A beautiful, tiny country, Slovenia is found in the southern part of central Europe and should definitely form part of your European itinerary! The capital, Ljubljana is a fast-growing and dynamic city packed with great things to do and compelling sights. Ljubljana is where people meet and enjoy the abundant city nightlife.
Awarded the European Green Capital Award in 2016 by the European Commission, Slovenian capital is a joy to visit. The lush vegetation that surrounds Ljubljana guarantees you plenty of outdoor cycling, hiking, and other endless recreational opportunities.
The Slovenian capital is a picturesque city with several romantic bridges that cross River Ljubljanica. This is a city that is harmoniously co-existing with its own river; a dynamic and vibrant city with exquisite architecture, and cultural creativity.
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Why is Ljubljana so Special?
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia is quite small making it easy to get around and navigate. This is preferable to large major cities where you can easily get lost. The size of Ljubljana gave us the opportunity to dig deep into the place and really embrace the unique culture of Slovenia.
And know what? The city’s symbol is the Ljubljana Dragon. So you are likely to see dragons everywhere ranging from bridges, buildings, railings to graffiti.
To help you know and enjoy all that the Slovenian capital has to offer, we have assembled this guide on how to get around, the best time to visit, things to do, eat and drink, and lastly where to stay.
Getting Around the Slovenian Capital
Walking around this city is a joy, particularly in the city centre as it’s very pedestrian-friendly. The picturesque, almost car-free old town is very easy to explore on foot. The city also has Europe’s highest percentage of “pedestrianized” streets. Ljubljana takes great pride in its successful “zero waste” recycling program.
You also have the option of getting around on two wheels. The BicikeLJ bicycle-sharing system in the city gives you the opportunity of renting bikes from the many self-service terminals that are found across the wider city.
Need a taxi to move around the centre? Look out for what resembles a green golf cart for these are the Kavalier electric taxis. And know what? They will shuttle you around for free. You can also opt for Urban. This is a miniature zero-emissions electric train moving on wheels that you will see snaking through the streets of the Slovenian capital.
Best Time to Visit Ljubljana
Ljubljana tends to become overcrowded during the summer, so you may want to time your travels for another time rather than the high season. In particular, the months of May and September are lovely. You can, of course, visit Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital all year round but if you want to really enjoy the city centre’s picturesque flair, then we strongly recommend the spring season. The place looks great as the trees are starting to blossom and it’s not as hot as during the peak summer season.
Things to do in the Slovenian Capital
With a long historic past that is linked to a cosmopolitan atmosphere full of diversity and the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Ljubljana is a cultural capital. It has unique architecture, great cuisine, unconventional art, and a nightlife that is surprisingly hip.
The main attractions of Ljubljana are close to each other if you want to explore the city on foot. The walking distances are not far and you will, in particular, enjoy walking in the city centre as it’s almost traffic-free.
Having noted that, here are some things to do and places to visit in the Slovenian capital.
Check out the City’s Main Landmark, Ljubljana Castle
The history of Ljubljana castle is both colourful and astonishing. It has, over the centuries, played an important role in the city and has remained the main symbol, a must if you are a history buff. The castle has, over the centuries, been occupied by different provincial leaders. It has been used as a prison, garrison, and even a home for the poor. Between June and mid-September, it forms one of the several Ljubljana Summer Festival venues.
A visit to the castle would be incomplete without climbing the 150 steps to the top of the 19th-century Observation Tower. From there, you will get stunning views over the Slovenian capital’s terracotta rooftops to the Julian Alps. Though it’s incredible at any time of the day, if you can make it during sunsets, it becomes truly magical.
Take a Boat Ride on the River Ljubljanica
Along the Ljubljanica River, you are going to see boats smoothly gliding past with people relaxing on board, some even enjoying a cocktail as they enjoy the Slovenian capital’s delights. This is an inexpensive and great way to see more of the city as you also relax, perhaps with a drink in your hand on the deck.
These exotic tours take you down the river, and you will never see an overcrowded boat. The boat rides take about an hour and cost around 10-12 Euros.
Try Paddle Boarding
One of the most unique ways of experiencing the Ljubljanica River is to try a stand-up paddleboard. Because the River goes through the vibrant old section of Ljubljana, besides getting some exercise and fresh air, you also get to see the city from another perspective altogether. And did you know? Currently, Ljubljana is the only capital city in Europe where you can enjoy paddleboard right through the heart of the town.
The tours are offered normally from May to September. River tours can be booked through Bananaway. They are enjoyable even if you have never done paddle boarding before.
Ride Ljubljana’s Funicular
If you lift your eyes, you are not likely to miss the Ljubljana Castle towering above the old town. However, you may miss the unobtrusive funicular railway. This unique railway connects the city street to the Ljubljana Castle for under 5 euros.
Open all year round, the funicular is one of the best ways if you want to see the capital city from above. The ride is brief because in under a minute it will race you up the 70 meters to the Castle Hill area.
Take a Photo In-front of the Triple Bridges
Without even making any effort, you will certainly go past by the Triple Bridges (or Three Bridges) countless times in the course of your Ljubljana Slovenia visit. As the name aptly suggests, this is a group of 3 bridges across the city’s Ljubljanica River. They connect the city’s medieval and historical sections on one side of the river with the other side that is more upscale and modern.
Nowadays, you’ll find lovers taking Instagram snaps and attaching locks to the bridges in the belief that it keeps their romance going strong forever! Talk of a super romantic atmosphere!
Join the Social Life Prešeren Square
The centre point for all things beautiful is Prešeren Square, literally. Prešeren Square is where the city meets and if there’s an event going on in the city, odds are high that it will be happening here. The Square is surrounded by the famous Franciscan Church pink facade, the white-washed Three Bridge extending over River Ljubljanica, and the pedestrianized and lovely old town. All these lead to the attractive Robba Fountain in Prešeren Square.
Admire the St. Nicholas Church and its Frescoes
On the outside, St Nicholas might appear like any other church. Also known as the Ljubljana Cathedral, this is one of the city’s biggest landmarks. This ranks among our best Ljubljana sights. Just take a look at the main entrance and side doors that depict the history of Slovenia in a very unusual design to appreciate what we mean!
The outside of this church is constructed with such austere architecture in a way that draws someone inside where you are going to be left speechless. Why? The interior design is truly grand just as are the jaw-dropping frescoes.
Take care not to leave with a sore neck as the best frescoes are on the church ceiling!
Try the City Museum of Ljubljana
Love Art? Ljubljana has not forgotten you. Rooted in deep history as it is, the story of Ljubljana certainly goes beyond the romantic tale of Jason and the slaying of the dragon.
Visit the City Museum of Ljubljana and admire the rich Renaissance architectural features of the impressive museum building. The museum is in Auersperg Palace, itself is a classical architectural monument.
The collection at the Museum dates back to the 16th century when the Slovenians first began to gain a sense of nationalism. It goes all the way up to the Republic of Yugoslavia and to present-day Slovenia. If you are a student of history, you will love it!
Check Art at the Museum of Modern Art
If modern art is your thing, head to the edge of City Park and finds the Museum of Modern Art. This Museum sits in a classical, unassuming building and features works by numerous Slovenian artists dating from the 20th and 21st centuries. Here you get a peek inside the unique artistic and creative culture of Ljubljana. This has been defined by Slovenia’s unique past that mish-mashes several different cultures and identities spanning over time.
Want to relax after the Museum tour? Inside, you will find the Moderna Coffee Shop that roasts its own beans in a stylish and cool setting.
Stay in a “Prison”
Yes, you heard that right. Ljubljana has a hostel that has been converted from military prison. The cells have been uniquely moulded into a special piece of art, behind bars! Hostel Celica, now a modern bright building was once home to political prisoners. The place now oozes with community spirit.
This is not just a tourist hotspot but locals also love coming here to relax. Not only does it offer unique sleeping arrangements but it also has live music, a popular cafe, and an art gallery that showcases local artists.
And guess what? You have the freedom of choosing your cell!
Sample Some Local Cuisine
Tourism in Ljubljana is not restricted to culture, history, and sightseeing. The Slovenian capital is a foodie’s dream come true. Influenced by Yugoslavian, Mediterranean, and Germanic/Austro-cuisine, the Slovenian diet features plenty of meats, vegetables, bread, cheese, and wine. Tons of exotic seafood is served throughout the city, along with traditional Slovenian and Balkan favourite dishes.
Don’t miss a visit to Ljubljana Central Market! This farmers market is packed with local Slovenian produce such as Slovenian honey, fruits, vegetables, and pumpkin oil (you must try that!)
Don’t Miss Tivoli Park
Just a couple streets from the Ljubljanica River, you will find yourself in a green space that stretches outwards for over 2 kilometres. This is the beginning of Tivoli Park’s elegant gardens and avenues that were landscaped way back in 1813 by engineer Jean Blanchard. The Park extends up the slope on Rožnik Hill.
In the Park’s lower reaches, you will discover dignified properties such as the Baroque Cekin Mansion. This houses the Contemporary History Museum. Explore the museum and also enjoy a cup of coffee outside overlooking the grounds. The Park is also host to a tropical greenhouse that sits beside a pond and is managed by the Botanical Gardens
Even if your visit to the capital of Slovenia is just for one day, we recommend you create some time for a quick stroll through this beautiful old Park. Not only is it lovely but it also features works of art from major Slovenian artists.
What about a Drink in the River or Wine Tasting?
All along the River Ljubljana, you will find restaurant after restaurant with small tables packed with people enjoying their afternoon drinks. Why not join them too? Slovenia is a wine-making region with a growing wine industry. An interesting thing to do in the Slovenian capital is to join a wine tour. You can, for example, join the one that goes to historic Ljubljana Castle where you can taste 9 different wines made there!
Where to Stay in Ljubljana
Accommodation options in the Slovenian capital are many and varied. From pocket-friendly hostels, youth hostels, cosy hotels to family-run guesthouses, and bed & breakfast settings, you are well covered.
Most of the hotels in Ljubljana are conveniently located downtown which allows you to enjoy the culture and nightlife of the city as that is where it happens to be. If you prefer a more quiet setting, some hotels on the outskirts are conveniently connected to the city centre by public bus.