Slovenia’s capital is one of the Europe’s greenest capitals. In 2016 it was the European Green Capital. Car traffic is restricted in the centre, leaving the banks of Ljubljanica River free for pedestrians and cyclists. Ljubljana is one of the underrated gems and it is often overlooked when it comes to a city break in Europe. This city absolutely deserves more exposure. Ljubljana is the capital in Slovenia. As I am from Slovenia too, I know Ljubljana very well. In my Ljubljana Travel Guide I will share my tips on what to do and see, what to eat in where to stay.
Discover the Green Capital of Europe
The charming old town of Ljubljana is very easy to get around on foot. The old town is almost car-free, so you’ll find only electric golf buggy known as kavalir. The city is surrounded with nature. There are mountains and trees behind and the city is set along the Ljubljanica river. The river gives the centre a completely different vibe. Many cafes and restaurant are located by the river and I could spend all day in this part of the city. And there is a lot of small local shops in the Old town, which gives a charm to the city. Go visit one of them during your Ljubljana travel.
Where to stay in Ljubljana and for how long?
Ljubljana is actually quite small town and you can visit the highlights in one day. But you shouldn’t spend just a few hours in Ljubljana. With a one night stay you can get a nice impression of the town. Of course, two or three nights is better as you can enjoy the city vibe a little longer.
Where to stay?
My favourite place to stay in Ljubljana is Hotel Lev. Hotel Lev is the perfect base in the city centre to explore the beautiful capital of Slovenia. There is only a few-minute walk to the larger tourist sights in the old city centre. The room in the 13th floor was absolutely amazing. The beds are super comfortable and you feel like you are sleeping in the clouds. Not to mention the view. Stunning. Whener I travel in Ljubljana, I choose this one as they make your stay beyond perfect. I definitely recommend it and you can read more about it in this review.
The best time to travel to Ljubljana? You can visit Ljubljana all year. If you really want to enjoy the charming city centre, you should visit in the spring or summer, when you can really enjoy in one of the cafes by the Ljubljanica river. In peak summer season there is a lot of tourists and it can get really hot. I would say that May is the best time to visit.
And of course you should think about visiting in December, when Ljubljana gets really festive and beautiful with all of the lights and Christmas trees. There are many Christmas markets around the city and even one on the Ljubljana Castle.
What to do in Ljubljana?
Ljubljana’s main attractions are perfect for exploring the city by foot. The walking distances are not far, since most attractions are very close to each other. Discovering Ljubljana by bike is also a great experience. Ljubljana is really charming as it is “sandwiched” between the castle and the Ljubljanica river. As mentioned before, there are a tons of cafes and restaurant on the riverbanks and there is nothing better than sitting by the river on a sunny day. But as a traveler, you don’t want to spend all your day sitting by the river and drinking coffee or beer. So let’s find out what to see in Ljubljana.
First of all, let me tell you that Jože Plečnik is responsible for a lot of the great architecture. As you will see during your Ljubljana travel, his designs can be seen everywhere, most notably in the form of Triple Bridge.
The Ljubljana Castle is perched on a hill above the Old town and from there you can enjoy a beautiful view of Ljubljana. There are several paths that lead up to the top. For those who don’t want to walk to the top, there is a funicular, which provides easy access to the castle. A return ticket costs 4€ for adults.
You shouldn’t expect the majestic castle but I think that it’s worth to visit the castle just for the view alone. If the weather is on your side, you’ll see the mountains.
Tromostovje ( The Three Bridges & Prešeren Square)
As the name of the bridge suggests, three stone bridges lead more or less parallel across the River. This place is the most visited in Ljubljana. The middle bridge has a long history. In the beggining there was only one bridge and they asked Plečnik to make the bridge wider. Instead of this, he added two more bridges for pedestrians and clearly he has made a tourist attraction.
When you cross the Triple Bridge, you will reach Prešeren Square, the main square of Ljubljana. Prešeren square is the place where people meet and hang out. Here are some important building, including the salmon-pink-coloured Franciscan Church.
This is the main eye-catcher when you’re exploring the old town. It’s a pretty baroque church from the 17th century and it’s a real masterpiece that dominates Prešernov trg. If you are looking for an instagrammable place, you are in the right place.
You can combine your Castle visit with a visit to the Central Market Square (on Vodnikov trg). The market is open every day (except Sundays and public holidays) and every Friday between the end of March and October there is an event Odprta kuhna (food market). This is a great opportunity to meet Slovenian chefs and taste Slovenian and international dishes.
The market is mostly open air, but it has a stretch of covered halls lined by more pillars. It’s hard to miss the market arcades, which are located directly next to the central marketplace. And guess what? This was designed by Jože Plečnik too.
Historical Old Town
Parallel to the river banks runs Mestni trg and together with Stari trg it forms a boulevard with some small local and international shops. You’ll find well-known brand there, but my favourite shops are those small local shops. One of my favourites is Čas za kavo store as you can find perfect gifts for you or your beloved ones and the owner of the store is super friendly.
You should not leave Ljubljana without at least taking a stroll down the street.
Ljubljana’s bridge game is really strong. The Triple Bridge is not the only famous bridge in Ljubljana. There is also the Dragon Bridge which is named for 4 obviuous reasons. It is exciting for art and architecture lovers and there are many legends about the Dragon Bridge. The most charming of them is that when a virgin crosses, the dragons wag their tails.
Metelkova – alternative side of Ljubljana
This is an unusual place near the Ljubljana train & bus station. This used to be a Yugoslav army barracks and these days this is a place for all forms of art, music and Bohemian nightlife. During the day, Metelkova is great for observing art. In night hours, the nightlife really becomes alive. You can have a drink or go partying, but I would recommend going with a few of your friends, for safety reasons. I am not really into alternative scene, so I rather stay out of places like this.
What to eat in Ljubljana? My tips on cafes and restaurant
You can eat really delicious food in Ljubljana. You can also eat very cheap in Ljubljana. And there is a lot of choice for every taste, no matter if you are a meat lover, seafood lover or vegetarian.
- As a Slovenian who knows Ljubljana’s places to eat very well, I would recommed Slovenska hiša (Slovenian House). As the name suggests, this place offers traditional Slovenian dishes, which are presented in a modern way. Slovenska hiša has two different locations with slightly different concepts. Slovenska hiša by the Ljubljanica river (location: Cankarjevo nabrežje 13) offers traditional Slovenian meat or cheese platters.
If you want to have lunch or dinner in peace, you should go to Slovenska hiša – Figovec (location: Gosposvetska cesta 1). Must try is prekmurska gibanica.
- If you are looking for authentic home recipes of Slovenian origin, there is also Stari Tišler. Its roots go back in the year 1905. Every Sunday they serve a lunch of traditional Slovenian cuisine. Stari Tišler has been serving top quality traditional Slovenian food for over a century and eating there feels like eating at your grandma’s home.
- Want to try another Slovenian delicacy? It’s time for Carniolian sausage (called kranjska klobasa in Slovenian language). You should visit Klobasarna (location: Ciril-Metodov trg 15). They serve carniolian sausage (half or whole sausage) with mustard, horseradish and bread roll, soup (with carniolian sausage) and rolled pastry.
As I said before, I gurantee you will find something for your taste if you decide to travel in Ljubljana. I just wanted to present you some options with traditional Slovenian food, as I love to try local dishes everywhere I go.
Looking for something sweet to eat? One of the most popular hotspots for locals and tourists is Cacao. The location of cafe is great, as it is located on the river where you have a beautiful view of Ljubljana’s famous market arcades and Ljubljanica river. I think that this place is a little bit overrated, but it depends on your own taste.
Another hotspot in town is a place with a fluffy pancakes – Puffy Lil’ Pancakes. The name pretty much says it all you need to know about this popular takeaway spot on Čopova street (few steps away from Triple Bridge). Small cute delicious pancakes.
Talking about cafes, you will find a lot of cafes on a river banks. Here are my top 3:
- Lolita Cafe – high ceilings, exposed brick walls, great views through window and super comfortable seating. What else could I wish for? Oh, delicious cakes, pies, mousses and other sweet delights are just cherry on the top. Love it!
Address: Cankarjevo nabrežje 1
- Divine Cafe – location by the Ljubljanica is perfect, but what I love the most is their tea. I love the smell of the tea and it is the best I’ve had in my life. And I love tea as much as I love coffee.
Address: Cankarjevo nabrežje 7
- Lockal na Petkovšku – Lockal is the closest bar to Butcher’s Bridge and the contagiousness of the lovelocks has firmly set in. The locks and the romance they signify play a large role in Lockal. The focus is on local products. Expect Slovenian beers, Slovenian teas, Slovenian lemonade and by the way, they serve the most instagrammable milkshakes in city.
Address: Petkovškovo nabrežje 23
Fun fact: in Slovenian language lokal means café.
As you can see, my top three cafes in Ljubljana are located on the river bank of Ljubljanica. As I said before, I could spend all day sitting by the river. If you want to enjoy in a beautiful view of Ljubljana and Ljubljana Castle go and take a drink in Nebotičnik Cafe.
Getting to Ljubljana
If you want to travel to Ljubljana by car, you will need a Slovenian vignette (it will cost you 15€ for 7 days). If you’ll come by car, you can make a stopover or roadtrip to other city in Slovenia – Bled, Maribor, Portorož, etc.
If you will be arriving at Ljubljana Airport, you can take a taxi to the city centre (this will cost you around 50€), but if you book transfer in advance you will pay around 9€/person (GoOpti). You can also go by bus. The ride will cost you 4,10€/person, so this is the cheapest option. You can find timetable here (be sure that you choose Arriva).
Do you have any question? Feel free to ask. Have you also been to Ljubljana and you have some more travel tips to share? I look forward to hear your opinion.