Things to do in Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled island reflecting in the water of Lake Bled

Lake Bled, Slovenia, is a magical place. You’ve possibly seen stunning images of Lake Bled and daydreamed about seeing it with your own eyes.  If you’re thinking about whether or not you should visit, you need to know all the best things to do in Lake Bled.

Why visit Lake Bled?

Lake Bled is one of the most beautiful spots in Slovenia and is often the literal poster child for Slovenia tourism.  In fact, it must also be a contender to be one of the most beautiful places in the whole of Europe!  Not only is the lake itself serene and peaceful, but it features not one but two iconic landmarks: a picturesque steeple-topped island topped with in the middle of the lake AND a fairytale castle on a hill!

And the good news is, it is really easy to visit Lake Bled from the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana – and you even do it as a day trip.

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7 Beautiful Things To Do In Lake Bled

1. Admire the spectacle from the shore

Coming from the town of Bled, as soon as you reach the lakeshore on Cesta svobode, you will struggle to stop staring at it. Bled Castle sits high on a cliff, overlooking the lake like a proud guardian. The lake itself is calm and still, surrounded by hills and mountains of the Julian Alps range. And in the far reaches of the lake, you will be able to make out the famous island.

Things to do in Lake Bled - showing the castle on the right and the island in the distance on the left
Lake Bled with the castle on the right and the island in the distance on the left

You can wander the shore at this end of the lake, just marvelling at the beauty!  There are also a couple of spots to grab a drink if you need refreshment, including the Park Restaurant and Café.

2. Visit Bled Castle

Bled Castle looks like something out of a fairytale!  It has towers and turrets and is built on a rocky outcrop with a sheer drop, high above the lake.  You may well find yourself imagining a princess or prince imprisoned there (or maybe I’m getting carried away!). Even for a castle, it is old, dating back to the 11th Century, so visiting it really is an interesting thing to do in Lake Bled.

Bled Castle high on a clifftop overlooking Lake Bled
Bled Castle

It’s a steep 20-minute walk to get there (or 5 mins by car). Tickets cost €13 for adults, and entry will enable you to explore the castle itself, including a museum and the castle chapel. There’s a restaurant on-site if you need some refreshment after the walk up there. 

And of course, from the castle, there are amazing panoramic views of Lake Bled and the surrounding countryside – which is the main attraction for many.

3. Walk the perimeter of Lake Bled

If you feel up to it, it is possible to walk the entire circumference of the lake.  This is a great thing to do if you are keen to be active, and also if you are on a budget – because it is free!

The path is gravelly but flat – so the main challenge is the distance. It is 6km all the way around, so if you were to walk it non-stop, it would take around 1.5 hours.  However, most likely, you’ll stop a couple of times to enjoy the view, so it’s best to allow more time.

Bled Island viewed between tree branches on the southwest side of Lake Bled
Bled Island viewed from the southwest of the lake

The stretch of path on the east side of the lake, near the town, is busiest; once you get to the west side, there will be fewer people, so it will feel more secluded and quiet.

4. Hike to a viewpoint

Lake Bled is beautiful from shore-level, but it is even more special if you can get a vantage point.  There is a path up the hillside on the west side of the lake, which you could follow if you want to get a high vantage point over the lake that includes a view of the castle and the Julian Alps. It leads first to a viewpoint at Mala Osojnica, and you can then go further up to the peak at Ojstrica Osojnica.

The path does have markers from the perimeter path (in the southwest corner of the lake) – but after this, the markers are not that obvious, and the path gets narrow and in places, steep. However, the path is now marked in GoogleMaps (the start is labelled Mala Osojnica Trailhead), so it is probably a bit easier to find and follow now.  I’ve also included it in my interactive map lower down in this article. If you want more details about the hike, there are some on Outdooractive.  The full hike to Mala Osojnica would take about an hour, I believe.

I have to confess, though: taking this secluded path as a solo female traveller started to feel like a bad idea. I got a little spooked halfway up the hillside when I realised I was alone in the woods and no one knew I was there, so I came back down again.  Solo female travellers normally emphasise that you don’t need to be afraid when travelling solo, but I’m determined to tell the truth about my travel experiences.

Lake Bled, Bled island, Bled Castle and the Julian alps viewed from the Mala Osojnica trail
Lake Bled viewed from the Mala Osojnica trail

Still, I did get a pretty good shot from halfway up, so the mud all over my shoes was worth it (sidebar: wear proper shoes or boots for this hike – it can be muddy and very uneven).

5. Take a Gondola ride to Bled Island

OK, so this is a ‘must-do’ thing to do in Lake Bled!  One of the special things about Lake Bled is that no motorboats are allowed on the lake; only man-powered gondolas. This rule maintains the quiet, calm atmosphere of the lake and it really does feel incredibly peaceful there – on the shore, and especially when you’re on the water.

a gondola on the smooth calm waters of lake bled
Calm and quiet: a gondola on Lake Bled

The gondolas (or pletnas as they are called in Slovenia) are not the same as the kind you see in Venice. They are big enough for around 15 people on wooden benches and they have a covered area if you want to escape the sun. The use of pletnas goes back centuries and the skill to drive them is passed down through the generations.

A covered wooden gondola, or pletna, on Lake Bled
A gondola, or pletna, on Lake Bled

Boats depart from two spots on the lake: one on the east side of the lake near the town of Bled (near the Tourist information centre) and another in the south of the lake at Mino.  All rides take you from the shore to Bled island, allow you around 30 minutes to explore, and then take you back.  Tickets for a gondola cost €12 and the whole trip will last around 1 hour 15 minutes.

I especially enjoyed the approach to the island; seeing the steeple-topped island reflected in the calm water was really lovely.

Bled island with its steeple reflected in the calm water of lake bled
The approach to Bled Island

6. Explore Bled island

Once you’re on Bled Island, you’ll only have 30 minutes to explore it, but that’s OK, as the island is very small!  There are a couple of buildings and the church, and that’s about it.

Bled Island up close, showing the church steeple and surrounding trees
Bled Island is pretty small!

You’ll be dropped at the bottom of the steps on the south side of the island. If you go up the steps, you’ll come to a café, which serves Slovenian pastry.  Just past the cafe is the Provost’s house and then Lake Bled Church, the Church of the Mother of God, with its 52-meter steeple. You can see inside the bell tower and make a wish on the wishing bell.

However, I found the most interesting thing to do on the island was to wander around the edges, enjoying the view of the lake from all sides.

View of a boat on lake bled from between the trees on bled island
View of the lake from Bled Island

Make sure you meet your gondola driver at the spot and time they tell you to – they may not wait if you are late!

7. Enjoy a cocktail on the shore

At the end of the day, especially if you’d done a lot of walking or hiking, you may want to relax and enjoy some refreshment.  Luckily, there are some great places to watch the sun go down over Lake Bled.

Ducks swimming on the smooth water of Lake bled at dusk
Dusk at Lake Bled

I loved the lakeside views and elegant menu at Vila Preseren: I got a bite to eat and enjoyed a spritz or two whilst watching ducks glides around the still waters of Lake Bled.

An empty glass and a custard Kremsnite pastry on a table with a view of Lake Bled at dusk
My desert lasted longer than my cocktail at Vila Preseren!

I tried their Kremsnite pastry, which is a Slovenian speciality.  The deep layers of custard and cream was a lot, even for me, a dessert-lover. I can’t fault their cocktails, though!

Map of Lake Bled attractions & transport links

Travel to Lake Bled

There are four main ways to get to Lake Bled: by bus, by train, by car or with a tour group. Unless you already have a car, I’d recommend the bus, rather than the train, as it is fast and will drop you very close to the lake.

Travel to Lake Bled by Bus

How often do buses go to Lake Bled? 

Buses depart Ljubljana for Lake Bled every hour (and sometimes two an hour), so you have plenty of opportunities to catch one.

How much are bus tickets?

Buses via Arriva cost €6,30 for a one-way ticket and €11,34 for a return, so it is slightly better value to book a return ticket.

How do you book a seat?

You have two options: book in advance or turn up and buy a ticket right before the bus departs.

The latter is a bit risky in the peak season (and in fact, it didn’t work out for me in the shoulder season either, when I found my preferred bus was full), so I definitely recommend booking in advance. You can either book your bus tickets online or from the bus station ahead of time.

Where is the bus station in Ljubljana?

The Bus to Lake Bled departs from the main bus station in Ljubljana (or Ljubljana Avtobusna Postaja) which is located at Trg Osvobodilne fronte 4.

How long does the bus take?

The time varies; some buses with fewer stops take an hour; others take an hour and 20 minutes.

Where does trhe bus drop you off?

Get off at the Bled stop and the bus will drop you off right in the middle of the town of Bled, and very close to the lake.  From the bus drop off, you literally walk down the hill along Cesta svobode for a few minutes and you will be at the lakeside. I’ve included a marker for this in the map above.

For the return journey, the bus will pick you up at the same spot.  As Lake Bled is a popular day trip from Ljubljana, the later return buses can be busy, so make sure you arrive in plenty of time for your return journey. I got the last bus of the day and it was very crowded!

Travel to Lake Bled by Train

How often do trains go to Lake Bled?

Trains depart from Ljubljana to Lesce-Bled (the station in Bled Town that is closest to Lake Bled) roughly every 40 – 60 minutes. You can search for trains on the Slovenian Railway website.

How much are train tickets?

Ticket prices vary a little according to the train you get but will be either €5,10 or  €6,60 each way.

How do you book a seat?

You can buy train tickets in advance online, or you can buy a ticket right before boarding in person.

Where is the train station in Ljubljana?

Ljubljana train station (or Železniška postaja Ljubljana) is right next to the bus station at Trg Osvobodilne fronte 6.

How long does the train take?

The train times vary a little depending on the number of stops, but most take around 1 hour and ten minutes, so it is not materially faster than the bus.

Where do you get off the train?

Lesce-Bled station is in the east end of the town of Bled (you can see this on the map above), which is a little inconvenient for Lake Bled, as it is nearly 3km from the lake itself.  Therefore, you will either need to walk a long way or get a local bus or a taxi.  For this reason, I recommend getting the bus to Lake Bled rather than the train.

Travel to Lake Bled by Car

If you have your own car or a hire car, you can drive to Lake Bled. It will be faster than taking the bus unless you want to stop along the way.  The journey itself should only take 45 minutes and when you get to Bled, there are a couple of car parks, including one on Prešernova cesta 23, for €2 an hour (this is marked on the map above).

Travel to Lake Bled with an organised tour

If you don’t want the hassle of arranging your own transportation, you could take an organised Lake Bled day tour, which will take you from Ljubljana to Lake Bled and back again without you having to worry about the details.

Enjoy your time in Lake Bled, Slovenia!

It really is a unique, serene place and a Lake Bled holiday is one I’m sure you’ll remember for a long time.

Bled Island viewed between tree branches on the southwest side of Lake Bled
Lake Bled

And if you need any convincing on what else to do in Slovenia, check out my article on the reasons to visit Ljubljana. Ljubljana and Lake Bled together make a perfect city+country mini-break.

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