If you like your hotels with history, this one has got it in spades. Built in 1947, Vila Bled was the residence of President Josip Broz Tito of the former Yugoslavia, and became a hotel in the mid-80s. Boasting one of Bled's most enviable locations, the four-star Vila Bled still contains many original features which give an insight into the world Tito lived in.
On the shores of Lake Bled, Vila Bled commands some of the best views in town. It is situated slightly out of the town centre (where most hotels are found) and about a half hour drive from Ljubljana Airport.
Vila Bled is closed on weekdays in winter however it's best to check directly with the hotel as there is room for flexibility.
WIFI connection is free throughout the entire hotel.
Although Vila Bled is undoubtedly a lovely place to stay, it could do with a bit of a nip and tuck in certain areas as the last renovations were carried out in 2004. The intimate property consists of only 31 rooms, a bar, restaurant, small ballroom and health and wellbeing area. First impressions are good; the small lobby features an amazing crystal chandelier and magnificent flower arrangement by the in-house florist who has been working with the Vila for over two decades. A mix of local and Croatian black marble was used and can be seen throughout the hotel. Adjacent to the lobby is a ballroom (used for weddings, gala dinners etc) with original Murano glass light fittings from the '50s and an impressive mural depicting WWII scenes that spans one whole length and width of the room. Tito used this space as a home theatre back in the day.
Also next to the lobby is a small internet corner - the computer is set up on what used to be Tito's desk. From here, guests can enter the bar with its kitsch '80s style. The dark den with its all-black colour scheme used to be Tito's garage and could be more inviting with a makeover. On the other side of the lobby guests have at their disposal a small wellness area with whirlpool, two massage rooms, two saunas and a cooling pool. It's nothing to write home about but perfectly acceptable for a small hotel.
Guests are also permitted to borrow (for free) mountain bikes and rowboats to take out on the lake. We loved the sprawling and peaceful gardens, with a grand staircase (built for the various statesmen who used to visit) that leads directly to the lake.
While accommodation is comfortable at Vila Bled, we can't help but feel it is somewhat disappointing compared to the rest of the hotel. Certainly, the rooms are clean, bright and spacious; but they don't contain the luxury details that one might expect from such a grand affair, the wow factor is missing. Rooms have either lake or park views, with most overlooking the latter. There are several categories of room with slight variations in décor and layout. We loved the parquet floors, the genuine antiques, plus the stunning crystal chandeliers throughout, and even the immaculate bathrooms (all with bathtub and not just a shower). However the simple, classic decoration was mismatched in places. The rooms do not possess air con (due to the Vila being a historically protected building), nor LCD flat screen televisions. While the rooms might not make your jaw drop, they are certainly a comfortable place to lay your head for a few nights.
Guests have a choice between B&B and half-board, the latter with a set menu at dinnertime. The breakfast room is somewhat plain with its all-white décor, although large windows add natural light and local students' artwork injects colour. The buffet, in the centre of the room offers guests a simple, continental breakfast.
The restaurant itself is quite cold therefore it is much more pleasant to eat on the terrace, if the weather permits. Outdoors, curved stone arches allow afford views across the lake, as well as Bled Castle in the distance. The setting is chic and intimate thanks to the immaculate tables laid with candles and roses, and the jazz standards that play softly in the background. On top of that, the service is professional and discreet, with waiters who really know their wine.
Although diners can order à la carte, the daily three-course lunch menu at 30 Euros (£26) is good value, as are the tasting menus; 4, 5 or 7 courses at 40, 50 and 60 Euros (£35, £44, £52), respectively. Head Chef Igor Jagodic has been at the helm since 2008 and is also a member of the national culinary team. The cuisine is delicious and makes use of fresh produce in innovative recipes. We recommend opting for the wine pairing for a real gourmet experience.
Vila Bled claims a private bathing area next to the boathouse, where a handful of sun loungers are arranged on the deck. There are superb views of the island and the castle. Drinks and snacks service is available all day long as the bathing area is supervised at all times.