When I booked a March trip to Lake Bled I didn’t imagined for a second that I would land in a white fairy tale. Slovenia greeted me with piles of snow and temperatures of under 0 degrees. I remember driving my rental car out of the airport and all I could see were mountains of snow on both sides of the road. I was not prepared for this, especially after being snowed under back home in the UK, unable to leave my house for a few days, panicking that I might not be able to make it to the airport for my flight to Ljubljana in time.
But there I was, driving towards Lake Bled on an empty motorway, accepting that it is what it is, and I will have to change my plans to accommodate the snow and the cold weather.
After 4 days spent in Lake Bled in winter I arrived at the conclusion that whilst in summer it’s a wonderful place to visit, in winter is pure magical!
What to expect and what to pack
Lake Bled in winter can get very cold and from December until April you can expect temperatures below 0 and a lot of snow. Do pack keeping in mind the weather!
Some things that can’t be missing from your suitcase are:
- Waterproof hiking boots with good grip, to be able to walk in the snow
- Thermals, to wear underneath your clothes
- Waterproof pants. Jeans would do too, but if the snow is quite deep you will get your ankles wet
- Warm jumpers
- A waterproof and windproof winter coat
- Gloves, a hat that covers your ears and a warm scarf.
Where to stay at Lake Bled in Winter
I booked the Astoria Bled Spa Hotel for my stay in Bled. I have actually booked a holiday package and this hotel was the only choice. But it did not disappoint, and I had a wonderful stay here. The hotel is central located, next to the Bled bus station and a merely 5 minutes’ walk to the lake. It has an underground parking which was perfect for my rental car, to protect it from the heavy snow. The room I had was quite large, with a mountain view. Housekeeping cleaned it every day. I loved the large selection at breakfast, with both continental and traditional Slovenian products available. There was a healthy corner as well, with fruits and freshly squeezed juice.
The spa was wonderful, especially in the afternoons, after walking all morning in the snow and low temperatures. Sitting in the Jacuzzi and looking up, through the glass ceiling how the snowflakes would fall, was so relaxing! They also have a special welcome offer, a half an hour body massage for only 15 euros!
If you are looking for a different type of hotel, check out the deals from Booking.com below.
Enjoy the fairy tale landscape
As I mentioned before, Lake Bled in winter looks like it’s been taken out of a fairy tale. You would really expect for one of the Frozen characters to show up, or a snowman to start talking. There are barely any tourists in Bled in winter and sometimes, you will find yourself the only one on the streets. Wondering around with your camera, you will have plenty of opportunities to take some stunning photos!
Just make sure you protect your camera from the snow. How? I used a DIY method, repurposing an airport liquids bag. I’ve put my camera inside it, made two holes in the back so that I can take the straps out, and adjusted the zip lock so only the end of my lens is out, creating a perfectly waterproof solution to protect my camera!
Besides the many winter activities you can do in and around Bled, do take lots of walks around the lake at different times of the day, to enjoy the colours changing. Every time you will be surprised by a different scenery: misty and foggy in the morning, crisp at noon, colourful in the evening. I tell you, Lake Bled in winter is magic!
Make a snowman
Probably the most obvious thing to do when you visit Lake Bled in winter is to make a snowman. It guarantees hours of fun, no matter how old you are! And the chances of it surviving for the entire winter are very high because of the low temperatures. ?
I don’t know about you, but from time to time I like to remember that I am still a child at heart, and building a snowman sounds like a few hours of fun that I won’t want to miss, especially when I’m on holiday.
Walk around the lake
As I mentioned before, walking around Lake Bled is magical, with pretty views opening up through the heavy branches of the trees covered with snow. The 6km path can be done is just over an hour and a half, as it is cleared from the snow every morning and it’s quite flat. There are very few noises that can disturb the silence, which make very peaceful and relaxing.
Half way through, do stop at the restaurant just next to Bled rowing club to warm up and also have a Kremsnita – the local cake. The rowing club has a privileged position from where you can admire the stillness of the crisp morning.
Climb up to the Bled Castle
From the 12th century old Bled Castle you can have a wonderful view over the lake and its surrounding mountains, on a clear day. Compared with the other view point of the lake, Osojnica, it only takes 10-15 minutes to climb up to the castle. If you don’t feel fit, you can always drive up – there is a back road and plenty of parking space up there.
Inside the castle there is a permanent exhibition about the way Bled Castle changed though the years, with rooms furnished with pieces representing different centuries. Inside the museum you will also learn about the history of Bled.
A visit to the Bled Castle is not only cultural but also interactive. You can learn about the traditional manual printing techniques from the castle’s printing shop, see artistic ironworks in the forge, and also buy a bottle of local wine and seal it with wax inside the cellars.
For a romantic evening you can always choose to book a table at the Castle’s restaurant which serves traditional Slovenian dishes with a modern twist. A reservation is required and if you choose a three-course meal, the entrance ticket to the castle is included (otherwise its 11 euros for adults and 5 euros for children).
You can purchase your ticket to Bled Castle ahead of time and skip the line, here.
Ice skate on Lake Bled
Every few years, Lake Bled freezes, and tourists who are fortunate to visit at those times have the unique chance of ice skating on it. Do ask the locals however when it’s safe to ice skate on the lake, as they know better.
If the lake is not frozen, you can always go to the ice rink from the Sports Hall and practice your skills on the ice.
Take a boat to the Bled Island
The tiny island on Lake Bled is a must! You can either rent a boat for an hour or two and row yourself to it or jump on a traditional pletna – a unique vessel made by locals to cross the lake on, with a roof and an oarsman who operates it. In winter you will find the pletna boats on the shore of the lake, under the Park Hotel Bled.
The Bled Island is actually the only natural one in Slovenia and has under one acre in size. Ever since the pagan times, the island used to be sacred. Back then, on it stood tall a temple dedicated to Ziva, the Slavic goddess of love. Today, the medieval picturesque catholic church on the island is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and dates from the 17th century.
The legend says that the bell of the church is magical, and it can make your wishes come true. So don’t forget to ring the bell when you visit the church, making a wish! The entrance fee to the church is 6 euros. The access to the island is free of charge.
The most beautiful view point of Lake Bled is Osojnica. Whilst in summer is a merely half an hour’s walk to the top, in winter is more challenging because of the snow. If you attempt this hike in winter make sure that you are not going alone and that you are wearing proper shoes.
Also, do choose a sunny day because if it’s snowing or raining, you won’t be able to see anything below.
Indulge in the hearty food
I have to admit that every day I couldn’t wait for dinner time to come so that I can try more of the hearty Slovenian food that Bled has to offer. I tried many different restaurants in Bled and even made a list with my favourite ones, which you can find here.
Slovenian food is heavily based on meat so expect a lot of sausages and steaks on the menus. Because in winter there are not so many tourists, the service will also be much better.
There is something romantic about sitting in the tiny wine bar just opposite to the Lake and look how it peacefully snows whilst enjoying a glass of red.
Eat all the cakes
Make sure to leave some space for dessert after you have stuffed your tummy with different delicious Slovenian dishes. Lake Bled actually has its own cake, the Kremsnita. This cake is found in many different forms and names all around Eastern Europe, but the best one you will find in Bled. The cake consists of vanilla custard topped with whipped cream and a crispy layer of butter dough. It is finished with icing sugar sprinkled on the top.
You can taste the best Kremsnita in Bled at Hotel Park, when the recipe was first brought into the country and developed by chef Ištvan Kovačevič.
Do a wine tasting
Did you know that Slovenia has the oldest grape vine in the world, growing for almost half of a millennium now? Or that Slovenia has more than 28,000 wineries, and three wine regions? Me neither! That’s very impressive for a small country that is mostly known for its mountain scenery more than anything else.
In Bled you can go for an evening of interactive wine tasting for only 35 euros, at the Murka Restaurant. The tasting includes 7 (!!!) different wines from different parts of Slovenia, paired with appetisers. During the night you will learn about the Slovenian wine but also play different interactive games, such as tasting the wine whilst blindfolded, to stimulate your palette. It is essential to book in advance, especially in winter. You can check other travellers reviews and book your own experience by clicking this link, on Tripadvisor.
Relax in one of the thermal springs spa
In the past, Bled used to be a very famous health resort due to the thermal springs coming from the mountains and because of the many bathing areas on the lake. These days however there are only 3 hotels that offer spa packages including thermal waters: Grand Hotel Toplice, Park Hotel and Rikli Balance Hotel.
Grand Hotel Toplice is located probably on the most beautiful side of the lake, with views towards both the island and Bled Castle. Their wellness packages feature access to the thermal water park, luxury massages, beauty treatments, herbal baths and three different types of saunas. You can book a spa package at Grand Hotel Toplice on booking.com. In winter (November to April), out of season, prices start at 75 euros/night with half board and access to the thermal pool.
Rikli Balance Hotel has the largest spa complex in Bled, with six swimming pools, hot tub, indoor and outdoor saunas, experience showers, heated stone beds and an indoor waterslide with views of Lake Bled. The wellness centre at Rikli Balance Hotel offers relaxation massages, baths, body and facial treatments and sauna programmes. You can book a spa package at Rikli Balance Hotel on booking.com. In winter (November to April), out of season, prices start at 68 euros/night with half board and access to the thermal pools.
Park Hotel is located in the centre of Bled and offers beautiful views over the lake. The swimming pool is on the rooftop and has panoramic windows. Whilst Hotel Park doesn’t have a proper spa, when you book a room here you will get a voucher to use in the spa at Rikli Balance Hotel. You can book a spa package at Park Hotel on booking.com. In winter (November to April), out of season, prices start at 62 euros/night with half board and access to the thermal pool.
Take a day trip to Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj is a merely 30 minutes’ drive from Bled. In winter I would recommend hiring a car to get to it, I got mine through Holiday Extras to get the best price. Buses between Bled and Ribcev Laz (the closest stop to Lake Bohinj) are not very frequent in winter. Lake Bohinj is not only the largest in Slovenia but it is also glacial, which means that its water is crystal clear, both in summer and in winter.
Even though the path around the lake is not cleaned up, same as the one in Lake Bled, it is still wonderful to find your way through the snow and follow other people’s footsteps towards the other side. Lake Bohinj is much bigger than lake Bled so expect a few good hours to walk around it, especially when the level of snow is quite high. The entire path has 12 kilometres and in summer it takes around 5 hours to complete. In winter more because of the snow. The path is mostly flat.
The scenery is fantastic though. The chances are you will probably enjoy this walk on your own, as there won’t be many adventurous people trekking this route. The first bit of the path will reveal gorgeous views over the Julian Alps, and, if you are lucky, you will even spot Triglav peak, the highest in Slovenia.
As you continue walking down the path, you will enter the woods and might even spot deer footprints, as I did.
At the other end of the lake you will find Ukanc, a tiny village formed of mostly holiday homes and hotels. When I visited however nothing was open so if you plan on doing this walk bring water, some sandwiches and snacks with you. When I arrived at the other side of the lake, the weather got very bad, so I had to skip visiting Savica Waterfall. I was lucky to spot a bus whose driver let me get inside and wait for 30 minutes, for its scheduled departure, taking me back to Ribcev Laz.
There are plenty of other winter sports and activities that you can do around lake Bohinj. Some of them include cross-country skiing over 70km of maintained trails in the valley, you can go for a guided snowshoe hike which is an excellent way of experiencing the winter landscape, you can even ride an Icelandic Horse in Triglav National Park – an activity that all the family would love, especially the children.
Practice winter sports at Vogel Ski Centre
Probably the most popular ski resort in the country, Vogel is also the largest of its kind in Slovenia. If you travel by train, pick up your Winter Mobility Card from your hotel (free of charge) which will entitle you to free trips on the Ski Bus Vogel that picks you up at Bohinj Bistrica train Station and drops you off at the cable car. You can check the ski bus timetable here. There is a bus from Bled as well which leaves at 9AM every morning and returns at 4PM but it’s worth checking ahead if it’s still running. If you come by car, the parking is free next to the cable car station.
The cable car to Vogel runs every half an hour from 8AM until 6PM, and the price of a return journey is 15 euros for adults and 8 euros for children.
Vogel is a great resort for beginners, with 9KM of easy slopes and plenty of instructors who can teach you how to ski or how to snowboard. There are also more advanced slopes for experiences skiers. Because it is so high in the mountains, at 1800 meters, Vogel is privileged to have natural snow until late April.
A day pass at Vogel costs 32 euros for an adult and 16 euros for children. There are discounts for families and seniors. If you don’t want to worry about lunch you can also book the “Hungry Skier” or the “Hungry Voglar” packages, which include a day pass, a main course/stew, apple strudel and mulled wine at the Viharnik Café.
Do a winter cycling tour
I bet you wouldn’t have thought that you can cycle in winter, on snow, right? There is a company that will pick you up from your hotel in Bled and then take you to this fairy tale land in Triglav National Park, where you will cycle in the snow, in the valleys of the Julian Alps. The bikes are specifically designed for winter and have wide tires so that you can enjoy an easy ride in the snow. You can check out this unique adventure here.
Watch stunning sunsets
There is something about winter sunsets, don’t you think? When the sky changes its color to warm shades of orange and the ground is covered with snow, and when the scenery reflects in the stillness of the water. This is what you can experience at Lake Bled on a clear winter day.
Peek at Vintgar Gorge
Firstly, I want to mention that Vintgar Gorge is closed during winter. I can’t recommend you coming here, especially when it’s snowing, and the paths haven’t been cleared. You will encounter a big lock on a gate anyway, so you can’t pass further into the gorge.
Vintgar Gorge is a stunning natural ravine carved through the vertical rocks of the mountains. It is 1.6 km long and ends with a 13 meters high waterfall. Both times I visited Vintgar Gorge it was closed. The first time, however, it was just a few days from re-opening and the path was fully safe to walk on, so I just jumped the barrier. I enjoyed the stunning walk along the wooden slabs with only a few other people – usually it’s packed with tourists and the experience can be spoiled if you arrive in full summer, as the path is quite narrow.
I could only imagine how Vintgar Gorge would look in winter, covered in snow. So, I walked there, from Bled. It’s a merely 4 km, but in snow, it felt much longer. I passed by villages completely covered in snow and I walked on empty roads, until I could hear the river. From there, I went down the hill on a windy road, crossed the bridge and headed towards Vintgar Gorge. I was the only one there, I could tell by the fresh snow with no other footsteps on it.
I walked a little bit into the gorge, following the wooden planks covered with snow, until I encountered the big gate with a lock on it. The scenery was so beautiful and so quiet! I could only hear that creaking sound my shoes would make as I was stepping into the snow and the murmur of the rapids.
Have you been to Bled in winter? Are you going to visit Bled in winter? Let me know if you enjoyed visiting Lake Bled in winter as much as I did!
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