Ljubljana is still one of those reasonably undiscovered but overwhelmingly beautiful, quaint European cities. For those of you who don’t know, Ljubljana is Slovenia’s capital. First, let’s make sure you’ve got the right pronunciation for the city, “lyoo-BYAH-nah”. Since the Slovenian’s don’t really expect anyone to have Slovenian as their second or third language, they’re quite happy to speak English to you but the least we as tourists could do is get the pronunciation of their city name correct.
Ljubljana has become a very young and hip city; in 2016 it won the European Green Capital, which always adds a bonus to any city’s reputation. The city centre is now mostly car-free too, so you don’t have to worry about being run over as you walk through the tiny, ancient streets. This might not seem like a big deal, but I can assure you that once you’ve spent over a week visiting small European cities it will be greatly appreciated.
1. Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, 2. Butcher’s Bridge, 3. Fairy tale houses along the river,
What to do:
Ljubljana is a small city, and I only had one day to explore which I felt was enough. Two would have been ideal to have had extra time to stroll around the quaint streets, have time to visit the park, go to one museum and take a few more photographs but if you’re short with time, one day will suffice. I have only listed the things I had time to do in one day.
- Town Square: In Slovenian is it written as Mestni Trg. This is a major square in Ljubljana and in it resides the oldest building in the city. Ljubljana Town Hall is also located at the square.
- Prešeren Square: This is the place where most social events and gatherings occur. There was an earthquake in 1895, and the square was designed to what it is today. The square is named after a 19th-century French poet, Prešeren, whose work became the Slovenian national anthem. His statue is in the square, with an interesting tale attached to it- but you’ll have to go to find out what it is!
- Franciscan Church of the Annunciation: This is the pastel red Baroque style church located in Prešeren Square that cannot be missed. It is on all the postcards, so make sure you take your own picture.
- Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge: There are a lot of bridges for such a small city, each complete with their own unique story, which I heard on the Ljubljana Free Tour. Wonder over them, take a cruise under them, or stand beside them- just make sure you see and admire them! If you’re travelling with a partner, you can also secure your love by adding a padlock on the Butcher’s Bridge with all the over lovers over the years.
4. Square, 5. Mestni Trg,
- Ljubljana Castle: The castle can be seen from the town square, and looks quite high up. There are a few ways to reach the top- tourist train, funicular railway or if you’re after the environmentally friendly and healthy, active route, I suggest walking! I walked to the top in about 15 minutes, and while I was quite sweaty by the end, it was worth it. The main courtyard is free to enter, and it boasts great views back down over the city and has a café, restaurant, galleries and nightclub. You do have to pay to visit the watchtower. I didn’t do this so I can’t say whether it is worth it or not.
- Central Market: This is an open-air market, located in Vodnikov trg and Pogačarnev trg squares, behind the Triple Bridge and the Dragon Bridge, on the right side of the Ljubljanica River. The market has stalls selling herbs, spices, baked goods, dried fruits and nuts, and the most delicious fresh fruits and vegetables! I bought a punnet of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and they were some of the best berries I’ve ever eaten!
- Walking Tour: As previously mentioned, I went on a walking tour whilst in Ljubljana. I always like to do this on the first day I arrive in a city, in every city I visit, no matter the size, so that I can get my bearings. Usually the guide also point out something peculiar about the city you wouldn’t otherwise see or notice, whilst also telling you interesting details about the city. This tour was actually really busy, as I think they’re one of the only companies to offer a free tour in the city.
6. View towards the castle, 7. Dragon Bridge, 8. Mestni Trg with Robba Fountain, 9. Quaint streets,
- Getting to Ljubljana by airport: I flew from London to Ljubljana landing at 10pm at night, meaning public buses had stopped. I took a taxi to my hostel situated in the town centre, costing 60€. This is pretty pricey for one person to pay, but if you’re splitting the cost with someone/s it’s not too bad. There are buses that run, which would be a much more economical way to travel- check out this website for the times. Buses seem to stop by 7-8pm, so if you need to travel after that you’ll most probably have to get a taxi like me.
- Getting to Ljubljana via boarder countries: If you’re coming from Austria, Hungary, Italy or Croatia you can get a bus! When travelling by bus, I usually use FlixBus as they’re reasonably priced and pretty reliable.
- Uber: Uber didn’t work for me in this country. There’s probably an Uber-style app you can download, but after I’d gotten to my hostel I just walked everywhere; I walked to my next accommodation, dinner and the bus stop as the city is small enough.
10. Ljubljana Castle, 11. View from Ljubljana Castle, 12. More fairy tale houses,
- Euro: Unlike some of the other Balkan countries, Slovenia uses the Euro! This also means the country is slightly more expensive to visit. I didn’t find it outrageous, but it definitely wasn’t cheap.
- Goulash: When I was in Ljubljana I was definitely getting some Hungarian vibes, and then the Free Walking Tour guide suggested we all try goulash- one of my favourite Eastern European dishes! He did say the Slovenian goulash was slightly thicker than the Hungarian goulash; I couldn’t tell the difference as it just tasted like really good goulash so I was happy.
- Weiner schnitzel: I was also getting a strong influence from Austria, which borders Slovenia to the north. I was as equally happy as I was about the goulash to find out they sell Weiner schnitzel in Ljubljana. If you’re spending a few days here, I suggest ordering one for lunch or dinner (unless you’ve just spend two weeks travelling through Germany and Austria like I did last year and can’t bear to stomach another, then just stick to the goulash).
13. Cobblers’ Bridge, 14. Goulash,
I stayed in two places during my two nights in Ljubljana. The first was Hostel Tabor in a 4 bed female dorm for 17€/$27AUD a night. This was a really great location, about 10 minutes walk to Prešeren Square. The facilities were good for a hostel as well, so if you don’t mind the hostel life, I’d definitely suggest this place.
The second night I moved accommodation to Vila Teslova, which was on the other side of the city to my hostel, about a 30 minute walk. This was more expensive, costing 60€/$94AUD a night. It did include the most delicious buffet breakfast, free parking if you’re driving and a big room.