This article was written by Chelsea at Pack More Into Life. As a special education teacher and Mom, she began her blog to write about her family’s travels while living in Germany and beyond. We are grateful for her willingness to share their incredible trip to Slovenia and encourage you to check out more of their adventures on their blog!
Slovenia is a bit of an unknown country on most families’ travel lists, but it is quite the gem. Known for its majestic mountains and beautiful lakes, one of its most well-known areas is Lake Bled where our story begins. Lake Bled is a glacial lake with a church-topped island and a cliff-side medieval castle from the 11th century. The country is located close to Croatia, which we’ve also traveled to (check it out HERE) and with its many wonderful family experiences, it should be a top pick for your next vacation!
We completed our drive from Germany and checked into a nice Airbnb up the hill from the Grand Hotel Toplice. It was an easy downhill walk to Lake Bled and we had a variety of restaurant options nearby. We are frequent Airbnb users because we like having a full apartment at our disposal and this one was also pet friendly, which was a huge benefit because our sweet spaniel pup also made the journey with us.
We decided to take it easy on our first night and get our bearings so we elected to take the 45 minute train drive around Lake Bled. It runs frequently June-September and then only on the weekends in good weather during May and October. If you walk down towards the lake, you’ll see the train stops located at various spots around the lake.
Lake Bled Island:
Today was all about enjoying the Lake Bled area so we did some research on how to get to the island in the middle of the lake which has the beautiful church. One option was to take a Plenta boat at 12 euro per person round trip, but it only allowed 40 minutes on the island and we didn’t think that would be enough time with a little one in tow. Instead we went with Option 2, which was renting a row boat at the swimming pool under the castle and getting ourselves to the island. In October, we had to wait until later in the morning for the boat rental to open, but it was an easy process and soon my husband was rowing us over to the island.
Once on the island, we tied up our boat properly and then ascended the 99 stairs up to the church. Fun fact: If a groom wants to marry his bride at the church, he must be able to carry her up the 99 steps!
Archeologists have discovered churches on the island dating from the 11th-8th BC. The present church today is from the 17th century.
We paid the admission to the church and bell tower. If you choose not to pay the entrance fees, you can enjoy the views from the Island and go into the little café and store, but know the café is expensive since all of the food has to be brought to the island by boat. Make sure to pack snacks if you want to save your money for other things!
A special feature on the island is the “wishing bell”. The wishing bell derives from a story in the 15th century of a young widow who once lived in the Lake Bled Castle. She had a bell cast for the chapel in memory of her husband, but during transportation, the boat got stuck in a terrible storm and the bell sank (along with the crew). The Pope later consecrated a new bell and sent it to the island after the widow died. It is said that whomever rings the bell with have their wish come true. Our son enjoyed pulling the rope on the wishing bell. Perhaps his wish will come true; we shall see!
After our visit, we walked back down the 99 stairs to our waiting boat so we could head back to the mainland. Lake Bled is also a popular place for rowers, so we enjoyed watching them practice as we rowed back to the starting point by the swimming pool.
Escape Room & Lake Bled Cake:
We returned to our Airbnb for my son’s nap (my husband snuck off to get a massage) and then we walked back down to the Lake to feed the ducks, play at the playground and find dinner. We also found a fun Escape Room which was one of the best we’ve played and since these are typically kid friendly, we always just keep a bit of an eye on him and let him join the fun of the game. (Opening the locks is a favorite for my son.) It was also the perfect stopping point to enjoy the famous Lake Bled cake. Confectionery Zima is one of the highest recommended bakeries to try this delectable treat and is located right across from the Escape Room.
This beautiful gorge is 2.5 miles north of Lake Bled and is an absolute must see! I recommend getting an early start to avoid the crowds and bringing a carrier versus a hiking backpack (preferably a soft structured carrier – check out our Bebe Voyage Community approved options HERE and HERE) due to the low overhangs. Also make sure you bring a raincoat and sturdy shoes for the uneven terrain.
After our visit, we headed back to Lake Bled to enjoy a late lunch and some playground time. There is a nice playground with proximity to Vila Preseren that is a great spot if you want to eat and savor the views while your children play next to you.
This was another laid back day, but if you visit during the summer months, there is a great sommerrodeln (summer toboggan) down the side of the hill. Check it out HERE.
Lake Bohinj is located about 30 minutes west of Lake Bled. It is a lovely lake town that is beautiful and much quieter compared with Lake Bled. We took the Vogel cable car up the mountain to enjoy the views, do some laid back hiking with our dog and have lunch.
We spotted some sheep roaming the mountains and our son enjoyed a bit of free roam. It looks like you can rent cabins during the ski season and stay up in the mountains which is something to consider if visiting during the winter season.
Lunch was lovely in the Restaurant Viharnik overlooking the cliff side – we highly recommended it! After our descent, we headed over to the sandy shore that we saw from the mountaintop. It is on the West side of the lake and has a fabulous natural playground area before you reach the trails headed down to the shore.
Slap Savica (Waterfall):
A short 8 minute drive from the Vogel Cable Car parking area, you’ll find the parking area for Slap Savica. You’ll follow the lakefront road to where it ends at the trailhead and you can begin your hike.
This waterfall is quite the adventure. It is a 584 stair climb to the top where there is a small fenced off area to “enjoy” the views. We honestly wished we’d skipped the hike to the falls and I’d recommend exploring the lake and playing along the sandy shores as a more enjoyable experience.
The Postojna Caves are a bit of a drive from Lake Bled, but doable at just over an hour. It is a guided tour (1 hour 30 minutes long) through the caves and they have various departure times depending on the language you request. Make sure you show up early because the crowds can make it difficult to figure out where you need to stand.
Once you join your tour, you’ll climb into a train and go deep into the cave. You’ll gather to hear the guide talk about the various features in the cave. Our little one wasn’t really keen on standing around, so we separated from the groups and just enjoyed the cave on our own. It was actually really nice to get in between the groups and have entire caverns to ourselves. It is easy to follow the one way path and when you reach the end, climb back onto the train and you’ll head out of the cave.
There are plenty of food options outside the caves, so we just grabbed lunch there.
A short 15 minute drive from the caves, you’ll find this amazing castle, which is now our favorite castle of all time! Predjama Castle is extremely unique with its cave/castle design and it is over 800 years old. There is a fun story that the knight Erazem who lived in the castle was a robber. He would sneak through the small shaft at the back of his castle to rob the rich families. When the siege began on his castle, he would also use this shaft to feed himself and the staff, then threw the animal carcasses over the walls onto the starving troops below. The siege ended a year later when a staff member alerted a properly positioned cannon to kill Erazem while he was using the castle toilet.
We grabbed the audio guides, tossed our little one in the hiking carrier and explored the three tiers of the castle inside a cave. Check out the trails along the cave walls to gather the cave water or the draw bridge as a last ditch defensive measure before you’re tucked safely into the cave. We are frequent castle visitors and this one takes the cake for uniqueness!
After a full day, we headed back to our Airbnb for some much needed rest and recharging.
(Need tips on how to pick a place to stay with kids? Head over to our post on the topic!)
We finally decided it was time to explore the capital city of Ljubljana, known for its towering castle, Tivoli Park (complete with children’s zoo and playground) and the curving Ljubljanica River lined with outdoor cafes. We visited on a Friday and were pleasantly surprised by a food festival that takes place each Friday in the center of town. We strolled through the festival before walking along the river to see the bridges and circling back to grab a nice lunch while our son napped in the stroller. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, Fridays are a perfect day to visit.
After lunch, we went off to explore Trivoli Park. There is a small zoo (which we did not visit) and a children’s playground (closest to the town). We planned a visit to Lake Bled Castle, but the late afternoon/evening visit just wasn’t in the cards for us. We did end up visiting on a return trip heading to Croatia and you can read about our week long adventures to Croatia (including a kinderhotel) HERE.
We were pleasantly surprised by Lake Bled, Slovenia and the surrounding areas. The people were charming, the bakeries had wonderful delights to explore, and the beauty of the country won us over. I hope you enjoyed reading our trip. If you’d like to follow more of our adventures with our son to over 20 countries, check out my blog: www.packmoreintolife.com
How did we plan the trip?
I’m a huge fan of Rick Steves for European Travel, so I frequently suggest his books. He covers Slovenia in his Croatia/Slovenia guidebook and it is extremely helpful to read his recommendations for how to allot the amount of days that you have for your holiday. However, he is not always the best for making recommendations with kids. So that’s where we come in!
How did we get there?
We were living in Stuttgart, Germany, so Slovenia is a short 6-7 hour drive. We were traveling with our almost 2 year old son, so we broke the drive up into two days, adding a stop in Austria on the way down and back.
If you are flying, the capital city of Ljubljana, Slovenia is your best bet. It is only 40 minutes from the Lake Bled area; however, you’ll likely need a connecting flight since the only major airline that services Ljubljana is Air France. There are many discount and European carriers to help lower the cost of this additional travel step.
Slovenia is best serviced by car. You’ll find free and paid parking areas in and around Lake Bled and Ljubljana. Slovenia does require a vignette, which is a small sticker that you pay for and place on your vehicle. If you choose to drive into Slovenia from another country, make sure you purchase your vignette before you cross the border.
Things to Consider:
We prefer to travel during off-peak times. For us, that’s Spring and Fall. We choose to travel in early October and it was a bit on the chilly side, but there weren’t any crowds and the weather was still nice enough to enjoy our adventures outdoors.
Slovenia is a part of the European Union and uses the Euro as their form of currency. We recommend using local ATMs for the best conversion rate.
Chelsea is a military wife and mother of a young son. She is a special education teacher by trade, but is currently staying home and writing for her new family friendly travel blog.