10 Unforgettable Days in Central Europe, From Lake Bled To Vienna
One of the greatest perks of traveling around Europe is the ability to move between countries. In 10 days, you could easily get a feel for three neighboring nations — Slovenia, Slovakia, and Austria, for example. If Central Europe interests you, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better trio to plan a trip around. The following itinerary outlines one way to do it. Start in Slovenia with two days in Lake Bled, two days in Ljubljana, and one day in Maribor. Next, head to Graz, Austria, for one day; Bratislava, Slovakia, for two days; and back to Austria to spend your last two days in Vienna. This is what those 10 days in Slovenia, Slovakia, and Austria might look like.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Lake Bled is the crowning attraction in Bled, Slovenia, a town in the Julian Alps. In the middle of the lake is a small island that can be reached via traditional wooden pletna boats, and the majestic Bled Castle sits on top of a steep cliff overlooking the water and its dreamy sunsets. Depending on the season, you can stroll along the lake, hike or cycle nearby, swim or paddle board on the water, or ice skate on the frozen lake. One thing you must do regardless of when you visit is sample Lake Bled’s famous kremna rezina, a creamy layered cake.
Slovenia’s largest city, Ljubljana is also one of Europe’s greenest capitals, with lush parks standing alongside old architecture like the Ljubljana Castle, landmark bridges, a wealth of art galleries and centers, and plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafes to try Slovenian food, which has both alpine and coastal influences. Some of the best street food in the city can be found at Central Market, which runs along the right bank of the Ljubljanica River.
Slovenia’s second largest city, Maribor is located in the northeast near both the Austrian and Hungarian borders. It’s an important wine destination in Slovenia, and there’s an attraction in the historic center called the Old Vine House that’s said to house the oldest vine in the world. One day in town is long enough to stroll along the banks of the Drava River, tour Maribor Castle, romp around the main square, and even go to the local bike park for a bit of nature. Come in winter and you can also ski at the Maribor Pohorje Ski Resort a little south of the city.
Austria’s second largest city after Vienna, Graz was a relatively overlooked cultural destination until it was named a European Capital of Culture in 2003. There’s more than a dozen museums in the city, as well as a well-preserved Old Town. Graz is also said to have some of the finest food in all of Austria, so don’t be shy about loading up on schnitzel while you’re there.
Bratislava is a great place to visit if you are looking for a mix of big-city culture and small-town charm. The well-preserved Old Town showcases centuries of history through landmarks such as the St. Martin’s Cathedral, Michael’s Gate, and Devin Castle. Nature lovers can hike up the popular Bratislava Castle hill for beautiful views of the city and Danube River below. The lively cafes, bars, and restaurants keep everyone entertained with delicious local dishes, which shares similarities with nearby specialties such as Hungarian goulash and Viennese schnitzel.
Vienna has a lot of claims to fame — a world-famous coffee and pastry culture; heritage sites associated with notable figures such as Mozart and Freud; and grander architectural landmarks Schönbrunn Palace, the Hofburg, and the Vienna Operahouse. The city has plenty of other activities to keep you entertained, as well, such as jumping on a boat tour on the Danube Canal or participating in one of Vienna’s traditional festivals throughout the year — the Christmas market is one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe if you’re visiting in winter.