in the centre of the lake is an island with a church on it. More on that later - it’s kind of important to the town.
Address: Bled, Slovenia
Website: Lake Bled
3. Hike to Pokljuka Plateau
Slovenia is an attractive destination for fans of winter sports. Some will in fact recognize the name Pokljuka, which is frequently used as a venue for world-class biathlon meetings. If you’re not quite that active, then it’s still worth visiting for the austere beauty that really comes into its own each winter; you can always excuse yourself and settle down in one of the warm restaurants or hotel bars that are nearby and enjoy the view from there.
Address: Pokljuka Plateau, Triglav National Park, Slovenia
Website: Pokljuka Plateau
4. Take a trip to Vintgar Gorge
Bled’s number one selling point is its natural beauty, there’s no doubt. Even the constructed attractions like castles and churches are made more special by where they are set. Another example of this natural wonder is Vintgar Gorge, carved out of the Earth by the Radovna river. Taking a walk along the banks didn’t use to be possible, but over the years this special space has become more and more accessible to tourists - which is why you should definitely have it in your itinerary.
Address: Turistično društvo Gorje, Podhom 80, 4247 Zgornje Gorje
Website: Vintgar Gorge
5. Trek to Triglav National Park
Bled’s setting in the mountains makes it a perfect place for those who enjoy hiking. If that includes you, then you might be interested in Slovenia’s only natural park, Triglav, which offers beautiful natural views in all directions and is free to enter. It is named after the country’s highest peak and is filled with nature trails, stores selling sustainable local produce and even accommodation. Set yourself down here and you may find yourself begging to stay at the end of your holiday!
Triglav National Park
Website: Triglav National Park
6. Cast an eye over The Church of St Martin
It’s not Bled’s most famous church (we are getting there, though), but it is the parish church and it is also more than worth a visit. It’s a neo-Gothic design, built in 1905 on the site of two previous churches. The site has history ranging back to the beginning of the last millennium. The interior is brought to life with frescos and statues created by artists native to the area. Entry is free of charge, and it’s a stop you’ll be glad you made, offering a wonderful chance to see the works of Slovenian creative minds.
The Church of Saint Martin
Address: Riklijeva cesta 26, 4260 Bled
Website: Church of Saint Martin
7. Indulge your artistic side at Bled Island Gallery
Flatterers might argue that Bled does not need paintings, nor sculptures, because the look of the place itself is a work of art. True enough, but that can also inspire artists with paint and tools. The gallery on Bled Island is certainly worth your visit (along with the nearby Gallery 14), not just for the pleasant trip out to the island itself. Once there, you can see a range of sculptures by local author Ladina Korbar; statues depicting people in local dress, which are recognised as a fine preservation of Bled’s local culture.
Bled Island Gallery
Address: Lake Bled, Slovenia
Website: Bled Island Gallery
8. Experience the church on the island
Slovenia, and Bled in particular, is among the most popular destination wedding locations in all of Europe. That may be down in large part to the fact that Lake Bled, in its fairytale setting, has a church right in the middle of it. Officially known as the Church of the Assumption of Maria, the church itself is built in a Baroque style and filled with exquisite artwork. To get to the church, one must climb 99 steps and, tradition dictates, a groom should carry his bride-to-be up those steps if he is to be permitted to marry her. This, however, is not a rule. You can just walk up the steps, and then you’ll both have your breath to take in the wonder around you.
Church of the Assumption of Maria
Address: 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Website: Church on the Island
9. Test yourself on Straža Ski Slope
As previously noted, Bled is an enduring destination for lovers of winter sports. Straža is perhaps the epicenter of this, although if you visit in summer it is less likely to be for skiing - due to the town’s Mediterranean climate - and more likely to be a hiking destination. Either way, it is a challenging descent for beginners and does allow summer tobogganing. The views over the main town are, of course, stunning; the 9 EUR (10 USD) fee includes one toboggan ride for an adult and a chair lift to the top.
Address: 4260 Bled, Slovenia
See Bled in all its natural, historic glory
From opulent churches and castles built by hand to the most magnificent scenery nature could bestow, Bled is a destination that will keep your camera clicking and your heart thumping. Whatever time of year you visit there’s always going to be something to see, to do and - thanks to the wide range of cafes and bars in the town - plenty of local specialities to eat, too. Right now it may not have the profile of other European destinations, but that is certainly changing; there’s plenty of reason to make it your next holiday stop.