Ljubljana. I bet you murmured this name in your head sounding more like L-jub-l-jar-na *fades away quietly*. It is pronounced like Lyoo-blah-nah and is the capital of beautiful Slovenia.
Slovenians will proudly tell you that their country is the only one with love in the name, and as cheesy as it sounds, you really do feel the love here. The streets are clean and filled with students attending the nearby university, there is art and sculptures on every corner, and the buildings are an interesting blend between Vienna Secession, decorated with columns and ivy, and Baroque, pastel coloured and richly sculpted surfaces. Slovenians will also proudly tell you that their national anthem is the only in the world that toasts to other nations; the final verse pledges to live in harmony with all other nations, both friend or foe.
How to get there:
Ljubljana is a capital city and therefore quite easily accessible direct from surrounding regions. Flix Bus runs daily services from a long list of locations such as Florence, Milan, Budapest, Munich and Zurich, and there are also many international train services. See Go Euro for route information.
How to get around:
Ljubljana is a very small city, the circumference of the entire main part of town can be walked in an hour. It is also a very innovative city, winning the European Green Capital award in 2016 due to contemporary ideas such as the Kavalirs (“little helpers”) – these little electric cars are the only vehicles allowed in the old town and if you flag one down, they will happily drive you wherever you need to go in the city centre.
If you do need to catch a city bus, you will need to buy a travel card first, then load with money. You can do this at any newsstand or at the bus station. The card costs €1.20 and one trip also costs €1.20.
If you are taking a day trip to other regions such as the Postojna cave, Lake Bled, or Piran, you can buy these tickets at the bus station, which is located directly in front of the train station.
Where to eat:
There are so many excellent restaurants and cafes in Ljubljana, serving up delicious traditional dishes for a surprisingly (and sometimes ridiculously) low price. Food is a big part of Slovenien culture, and with 24 culinary regions represented by 170 distinct and typical dishes, there is so much to try.
An absolute must when visiting this city. The quality and authenticity of the meals cannot be beaten, and dining experience is so lavish, when you see the bill you’ll think there much be a typo. A traditional dish of fried cheese with heapings of mashed potato and a large bowl of fresh salad and homemade creamy dressing will fetch a fair price of €5. On certain days they offer a popular special of beef goulash with a traditional cottage cheesecake for dessert, for a total price of €4.50. Also be sure to their great range of beers including Grapefruit flavoured beer!
If you’ve had a busy day of exploring the city and are ready to treat yo’ self, look no further than Cacao. Specialising in decedent desserts and drinks, get comfy on one of the lounges upstairs and gorge yourself on their huge array of traditional cakes or ice cream.
Craving a bit of gourmet fast food? Pop’s dishes up quality burgers made with 100% grass-fed Slovenian beef, aged in house for up to 30 days. They also do sides, salads, sweet potato fries, wings and ribs, and most of the burgers are priced around €8.50.
At Time Café, you can access their wifi, board games, biscuits, home-made ice tea or cold brew coffee all for free. Unlimited. As much as you want and stay as long as you want. Fix yourself a Slovenian breakfast, make a hot cup of espresso, read one of their many books or play some vinyl. All free of charge. So what’s the catch? You pay for the actual time here: 1 minute costs 5 cents. It’s such a fascinating, novel idea, and is especially perfect for a rainy day.
Where to stay:
There are a number of great hostels in Ljubljana, and Tivoli is one of them. It is a short walk out of the city centre but takes you through the city park which is always enjoyable. The staff are so incredibly helpful and friendly, the facilities are modern and always clean and it’s quite a small hostel which always encourages socialisation. And in a city where beers are only a couple of euro, it’s always great to make some friends along the way.
Planning to stay a night or two at Lake Bled? Tivoli Hostel have a sister hostel there and can score you 10% your stay. As at reception for more information.
Example Daily Budget:
€34 per day
- Hostel: €12 per night
- Hostel breakfast: Free
- Lunch at Second Violin: €5
- Dinner at Pop’s: €11
- Beers at a local bar: €6
How long to spend here:
In one full day you can see the main sights of Ljubljana city and enjoy a taste of local cuisine. Allow additional days if you wish to day trip to surrounding regions.
What to see and do:
Free Walking Tour
As with most major cities, a ‘free’ walking tour is offered daily and gives you a terrific overview of the history of Ljubljana. I say ‘free’ because as usual, a tip is expected at the end of the tour. Starting in the plaza in front of The Franciscan Church at 11am (and 3pm from 15th June to 15th October), this tour hits all the main sights: The Franciscan Church, Prešeren Square, the Butchers’ Bridge, Triple Bridge, Cobblers’ Bridge Dragon Bridge, Central Market and more. They even stop by a local liquor store where you can sample some blueberry or fig liqueur. One sight it does not visit but you can easily do so yourself, is the Ljubljana Castle.
There is a funicular which costs €3-4 each way but the walk will literally take you 5 minutes. The castle and grounds are free to access apart from the watchtower which costs €7.50. On a clear day you can even see the Julian Alps
The neighbourhood near the University and Train Station is a focal point for Ljubljana nightlife, with a great range of bars and clubs. The area is covered in graffiti and dimly lit, but don’t be too apprehensive. This area is generally safe and well populated by students and travellers.
Day Trip to Postojna Cave Park
People have been visiting this area and the caves since the prehistoric times, seeking shelter or admiring the many ginormous stalecmites and stalectites. To access the cave, you need to take a tour, and between May and October, cave tours are held every hour, and in the off season three to four times daily. Tours take about an hour and a half, which gives you the ability to see other sights within the Postojna Cave Park including the Predjama Castle and Cave under Predjama Castle. Tours range from €25 – 60.
To reach Postojna Cave Park, buses run every 2 hours and take just over an hour. A one way ticket costs around €6, you can purchase tickets at the bus station and see schedules here.
Day Trip to Piran
While Slovenia possesses only 47km of coastline, shouldered between Italy and Croatia, Piran is a quaint, beautiful seaside village dotted with souvenir stalls, restaurants and sunny cafes along the marina. Buses run semi-regularly each day and take just over 2 hours. A one way ticket costs around €11, you can purchase tickets at the bus station and see schedules here.
You can read more in my Piran guide here.
Day Trip to Lake Bled
Lake Bled is the most well-known town in Slovenia, and rightly so. With its emerald coloured lake, island church and clifftop castle, it is truly magical. I’ve put together a DIY walking & activity guide for a day trip here.
You can read more about this fairytale town in my Lake Bled guide, but if you have the time I strongly suggest to stay a little longer than for just a day. With hostels starting at €6 a night, you don’t have any excuse!
Buses run from Ljubljana to Bled and back hourly for around €7, you can purchase tickets at the bus station and see schedules here.
You can read more in my Lake Bled guide here.