The castle that is more than 1000 years old sits on a cliff that rises above the lake and can be seen from afar.
You should set aside quite some time for visiting it as there are many things to do there: admire the view across the lake, learn about the history of Bled, have your name printed in the printing press, taste Slovenian wine or honey, and so on.
Castle with a mighty view
… however, the first thing that everyone wants to do when at the castle is to go to one of the castle’s courtyards and look down from there.
From the lower courtyard, you will see Lake Bled and the island from a bird’s eye view. Floating on the lake like swans, there also might be pletna boats taking visitors to/from the island.
If you climb up the stone steps, you will get to the castle’s upper courtyard. From there you will see the Julian Alps and Triglav, the highest mount in the Slovenian Alps.
Mount Triglav (that would literally translate as ‘three-headed’ because of its three peaks) is also the highest mountain in the country, and thus a national symbol.
There is a saying that goes: „You are a real Slovenian if you climb Mount Triglav at least once in a lifetime“.
The oldest castle in Slovenia
Basking in the sun, Bled Castle atop the steep cliff is one of the three iconic sights of Bled (together with Lake Bled and Bled Island) and is therefore one of the most visited attractions.
It is probably the oldest castle in Slovenia as it was mentioned in writing for the first time in the year of 1011 as Castellum Veldes.
You are probably wondering which king or queen lived at that castle many years ago. Unfortunately, I have to disappoint you — the answer is none.
For a long time, the castle was owned by the bishops of Brixen who received it together with Bled Island from the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II in the 11th century.
As the then bishops and their staff lived far away — it took six days to get from Brixen (nowadays a town in northern Italy) to Bled on a horse and the journey could be dangerous too — they did not come to the castle often. So the castle was managed by the bishops’ servants.
Castle with printing works, forge and wine cellar
Bled Castle is comprised of several buildings. In the buildings on the lower level, there is a printing works where you can see a recreated wooden Gutenberg press (Johannes Gutenberg was a German engraver who in the 15th century invented a new kind of printing).
The recreated Gutenberg press is there to remind us of the times when the Slovenian language was written down for the first time. You can have your name printed or even a marriage certificate in case you are to get married at the castle.
On the castle’s lower level, you will also find a café and a shop offering Slovenian honey and honey products. Beekeeping is part of Slovenian culture, being passed on from one generation to the next. And here is an interesting fact: One in every two hundred Slovenians is a beekeeper.
On the castle’s lower level, there is also a wine cellar where you can taste Slovenian wines of high quality or even bottle the wine by yourself and take the bottle with you as a souvenir.
On the upper courtyard, from where you can see the Julian Alps, there used to be residential buildings that today host a comprehensive museum.
In that part of the castle, you will also find a chapel, a restaurant and a forge. In the latter, a local goldsmith puts on display beautiful iron crafts, aiming to preserve the tradition of iron smelting.
Castle's chapel with beautiful frescoes
For many (including myself) the Gothic chapel is the most charming place at the castle. There you will witness a play of light and shadow that will take you to some other time.
The castle’s chapel was built in the 16th century and is dedicated to two of the bishops of Brixen. It was enlarged after the earthquake in the 17th century while its walls were at that time decorated with beautiful frescoes that you can still admire today.
Get to know the history of Bled
The museum is situated on the castle’s upper level and spreads on two floors. There you can learn about the history of the area around Lake Bled that is today called Bled.
You will have the opportunity to see how the first settlers of Bled who lived off agriculture looked like. They came to this area as the land was fertile and the climate favourable.
On the second floor of the museum, there are many archaeological findings on display, including those excavated from the Roman and Slavic graveyards that were located on a land below the castle.
Archaeologists also found an iconic women’s brooch in the shape of a peacock there, the so-called ‘bird of paradise’. It is said that the bird of paradise symbolises life and prosperity.
The castle’s museum also honours the achievements of two men who were inspired by the beauty of Bled. One of them is a Slovenian, Janez Puhar, inventor of glass plate photography.
The second man is a Swiss natural healer Arnold Rikli who lived and worked in Bled for many years and is today considered a pioneer of wellness tourism in Bled.
In the museum, you can see one of the bathtubs in which his patients were taking healing baths. You can also visit a permanent exhibition dedicated to Rikli’s work that you will find in the castle’s tower.
Venue for weddings and concerts
Bled Castle has hosted a number of wedding ceremonies. Many couples decide to get married there after their first visit to the castle when they fall in love with it.
At the castle that is ‘defended’ by a mighty Roman wall, you can attend various events if you come by at the right time. In summer (June), they organise so-called Medieval Days during which children and adults get the opportunity to escape into the world of knights and princesses.
Bled Castle also becomes one of the concert venues during Okarina Festival, a multicultural music festival that takes place at end of July / beginning of August.
As you can see, there are many things to at Bled Castle, including enjoying the view. You could easily spend a couple of hours exploring it. The castle is located in the heart of Bled, and is easily accessible on foot or even by car.
- PRACTICAL INFORMATION -
LOCATION: Bled Castle is located on the top of a cliff that rises 130 metres (426 feet) above the northern side of Lake Bled.
The walking path is mostly shaded and there are wooden benches placed along it where you can take a rest if you feel like. When you almost reach the park below which the castle is located you will come across some steps.
SHUTTLE BUS: From end of June until mid-September, you can take a shuttle bus to get to various natural and cultural attractions in Bled and nearby, including Bled Castle.
The bus stops at various locations in Bled (main bus station, Bled Union bus stop etc.) and costs 1 EUR. There are two different bus routes. You can download the shuttle bus timetable here.
CAR: You can go to the castle by car too. The road for cars and buses (Grajska cesta) runs on the other side of the cliff than the walking paths. This means that you will not be disturbed by the traffic while walking up to the castle from above the lake.
PARKING: Right below the castle there is a parking area where you can leave your car. You need to purchase the parking ticket from the parking ticket machine there.
ENTRY FEE: Entry fee for adults is 11 EUR (all the rooms and exhibitions are included).
ACCESSIBILITY: The castle is for the moment not accessible for the disabled (however, there are plans to build an elevator soon).
WEDDINGS: Each year around 50 couples get married at Bled Castle. If you are planning to get married there too, you are to contact ‘Bled Culture Institute‘ at +386 45 729 770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any questions about visiting Bled Castle? Please contact me through Twitter (@bledoscope).
Follow my day-to-day exploits – that might spark your wanderlust – on Instagram: @bledoscope.