Streets of Ljubljana.
Slovenia is one of the most underrated European countries. Even I am guilty of ignoring it at times, using it only as a drive through to get to Croatia. But once I finally visited the small Balkan country, I was hooked.
Slovenia is an incredibly beautiful country, rich in history and culture. The people are friendly, their food is great and most of all it’s very affordable. Especially when comparing to Italian tourist cities like Venice which is close by.
Prior to visiting Ljubljana for the weekend, I had only been to Portoroz and Piran. Two small towns perched on the Adriatic coastline just past the Italian border. However, when my family came to visit in January I chose Ljubljana because none of us had been there or really knew much about the Slovenian capital.
When researching Ljubljana, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how edgy, cool and different the city was. There’s a great cafe and art scene there, and the overall vibe of the city seemed very different to what I have become used to here in Italy.
What to do
Depending on what time you get in on Friday, I would definitely set out on foot and explore the city to get your bearings. Ljubljana isn’t a very big city and most of the old town can be seen on foot.
Now that you’ve got your bearings and seen a little bit of the city, I would head up to Ljubljana Castle. You can either take the Funicular up which costs about €9 including admission to the castle or you can walk up like we did. I would suggest the walk as the views of the city on your way up are worth the hike.
If you’re opting to walk back down to old town, there are several paths so take another route to ensure you get a different view of the city. Now depending on how much time you spent at the Castle, it’s probably late afternoon/early evening by now which is the perfect time to find a bar or cafe along the river and do some people watching and relaxing.
One of the many bars and cafes along the river.
Whether you’re after a good cup of coffee or an alcoholic beverage, there are plenty of places to choose from to suit your style and needs. Most places also serve food, so if after a while you get a little peckish or happy hour turns into dinner that option is always there too.
After dinner, whether you’re heading back to your hotel or finding another venue to continue the night, make sure to take a stroll around and take in the city at night too. This is something that I don’t often do when travelling by myself but something I always enjoy. To me, cities look entirely different at night under the cover of stars all lit up.
For the next day’s adventures I would definitely start with food. Food is always a good idea. Unlike Italy, Ljubljana’s breakfast and brunch scene is plentiful and I highly recommend Ek Bistro or Kaverna Rog.
The interior of Kaverna Rog.
After a hearty breaky, make your way back to the main square for the Ljubljana free walking tour. Starting at 11am each day in front of the Cathedral and lasts about two to two and half hours. On the tour, you will see most of the cities main attractions and learn a brief history about the city and its people.
After the tour you have a couple of different options depending on what you’re most interested in. If museums and galleries are your thing, there are a handful of them to visit including the Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of Slovenia.
If nature is your thing, I highly recommend walking over to Tivoli Park and enjoying the serenity and greenery. Both of the above museums are actually in Tivoli Park so this is definitely something that could be done together.
Another interesting and slightly different attraction you could spend the afternoon seeing is Metelkova. A must see in my opinion, Metelkova used to be a former Yugoslav army barrack but is now a large squatter occupied art and music underground.
Bright, vivid, unusual and at times a little creepy, Metelkova is home to a number of bars, galleries and hold numerous workshops throughout the year for wide spectrum of subcultures.
If none of the above are your thing, there’s always shopping. Second to food, shopping is always a good idea in my books. Or simply retrace your steps on the free tour and spend a little more time visiting the cities monuments like the Cathedral, Pressrun Square, the markets or Dragon Bridge.
By Sunday, you’ve probably seen just about everything Ljubljana has to offer but if you’re flight isn’t until the evening, definitely still get out and make the most of your last morning. Every Sunday from 8am onwards there is a vintage and flea market along the banks of the rivers. So go for a stroll, savour the last of Slovenian food and find some bargains.
Where to stay
I stayed in a beautiful apartment called Spacious Apartments Ljubljana. It’s a spacious and nicely decorated apartment with three bedrooms with more than enough room for a large group of people. It’s a little on the pricer side if you are travelling solo or as a couple and I wouldn’t normally book such an expensive place if it were just me and my fiancé but because I stayed with my family and we were a group of 8, it was perfect.
If this is out of your price range, keep looking on Booking.com and Airbnb as Ljubljana has quite a lot of apartments to rent.