When I told people I was going to Slovenia, I got this ‘why’ look from most! When you get that sort of response, you know you’re in for a winner or a ‘hidden gem’! That’s what I discovered anyway once I arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city.
Ljubljana is an understated city, without the airs and graces of many of its European counterparts. People are friendly, the landscape is green and lush with lots of mountains surrounding the city, the architecture is beautiful and the food, on the whole, is affordable. It’s still not overrun by tourists so is a great place to visit (though things are quickly changing particularly due to Slovenia piggy-backing off the popularity of its neighbour Croatia). On warm summer days (which were few and far between when I was there…), I can’t think of anything better than sitting on the banks of the Ljubljanica river that curves through the city, enjoying a coffee or some food at one of the numerous cafes and restaurants.Ljubljana is perfect for a weekend break as it’s small enough to see at a leisurely pace over a couple of days. If you do however want to explore the rest of the country, there are numerous day trips on offer, ranging from coastal town visits to underground caves and beautiful lakes. A post on this is coming soon so keep your eyes peeled!
Here are a few things you should do in Ljubljana:
1) The Old Town – As cliched as it sounds, explore the pedestrianised Old Town. Start at one of the three linked cobbled squares, Ciril-Metodov Trg, Mestni Trg and Stari Trg. Check out the famous Triple Bridge, Dragon Bridge, Cobblers Bridge and finally the Butchers Bridge which is now also a love-lock bridge. You will find some cool sculptures around this area too.
Check out the Franciscan Church and Ljubljana Cathedral. I would highly recommend taking a walking tour – there is a free one that lasts for about 2 hours and starts at 11am and 3pm in front of the Franciscan Church. It was such a good tour and you spot things you really wouldn’t notice otherwise. You also get a real feel for the work of the city’s main architect Plecnik. Anything you look at has most likely been designed by him!2) Funicular & Ljubljana Castle – take the funicular up to the castle for views of the city. You can get a joint combo ticket for the viewing tower and the funicular which works out cheaper than if you paid separately. You can also walk up if the weather is good! There are a number of exhibitions in different parts of the castle so you’ll need a couple of hours to see everything.3) Grunge up in Metelkova – I’m still not quite sure what this place was aside from being an ex-army barracks. I’m all about cool street art and urban places but Metelkova left me a bit confused. I still thought it was worth a visit (though probably not for everyone) but we didn’t stay too long as there were a few unsavoury characters pottering about…I believe this turns in to a night time hangout place though certainly not for me! 4) Museums – Ljubljana has quite a few museums which is great as it does tend to rain here quite a bit. Check out the Museum of Illusions in Congress Square – though quite small, it was good fun and great for families. There is also the Museum of Modern Art which was interesting and gave me a good sense of Slovenian Art. 5) Central Market and the Open Kitchen – check out Ljubljana’s central market for fresh produce, fruits, flowers etc. I believe it is open everyday except for Sundays and other holidays. On every Friday (from mid-March to Oct), there is also an extra special event called the ‘Open Kitchen’ which is a food market where you can buy freshly cooked food prepared by different Slovenian chefs right there in front of you. This sounded amazing but unfortunately we arrived after the Friday and left before! In terms of shopping, Ljubljana has some cool shops – I particularly loved ‘Babushka‘ and ‘Gud‘ for stationary and gifts. How to get to Ljubljana
We used Easyjet and Wizz Air which both fly to Ljubljana directly from London. From the airport, you have a few options to get into town – taxi (€30-40), bus (€4.10) or shuttle (€9). The bus makes a number of stops on the way and takes around 50 mins to reach Ljubljana’s main bus station which is about a 10-15 minute walk to the old town. The shuttle (we used GoOpti) takes about 30-45 mins (depending on when you get dropped off as you will be sharing with other people) but takes you directly to your hotel unless you are staying in the old town which is pedestrianised – it will then drop you to the nearest point that it can. We managed to get tickets for the shuttle on the day but it is probably preferable to book in advance. I would definitely take the bus one way as it goes through the ‘scenic’ route which is quite nice.
Where to stay
When I was looking for places to stay, I found it quite tricky to find good hotels in a central location. We therefore opted for an AirBnB style accommodation – Julija & Robert’s Riverview apartments – which was in an excellent location in the old town by the river. The only downside was that it was a bit noisey – the price you pay for being in the heart of things!
I’ve done a separate post on food in Ljubljana as there is so much to talk about so click here if interested!
Have you been to Ljubljana? Would love to hear about what your top places to see were!