Slovenia may not be at the top of most travellers’ must-see lists, but it's a rising star. It’s the greenest country in Europe, and its capital is one of the most picturesque on the continent, with charming architecture right at the river Ljubljanica, as well as exceptional contemporary street art and a modern business district. Its location in the Alps makes for cooler weather than in Italy and Croatia, even though both are just a stone’s throw away. Lubljana itself is laid back and cool, with no cars in the city centre. The entire city is easily walkable, small enough to traverse by foot in just a few hours. The people are friendly and warm-hearted, and the pace here is a bit slower than everywhere else, making it the perfect place to catch your breath and soak in the stunning scenery. Have a read up on our top spots in one of Europe’s best-kept secrets!
A guide to Slovenia’s fairytale capital
GO FOR A STROLL ALONG THE RIVER
Having a walk by the river is the perfect way to get your feet wet in the city. Dividing the historic centre from the modern business district, the river is flanked by quaint cafés with outdoor seating, where there are plenty of opportunities for people watching. There are also plenty of amazing fish restaurants around, perfect for a quick bite or serving up some inspiration for dinner later on. Another great way to get an overview of the city is by taking a boat trip down the river. Even though it might seem a bit touristy, it offers you a totally different perspective on the city for under €15.
STREET ART MEETS TRADITION
The Slovenian capital has a lot more to offer than simply cookie-cutter buildings. There is a broad range of world-class museums, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, which boasts an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures from the 20th century, or the National Museum of Slovenia. The city also abounds with street art: Metelkova Mesto is a neighbourhood in which nearly every building is decorated with eye-catching murals and sculptures. These alternative works of art range from stunning to borderline deranged, making any visit here well worth your while. Within the brightly coloured façades, you'll find an array of galleries and nightlife that can keep up with some of the biggest hubs around the world.
ARCHITECTURE: BRIDGES & PASTEL COLOURS
Back to tradition: Preseren Square is the beating heart of the city, and the perfect starting point to explore the impressive architecture in pastel colourways throughout the historic centre. Ljubljana is famous its many bridges built over the centuries, like the Triple Bridge – Tromostovje – which is located right next to Preseren Square. As the name reveals, it’s actually three bridges in one: the middle was built first, but was quickly outgrown by the population. So the other two were added – one on each side – to give the pedestrians more space. Very close by, you can also find other bridges like the Dragon Bridge – Zmajski most – and Cevljarski most – the Cobbler’s Bridge – which are also both worth seeing. You can see the river from just about anywhere in the historic centre, so it’s worth stopping in a café and relaxing a bit to do some people watching. The best views of the city are from Ljubljana Castle, located on top of a hill. Sv. Nikolaja Cathedral’s location is quite the opposite; located in a narrow side street and with its unimposing façade, it’s easy to miss. And then you go inside – be prepared to have your breath taken away!
MAKES FOODIES’ HEARTS SKIP A BEAT
In Ljubljana, there are countless possibilities to sit down for a good cup of coffee. To top it off, you can get breathtaking pastries all over town (we love Lolita right at the riverfront). There are open-air markets that are bursting at the seams with fruit, vegetables and fresh flowers, so enticing that you’ll want to buy everything in sight. Central Market is the spot to enjoy some seriously mouth-watering street food, and every Friday from May to October, there is an event called Open Kitchen. Bringing together renowned chefs, street food, select local wines and great craft beers, Open Kitchen provides for an unforgettable evening. Make sure to check out their website when you are around. (Photo above: Open Kitchen)
Ljubljana is one of the cities in Europe with the most public green spaces, and the parks are well worth a visit. Both Zvezda Park and Tivoli Park are our favourites, with lush gardens and plenty of trees. No matter if your companion is a book or if you’re there with friends – find yourself a spot in the shade close to one of the fountains and relax for a while until it’s time to move on to the next hot spot.
GET SOME REST
After filling your belly with outstanding food, the perfect bed is waiting for you at Vander Urbani Resort. Offering only 20 rooms in a modern yet welcoming atmosphere right at Ljubljanica river at the foot of Ljubljana Castle, this hotel is the perfect address for even the most discerning, offering not only a swimming pool, but also yoga classes and a roof terrace with a stunning view. The façade matches the historic surroundings of the historic centre, whereas the interior represents contemporary design at its best. Grab a drink, check out the rooftop and enjoy one of Ljubljana’s most amazing sunsets.