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13 Reasons to Visit Ljubljana, Slovenia
#Ljubljana is #Slovenia's capital and largest city. It is a very friendly University town, with lots of parks, gorgeous Art Nouveau #architecture, outdoor cafes, many museums, it is quite small, therefore perfect for a #weekend exploration. I took several tours to explore the city's culture, including a #foodanddrink tour, cycling tour and more.
When I announced I was visiting Ljubljana on one of my exceedingly rare child-free weekends away, the most common reactions was; where?
I’m not sure how this gorgeous city, Slovenia’s capital no less, has managed to stay quite this far under the radar.
I’m not sure how this gorgeous city, Slovenia’s capital no less, has managed to stay quite this far under the radar
Part of me feels like keeping it a secret so it doesn’t end up swamped with tourists.
But I’m a nice person. Besides, Ljubljana deserves to be much much better known – these are my 13 reasons why, to start you off.
1. It is Incredibly Pretty
It’s rare when you have to be grateful for an earthquake, but the tremors of 1895 which flattened whole sections of the city meant that a lot of rebuilding was done in the then popular Art Nouveau style. Even better, the old town escaped pretty much unscathed.
That means twisty cobbled streets dating back to medieval times, gorgeous pastel coloured buildings and elegantly grand architecture, all divided by a river.
2. It’s Small
Not too small but just right (as Goldilocks might have said). There’s plenty to do and see in three days but not so much it’s overwhelming, the rest of Slovenia – and even neighbouring Austria, Croatia and Italy – are a potential day trip away.
The population of under 300,000 (by comparison, Stoke-on-Trent where I grew up has about 250,000) makes it very welcoming too. And the centre is helpfully pedestrianised so you can wander easily.
3. There’s a Castle
With sections that are 500 years old, the castle towers over the town from its vantage point on the hill.
The Ljubljana Castle Tour
The best views are from the top of the tower, flying the dragon flag, but there are also exhibitions and restaurants inside to discover – and a funicular to take you up the hill if you don’t fancy the walk.
4. Here be Dragons
Most famously on the dragon bridge, built notionally to commemorate one Austro-Hungarian emperor’s anniversary. The sculptures, with their curled tails, are still there long after the empire and subsequent ones have collapsed.
City Museum of Ljubljana Tour
Cross the river and you’ll spot a few more dragon sculptures too.
5. The Fantastic Food
It’s hard (if you’re not Slovenian) to point to a specific Slovenian dish. In fact, the country has plenty you might recognize but with its own twist.
Ljubljana Food Walks
Despite its small size, there’s a sea coast for fresh fish, vineyards for lovely wine, traditional hearty dumplings, sausage and apple strudel plus modern organic, local, sustainable dishes.
there’s a sea coast for fresh fish, vineyards for lovely wine, traditional hearty dumplings, sausage and apple strudel plus modern organic, local, sustainable dishes
The restaurants and cafes are also impressively good at highlighting allergens, so if you’re allergic to lactose or gluten, you’ll still have a lot of choice.
6. Great Places to eat it
Cafe after cafe after bar after restaurant stretch along the banks of the Ljubljanica river, and even in the October chill, it’s a fantastic place to sit with a drink, a cake or a meal.
I highly recommend the ‘kuhano vino’ if you’re there in autumn – hot wine, but more surprisingly there’s white mulled wine which is ideal against the cold.
there’s white mulled wine which is ideal against the cold
7. Festivals Galore
Despite being there out of season and for just a few days, we stumbled across the last Open Kitchen – a huge gourmet set of stalls, with various food cooked by different restaurants, by the central market. This runs from Spring to end of October, if the weather permits.
A day later, there was a chocolate festival in the same place, complete with truffles and chocolate wine. Yum.
8. Lots of History
Someone born just before the First World War could have seen half a dozen states come and go, from empire to newly formed state through wars, communist years and the birth of Slovenia in 1991.
We took a communist history walking tour, which gave a fascinating glimpse into life in the former Yugoslavia and how those days differed from countries behind the Iron Curtain, but are still impacting on politics today.
9. No Really, a lot of History
That’s only the last century though. Go back further and you’ll find Napoleon and eventually the Romans who created the town of Emona here over 2,000 years ago. Statues, remains of walls and former houses still stand and there’s a walk you can take which includes the City Museum.
10. Quirky Tours
I do love seeing another side to a city with someone who knows it well – as well as the standard free walking tour (run by the same company that offers the communist tour), we took a fabulous bike tour and personalised food walking tour.
The former was great to head out of the centre a little, and explore more of Ljubljana’s scenery.
Ljubljana City Bike Tour
Alpine Fairytale Tour
Fun Paragliding Over Bled Lake
The latter was a fantastic way to guzzle in the name of research.
11. Street art
Metelkova is street art central, home to bars and restaurants (with erratic opening hours) and squats plus galleries in a former military barracks.
12. The River – and its Crossings
I’ve already mentioned the cafes which line the banks, and it’s frankly lovely at all times of day. But an extra bonus is some gorgeous bridges, from the triple bridge to the colonnaded shoemakers’ (or cobblers’) bridge as well as one infested with padlocks, those dragons and so on.
You’ll find a flea market on Sundays, boat tours and fabulous views each way.
13. The Welcome
Slovenian is not an easy language – I managed to pick up enough in a few days to say hello, please, thank you and order hot wine. Everyone seems to have pretty much impeccable English, be delighted if you make any stumbling attempts at their language, and be generally very friendly.
With my mum hat on, there were kids and babies galore in the markets, festivals and cafes, and the relaxed atmosphere meant they were just as welcome.