The Bled Castle Museum houses a permanent exhibition by the Slovenian National Museum.
The history of Blejski kot from the creation of the area to the present day is presented through eight thematic units which bring together nature, everyday life, crafts, spiritual culture and all that defines life in this important part of Slovenia. The units have been titled:
- Water: creation and formation of the landscape
- Landscape: natural environment and man
- Fire: man shapes nature
- Caught in the circle of time
- Place and its people
- Word: a transforming society
- Homo viator / The migrating Middle Ages and
- Bled – mundane tourist resort.
The exhibition starts with a geological description of Blejski kot and its environs. The creation of the Bled basin is connected with the tectonic uplifting of the Alps.In the Ice Age, the tectonic basin was filled with ground moraines of the Bohinj glacier and river sediments. In symbolic terms, this display room presents the first of the three »Bled elements« that have contributed to the formation of the region (water), human development (fire) and knowledge (word). The geological and natural conditions have led former settlers in their colonisation of Blejski kot and its environs.
Bled settlers were closely linked with the environment of Blejski kot, which is characterised by favourable climate, typical of central Slovenia, and fertile soil. A large part of the area was covered with forests bursting with animal life, while flat land was used for fields and meadows, and the lake and rivers were fished.
The technological inventions of prehistoric Europe gave rise to new crafts which were very important for the prehistorical settlers of Bled. Many of these inventions were connected with fire (the second «Bled element«) as it promoted the development of pottery-making, non-ferrous metals processing, iron industry, glass making, and tool enhancement.
The life of people depends on their natural environment, seasons, work, knowledge and spiritual assumptions and important events affecting the everyday life. The annual life cycle explores the life of Bled inhabitants through centuries. The rhythm of work and holiday, birth and death, ancient tradition and modern poetry, pagan customs and Christian religion, medieval pilgrimages and present-day tourist travel is the fabric from which a life style has been woven that can generally be regarded as the life style of Bled, Gorenjska and Slovenia.
The spiritual culture of the area is closely associated with the history of Christianity in the region. The first wave of christianisation hit the wider area of Carniola and Caranthania in the Late Antique period and the second wave occurred in the Early Middle Ages.
An important milestone in the history of the Bled area was the establishment of the Bled estate owned by the Bishops of Brixen, as documented in several important documents, in particular the King Henry II's donation deed of 1004 (in which Bled was first explicitly mentioned: Veldes) and another donation deed of 1011 (first mention of Bled Castle).
The Bled estate was the centre of the Brixen property in Blejski kot, and the castle office was the seat of its administration. Several of preserved documents dating back to the second half of the 11th century contain Slavic names, e.g. Bomislav, Bondigoiz and Treplica, Domoslav, Prisnoslav, Radegoj, Dobrogoj, Vencegoj, Zlauco/Slavko.
The historical presentation of the Bled estate is based on archaeological and historical data spanning the period from the 11th century to the demise of the Bled estate under the Bishops of Brixen (in 1803).
In the Middle Ages, the concept of man as homo viator, man the wayfarer, was quite common; the term has a dual meaning: man would move, travel across the real world but also through life, from birth to death. This complex concept actually represents the phenomenon of Bled Island as a holy place – a place of burials and a pilgrim destination.
Pilgrims – the first tourists – travelled to Bled Island already in the Middle Ages. The natural beauties of the lake - the idyllic lake, the island and its church, the castle on a steep cliff – combined with the healing springs in the eastern shore of the lake attracted also other visitors. A wide range of Slovene poets and writers have sung the praise of Bled in their works, first and foremost Dr. France Prešeren who wrote that it was an “image of paradise”.
Thanks to the Swiss healer Arnold Rikli, Bled became famous as a spa around the world in the second half of the 19th century. His healing method was based on light and air, sun and water baths, vegetarian diet and living in nature.
The increasing number of guests led to the construction of hotels, renovation of inns and building of villas. Special attention was now also dedicated to the resort's infrastructure and beautification. By the late 19th century Bled had turned into a famous spa visited throughout the year by guests from nearly every country in Europe. At the peak of the tourist season Bled had a lively social and cultural life. The construction and modernisation of its tourist assets in the second half of the 20th century turned Bled into a leading cultural, sports and congress centre.
Jože Hudeček wrote:
“When a foreigner, a traveller, comes to Slovenian land, people say to the one accompanying him: Take him where our land is most beautiful, richest and where our speech is at its most sincere, most generous with the truth. There he should make up an image of where we are and how we live. Take him to Bled.”