City Guide to Ljubljana, Slovenia
The How’s and Why’s of Traveling to Slovenia
Pronounced: Loo-blee-ana, or lyoo-blyah-na
The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana is the perfect travel destination. Once a part of Yugoslavia, it was occupied during WWII and became independent soon after. Now, it is a quaint town that is brimming with things to do, but packed into an accessibly small surface area. Ljubljana’s peaceful atmosphere is partially due to the immense green surroundings (542 square meters of public green space per resident!!), the castle on the hilltop, and the river winding its way through the center of town. This allows for days full of café hopping, nature walks, and exploring the history of Ljubljana one cobblestone street at a time. Come night time, the city is alive with people having drinks by the river, attending local concerts, or going out dancing. However, if you attempt to go to any of the clubs before 12 am, expect to be laughed at by the locals. They are colorful and speak great English, and the town is small enough that you could run into them repeatedly during your stay, making the small town of Ljubljana feel even cozier.
Ljubljana > Other European cities because….
The city itself is very tourist friendly, has chic and cheap hostels, but at the same time the Slavic culture is very present and intact.
It’s cheaper. Buy the fancy drink you want because it’ll cost half as much as it did in Paris.
Transportation: The city is completely accessible on foot and going from any one end to the other wouldn’t take longer than twenty minutes. This makes travel cheaper and less time consuming than in other cities.
Wifi. You can find accessible and free wifi at almost any of the many restaurants the city is lined with.
Beauty. Between the architecture, the river, and the greenery – it’s breathtaking.
Fun for Free
Watch the sunset from the Ljubljana castle: It’s quite the hike up, but the view at the top is beautiful and overlooks the city.
Guided Tour: There is a free tour that meets every day at 11 am and 3 pm in the main city square in front of the pink church. It ranges from 2-2.5 hours and is a great way to see some of the city and hear about the history from a local.
Churches: Churches are always an excellent way to see both history and art portrayed for free; Ljubljana has several, with two being more prominent.The first, the Franciscan, is the pink church in the middle of the town square. The other is the Cathedral, or St. Nicholas’ Church, known for its intricate entry door, depicting a fascinating history of Slovenia.
The slightly darker arts center of town, the Metelkova District is home to art galleries, rallies, concerts, and dancing. It was originally an illegal occupation of former Yugoslavian military headquarters. Now, it’s a place the local youths go to hang out and express themselves. At night, it may get a little rowdy, but it is an excellent expression of culture. For the less risky, the Metelkova can be visited during the day when the area tends to be abandoned and all of the artwork is still readily displayed.
Take a look at the local news your hostel offers or look for posters around town. There are concerts by local bands constantly occurring across Ljubljana, both in open squares and restaurant/bars. A good option is the Zoo Bar*, located on Tržaška cesta. Music options can range from Celtic to alternative. Depending on the venue these could be free as well.
Thursday Night Salsa Dancing
Again, free. Located on the plaza outside the restaurant Plato, it happens every Thursday from 10 pm – 12 am, weather permitting. It draws a diverse crowd, ranging from young singles to older couples. It is a unique blend of people gathering in central Slovenia to show off their best Latin moves.
The most popular dance club in town. For good reason. In its two story building, the outside resembles a circus tent and the inside is full of performers. As the night goes on the DJ begins sharing the stage with other acts. Clowns, balloon animals, jugglers, contortionists….you never know what the Cirkus will bring. But you can count on good music and a wild time.
*There is a local in his eighties that is known around town for his unique dance moves. Affectionately known as “dancing grandpa,” he has been spotted in various places including Klub Cirkus. Keep an eye out for him.
About a 45 minute bus ride from Ljubljana, Lake Bled has enough activities for a day of its own. Seated at the base of a small castle, the lake is a gorgeous shimmering aqua, surrounded by vibrant forests, with a picturesque church settled neatly on an island in the middle. Taking out a kayak is only 5 Euros, with other water options available alongside biking and hiking. The castle on top of the hill has a wonderful view of the surrounding area, but the ticket inside is only worthwhile to people who are really interested in native history and geology. Something to be careful of is the bus times; look carefully at going and return options so as not to end up stranded in any one place for longer than bargained for.
About a forty minute bus ride from Ljubljana, the caves of Postojna make for an excellent morning or afternoon trip. The tours run every hour on the hour, from 9 am to 6 pm, lasting about an hour and a half. Again, something to be aware of if choosing a later time is making sure there is a bus returning to Ljubljana afterwards. The tour begins by taking a train deep into the caves, followed by about 1.5 kilometers of walking on foot. Throughout this process visitors are using individual audio sets as their tour guide. The caves are wondrous, full of awe-inspiring stalactites and stalagmites, as well as boasting of their very own, living, dragon. A tour of the caves alone is about 24 Euros. If combined with the Predjama castle, an equally intriguing place, a joint ticket would be 32 euros. Overall, the caves of Postojna are an incredible experience.
You’ll find that a dragon theme is common throughout Ljubljana. That’s because it is said that the famous journey of Jason and the Argonauts traversed across Ljubljana, and the dragon encountered was Ljubljana’s very own.
Drink the water
Ljubljana was the European Green Capital of 2016! They are one of the few cities in Europe that has natural drinking water without treatment. They encourage the refilling of canteens so as to reduce the waste caused by plastic water bottles. This is done through the several water stations they have throughout town. Environmentally friendly. Wallet friendly.
Slovenia has two national beers, one of which, Union, is native to Ljubljana. Find a restaurant overlooking the river. Pair it with a hearty meal of potatoes and sausage. Repeat.
A taxicab company that focuses on Italy and Slovenia, GoOpti creates cheaper options than flying into the expensive Ljubljana airport. The company is reliable. Its drivers are friendly and punctual, they make stops when needed, and the vehicles are always clean. Flexible with time and locations. Trustworthy. Convenient. GoOpti allows travelers a cheaper and easier way to get in and out of Ljubljana.
World Market Fridays
Every Friday in the center of town stalls arise for half the day to sell a variety of foods. They range from options such as BBQ, Asian food, Crepe bites, and wines. Wandering through and examining the sights and smells is an adventure, but the real treat is eating. A lot. And then some more.
Ljubljana is a fascinating place, simultaneously exciting and restful. Worth a weekend visit or a month long stay.