Click here for Stunning Slovenia, Part 1: Overnight in Austria
Lake Bled, Slovenia
WONDERFUL! This was easily one of the most stunning lakes I have ever seen in my life. Tahoe is up there, but something about a rocky castle precariously looming over you as you swim in teal crystal-clear water while swans swim nearby is pretty dang magical. We went in early August and the water was easily over 70 degrees with air temps at about mid-80s.
- Pay-beaches are located around the vicinity of the lake and are well worth it if you have small children, or are looking for a place to kick back with lots of conveniences. The pay-beach directly under the castle has baby-friendly swimming areas, a sand box, diving boards, water slides, massage beds (35 Euro for an hour!), and a snack bar. Entrance is 7 Euro for adults, 6 Euro after 1pm.
- There is a trolley-train that drives around the island for 4 Euro which my son loved. It’s a cute way to engage the kiddos and get a feel for the lake’s layout and the different beaches.
- Straža is located above the lake, opposite side of the castle. It’s a cute recreational park with many fun activities including a ropes course, fitness route, and toboggan. Lots to do, up here!
We took the chair lift up and rode down, but if you’ve ridden a toboggan in Europe before, you may be disappointed. They charge 9 Euro (which is the most I’ve paid for one) and the track was fairly basic snaking down the hill as you can see below. We thought it was still fun to do, but if you’ve got Austria or Germany expectations, leave them at the chair lift.
Recreational sport rentals like bikes, kayaks, paddle boards, and row boats can be rented at many spots around the lake. Tourist booths are also abundant specializing in booking hot air balloon rides, canyoning trips, rafting, hiking, bike tours, and many other active experiences. There is so much to do here, a week was not enough time!
Dining is more expensive than I expected (15-30 Euro per entrée), but the food we tried was exceptional and worth the price. Slovenian beef, sausages, hearty soups, and trout are some of the more popular dishes you’ll see. We stayed in an apartment with a kitchen so all of our breakfasts and most lunches we prepared ourselves.
- Bled Castle Restaurant: I took my husband here for his birthday dinner. Wonderful views, excellent service, extensive wine list, and local, fresh, creative dishes. There are several vegetarian options and the menu changes with the seasons. Recommended for a romantic or fine dining experience, but be prepared to hike up several flights of stairs (or drive up to the main parking lot) to get here…oh that view!
- Štruklji: I discovered this local dish and fell in love. I tried a heavenly, rich, savory vegetarian version at Ostarija Peglez’n. Local cottage cheese and mushrooms layered between thin layers of dough and rolled up, sliced, and slathered with creamy mushroom gravy. Drool.
- Ostarija Peglez’n: Another blogger in Stuttgart had recommended this place to me and it was fantastic. The view across to the lake along with the folksy, mountain decor provided a cozy last dinner in Bled for my husband and I. The restaurant across the street had live performers playing traditional Slovenian folk music and made this the best dinner out during our trip. This is where I had that heavenly štruklji.
- Bled Cream Cake: you will see this dessert advertised everywhere and yes, you should try it! It’s a tourist staple in this region and several places vouch for the “best in Bled”. We indulged three times from three different establishments and can say they were all equally scrumptious. Light, creamy, and not too sweet, perfect for a hot summer treat.
Nightlife is fairly tame in this small town, but we found some:
- Pub Bled (Troha) is located above the Ostarija Peglez’n restaurant and had a casual dive-bar vibe. This spot kept me dancing alongside young hostel guests, young couples, old couples, single travelers out to play, and everything in-between. We danced for hours to songs everyone knows the words to from 80s till now. It was a smash-bang-up of all of my favorite dance tunes and my husband literally had to pull me away from this place. It’s been a while since momma’s been out and had this much fun. I’m so happy we brought a sitter.
- Devil Bar had an excellent beer menu and decent prices, but the atmosphere was lacking for what we wanted (ahem, DANCING, ahem). We each had a beer here (look at that impressive list!) and admired the cool devil themed decor, but then headed off to Pub Bled.
The two main attractions in Bled that most people come to see are Bled Island and Bled Castle, but simply swimming in the lake was my favorite thing to do and the first thing I’d recommend.
Bled Island: Slovenian pletna boats line up at several spots around the lake waiting to take visitors over for 14 Euro per person round trip, and includes 40 minutes free time at the island. The trip takes 20-30 mins depending on your rower’s ability.
I would suggest saving your cash and opting for a kayak or rowboat to DIY, unless you like a little drama. We had a woman on our boat that was terrified because there were no life vests. She continued to tell us all that she couldn’t swim, and the rower and passengers assured her it was all ok. A man stood up to take a picture while our pletna boat roared on at 0 miles an hour on this calm, sunny day. This prompted the woman to grab his shirt, scream while wide-eyed and frantic, “SIT DOWN!! I CAN’T SWIM!! SIT!!!”. The terrified woman’s daughters about lost it and so did I, tears coming down my face from hiding the laughter. She eventually started laughing too, so we didn’t feel that evil. Her outburst and the embarrassment of her daughters reminded me of my mother and now I’ve got a nice bit of nostalgia to hold on to from our pletna experience.
There is a church on the island that charges 6 Euro to enter and prompts visitors to ring the bells for good luck. There is also pretty, but expensive, pottery and art for sale in the gift shops along with a small snack shop, bar, and ice cream stand…with some of the creamiest, tastiest concoctions of ice-cream I’ve seen overseas. Pumpkin seed and olive oil ice cream, anyone?
The views were gorgeous, but hindsight is 20/20 and in retrospect, we would have opted to row ourselves to save money and to be on our own timeline. Oh and steps, there are only steps to go up and down to the island. No strollers.
- Bled Island and Church: 6 Euro Church Entrance
Bled Castle: I’ve lived in Germany for nearly four years and castles still make me a little giddy. After we hoofed it to the top, the views over the ledges were dramatically satisfying and almost surreal.
I had to dig my fingernails into the wall when looking over. It’s like, really, really high up there. Amazing.
We didn’t do the tour since we were able to walk the grounds with our dinner reservation. If you decide to do the tour, 10 Euro gets you a headset, entrance to the museum, the honey hive, cathedral, print shop, wine cellar, and coupons to use for merchandise or drinks. We purchased a few recommended bottles of wine from the Wine Cellar since we were trapped there during a flash thunderstorm.
There are no tastings at the Wine Cellar, but a funny, knowledgable man in a monk’s robe will give you all the deets about Slovenian grapes, wine, and the distinct regions. It was an informative and entertaining way to wait out the rain. You can also bottle and wax seal your own bottle of wine.
- Bled Castle: 10 Euro Entrance
The gorge is located only 15 minutes from Bled and is a must see when in the area! It’s pristine and naturally magnificent, especially if you get there early before the gobs of tourists arrive. We walked through the entire gorge and back in an hour stopping for pictures and to admire the scenery.
We arrived at 9:30am and entered the gorge with no line. When we left at 10:30am, the line had formed and due to the precariousness of the trail, visitors had to wait to enter. The line kept going, and going, and going…GET THERE EARLY.
- Vintgar Gorge: 4 Euro for entrance – no strollers, bring a carrier.
Canyoning at Grmecica
Bucket list, checked!! I have wanted to go canyoning since we found out we were moving to Germany in 2012. I had researched the best places in Europe and was ready to plan our first summer o’ adventure in 2013…then discovered I was pregnant. Fast forward through pregnancy, nursing phase, and nervous-momma phase and we come to now; travel-with-a-sitter phase.
Canyoning is a combination of repelling, hiking, climbing, jumping, and swimming through carved out canyons of crystal clear, ice-cold water (seriously, my fingers felt numb!) while wearing 5mm wetsuits and a harness. It’s really, really, really fun.
We used Out-door Slovenia and due to a mix up in times, ended up having a private experience. We were able to get one-on-one attention and go through the magical Grmecica canyon at our own pace. The first part does require hiking in the heat in those thick wetsuits, but once you take the first plunge, heat won’t be an issue for the rest of the trip.
The guides are professional, attentive, entertaining, and impressive. As I beamed in pride after jumping off the 6 meter ledge, they showed me up by backflipping into the same pool. My pride deflated a bit after that, ha! Check out more photos and my jump video on Instagram.
The trip ended with a surprise that I’ll never forget. Floating down a river in our gear while admiring the tree tops and canyons around us. This is was a wonderful experience that I am excited to try again!
- Out-door Slovenia Canyoning: 60 Euro per person
Lake Bohinj and the Savica Waterfall in Triglav National Park
Lake Bohinj is a larger lake than Bled and the area is less populated. It takes about 30 minutes to drive there from Bled, but this is the stuff that fairy tales are made of; thick green forests, colorful butterflies flitting around wildflowers, and more of that famous teal water. There are miles of hiking and bike trails that circle the lake and ascend the surrounding Julian Alps. In the winter, it’s a snowy escape for skiers, snowboarders, and cross-country.
We took the Vogel cable car up the mountain and were rewarded with one heck of a view. Cows freely roamed the mountain slightly freaking me out, but also giving me a great shot!
There is an info center at the top of the mountain with trail maps and a cashier who can help you determine the best trail. There is also a restaurant serving hearty, affordable meals.
From June – September the cheese makers open their cottages and hikers are able to stop in and sample and purchase fresh, local cheeses. We weren’t able to hike too much since we had our son with us. The terrain is very steep and rocky which also made it a bit hard to stumble over. In the winter, the trails double as ski runs.
After descending back down in the Vogel cable car, we drove a few kilometers to see the slap (slap = waterfall) Savica. The hike to the waterfall takes about 20 minutes and is all stairs. We got a workout and my steps in!
- Vogel Cable Car: 14 Euro to ride, up and down
- Savica Slap: Entrance to the hike and slap is 3 Euro, no strollers, bring a carrier
- Lake Bohinj Info
We stayed at Pension Union in a two bedroom apartment. The apartment had fast wifi, a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, living room, bathroom with shower (no bath), and washing machine. The apartment, unlike many others we’ve stayed at, also had cleaning supplies for the kitchen, laundry detergent, and spices which were all very appreciated conveniences!
Špela was kind and welcoming when we arrived. She gave us lots of tips regarding the surrounding area and was able to provide a crib for our son. The apartments had a lift, a pastry shop downstairs (that we visited A LOT), a restaurant and bar on-site, and was only a 5 minute walk to the lake. Like many apartments across Europe, the payment was cash only.
The view of the castle was wonderful to wake up to each morning, this was from our kitchen window!
Vignettes, Tolls, Border Crossings, and Drive Times
- You’ll need to purchase an Austrian vignette when leaving Germany. Gas stations near the border will sell them at the register and you can discuss the amount of time you’ll need for your trip. Our cost was 8.80 Euro, good for 10 days.
- You’ll need to purchase a Slovenian vignette on the way out of Austria in the same way. Our cost was 15 Euro, good for a week.
- We mainly stayed on the A10 during our drive and paid nearly 20 Euro on the way down (two toll booths) and on the return journey. Credit Cards are accepted.
- The border crossings were clear when we entered Austria and Slovenia from the German side. On the return journey, the entry into Austria had no wait, but Germany took about an hour to move through.
- The ride back (with one 30 minute pit stop for restrooms and coffee) took 7.5 hours from Bled to Stuttgart.
This post ended up being much longer than I had anticipated…so kudos if you made it through. Bled is an amazing place and I am enamored with the little of Slovenia that I saw. It’s a beautiful, preserved, natural place with a mystical vibe to it. I would go back here in a heartbeat (if money and time were of no issue) and spend more time in the Triglav National Park or in the Soca River Valley. For more information about Slovenia and each of its unique regions, check out their tourist page. It’s easy to navigate and was very helpful for me when planning this trip. As always, please comment below or message me if you have any questions about our trip. Wine post coming soon! Nasvidenje!
Link to: I Feel Slovenia