Ljubljana & Tranquil Lakes
A friend and I embarked on a short trip to Slovenia (just 5 nights) in which I combined the lovely capital city of Ljubljana and Lake Bled! Arriving in Ljubljana, I stayed right in the centre of the city, a short walk away from everything. On a map, it looks like a big city, but once you’re there it’s not at all.
During our stay in Ljubljana, we walked everywhere - no public transport required to visit most main attractions… Although it’s a charming city with a young-people vibe (influenced by the large university and all the students) there isn’t much to do in my opinion. Both I, and my friend that I travelled with decided that one night was enough in Ljubljana if you used your time wisely and did what you wanted to do.
After checking in, we walked around the riverside, to the famous Cathedral of St Nicholas - which is stunning, but as are a lot of European Cathedrals. A short walk from there, we explored the main market square where fresh fruit, vegetables, clothing and leather goods were on sale at the semi permanent stalls (they’re open during the day and whilst the structures remain, the market closes later in the afternoon.) We ate some delicious food and enjoyed some cocktails accompanied by live music by the river in the afternoon and a walk through Tivoli Park before heading up to the Ljubljana Castle in time for sunset.
Tivoli Park is HUGE and we greatly underestimated the size and ended up wandering (and getting lost up a mountain in the process) for a few hours but it’s a lovely park and the weather was nice and it’s certainly good exercise so we can’t complain. There are various attractions scattered around the park such as The Zoo, A Main House, The National Geographic Exhibition, Ponds and various Trails… A lovely park but be sure to check the map before walking around as there are lots of trails and some take you very far away from where you started - which is what we experienced.
We opted to take the Funicular up to The Castle, which is see through glass and probably not advisable to those with a fear of heights, but a fabulous and speedy journey to the top. Once you arrive at the Castle Complex, there are a couple of Cafes/Restaurants, various viewpoints, The Museum of Puppetry, The Penitentiary, The Chapel and the Castle Tower along with a few other attractions.
We visited The Museum of Puppetry which is predominantly geared towards children and it’s very interactive but it’s good fun to wander in, make your own Puppet Show, read up on the history of Puppetry and look around! We also viewed The Penitentiary, you can go inside the cells and read the history and some of the personal stories of those held captive here. Most visitors spend most of their time on the viewing decks and rightly so - as the views sweeping over Ljubljana are beautiful. We opted to visit around dusk as we knew that we would benefit from the sunsetting over the city and I highly recommend visiting and watching the sun set in the distance with the final flashes of sunlight lighting up various parts of the city before disappearing.
After our day in Ljubljana, we felt as if we had done everything of interest to us. So we were happy enough to leave early in the morning and tag an extra night on to our time in Bled as opposed to returning to the city.
The Bus Station in Ljubljana is easy enough to find, it’s a maximum of 15 minutes from the city centre and purchasing tickets was easy too… It was around €8 each to get from Ljubljana to Bled and it takes about an hour to get there and the buses leave every hour. It’s a very scenic drive which takes you through lots of Slovenian farm villages with pretty little chalets and lots of animals and past some amazing landscapes such as the Slovenian Alps, Waterfalls and Lakes.
Upon arrival in Bled, once again it is easy enough to find the town. Luckily for us we had done our research and knew where our hotel was, but there’s plenty of tour operators and the bus station staff are around to help you find your way to your accommodation.
Personally (and of course I am biased) I think we stayed in the best hotel at Lake Bled, "Vila Prešeren Bled" which couldn’t have been in a better location for us - right next to Bled Town and the Bus Station and right on the Lake. The Restaurant was popular with tourists but it was relatively small, meaning that it wasn’t oversaturated with tourists unlike other hotel restaurants that we visited.
Whilst in Bled we hired Kayaks and went over to Bled Island, we didn’t take any money with us (in case we fell in/chose to swim) so we didn’t pay to go into the Church itself. We also swam over to the island, there are a few parts where lots of people swim over which is the recommended and safer place to swim from. We spent some time in Bled Town but not much as there isn’t much there so we visited Park Hotel which is famous for it’s Bled Cake - an absolute must try of custard and cream in layers of puff pastry and dusted with icing sugar. We were lucky with the weather and opted to visit the nearby Gorge, you can get a transfer to the Gorge with any of the Tour Operators in town for around €9 and then entry to the walk is €4. It’s a lovely, easy walk on a board walk through the gorge, mountainous countryside and the streams and waterfalls. Most Tour Operators give you two hours at the Gorge which is plenty of time. I think the walking track is around 4km in total!
Walking around Lake Bled, there are lots of little shops, cafes, ice cream parlours and loads of guesthouses and hotels, many of which have restaurants. We dined in our own hotel a couple of nights, simply because of the views and it’s popularity and location but we also had dinner at the Park Hotel and Penzion Mlino which was the complete opposite side of the lake to where we had dined before. We did try and eat Slovenian food but our favourite was the Bled Cake and the local Vegetable or Mushroom Soup. The food varies from place to place but most are very international and clearly cater for tourists with Pizza/Pasta/Burger/Fish/Meat and the food in all restaurants that we dined in was delicious. Breakfast was served in our hotel overlooking the Lake which was an extra special touch and one of the reasons we loved our hotel so much!
Another day trip which for me is an absolute MUST is to visit Lake Bohinj, about an hour away from Lake Bled, it is slightly less touristic and geared more towards locals… Having said that, there are the usual “tourist traps” and there is a boat that goes across the Lake (it’s much bigger than Bled) and also a Cable Car which takes you up to a Ski Resort. We actually went on the boat, as we wanted to spend a large part of our day in Bohinj and wanted to see as much as possible - the boat is very good (but not necessarily cheap) and it takes you from one end to the other (in about half an hour) and they give you a little commentary about the history and the surrounding mountains, waterfalls, ski resort etc.
We also opted to take the Cable Car which was good fun in itself, riding up the mountain in “one of Europe’s fastest and steepest Cable Cars” however we were disappointed when we reached the top, aside from the cafe with relatively nice views which served local delicacies (a nice place to try the local Mushroom Soup) there wasn’t much going on. For adrenaline junkies there is a zipline but it’s not that long and relatively expensive. For walkers and cyclists it’s a great place for some longish routes and mountain biking. However, for the price that we paid to go up to see the views, it was a little anticlimactic… There’s a hotel and it is is a thriving ski resort in winter but it seemed that they were just finding a way to make tourists come in summer but with little to offer and no real purpose.
As a viewpoint - it is fine but I personally think Lake Bohinj is more scenic from the Lake because the mountains form the breathtaking surroundings and background.
Slovenia was a wonderful country and what we saw we loved - I heard lots of things from locals of other places we should visit and if we were there longer we would have… Oh well, I guess it’ll just have to go back on the list of places to re-visit!