Europe is dotted with stunning lakes, and from Tito’s former summer residence set high over Lake Bled in Slovenia to the Italian classics, this summer find a perch to see breathtaking views and indulge and unwind by the lapping water of Europe’s finest lakes.
Set at the foot of the Karawanks mountains in the Julian Alps, Bled has long been a destination for locals looking to relax by the soothing waters of Lake Bled. Now drawing in travellers from further afield, many more are sharing in this beautiful spot in North West Slovenia, one of Europe’s most forested countries.
The Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption on Lake Bled
Lake Bled features the country’s only island, rising up in the middle of the lake and topped with the Baroque delight, the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption. Row from the water’s edge to the small island on a traditional wooden pletna boat, walk the 99 stone steps up to the church and inside make a wish as you ring the bell.
Lush greenery frames the island, as does the dramatic mountain backdrop. Hike in the verdant surrounding areas and find the best vantage point to snap a stunning photo – one of which is the 12th century castle where a champagne sun downer can be enjoyed on the cliff-edge terrace (and ask your waiter to open the bottle with a sword).
Boats at the pier, Bled Island
A great place to stay is Vila Bled, once Tito’s residence and now a 1950s-style boutique hotel with just 31 rooms, mostly suites. Decorated with striking murals, it boasts wonderful views, a wellness centre, private lakeside lido and boathouse. If you have time visit the close by Vintgar Gorge and be sure to go to the lesser-known, and equally beautiful, Lake Bohinj too, just 20 minutes from Bled. Fly into Ljubljana (Brnik) airport to start your trip.
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For a classic lakeside escape the north of Italy has long been popular, and of the many choices Como is a perennial favourite. With a host of stars choosing to set up home in sprawling lakeside villas, Como’s status as one of the world’s most beautiful lakes is certainly justified.
Apart from the stunning Gothic cathedral – one of Lombardy’s finest – the food and antique markets, and the botanic gardens at Hotel Villa Cipressi, there is of course a focus on opulent relaxation in some magnificent hotels and resorts. The neo-classical Villa D’Este ranks as one of the world’s most famous with its traditional, opulent and elegant design drawing royalty and stars from every sector of the entertainment industry. A newer addition, opened in 2016, is the slick Il Sereno, designed by Patricia Urquiola, which exudes understated luxury and sophistication. If staying, be sure not to only sample the delights of the spa but also try the wooden boats designed by Ernesto Riva. Fly into the close by Lugano airport.
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An aerial view of Zurich
No European lake roundup would be complete without Switzerland, a land of lakes and mountains. With so many picturesque options from the small to the truly expansive, if a lakeside city break appeals look no further than Zurich.
Here walk through the warren of cobbled streets of the old town, stopping to shop, eat or drink as you go, ideally finding a waterfront table. In the summer months the banks closest to the city centre and just by the Opera House fill up, though the fun and relaxed atmosphere, excellent barbecue and views across the water are lovely. Venture on foot further along the shoreline for quieter spaces or charter a private boat and get out onto the water. Though the hip Widder is always a popular place to stay, for lake views opt for Baur au Lac, with its rich history dating back to 1844, traditional and sumptuous décor and Michelin-starred food. Zurich airport is easily accessible by private jet.
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From the greenery of Eastern Europe to a Swiss powerhouse city by the water, this summer explore some of Europe’s finest lakes and let the calm waters be the focus for a restorative and relaxing getaway.