Slovenia was another last-minute holiday for us and it couldn’t have worked out better if I had planned it! The kids had two weeks off over Easter (seriously it feels like they are always on holiday…) and we wanted to make the most of it.
But we just didn’t get our act together and suddenly school had finished and we had nothing booked. So after doing our usual thing of looking at every possible destination – just to make a holiday search that bit more interesting (read: frustrating and time consuming) we decided on Slovenia. Essentially because (a) it’s driveable from Germany (b) I had googled ‘Lake Bled’ and been amazed by the beautiful photos and (c) we found a hotel that still had availability.
And then we checked the weather forecast. Rain every day. Now I am very happy to say that we lucked out with the weather and got a lot of sun. But why is the short range forecast always so inaccurate? We were only going two days later! There was also no snow forecast either, but when we hit Bavaria it was a foot deep. But that’s for another blog post…
Now I can’t really say that Slovenia had always been on my “must visit” list, but if you haven’t been already please add it to yours. What a beautiful country! Lakes, mountains and waterfalls, miles of great hiking and biking trails, beautiful villages and friendly people. And the food was better than we had expected too.
So here are my top tips on holidaying in Slovenia. More than anything else, I wish we had gone for longer. We didn’t want to leave and felt like there was so much more to explore. But that really is the sign of a great vacation, isn’t it?
Yes, it is every bit as beautiful as it looks on the pictures.
Perched dramatically above the lake is Bled Castle, one of the oldest in Slovenia. You can walk up the (many) steps or drive up to it. We enjoyed Easter Sunday here with an egg hunt, some games and traditional food. The views from the castle are breathtaking – the lake to one side and, to the other, the countryside of the Gorenska region. Don’t forget your camera.
If you book a table in advance at the restaurant in the castle, entry is free. We did this on Easter Sunday – they accommodated our early dinner (6pm…our kids aren’t great at dining late) and we were lucky to get a table next to the window with a wonderful view. It was probably the best meal we had in Slovenia.
You can take a boat across the lake to the island and visit the little church; there is also a cafe. There is an entrance fee for the church.
Lake Bled Cake
If you don’t want to have dinner at the castle it’s a good place to try Bled Cake, although every restaurant and cafe in town sells it. It is a symbol of Bled, and basically like a vanilla slice or millefeuille…and it’s REALLY good!
The Park Hotel claims to be the home of the cake, and it’s another nice place to enjoy a slice while taking in the views.
Get on your bike…
And what better to work off all that cake than to go for a bike ride?
There are lots cycle routes in the area and many of them are suitable for children. We took our own bikes, but there are plenty of rental places. It’s a wonderful way to see more of the beautiful countryside.
We cycled to Radovljica, a charming little village next to Bled. The old town, dating from the 15th century, is very pretty, with a lovely town square.
The last bit of the route is uphill, so we treated ourselves to Prekmurska Gibanica which is a national speciality ‘folded cake’ made with poppy seed, cottage cheese and apple. It tastes a lot better than it sounds!
We visited the Gingerbread museum which was very cute and had live demonstrations of gingerbread making. Note that these are the gingerbreads for decoration rather than eating which was a bit disappointing to this cake loving family, but the kids were happy to get one with their names on.
We also cycled to Lake Bohinj, which is a beautiful lake; bigger and less touristy than Bled. This was another great route, and the path was clearly signposted. So much to see, so little time…
There’s more to Slovenia than Lake Bled..
Postojnska Jama Caves
The caves are around 40 minutes from Bled and one of the biggest tourist attractions in Slovenia. They are very impressive; 2 million years old and 24 km long. This was the busiest place we went to (it was a Saturday and raining, so a good day to be in a cave) and it was very smoothly run.
The cave tour takes an hour and a half and you go on a train into the caves. A guide then walks you through a series of halls and caverns, all of which are pretty spectacular. The ‘Russian Bridge’, built by prisoners of war in 1916, links the caverns.
I have to say that, while it was very impressive, the best bit for me was getting out. I hate being underground. Troglodyte I am not. BUT it was great for the kids and I am glad I saw it. But if I were to do it again, I’d wear a warmer coat – didn’t quite occur to me that it would be cold in a cave!
Also note that this is quite an expensive day out and there are lots of admission options. Tickets can be booked online which might be a good idea in the busy summer months. And if you go in summer – take a jumper…
The Vintgar Gorge
Just 4km out of Bled, the Vintgar Gorge is just gorge-ous (sorry, can’t resist a pun…). It’s definitely worth a visit. Wooden bridges cross the gorge and the views are beautiful – the water is incredibly clear and green. At the end of the walkway is a waterfall. We all enjoyed this and it’s not a difficult walk, although not very pushchair friendly.
The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana has a laid back feel to it. The old town is is very charming and we enjoyed wandering the streets by the river. The famed triple bridge links the town and is a good spot for a coffee and some people watching.
We had some very good ice cream at Vigo – just to make a change from all the cake!
We stayed at Hotel Savica which is just a short walk from the lake. The best bit was that we had two adjoining rooms which meant we didn’t have to go to bed at the same time as the kids. We managed to stay awake at least ten minutes longer…
The second best bit was that we had access to the pool complex at the adjacent Hotel Golf which has beautiful views over the lake. There’s a waterslide for the kids and a sauna area to ease your muscles after all that cycling!
If you are going to drive on the motorway, you will need to purchase a ‘vignette’, which is a sticker to put on your windshield. It cost us 15 Euro for the week, and worth it as the penalty for not having one is between 300-800 euros. For more information on this and driving in Slovenia click here.