Pinch me and wake me up, because I honestly think that I must be dreaming! It could not possibly get any more story-bookish than this place; Lake Bled is proof that fairy tales are real. Picture this: a medieval castle with turrets and towers perched high up in the Julian Alps which in winter, with their powdered dust of snow turn into a snowy wonderland, and in summer like an alpine dream. A beautiful lake with shimmering piercingly blue waters glints in the sunlight, fringed with a forest full of emerald green trees that grace its periphery, and right in the middle of this idyllic, picture perfect scene is the only island in Slovenia, with the brick laid spire of its Church standing tall. Seriously, pinch me already!
Lake Bled is about an hour’s drive away from Ljubljana and pictures or words do not do justice to this incredible landscape; I could very easily have spent a couple of days hanging around and just soaking it all in. Yes, I know I am gushing here but Lake Bled really is THAT magical and I’ll say it again, no pictures or words do justice to the place. Thankfully there are loads of outdoor activities that showcase her picturesque panoramas and take your breath away, giving you time to steep your soul in nature and leaving you with beautiful, lingering memories of this wondrous place. Welcome my dear Wanderlusters, and thank you for spending a part of your day with me as I show you Lake Bled through the eyes of Harpreet’s Wanderlust!
Checking in: Vila Bled
Set in its own private park just minutes away from the shores of Lake Bled, Vila Bled was the perfect place for M and I to be right in the middle of Bled’s beauty without being too far away from the tiny village centre. This isn’t sponsored by any means, and the only reason I mention the hotel is because we had a tough time choosing between Grand Hotel Toplice and Vila Bled and having seen both, are so glad we chose the Vila. I wanted to be right next to Lake Bled and see the island every waking moment of the day and this hotel, which used to be President Tito’s Vacation residence and is steeped in history, checked all the boxes. Just sitting in the terrace for hours on end with a steaming pot of tea is a soothing experience: there is an uninterrupted view of the island perched right in the middle of the blue hues of the lake. Whitewashed houses dot the green hills yonder and between the twittering of birds, the constant ringing of the bell on the island and the happy voices of chattering tourists carrying across the wind, the sounds of Lake Bled are forever engrained in my memory. Dear Wanderlusters: I am convinced that one of the best ways to enjoy the serene ambience of Lake Bled is to check in to a gorgeous hotel!
Exploring Lake Bled
Bled village and her environs are tiny and one of the most enjoyable ways of taking it all in is by hiring a bicycle and riding along one of the many clearly marked bicycle routes. Vila Bled has a boat house but charges Euro 20 per bike, but undeterred by this, M and I put on our explorer hats minutes after checking in, grabbed ourselves a pair of bikes and pedalled off to explore, and even though I didn’t have the most appropriate footwear, I managed just fine in my sandals!
Lake Bled is tiny in comparison to most lakes, measuring only 2 km by 1.4 km but the incredible beauty that surrounds this crystal clear lake is what leaves an imprint on your mind pretty much forever! We cycled around the lake at a leisurely pace, soaking in the vistas and stopping every few minutes to click endless photographs. Between the gorgeous greenery, the island and the castle, we didn’t know which way to look first!
Bled Cream Cake
You cannot come to Bled and not try the decadent dessert, fondly known as Bled Cream Cake. Your waistline may not thank you but your taste buds certainly will! If I were to try and describe the cake, it isn’t cake-y at all but is more mousse like, tastes like a fluffy crème brulee and is topped with a hard puff pastry shell and dusted generously with powdered sugar.
Every café along the Bled periphery will claim to have the best however the original slice originated from Park Hotel. Apparently, the dessert holds the number 7 as key, with everything being done 7 times: from folding the pastry, to cooking the egg custard and being cooled before being cut into a perfect 7 by 7 slice and plated, waiting to be devoured. A whopping 3,500 (yes, you read right) slices are sold on any given day. Verdict: delicious, but oh so filling and I couldn’t finish the slice on my own. Gluttony meant that I did try which only resulted in me puffing and panting the rest of the bike ride back to Vila Bled!
Visiting Bled Island
Yes, yes I know, this is about as touristy as touristy can get BUT unless you opt to row yourself, the best way of getting across to the island is by way of a pletna: a traditional wooden boat. It costs a pretty penny at Euro 12 a pop for a return journey, but then again, unless you enjoy rowing yourself this is something you will only do once so in my books, well worth it!
On the island sits the Church of Assumption, its red spire rising high above and seen from any vantage point around the lake. I am by no means a religious person but I do enjoy lighting candles in Churches, and there was a special reason for making the visit out to the island. You know by now that I am a sucker for myths, legends and anything that involves the making of a wish! So, legend has it that a splash of water from the lake and the ringing of the wishing bell in the Church fills you with a renewed sense of purpose and hope. I had just lost my Dad a few months before making this trip out to Slovenia and this was a healing journey of sorts, where I spent time immersed in nature and made peace with the whole ordeal. And so yes, as touristy and cliché as it may sound, trying to ring that bell (which isn’t easy by any means) was a light hearted moment in which I pretty much learned to live with this blow that life dealt me, with a smile on my face.
Indulging in Gourmet Cuisine at Restavracija 1906
A magical trip deserves no less than gourmet cuisine, and this restaurant came highly recommended for Slovene fine dining at its best. Set amidst the rolling hills of the Julian Alps in Hotel Triglav, the elegantly decorated Restavracija 1906 overlooks the waters of Lake Bled and provides a romantic and cosy ambience for a celebratory dinner, which, being my birthday, it was! Yay! My notes refer to our Chef’s tasting dinner paired with wine as “gloriously fancy” with each of the six courses surpassing the last on the scale of deliciousness, our taste buds being tantalised by delicate carpaccios, meat cooked to perfection and the piece de resistance: ice cream made with Tonka beans. Piqued with curiosity as to what these are, I asked our waiter and Chef very graciously brought out a couple of beans to show me! Sadly, I was nattering away too much to remember to take pictures! The highlight of the evening, quite apart from indulging in an incredibly delicious meal in a romantic setting with my WanderlustMate M, was the attention that our sommelier Damir showered on us, gifting me at the end of a perfect dinner with a beautiful bottle of cold pressed pumpkin seed oil as a birthday present! Some girls want diamonds…this girl wants experiences that take her breath away, and this kind gesture is one that has truly gone down in the annals of my travels as one of the most memorable. Back home, this bottle of oil is one of my prized gourmet possessions, being used sparingly and bringing back the best memories of Bled.
Ah, the piece de resistance of this storybook place. A medieval fortress perched high up in the hills on a cliff with a sheer drop, its turreted towers watching and keeping guard over the vistas of Bled.
Rumoured to be the oldest in Slovenia, Blejski Grad truly has the wow factor, being seen from pretty much any angle around Bled with the best views on the ground being from the terrace at the Grand Hotel Toplice.
As always, I wanted to try out the cuisine at the castle and so we had a booked a table for dinner, and visited the castle when it was pretty much closing however we did get to explore around the terraces that house the museum and best of all, at this time the castle was devoid of tourists and so we managed to get some really magical shots of Bled Island and the Church of Assumption.
Writing this post has made me smile with delight as I have reminisced about all the moments that sum up Bled for me and I do hope that I have convinced you to put this on your WanderlustList if you haven’t been yet. And if you have, was your experience as magical as mine? Drop me a comment below, I love hearing from you, and until next time, thank you for hanging out with me! Xoxo
-On Getting There
Bled is a 45-60 minute drive from Ljubljana. We hired a private driver to take us from one point to another, which cost Euro 40.
-Blejski Grad: Entry
Euro 10.00 per person. Check the website http://www.blejski-grad.si for opening hours and prices as they are subject to change.
– Chefs Tasting Menu at Restavracija 1906
Euro 65.00 per person excluding wine. Again, check prices with the hotel before booking as they are subject to change.
-The Fine Print
Though it may sound like it, this isn’t a sponsored post. The places I stayed at and visited in Bled played a huge part in my experience and the opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own.