Touring Slovenia: Ljubljana to Lake Bled

Though growing in popularity, Slovenia is an underrated gem, offering a rich variety of activities and stunning landscape!

Whilst touring two summers ago, my travel companion and I spent an enjoyable weekend in Ljubljana (Luub-lee-ah-na), before gracing Lake Bled with our presence, first detouring through Skofja Loka and Kranj.

This stunning country is remarkably welcoming, and very accessible. Slovenia is mountainous, reflected in the terrain of its cities, but exploring was never too challenging. A rich historical tapestry is woven into the architecture of Ljubljana, whilst Lake Bled is both beautiful, and entirely unique. For these two alone, Slovenia is wholly worth visiting!


Climbing Ljubljana castle in Slovenia tour
The ascent towards Ljubljana castle

A fascinating and friendly city. One of Europe’s least populated capitals, Ljubljana hosts an interesting mixture of different cultures and people, whilst being brilliantly connected with other, nearby attractions. The city centre sports wide, green streets, spacious parks, and, in regular times, a bustling hub of restaurants and nightlife situated alongside the River Ljubljanica, all in the shadow of a mighty castle. For the environmentally conscious, Ljubljana was voted the European Commission’s Green Capital of Europe in 2016.

Getting around Ljubljana

Barely twenty minutes from the airport, the city is easily reached by either bus, or the consistent taxi numbers perched outside the arrivals gate. Alternatively, private cars can be hired.

The city centre is, however, designed to prohibit vehicular traffic, though the roads feeding the outskirts can be busy. Pedestrians should note that ‘jaywalking’ (crossing outside of designated zones) is punishable by fines.

When exploring the central sites, this leaves them quieter, less congested, and more pleasant, with strolling being the most effective mode of transport.

Recognising the needs of those with limited mobility, a network of green (coloured) electric cabs provide free, private transport around the city centre.

Ljubljana buildings from tour of Slovenia
Layers of history: Ljubljana’s Castle, Cathedral, and eating promenade in succession

Activities in Ljubljana

As might be expected, Slovenia’s capital is an organic, historical being. I would highly advise exploring this wealthy past. The Ljubljana Free Tour host free walking tours through the beating heart, which we capitalised upon. Engaging interactively with the city’s past thoroughly enriched my understanding of the streets.

Often described as the City of Dragons, ancient legend details Jason, hero of Greek mythology, encountering a dragon lurking close to the source of the Ljubljanica, and subsequently slaying it. Now the symbol of Slovenia’s capital, dragons can be found in various guises across the city, including intricate statues on the Dragon Bridge.

Another dragon also resides inside the rooms of Ljubljana Castle. Originally built as an defensive fortress in the 11th Century, it has since been repurposed as a major cultural venue. Requiring an uphill climb, it can be accessed on foot in under twenty minutes from the city centre, and affords sweeping views across the rooftops.

Ljubljana skyline from Slovenia tour
Towering above Ljubljana’s skyline

One main highlight of our walking tour included visiting Ljubljana Cathedral, officially known as St. Nicholas’s Church. Belonging to the Roman Catholic denomination, a Baroque exterior was redesigned in the early 18th Century, though the site was first occupied in 1262. The impressive bronze doors are complete with carvings of significant historical events.

Other walks can also be enjoyed through the numerous, large parks within Ljubljana. Šmartinska park is very pleasant, whilst Tivoli Park is spacious, and features several internal gardens alongside hosting over 500 animals in Ljubljana Zoo.

The city centre regularly exhibits a local market, should you wish to practise any Slovenian. Interestingly, various ‘Mlekomats’ are also dotted about this square. Otherwise known as ‘milk vending machines’ they are exactly that!

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Many of the remaining food and drink options cluster close to the banks of the Ljubljanica. Our experience with the various restaurants and bars was largely impeccable, with organically-produced ice cream a particular treat.

My only negative experience was in the Stara Macka steakhouse – despite making a reservation, we were seated outside, with scarcely enough lighting to read the menus without a torch, and informed the only item they had left was deer venison. Any families should also be warned about the prominent ‘adult shop’ directly across the road.  

Ljubljana river, from Slovenia tour
Riverside tranquillity in Ljubljana

Skofja Loka and Kranj

Ljubljana is also well-positioned in relation to several day trips that can be enjoyed. In under an hour’s drive to the south, both the Postojna and Skocjan cave systems can be reached, themselves separated by roughly ten minutes. Though they represent one of the country’s more thrilling attractions, with Predjama Castle also built into the cliff face near Postojna, we were sadly unable to visit owing to time restraints.

Heading north from Ljubljana, one can alternatively reach the quaint town of Skofja Loka. Were I planning another trip to Slovenia, I would definitely spend more than the few hours I ultimately did. It’s a wonderfully historic town, with each attraction connected by winding, cobbled roads easily traversed on foot.

The Church of St. Cross, mounted on Hribec hill, is definitely worth the spectacular views sweeping across the town. In wandering the surrounding hills, we also encountered wild boars, and witnessed juvenile eagles refining their dive-bombing technique.

This particular excursion brought us back towards the central square, wonderfully charming in itself, across the notorious Devil’s Footbridge. With so much left to explore, I’d recommend this guide in providing a greater appreciation for the wealth of interesting attractions in Skofja Loka.

Unfortunately, having planned an itinerary around our arrival in Lake Bled, we were compelled to keep going, detouring once more in Kranj. Honestly, I’d probably skip this step in future. Though another charming Medieval town with undeniable appeal, we were simply exhausted. Travelling by bus, there was no available storage facility, leaving me carrying all of our luggage across frequently steep terrain, which was fun.

Especially for a twelve-mile round trip.

Paved Kranj streets from our tour of Slovenia
An inkling of how the Kranj streets are paved

Lake Bled

Lake Bled is remarkable, both for being spectacularly gorgeous, and the tear-shaped island housing a monastery. Since motorboats have been banned, the water is perfectly clear and unpolluted, voyaged solely by human-powered crafts. Still relatively undeveloped, the surrounding hills are laden with trees, and melt into snow-topped mountains.

Feature image Touring Slovenia, showing Lake Bled
The spectacular Lake Bled and monastery

Activities in Lake Bled

The serenity of Bled is well-suited to facilitating relaxing. Several beaches caressed by the rippling waves encourage bathing on warm days, connected to designated wading zones. The entire diameter of Lake Bled is 6km, making for a highly-recommendable stroll, with numerous scenic viewpoints to gaze across the water.

The Mala Osojnica trail is more challenging, consisting of a steep ascent into the surrounding hills, invariably accompanied by a rope handrail, and ending with a long, metal staircase. Taking between thirty minutes and an hour, it requires some exertion, but rewards utterly unmissable views!

Welcome feature for home page
The Mala Osojnica viewpoint overlooking Lake Bled; you might have noticed this elsewhere on the site!

Extreme water sports might be absent, though it is entirely possible to be active on the lake itself. At multiple sites, row boats, kayaks, or stand-up paddleboards can be hired, permitting you to travel even to the monastery. Strong swimmers can also attempt this, which is a shorter journey if departing from the west bank.

Lake Bled portrait from tour of Slovenia

Assuming you’re not wet, it’s very possible to enter the monastery, once occupied by monks residing entirely upon the small island. ‘Pletna’ boats will also frequently commute to and from the island, at a small cost, with larger groups, should you desire this option. Additionally, in colder winters, the lake’s surface freezes, on rare occasions enabling visitors to walk across!

Likely once a pagan temple, the now-Catholic church houses a wishing bell inside, which has existed since the 16th Century.

In summer, Straza Bled is opened as a toboggan track, which combines a pretty chairlift ride to the top, and some good fun in getting down considerably faster. In other walks, you can visit Lake Bled Castle, positioned high above the water.

From Lake Bled, daytrips excursions can also be conducted into the surrounding areas. Vintgar Gorge is one such attractive, and just a brisk hour’s walk away. A wooden gangplank stretching over a kilometre and a half plunges alongside the natural rock walls to descend 250m, all the way accompanied by roaring water.

Lake Bohinge is also within reach through a convenient bus journey. Though lacking a central island monastery, it’s superior in sheer size, and is guarded by a statue of Goldenhorn. From popular folklore, he was an invulnerable goat, partly responsible for protecting nearby farmers and mountaineers, his powers of rejuvenation gifted by magical, kind-hearted maidens inhabiting the Julian Alps. Sadly, an unsuccessful hunter once so-enraged Goldenhorn in his attempt, the goat destroyed the meadow in a rage.

On final reflection, Slovenia is a gorgeous country, possessing an intriguing history, with plenty to explore. In my brief tour, I was lucky enough to experience a glimpse of what it had to offer. Lake Bled is one of the most attractive locations I’ve visited, and a brilliant place to stay.

Thanks for reading! I regularly post other short stories, travel blogs, or interesting historical commentaries, so stick around and explore more. Let me know, will Slovenia be on your wish-list?

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49 thoughts on “Touring Slovenia: Ljubljana to Lake Bled

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    1. You’re very welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed the description! Slovenia often flies under the radar, especially compared to neighbours like Italy or Croatia, but there are so many gems yet to be fully appreciated


  1. I have never been to Slovenia, but always heard plenty of great things from friends that visited! The view is amazing and there’s so much culture! I really love the idea of making the city centre, not for transport, I m sure it makes it far more enjoyable! thanks for sharing Tom 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a relatively unique approach I think, and it does make the centre considerably nicer, and easier to navigate. There’s an incredibly rich history to explore, whilst the views around Lake Bled especially are breath-taking – hopefully we’re able to travel soon!


  2. Wow! It must have been so beautiful! I want to visit Europe someday, and I do know about Slovenia but it will definitely be part of my priority list! It sounds amazing! I bet it’s even more in real! Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, nothing compares to the hills themselves! Slovenia definitely warrants being ranked highly against other European cities, I do hope you’re able to visit soon


  3. Lake Bled looks amazing! I’m a big lover of my outdoor spaces and adventures and honestly as soon as I was tobogganing I wanted to go! This is definitely one I’ll be adding to the bucket list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The tobogganing was definitely a great experience, with the hillside facing the lake (if you can look away from the track!). The landscape feels so open and free, it’s a wonderful country I hope you’re able to visit soon

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m delighted you found it interesting! Ironically, I originally picked it slightly on a whim, but am so glad I did, Slovenia lives up to its wonderful reputation

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Our initial plan wasn’t to spend too much time walking, but once there, so many gorgeous routes are available and easy to traverse, especially around Bled or Ljubljana. The lake was spectacular, I’m glad you enjoyed the post!


    1. I’d 100% recommend it! The lake is gorgeous and, though the climb can be challenging, the aerial shots are spectacular, hopefully you’ll be able to visit soon


    1. Yes, I was amazed by how well connected Ljubljana is to other capitals and countries. Such a shame you weren’t able to explore before, but hopefully it won’t be long. The Soča valley does look fantastic


  4. As some who really misses travel, thank you for taking me on this tour! Your photos and narrative have really made me feel as though I have greater knowledge about visiting this beautiful country. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the read, and were captivated by this country’s beauty! Slovenia is wonderful, I hope you’re able to travel again soon


  5. I’ve always wanted to explore Slovenia! It looks phenomenal! Lake Bled looks absolutely stunning, I’ll definitely have to go if I ever visit! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this read! Slovenia has so much to offer even besides this brief glimpse, but Lake Bled is definitely an unmissable highlight. Thanks for reading!


  6. Lake Bled and Slovenia! The stories I’ve heard, photos I’ve seen I’ve always wanted to visit and your post is no different!

    Thanks for the tip on jaywalking. And how quirky are those milk vending machines around the town?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They’re so spectacular, it doesn’t surprise me that Slovenia’s almost come highly recommended! We were thankfully not caught jaywalking, but our AirBnB host warned us against it when we first arrived. Milk vending machines are not something I’ve ever encountered before, it’s a fun concept!


    1. I very much hope travel restrictions are eased, and you’re able to visit Slovenia soon – it’s truly wonderful, and worth looking forward to!


  7. Lake Bled is an incredible body of water! It is so, so blue and just the name compels me to stand on its lovely shores. The view from Mala Osojnica is breathtaking; to stand and be able to look down upon the world? is an experience to take the breath from my throat and forget all but the feeling of living.
    Thank you for sharing some of the beauty that remains in your memories. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Its beauty almost feels poetry-inspiring… thanks for those lovely words, I’m so glad you enjoyed the pictures! Having endured the tough ascent, it was an undoubtably rewarding panorama over the lake and land

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I’m delighted you found it helpful! There’s so much to explore, though Ljubljana and the magnificent Lake Bled are undoubted highlights


    1. It certainly worth considering! Slovenia seems to fall under the radar compared to more popular neighbours, like Italy or Croatia, but still boasts some incredible sights. I’m glad you found this helpful, and hope that you might be able to travel again soon


  8. This is such a great post. Slovenia has never really been on my travel radar before but it looks beautiful. I feel like its a country I need to visit and will definitely be making a note of some of the locations you’ve mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m delighted you found this valuable! Even before my own trip, to was not a country I’d delivered appropriate attention, and was almost shocked by how beautiful it was, and how much fascinating history explodes from each town and city


    1. Thanks to the limited number of boats (none of which are large or motor-powered) it’s completely safe, and a fun way to navigate! Unless you plan for towels upon arrival, however, you might find that being too wet results in being forced to stay outside

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, it was designed to be a narrative reflection of my trip, so they are all my thoughts! I’m always delighted to inspire potential travel plans, hopefully you’re able to make it there soon


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