Ljubljana’s cheerily painted Old Town, rotund castle, markets and churches combine with its heady mix of architectural styles – from Roman to Art Nouveau – to make it the perfect city for whiling away a few days. But beautiful lakeside Bled is close by, just begging to be explored.
Bled is Slovenia’s most popular tourist destination for a reason. With a thousand years of history, the red-roofed town is today famous for its health tourism, but the star of the show here is undoubtedly its geographical situation. The spa town is dramatically sandwiched between the awesome snowcapped Julian Alps and the crystal-clear waters of Lake Bled.
The lake offers fishing, swimming, rowing and rafting opportunities galore and ice-skating during occasional winter freezes. Bled Island lies in the middle of the lake, dominated by the slender spire of the church of the Assumption, which has to be Slovenia’s most romantic wedding venue. Trips out to the little islet can be taken in the region’s distinctive flat-bottomed, wooden pletna boats.
Back on shore, ninth-century Bled Castle is the oldest in Slovenia, sitting on a rocky crag overlooking the lake. Its Romanesque walls hide a Renaissance palace built around two central courtyards, containing a printing works, a fascinating little historical museum and extensive wine cellars used for tasting sessions.
Bled is surrounded by natural wonders, including the Vintgar Gorge, through which the Radovna River plunges; the amazing underground caverns of the Babji Zob cave systems; and Triglav National Park. This is Slovenia’s only national park, an area of spectacular waterfalls, serene lakes and high mountain plateaus inhabited by lynx and ibex – the occasional brown bear has been spotted here – and traversed by hiking trails.
Guided day trips to Bled from Ljubljana include a guided tour of the castle and a pletna trip out to Bled Island as well as a coach tour around the lake to wonder at its breath-taking beauty.