The ultimate Ljubjlana itinerary
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, might be your new favourite city! Located in central Slovenia, this city holds a unique charm and offers plenty activities to do. The city is characterized by cobbled streets, colourful churches, bridges, all overlooked by a medieval castle. The many cafes and terraces populate the outdoor city during summer which gives a lively atmosphere. Not mentioning the restaurants and wine bars that will delight you with excellent Slovenian wines and food throughout the city!
Also, worth mentioning that Ljubljana was titled the Green Capital of Europe in 2016 which makes it one of the greenest cities in the EU. This is palpable by its downtown green zone, lush parks which make the city very walkable and enjoyable. You must be wondering then: what to do to enjoy Ljubljana at its fullest in only one or 2 days? My Ljubljana itinerary article will guide your journey through your new favourite city.
What to do in Ljubljana in one or two days
Walk along the River Ljubljanica Canal (Cankarjevo Nabrezje)
The city is cut in the middle by the Ljubljanica river, an emerald green river. Stroll around the canal and the old town to admire the architecture of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. While you are here, stop for a bite and a drink (or two). The banks are full of restaurants and bars, perfect to enjoy the very laid-back vibe of the capital.
While you walk alongside the river, pass from one side to the other through the numerous historical bridges.
The most beautiful bridge is the dragon bridge. These 4 statues of the mythical creature reign over the banks. In addition to the 4 main statues, there are other 16 smaller ones. Can you spot them all? The dragon is also the symbol of the city, so you will see it everywhere, even in the coat of arms of the city. You might be asking why this creature is the symbol of the city. The greek mythology says that Jason and his Argonauts killed a dragon called Ljubljana, founding the city short after.
The other notable bridge is the triple bridge. In fact, the tripe brigde is a group of 3 bridges designed by the famous architect, Jože Plečnik, who gave the modern look to the city.
The last famous bridge is the butcher’s bridge, which is the most modern one displaying its glass walking belts and the love locks added by couples.
After you have crossed the 3 bridges, head to the heart of the city, Prešeren square. Located in the Old Town, the square is dominated by the statue of the poet France Prešeren and the salmon-pink color church, the Baroque Franciscan Church.
When we were visiting, there was an art installation of rain going on and off, saying the the square has it own weather. This area is often taken over by musicians and performers which give a lively atmosphere to the square.
Visit the Central Market
While the Prešeren square might the central point of the city, the central market is the belly. The open-air market is open everyday except on Sundays and Holidays. The market is full of local farmers’ products going from fresh fruits to fresh vegetables. You also can find cheese in the market (Slovenians loooove dairy products), honey, sausages and some linen as well as handcrafted souvenirs. The market is very well organized by rows and little wooden stands.
The medieval castle overlooks the city, perched on the top of the hill, around 60 meters above the Old Town. The medieval construction dates back to the 15th century. The castle has been restored into a museum, a venue for cultural events and a high end restaurant, you can read the review of the restaurant here.
To reach the top of the hill, you have several options: you can go by car, by bus, by funicular or you can take a short hike. I would suggest to hike as it takes approximately 15min and you can enjoy the park and the views of the city. Once at the castle, take a moment, once again, to enjoy the beautiful views. If you go during the sunset, you will have a full spectacle of the castle with the warm colours of the sunset.
Think about the Tivoli park like Ljubljana’s central park, the lung of the city. While the city is proclaimed the greenest city in Europe, the park is a must do. Enjoy a nice walk among the trees, and if you are visiting in the summer, this place will definitely give you a chance to cool off.
The city has more than 10 museums, from classical art to modern art to history museums. We visited the National Museum of Contemporary History. This museum covers the country’s history back from WWI to its adherence to the European Union in 2004. We chose this museum because I was very curious to know why there was such a significant contrast between Slovenia and other former Yugoslavian countries or former USSR countries, like Bulgaria. Before visiting, we had the wrong assumptions that all the “eastern countries” were similar.
The praised alternative cultural center is a hub for local artists, bars and clubs. Although we visited the place in the morning, and we did not get a chance to visit it to the maximum, I found it a little weird and creepy.
Due to its geography and history, Slovenian cuisine is a yummy mix of cuisines from Italy, Austria, Hungary and the Balkans. To taste everything, we chose to do a self-guided food tour of around 3 hours with the Bitemojo app, you can read more about it in my other post.
For dinner, go to TaBar to enjoy tapas sizes bite, a mix of traditional and modern cuisine. The restaurant has a extensive list of Slovenian wines that will perfectly pair with your meal. It is recommended to take around 5 dishes for 2 persons.
The city is very walkable and in fact the city center is closed to all motorized vehicles.
There are also many public bike stations making it easy to navigate the city. Public transportation will take you from a place to another for a very affordable fee.
I would suggest to get the Ljubljana Tourist Card ( €23/30/35 for 24/48/72 hours) which gives free entry to 15 attractions and unlimited use of public transport.
Where to stay in Ljubljana?
We stayed at the three star Park Hotel. The hotel is rated the #1 most eco-friendly hotel in Ljubljana and is centrally located. From the hotel, you can walk for less than 5 minutes to Metelkova or to the city centre with its main attractions. The eco-friendly features are visible through the plants, quirky messages encouraging you to take the stairs and much more. On the backstage, the hotel is committed to reducing energy and waste by using renewable energy. Also, this hotel is decorated with a green colour scheme which give a pleasant look to the facility.
Also, the hotel offers complimentary breakfast to its guests. The buffet offers cold cuts, different cheeses, bread, eggs, croissants and fruits. Perfect to give you all the energy to kickstart your day of sightseeing.
Getting in and out of the city
The capital is centrally located in the heart of the country. Most of the other country’s attractions are located between 1 to 3 hours drive so I would highly suggest to rent a car and visit this beautiful country! If you are a mountain person, I would suggest going to Velika Planina, only 30min away. Plus, Slovenia borders many other countries like Italy and Croatia so it's perfect for a European road trip. On our part, we decided to take a 10-day road trip through the country, you can read more about it here.
The airport does not have many direct flights so accessing the country by air can be a little difficult.
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Disclaimer: We enjoyed our stay at the Park Hotel thanks to Ljubljana tourism board. A big thank you! All opinions are my own
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