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Bled is a town in Slovenia, on the east side of Lake Bled.
Bled is a popular destination in Slovenia due to its romantic scenery and access point for Triglav National Park, which offers numerous outdoor adventure opportunities. The town features a little white church on an island in the center of an emerald green mountain lake, with Bled Castle perched high above, amidst the Julian Alps.
Bled is known for the glacialLake Bled, which makes it a major tourist attraction. Perched on a rock overlooking the lake is the iconic Bled Castle. The town is also known in Slovenia for its vanilla and cream pastry (Slovene: kremšnita, kremna rezina).
Naturopath Arnold Rikli (1823–1906) from Switzerland contributed significantly to the development of Bled as a health resort in the second half of the 19th century. Due to its mild climate, Bled has been visited by aristocratic guests from all across the world. Today it is an important convention centre and tourist resort, offering a wide range of sports activities (golf, fishing, and horseback-riding). It is a starting point for mountain treks and hikes, especially within nearby Triglav National Park.
A small island in the middle of the lake is home to Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church; visitors frequently ring its bell for good luck. Human traces from prehistory have been found on the island. Before the church was built, there was a temple consecrated to Živa, the Slavic goddess of love and fertility. One can get to the island on a traditional flat-bottomed wooden boat (Slovene: pletna). The island on Lake Bled has 99 steps. A local tradition at weddings is for the husband to carry his new bride up these steps, during which the bride must remain silent.
Early Mediaeval history
A settlement area since Mesolithic times, the present-day locality probably arose about 600 during the Slavic settlement of the Eastern Alps. After the Slavic principality of Carantania was conquered by Frankish forces in 788, the area came under Bavarian influence.
Bled itself, then part of the March of Carniola, was first mentioned as Ueldes (Veldes) in a document from 1004, in which German King Henry II ceded ownership of the area to Albuin, Bishop of Brixen as a sign of gratitude for the assistance the Church was giving to the king in his attempt to strengthen imperial rule in that part of northern Italy. In 1011, Henry II signed another deed of donation that added the castle and an area of land the size of thirty king’s farms. That area, between the Sava Bohinjka and the Sava Dolinka, became known as the Lordship of Veldes (German: Herrschaft Veldes). These donations marked a turning point in the history of Bled and, for the following 800 years, the area remained under the sovereignty of the prince-bishops of Brixen.
The bishops very seldom visited their remote possession 300 km away. Initially, the lordship was administered by ministeriales (bonded knights), castellans, and castle staff in accordance with feudal practices, but in the middle of the 14th century the prince-bishops decided instead to lease the estate. Under one of the 16th-century lessees, Bled Castle became a Protestant stronghold for a time. When the leasehold era came to an end, the prince-bishops began to appoint governors to manage their distant lordship. Until the middle of the 18th century, those administrators were exclusively aristocratic, but later they included non-nobles.
In 1803, Brixen’s rule came to an end when the prince-bishopric was secularized in the course of the German Mediatization. Bled then came under Austrian sovereignty but in 1808, along with Carniola, it was included in the Napoleonic Illyrian Provinces. It returned under Austrian sovereignty in 1813, and in 1838 the Austrian Emperor returned Bled to the bishops of Brixen as a private estate. With the abolition of the feudal system in 1848, Bled ceased to have the characteristics of a feudal economy and from then on it experienced several changes in ownership, including industrialists and a bank.
After the dissolution of Austria-Hungary in 1918, Bled and the rest of Carniola came under the rule of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and became a summer domicile of the ruling House of Karađorđević, a tradition that Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito continued when he built his residence here in 1947.
Today's town began to form in the mid-19th century from the villages of Grad, Mlino, Rečica, Zagorice, and Želeče, which were encircling the lake. At that time, farmers started to sell the land along the eastern lakeshore to wealthy individuals for their villas, and the villages of Grad, Zagorice, and Želeče began to merge. Bled was officially recognised as a town in 1960.
Bled is located on the southern foot of the Karawanks mountain range near the border with Austria, about 50 km (31 mi) northwest of the state capital Ljubljana. South of Lake Bled are the densely forested Pokljuka and Jelovica plateaus, the easternmost parts of the Julian Alps. Here the Sava Bohinjka and the parallel Bohinj Railway lead up to the Bohinj basin, Lake Bohinj, and the Triglav massif.
A number of rises (Grad 599 m, Straža 646 m, Kozarca 558 m, Osojnica 756 m, and Ravnica 729 m) separate the localities of Bled around the lake, the former villages of Grad, Mlino, Rečica, Zagorice, and Želeče.
The lake is 2.12 kilometres (1.32 mi) long and 0.5 to 1 kilometre (0.31 to 0.62 mi) wide. In summer, the surface water reaches 25 °C (77 °F) and retains a temperature up to 18 °C (64 °F) until autumn. As such, it is suitable for swimming. In colder winters it freezes and is used for ice skating.
There is a thermal spring (23 °C or 73 °F) near the lake, next to the Bled Fault. Its water is used in indoor pools in two hotels.
Most of the hotels and hostels in Bled offer internet access.
The post office is located at Ljubljanska 14 and is open M-F 7AM-7PM, Sa 7AM-12PM
Transportation - Get In
The closest airport is Jože Pučnik Airport (IATA: LJU), which is easily accessed by bus for €7 or by taxi for €40 and up to €55; see the link for details.
Near Lake Bled is a small civil airport Lesce-Bled for fun and sports fliers.
The bus station in Bled is centrally located northeast of the lake at the intersection of Cesta Svobode and Grajska Cesta.
Buses leave from Ljubljana to Bled hourly on the hour and return from Bled to Ljubljana hourly on the half-hour. The journey takes 75 minutes and costs €7. Schedules are available online.
Trains from Ljubljana drop passengers off at Lesce-Bled station, 4 km southeast of Bled. The journey takes slightly under an hour by regional train. These run irregularly, but more or less once every hour. In addition, there are a few IC services a day, which are slightly faster.
Buses connect the station with Bled at least every 30 minutes for €1.30. A taxi to/from the station costs €10.
Bled Jezero Station is on the other side of the lake, opposite the town, 1.5 km away. From here, trains leave to/from Jesenice and Nova Gorica every two hours or so.
Train schedules are also available online.
Transportation - Get Around
Bled is small enough to cover on foot. A walk around the lake will take just over an hour.
The traditional way to reach the lake's island is by a pletna boat, which resembles a huge gondola. The round-trip fare is fixed at €12 per person, and the rowers will typically wait to get minimum ten people on the boat before departing. The entire trip takes 90 minutes, including 60 minutes of rowing and 30 minutes on the island. The pletnas depart from various locations around the lake. For reservations visit web site www.pletna.si
A popular method of travel to the island church is by renting a rowboat.
Bled and the vicinity are great for riding bicycles, which can be rented at many outdoor agencies. There are no designated bike lanes in Bled. Cycling off-road or off-track is not allowed in Slovenia. A list of suggested bike routes is available here.
Horses are available for rent, with or without guides/instructors, at most outdoor agencies. In addition, horse-drawn carriages are available for rides around the lake, to the castle, and further afield.
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Most of the hotels have restaurants and bars. In addition, the following are stand-alone restaurants worth a visit. Prices in Bled tend to be inflated due to the tourist nature of the town. Try the local speciality kremna rezina, a cake of vanilla custard and cream,
- Castle Restaurant (At Bled Castle), . Good for special occasions, but not as expensive as you might think. Booking advised, especially for outside tables by the wall.
- Gostilna Pri Planincu, Grajska cesta 8, , e-mail: [email protected]. Over 100 years old. Still retains original ambience.
- Okarina, Ljubljanska cesta 8, , e-mail: [email protected]. Amazing quality, large menu blending Indian and Slovene dishes including a substantial vegetarian selection. Not the cheapest, but high quality and extremely friendly service. Beautiful decor, relaxed atmosphere. Highly recommended.
- Ostarija Peglez'n, Cesta Svobode 19a. 11AM-11PM. Great fish restaurant
- Simončinka, Ljubljanska cesta 4. Great fast food including burgers, chicken, and salads.
- Topolino, Ljubljanska cesta 26, . 12PM-11PM, closed Tuesdays. Bled's most sophisticated outfit, georgeously decorated, and beautifully lit. High quality food and wine. Expensive.
Sights & Landmarks
- Lake Bled. Formed after the recession of the Bohinj glacier at the end of the Ice Age. As much as 2120m long and 1380m wide. Maximum depth is 30.6m. With no natural tributaries, it is fed by a few springs.
- Bled Castle(follow the paths marked Grad for a 15 minute steep climb). 8AM-7PM, until 5PM in winter. A picturesque white and red castle enclosed by a Romanesque wall with parapets, ramparts, and towers. The current incarnation of the castle dates from the 17th century and was restored in the 1950s. The upper courtyard includes a 16th-century chapel decorated with frescoes from 1700 and includes a painting of Henry II conferring Bled to Bishop Albuin. There is a small museum with an exhibition on the castle's history and the usual array of medieval pomp, pageantry and weaponry. However, the items do not include descriptions in any language. The castle terrace offers great views of the lake and island below. There is also a small wine center run by Andre, the monk. There, for the price of a champagne bottle (€15) Andre will teach you how to perform Sabrage, or Sabree, the art of cutting the top of the bottle off with a blade. You can also bottle, label, and wax stamp your own wine right in the cellar with Andre. The wooden steps near the wine cellar lead to small shop that sells various herbs and oils. Go in here for the smell. Adults €10, students €7, children 5€.
- Bled Island (By rowboat or pletna - see above). Excavations on the island have revealed the remains of a pre-Romanesque Chapel and a large Slavic cemetery dating to 9 AD.
- Church of the Assumption. 8AM-dusk. The present baroque church dates from 1698. Well preserved frescoes depict scenes from the life of Virgin Mary. Ring the wishing bell, which was installed in the original Gothic church in 1534. The Provost's house and the smaller building behind the church were used as guesthouses. According to local tradition, a husband who can carry his newly married bride the 99 steps up from the dock into the church will be ensured a happy marriage, and ringing the bell in the church will fulfill one of your wishes. €3.
- Iglica Waterfall (4km southwest of Bled, in the caves of Iglica, near the village of Bohinjska Bela). 18m high, but very narrow waterfall over a vertical wall of Permian limestone. Popular for rock climbing. If you go up the stairs you have a beautiful view over the whole area.
- Babji Zob (Hag's Tooth) Caves (4km southwest of Bled, near the village of Bohinjska Bela). 300m cave system includes rare helictites (calcium deposits) and a tooth-shaped pillar atop a 1128m peak. Very different than other caves in Slovenia. Three-hour tours take place Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays in the summer. Meet at Bohinjska Bela 34.
Things to do
Most of the outdoor adventure activities, as well as the must-see Vintgar Gorge, are in nearby Triglav National Park. However, Bled also offers numerous activities.
- Hiking. Bled offers several easy to moderate hikes, many of which offer amazing picturesque views of the island. Velika Osojnica, a 756m high peak at the southwestern corner of the lake offers the best and most famous views of Bled, and is popular among photographers. An easier, but less spectacular option is to hike up 638m Straza, covered with linden oak and spruce trees, southwest of the Grand Hotel Toplice.
- Swimming at Grajsko kopališče (Castle Bathing Area) (on the north shore underneath the castle). Mid Jun-Sep 8AM-7PM. 6,000 m2 area, a great place to swim, also has two waterslides, a trampoline, a climbing wall, four outdoor swimming pools, a jump board as well as climbers, swings and a sandbox for children, table tennis, chess, 1,000 changing rooms, 107 lockers, boat rental, snack shop, and a grassy beach. €6 for a daily ticket, €3 after noon.
- Strel Swimming Adventures. Swim across Lake Bled and around the Island with well known operator for Slovenian swimming adventure holidays.
- Indoor Ice Skating at Sportna Dvorana (just east of the Park Hotel). Fee: €4.50; Skate Rental: €4.
- Bled Golf & Country Club, Kidriceva 10c (2km east of town on the Bled-Lesce Road), . Slovenia's premier golf course. 9 holes €30, 18 holes €60.
- Mini Golf, Ljubljanska cesta (Behind Hotel Park), . 9:30AM-11PM. 18 holes. Hosts a variety of classic mini golf competitions, including the National Championship.
- Skydiving/Paragliding/Scenic Flights, Ljubljanska 1.
- Spas & Wellness Centers. Unwind in thermal pools, whirlpools and saunas, or alternatively let yourself be pampered with a soothing massage, a calming bath or a rejuvenating beauty treatment.
- Summer tobogganing, . Open only during the summer. Ride down a 520m track on a 131m hill in a small cart. Speeds top out at 40kph.
- Fishing. Fishing for catfish, pike, carp and lake trout is permitted on Lake Bled with the purchase of a permit from the tourist office for €20 per day.
- Hot Air Balloon Flights (Ballooning center Barje), , e-mail: [email protected]. 24/7. Accepts bookings via email or phone, at least a day before the flight. Hot air balloon flights are ONLY early in the morning, starting at Sunrise. Whole programme is about 3-4 h (flight time approx. 1 h).
Festivals and events
A complete listing of events in Bled is available on the Tourist Information website
- Bled Days. On the 4th weekend of July. Three days of fairs and concerts. The event culminates in fireworks and the lighting of thousands of candles on the lake.
- Okarina Etno Festival. 1st weekend in August. Ethnic festival featuring folk music performances.
- International Music Festival Bled. Early July. Classical music festival.
Be sure to take necessary precautions when participating in outdoor activities.
Bled can become extremely crowded during the summer months especially at weekends. A visit during winter, while cold, presents you with the chance to see a frozen Lake Bled and have the place to yourself. Alternatively those seeking a bit of peace will find that the side of the lake opposite the town is often somewhat quieter.