Slovenia: Loving Ljubljana & Visiting Lake Bled In March

The main point of flying to Venice wasn’t to visit Italy at all, despite that becoming the bulk of the trip – it was to finally visit the neighbouring country of Slovenia, somewhere that has been on my list for years.

It seemed a bit silly, then, to barely be spending three days in the country.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

I’ll leave you to debate whether we should really have added San Marino to our itinerary, but from my last post, you’ve probably figured out that it was definitely worth it!

And it would have all worked out so well if the weather didn’t suddenly take a turn for the worse…

You see, we were arriving into Ljubljana in the early evening, with one full day to visit the incredible Lake Bled, and then most of a day to explore Ljubljana itself after a short introduction on arrival.

…and then I checked the weather.

It wasn’t just bad. The day we planned to be at Lake Bled was the only TERRIBLE day for the entire week before or after our trip. Torrential rain for twelve hours straight. I know I get unlucky with weather, but for God’s sake!!

Ljubljana, Slovenia

I had already been debating whether visiting in March was a good idea at all. Slovenia is very much a summer country, with spectacular lakes in the middle of mountains, and ribbons of beautiful gorges and rivers running through the country, one of which I’d wanted to visit but wouldn’t be opening until April so we’d be missing that anyway. In short, we wanted good weather.

And now we were here and faced with solid torrential rain from 6am until 6pm. Are you actually joking?

Dragon bridge, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Yup, pretty sure this dragon is laughing at me.

So we made a decision: we’d spend the full day in Ljubljana, which is hardly a bad choice anyway, and then get up very early the next day to get to Lake Bled and enjoy a walk around its shores until lunchtime when we’d have to leave.

Ljubljana was hit by the rain as well, but nowhere near as bad as what was forecast for Lake Bled. We made the right decision – Lake Bled would have been miserable and a total waste of time. Instead, we spent it in the city where we could hide from the rain, and even ended up doing an outdoor activity.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

I’ve never heard a bad thing about Ljubljana. I’ve seen it described as charming, underrated, pretty, lovely and all sorts of other nice words. I can tell you that it lived up to every single one.

From the moment we arrived, everything was fantastic. We rocked up to our apartment, and after a short wait for the owner, he turned out to be such a friendly and wonderful host. He even left us a bottle of Slovenian wine to enjoy!

It was a strong start, and we took a wander into the city centre, about a ten minute walk away. I instantly loved it, and we walked from the dragon bridge along the river to the quaint set of three bridges leading off the main square. Crossing over, we found a whole load of bars and eateries, and I spotted one I’d made a note of, Slovenska Hisa. It turned out this was just a bar – there was a restaurant further away which is what I’d meant to find.

No matter – we settled for a burger restaurant instead, which I was loathe to do when there was so much Slovenian food to try. And yet… some of the best burgers we’ve ever had! Highly recommend Pop’s Burgers.

Pop's Burgers, Ljubljana, Slovenia

We ended the night in a pirate-themed rum bar which was a lot of fun, although it did feel like we were the oldest people there! VERY studenty. The bathrooms were um, interesting too, with “nautical” ropes to tie the cubicle doors shut! Wouldn’t like to try that when I’m drunk!

Ljubljana was full of surprises, and we were only just getting started.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana free walking tour

We had just walked down to the church on the main square, and when we emerged there was a walking tour right outside, talking about the statue of Slovenian poet Preseren after whom the square is named. With no other particular plans, I looked up when the tour had started and discovered we’d only missed about fifteen minutes and it lasted two hours, so I asked the guys if they wanted to join it.

I’m really glad we did, as with limited time in the city it was a good way to learn about what we were passing and discover new things that we might not have found ourselves. We learned about Slovenian architect Plečnik and his influence on architecture all over Ljubljana, from the famous triple bridge leading off the square, to lots of buildings dotted around the city centre.

Library, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Like this library, which was also designed by Plečnik.

He also worked in Vienna and Belgrade, which explains a lot about their similar style of buildings to the architecture in Ljubljana.

Another thing we would never have spotted ourselves: these church doors which depict scenes of Slovenian history.

We were also asked to count the dragons on Dragon Bridge – I won’t give the answer away, but we thought we were being clever, and it turned out a bunch of them aren’t dragons at all! A lot of them are hippogriffs. So keep a close eye out for those.

The walking tour was brilliant and engaging, with a knowledgeable and funny guide taking us along the river, through some of the main streets, and over to an area we wouldn’t have thought to explore.

River front, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana, Slovenia

I’ve become a big fan of free walking tours, but they are definitely not born equal, and I’d say this is a really good one!

By the time we had finished, it was lunchtime (more on that below) and then we had the whole afternoon and evening to explore ourselves.

Ljubljana castle, Slovenia

Ljubljana castle

We went up to the castle on the funicular but we decided not to go inside properly. We did, however, want to find some views over the city, and as we arrived into the complex, it seemed like you couldn’t actually get any. I thought we might have wasted our time, but we walked out the other side and found that you could walk around the outside of the castle from the back.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the best day for views, and we couldn’t even see the mountains in the distance that we’d be seeing up close the next day!

I particularly liked the sign of the dragon – he’s so derpy!

It’s worth going up, but obviously I can’t comment on whether it’s worth going in.

Manhole cover, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Embracing some quirky silliness

As well as the derpy dragon, there were a couple of other things around town that piqued our interest for stupid reasons.

Firstly, the manhole covers, pictured above, which have the castle and dragon on them! They’re pretty cool, right? As far as… manhole covers go… right?

Bear meat, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Can I interest you in some bear salami? I actually wish I’d given it a go now…!

Ljubljana, Slovenia

And how about riding this ridiculous tiny but VERY chonky horse?

Anyway, on to some more pressing matters…

Lunch at Moji Struklji (My Dumplings)

I’d read about Slovenian dumplings, and I’d read about this place – so I figured what better place to try them?

MY GOD. I never expected these dumplings to be as tasty as they were! I’m still dreaming of them, if I’m honest. I’d go back to Ljubljana just for struklji, and I’d make a beeline for this place again.

I had a savoury one for lunch, and immediately went back in and ordered a sweet one for dessert. They were soooo good!

Slovenska Hisa Figovec, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Dinner at Slovenska Hisa Figovec

After my failed attempt to find this the previous night, I had mapped it out properly for tonight and led us to this place not far from the city centre. It promised traditional Slovenian food and a hearty meal out.

I kid you not when we all said it was one of the best meals of the trip. Which, considering we had been to BOLOGNA…

This is an excellent place to try something different but familiar and comforting – but if you really want different, well, it’s got something on the menu that I google translated just to make sure that “testicolo fritto di toro” did, in fact, mean “fried bull testicles”…

None of us particularly wanted to try that, opting instead for local dishes like pork tenderloin with a traditional Slovenian cheese sauce, and Slovenian sausage.

We didn’t eat a single bad meal in Slovenia. And it wasn’t just good – everything was excellent.

And finally… Lake Bled

I can’t even tell you how long Lake Bled has been on my list. Years and years. It took me too long to get there because I always tried to plan it for the summer, but we always had too many other summer plans. In 2018, I lived in Canada. In 2019, I prioritised Croatia and Montenegro, sparking a full Balkans trip that didn’t quite go north enough to hit Slovenia. I decided I’d definitely go the following year – and we all know what happened in 2020.

2021? Busy spending all our money on our wedding. 2022? Honeymoon. I was sick of waiting for Slovenia to come to me, so I decided not to wait until summer 2023, and with absurdly cheap flights to Venice (£34 return!!), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to FINALLY visit!

We were up very bright and early to get the 7am bus to Bled. What was lucky was our apartment was having something fixed after we checked out, so nobody would be checking in. The owner said we could check out whatever time we wanted, which meant we could leave our stuff there all day – perfect as it meant we didn’t have to lug it to Bled with us!

When we arrived in Bled just over an hour later, our first priority was finding a coffee shop while we waited for the weather to brighten up a bit.

I have to admit, for the first glance at the lake, I was really underwhelmed. The water was choppy, the island blended in with the background and I felt this flat non-excitement being there even though it had been a massive bucket list item of mine. Was it the weather? Was I just being tired and grumpy? Regardless, we were going to walk the whole thing, and we were going to enjoy it.

As we set off, the sky brightened, the lake shone, and as we reached the other end of the lake, everything suddenly looked so much more beautiful.

The shoreline of the lake is just 6km long and it took us around an hour and a half to walk the whole length. Overall it took much longer than that though, because we made some stops on the way.

Firstly, there is a touristy but decent café at the opposite end of the lake to the town, near the trailheads. This is where my friend and I left Ash, because we were hiking up to one of the viewpoints overlooking the lake.

There are two main viewpoints, both of which are very similar, so we just took the shorter one, Ojstrica.

This is a simple hike up and took us around twenty minutes to reach the top – to find that we were the only people there! Bonus of coming in March: unlocked.

The views are incredible.

I thought perhaps the green missing from the trees and the blue missing from the lake might take away from the view, but instead we had snowy mountains surrounding us.

Bonus #2 of visiting in March!

We literally spent about twenty minutes up there with nobody else about. It was unreal.

We couldn’t have timed it better either, because as we made our way down, we passed a group just about to reach the top, which meant they had it all to themselves too!

What an amazing place.

We were in for some more views too, because we were yet to reach the most scenic parts of the lake itself.

First, though, we had to treat ourselves to some Bled cake, a traditional cream cake that you have to eat in Bled.

It’s more filling than it looks, and it hit the spot just right! The cafe also provided a much needed toilet break, so it’s a strategic stop as well as a welcome one! Just note that they charge for the toilet if you’re not a customer, which makes the Bled cake even more worth it.

From there, we wandered around the remainder of the trail, views opening up to a crescendo, with panoramic views towards the church on the island, mountains rising up behind it, and eventually a castle high up on the hill. There were no reflections like I’d hoped, but that would have just been the cherry on top – it was so beautiful there as it was.

Honestly, it’s just spectacular!

By this point, the sun started to come out, which is just typical as we needed to catch a bus back to Ljubljana in time to get back to Italy. As we waited for our bus, the blue skies covered the lake and even the mountains now, which meant everything looked better – and I’d missed out on sunny photos! Ridiculous. But really, I was just relieved that we hadn’t had yesterday’s torrential rain. Talk about rubbing it in, though.

So close to capturing that mountain with blue sky!

To be honest, we managed to fit Lake Bled into a few hours quite easily, but it would definitely have been nicer to have a full day. We had to make do with what the weather gave us, but at least it’s small enough that you don’t need to spend a long time there. Of course, if you’re there in the spring or summer, you could also visit nearby Vintgar Gorge, which looks amazing. Sadly it didn’t open until April though! Another excuse for us to go back, really.

Overall, March was a fine time to visit – I especially loved the snow on the mountains, which really made it even more magical. It’s just that the weather can be really temperamental, but that’s to be expected, and because of that we didn’t get any of the fairytale reflections from the island. It also means it’s important to have some flexibility in your plans…

And then disaster struck.

Since our journey that morning, roadworks had appeared just outside Bled. Instead of taking an hour and a half maximum – it had taken less time in the early morning – it took well over two hours, and we only got back to Ljubljana with just over half an hour to spare – and we still needed to get our bags and check out of the flat.

Still, at least the scenery was nice on the way back – especially with the blue skies now!

The bus station, which is outside the train station, is one of the most chaotic places I’ve seen in Europe. On the main road, we had to drive all the way past, then into the bus station via a mini roundabout. Want to hazard a guess how long that took? Bearing in mind it was about 100 metres, at a generous estimate. Fifteen minutes. When we were already an hour late. Traffic everywhere in all directions. None of it moving. Total chaos. It’s insane that they didn’t just let people off the bus while we were stuck at the other end of the bus station!

The incredibly beautiful Kranj, about half way between Ljubljana and Bled

Anyway, we made it thankfully. We had to literally run to the apartment, grab our bags, do a quick check to make sure everything was done, lock up, and then run back to the station.

We would have liked to have driven to Lake Bled ourselves, as it only takes 45 minutes, but the bus is good – just don’t rely on the time it takes to get to and from the lake.

There are a lot of cities that I visit where, by the end of the trip, I feel like I’ve done what I want to do, and I’m ready to leave (I don’t mean that in a negative way!). Ljubljana isn’t one of them. I could have stayed in Ljubljana for months. And not because it’s a large city full of millions of things to do, but in fact possibly the opposite. I could quite happily sit by the river with a cup of tea, working away. I could take walks along the water and discover some more lovely architecture and meander through the parks that we didn’t get to see. And I could definitely live off struklji for a while.

Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana, Slovenia

I was even sad to leave the apartment, only compounding the feeling that I could have stayed there for at least a month. If I ever have the opportunity to work completely remotely, Ljubljana would be high up on the list of places I’d go for an extended amount of time.

What a beautiful city. What a beautiful country. I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of Slovenia, whether it’s a summer trip to the lakes, or a visit to Predjama Castle set away into a cliff, followed by an underground train ride through some epic caves. For a small country, Slovenia really packs a punch more than it’s given credit for.

And we certainly had a hell of an introduction.

For a taste of central Europe and the Balkans, here are few more of my blog posts from that region:
Three Days In Fairytale Budapest, One Of My Favourite Cities
A Day Wandering Beautiful Vienna
Bratislava: The Unexpectedly Pretty Capital Of Slovakia
Mostar: The Gem Of Bosnia
Surviving Dubrovnik – And Falling In Love With It
Sofia: A City Of Colour And Contrast


5 thoughts on “Slovenia: Loving Ljubljana & Visiting Lake Bled In March

  1. Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking about taking a trip in the fall primarily through Croatia, but also including Ljubljana. It sounds amazing. Your post is helping to move my “thinking about” to “commuted to.” Thanks. (Now, if I just knew how to pronounce Ljubljana.)


  2. I only had a couple of hours in Ljubljana for a speedy visit (I was in transit between Zagreb and Venice), so while I didn’t get to enter the castle, I got a lovely taste of the Old Town and the capital’s many bridges! I’m dying to visit Lake Bled, hopefully one of these days…I think despite the unfavorable weather, you actually got lucky and had decent weather in Bled (and nearly no people)! Glad you visited another place you’d always wanted to visit. 😊


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