What’s the most fairy tale-in-real-life destination in Europe? Truly, it’s a toss-up, because the options are endless. Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle feels quite magical, particularly because it was built by the fairy tale king himself. And then, of course, there are the European destinations that have roots so magical J.K. Rowling might have penned them, like the Terra Nova Fairy Garden in Ireland. Nonetheless, the newest visually magical destination has to be Lake Bled in Slovenia.
The alpine lake has a picturesque island in the middle, and the Julian Alps as its backdrop. Known as one of Slovenia’s most magnificent sights, Lake Bled and its island were even nominated as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Here’s how you can best experience all Lake Bled has to offer this spring:
Take a pletna boat to visit Lake Bled’s island
These wooden pletna boats have taken visitors to the center of Lake Bled for centuries. Simply head to the water’s edge where boat rowers, called pletnars, are standing by. Once on the island, climb the 99 steps to the Assumption of Mary Church, where guests can ring the church bell. The 16th-century church bell was a supposed gift from the pope, and there’s said to be one bell in the church and a second bell at the bottom of Lake Bled.
Visit Lake Bled Castle
The 12th-century Lake Bled Castle boasts one of the most stunning views of the lake. Visitors can experience the old-world traditions the castle still demonstrates today, like the Gutenberg-inspired manual printing operation. Tour the castle’s museum collection, housed in the baroque rooms, which features artifacts dating back to the sixth century. And to top it off, book a tasting in the castle’s wine cellars.
Take a dip in the natural Lake Bled thermal hot springs
Lake Bled was once a sought-after health destination, thanks to its natural thermal hot springs. Lake Bled’s water is sourced from a few natural springs, which create temperate bathing pockets within the lake. And in the northeast section of Lake Bled, visitors will find full-on hot springs to bathe in. These hot springs also supply natural thermal water to some of the area’s best hotels.
Try the Lake Bled Cream Cake
If a fairy tale lake doesn’t have its own signature dessert, is it even worth visiting? Arguably yes, but fear not, because Lake Bled does indeed have a namesake dessert. Called “kremšnita” by the locals, Lake Bled Cream Cake is a must-try pastry for visitors—the surrounding area has sold 12 million pieces of kremšnita and counting.
Where to stay near Lake Bled
Grand Hotel Toplice is one of the hotels that benefit from the thermal spring waters of Lake Bled. In addition to the hot springs on the property, Grand Hotel Toplice has gorgeous views of the Julian Alps, Lake Bled, Bled Island, and Bled Castle. The hotel also has a private beach and a bar with a lakeside terrace.
Hotel Vila Bled was once a health resort to Austrian and Hungarian A-listers interested in an exclusive, hydrotherapy-forward vacation. To relive the old-world chic experience the eastern European elite once flocked to Vila Bled for, reserve one of the hotel’s lakeview suites with a private terrace.
Formerly known as Vila Istra, Adora Luxury Hotel sits on the banks of Lake Bled and is an old-world villa that has been restored into a luxe guest house. Book one of the villa’s penthouse apartments, and revel in Adora’s surreal view of the lake and Triglav Mountain.