The lake resort of Bled has all the right ingredients for a memorable visit – a placid mirror lake with a romantic island, a medieval cliff-top castle and a backdrop of snowcapped mountains. In summer, the lake is the setting for a whole host of watersports – including major rowing contests – and in winter the surface becomes a giant fairytale skating rink. Perhaps the most visited place outside of the capital, Bled manages to retain a magical calm despite the hordes of tourists.
A constant relay of stretched gondolas leaves from below the Park Hotel, the Pension Mlino, and the bathing resort below the castle, ferrying tourists back and forth to Bled’s picturesque island (€12 return). With an early start (and by renting your own rowing boat from the Castle Boat House or Pension Pletna), you can beat them to it. Crowning the island, the Baroque Church of Sv Marika Božja is the last in a line of churches on a spot that’s long held religious significance: under the present building lie remains of a pre-Roman temple.
From the north shore a couple of paths wind steeply uphill to Bled Castle , originally an eleventh-century fortification whose present appearance dates from the seventeenth; the museum contains a well-presented collection of local artefacts relating to the settlement of Bled, and the lovely courtyard has magnificent views across the lake and towards the Alps. In the shade of the castle rock lies a clean, well-equipped bathing area with changing rooms (June to late Sept). Bikes can be rented cheaply from most guesthouses and tour agencies, providing an excellent way to see the surrounding area; the circumference of the lake can be cycled in thirty minutes.
The main attraction in the outlying hills is the Vintgar Gorge, 4km north of town, an impressive defile accessed via a series of wooden walkways and bridges suspended from the rock face. To get here, take the morning tourist bus to the village of Zasip, climb to the hilltop chapel of Sv Katarina and pick up a path through the forest to the gorge entrance.