If you’re visiting Slovenia, chances are you are going to be in Ljubljana, and if you’re in Ljubljana, chances are you will take a day trip (or maybe a longer trip) to Lake Bled. We weren’t sure if we wanted to go to Bled for two reasons: Lake Bled is very popular among tourists so we expected that it might be really busy, and because of the prolific tourism, we figured that the prices of everything would be way out of our normal daily budget. We really try to avoid ‘tourist traps’ and worried Bled might be just that. That being said, we also really try not to let our dirtbag cheapskate lifestyle get in the way of experiencing everything a country has to offer, so we decided to go! On a Sunday…
We drove in to town and were stopped in standstill traffic. That’s when I realized the day of the week and did a facepalm. We had mapped out a parking lot offering free 2 hour parking on the other side of the lake, but at this rate it would take another two hours to get there! A sign caught Michael’s eye: the coveted, much beloved international sign for ‘campervan parking.’ We turned off the busy road and followed the signs. We came to a parking lot full of vans and RVs — our people! — with a sign posted indicating €10 parking for vans and RVs. Dang! I checked the map again to see if there were any other free parking lots nearby when a couple, maybe my parent’s age, driving a van with a Dutch licence plate, came over to offer us their parking ticket. They had paid for 24 hours and their ticket was good for another six! Score! Thank you, lovely Dutch couple, you’ve made two cheapskate Canadians very happy today.
We threw open the back doors of the van and pulled out our folding bicycles. We unfolded the frames and locked the hinges into place. Let’s hit the road! We quickly found the lake from the parking lot, and it was very clear why Lake Bled is so popular: it’s totally spectacular. The lake is quite small and is surrounded by steep, treed hills and crazy steep cliffs. On one side, the castle of Bled is perched high up on a cliff and in the middle of the lake is an island with a church and a bell tower built in the middle. All around the water is a 6.5km long walking path! We began bicycling. The beginning of the path was very narrow and with all those Sunday lake-goers crowding the path, our ‘bicycling’ ended up as more of a ‘walk alongside a bicycle’, but no bother: the sky was blue, the lake was beautiful — nothing could get us down!
We arrived at the other side of the lake from the town, where we found the trailhead to take us to the viewpoint of Ojstrica (not to be confused with Mala Osojnica!). We locked up the bikes and began our ascent. The way up to the viewpoint is about 600m, from the road, and straight up a hill. The sign told us it should take only 20 minutes. Ok, sign, that seems like a really quick climb, but we’ll take your word for it. We walked up and up. I couldn’t help but be a little sad, for my hair looked so cute and Instagrammable before the climb, and once we reached the top, the sweat had done its worst. From the top of Ojstrica we could see the entire lake, the church island in the middle, the castle of Bled, and in the distance, the peaks of the Julien Alps of Slovenia. Thank goodness for the bench up at the point, for my knees became weak at the majesty of the view. Here we enjoyed the lunch we packed: tuna wraps with cheese, cucumber, corn, and red pepper. We were joined by quite a few other groups of people, but way less than I expected based on the number of people on the walking path around the lake. People came, took pictures, and left. We took multiple pictures for other couples who were trying (and failing!) to capture the view with a selfie, and we had someone take our picture for us. It really was quite the view.
We walked back down, collected our bicycles, and continued on our way. Bled is famous for a few things: the church on the island in the lake, the castle on a cliff, and the real reason we all come to Bled, the Blejska Kremsnita, the Bled cream cake! We found the most perfect, quaintest little cafe, with a killer balcony, and a cream cake that looked unmissable. We ordered a slice to share, and a dark local beer to wash it down: the perfect combination! The cake is not too sweet, but so creamy and delicious. I wouldn’t even call it cake, it’s really just a slice of cream, but well deserved after our bicycle ride, and our 600m climb!
To finish our perfect day around this perfect little lake, I wanted to rent a rowboat and have Michael row me around the church island — how romantic! When we arrived at the boat rental shop however, the romance died. To rent a boat for an hour would cost €20! I was super disappointed, but there was just no way we could justify that, not even for the epic pictures and videos we could take with the drone! We hung our heads and left the shop. But wait! The sky was still perfectly blue, the lake was still incredibly beautiful, nothing could get us down! We continued to cycle along the path until a rope swing caught Michael’s eye! There was nobody around. We pulled over, locked the bikes, and headed down to the water’s edge. Michael changed into his swimmers and took a beautifully long dip in the water. He had a few turns on the rope swing, too. Some good, old fashioned, free fun.
The time on our parking pass was coming to an end, so we bicycled back into town towards the van. We arrived back right as our six hours finished. I’m so glad we came to Bled. I’m so glad we ignored our worries. We were able to have a perfectly cheap day in a super touristy town, find the secret spots off the beaten track, and have a really wonderful time!
Some tips if you’re heading to Bled:
The cake is amazing and you must try it. We went to Caffe Peglez’n where the cake was €4 and a big beer was €3.
Whether or not you have an Instagram account, you really should go to the viewpoint of Ojstrica. Don’t confuse it with the viewpoint Mala Osojnica! That viewpoint is higher, harder to get to and doesn’t have views that are nearly as nice!
Bicycling is a fun way to get around. After the first stretch of path by the casino with all the people wandering about, the path widens and becomes a bit more bicycle-friendly. You can rent bicycles in Bled! Or just walk the path. I imagine if you walked it, you would find even more secret swimming spots with rope swings!
Rent a boat!(?) I read a blog that said they rent for €12-€15, so maybe we just happened to find the most expensive guy. If your travel budget is bigger than ours (let’s face it, everyone’s probably is), then I say splurge for the boat! Maybe even buy the cream cake to go and enjoy it on the middle of the lake! You do you.