Whether they’re staying in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana or skiing in the Julian Alps, few tourists come to Slovenia and leave without visiting Lake Bled. This impossibly beautiful place is one of the jewels of Slovenia and few visitors are not charmed by its dazzling blue waters, its tiny tear drop shaped island and the ominous looking castle that overlooks the lake from its position on the craggy outcrop above.
There have been settlements on the island and around the lake for centuries; at one point the owner wanted to extract the clay from beneath the lake to make bricks but fortunately this idea was never realised. It was an enterprising Swiss doctor, Arnold Rikli, who made Bled the resort town it is today. He developed Bled into a spa resort for wealthy Europeans, exploiting the thermal springs. It soon took off and even the Karadžordževići, the Yugoslav royal family, summered at Bled. When the railways came to Bled the town’s popularity quickly grew.
The lake itself is not large, measuring 2 kilometres by 1380 metres, so an easy walk around it only takes about an hour. However, with breaks to stop a while to take in its beauty and more breaks for liquid refreshment, it can fully occupy a whole morning or afternoon. There is plenty of interest around the lake: elegant nineteenth century villas, swans and scores of colourfully plumaged ducks and a wonderful canopy of trees.
The best way to see the lake and, of course, the island is by boat: in summer you can get across to the island by hand-propelled gondola or by hired rowing boat. Visitors are deposited at a wooden jetty beneath a flight of stone steps which leads up to the 17th century baroque church. Inside the church there’s a brief exhibition outlining the history of the island, and models show the development of the church itself. The main part of the church is richly decorated; the altar is very ornate with intricate gold details. Before leaving the island visitors can ring the ‘wishing bell’. Its rope hangs down into the nave of the church: it’s customary for visitors hoping to be granted a favour to try their hand at ringing the bell. It’s not as easy as it looks as the many people who’ve tried and failed will testify.
Bled Castle stands on its rocky perch some one hundred metres above the lake. It could almost have been lifted from the pages of a children’s fairytale book with its towers, turrets and moat, and it should come as no surprise to learn that Bled Castle is one of the country’s most popular venues for weddings (as is the tiny parish church on Bled island). From the ground there are two clearly sign-posted routes up to the castle; it’s quite a steep hike but definitely worth the effort. A road train is a useful alternative for those who prefer not to walk. The summit is the best spot from which to appreciate the visual impact of the whole lake and it certainly is breathtaking! On the horizon are the dramatic snow-capped peaks of the Julian Alps and on the other side of the lake in winter you can see skiers descend the piste at the mini-ski centre at Straža. Inside the castle there’s an exhibition which outlines the fascinating history of the lake and the settlements which surround it. There is also the usual collection of miscellaneous items typical of such attractions – arms and armour, old coins and archaeological finds from the area.
Bled makes a great base for winter sports enthusiasts. The popular resort of Zatrnik is only a couple of kilometres away but many skiers prefer to base themselves in Bled where there is a wider choice of accommodation and more in the way of après-ski. Accommodation ranges from cheap and cheerful hostels and an abundance of private rooms within family homes, to modern spa complexes and luxury boutique hotels. For a truly unique experience there’s always Vila Bled, the lake-side residence where guests can book Marshal Tito’s Presidential Suite.
The area is popular with Slovenians, many of whom own a ‘vikend’ – a rural dwelling that where they go to enjoy the great outdoors – and with foreign buyers who have either settled permanently in the area or come for holidays. Rental potential is excellent because Bled is as popular in summer as it is in winter, giving the opportunity of a year round income if desired. Real estate in and around Bled includes modern apartments in purpose built blocks, cosy chalets and magnificent architect designed villas. Properties within the Triglav National Park are much sought after but older houses there may be small and subject to strict rules regarding redevelopment.
The wider region contains some of Slovenia’s best known and most beautiful and breath-taking natural scenery. Among them is Vintgar Gorge, where the fast flowing Radovna River cuts through the rocks for over a kilometre, ending at Slovenia’s highest waterfall, Šum. A purpose made footpath with wooden bridges and stairways makes Vintgar easily accessible for all abilities but for serious walkers there’s the challenge of Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak. It’s said that a true Slovene scales the peak at least once in his or her lifetime. There are several tour companies offering accompanied ascents which usually take place over two days. The hardiest athletes of all take part in the annual Bled Winter Swimming competition. After Bled successfully hosted the World Winter Swimming Championships in 2010, the regional tourist board decided to launch an annual event in partnership with celebrated Slovenian endurance swimmer Martin Strel; in 2013 sixty-seven swimmers took part from nine countries, most notably British swimmer Haydn Welch who completed the first ever ice mile swim on Lake Bled.
After a hard day’s walking, or even without, a spot of rest and relaxation is in order. The spas at Hotel Golf and Grand Hotel Toplice are among the best in the country. They use water from thermal springs which average around 22 °C and offer an array of therapies as well as sauna facilities and Turkish style baths. Visitors on a budget can still take advantage of those thermal waters by bathing in the Castle Baths which have four outdoor pools and an enclosed area for swimming directly in the lake. There are other bathing places around the lakeside but the Castle Baths have the best facilities.
Many visitors take advantage of the good value packages on offer in Bled’s hotels which combine accommodation, meals and use of the spa facilities. There are, however, also some excellent restaurants in the town and in the surrounding villages. In town there’s a modest range of cuisines, while the countryside inns are the best places to go to try the traditional cuisine of the Gorenjska region. Anyone with a sweet tooth should try the famous Bled cream cake, known as ‘Kremna rezina’. It was invented by Ištvan Lukačević who adapted an old Serbian recipe but the Bled recipe has a protected designation of origin. Between crispy light puff pastry there are two layers, one of custard cream and one of whipped cream; the top of the cream slice is dusted with icing sugar. It’s the perfect treat with a cup of coffee. Hotel Park even offers the chance to learn how to make the cakes yourself.
On the fourth weekend of every July ‘Bled Days’ takes place; it’s an enchanting spectacle where hundreds of floating lights are launched onto the lake, followed by an exhilarating fireworks display. An international violin festival takes place at the end of June and a world music festival organised by the town’s Okarina restaurant takes place in August. December starts with the opportunity to buy Christmas presents at the St. Nicholas Fair then on 25th December the town celebrates Christmas with a performance of the Legend of the Sinking of the Bell, at the end of which a Christmas tree is sunk in the lake. On New Years Eve there’s the customary fireworks display watched by hundreds from the lakeside.
Just 40 kilometres from Ljubljana’s Jože Pučnik Airport, Bled is ideally situated for holiday home owners who might wish to visit for short breaks as well as longer stays. Shopping opportunities in Bled are rather limited but Ljubljana is just 60 kilometres away, and nearby Kranj has plenty of shops including some excellent boutiques and gift shops. Bled is well situated for road access to Italy and Austria, and for reaching all other regions of Slovenia.
Commuters can take advantage of the proximity of the capital while enjoying a laidback lifestyle in Bled and the surrounding area. Villages such as Ribno and Selo are ideally suited to family living while slightly larger towns like Radovljica and Lesce also have a lot to offer. As a location for a holiday home, Bled is difficult to beat; the scenery and activities available change with the seasons giving holiday makers plenty of reasons to come back time after time.
Bled is one of the areas of Slovenia,where property rentals are strong and the potential for capital gains on investment property are good. You can read more about Real Estate in Bled on this site and also review, the wide range of Properties for Sale we and rentail we have in the region.