Ljubljana – Your Ultimate Guide to Slovenia’s Capital
Ljubljana, the vibrant capital of Slovenia, attracts young and old to its streets every year. With its picturesque city centre and Parisian flair, Ljubljana perfectly combines a city feel with a comforting small town vibe.
The city has recently been awarded the prestigious Green Capital of Europe (2016) award and is seen as one of the most environmentally friendly and cleanest capitals in the world.
What to do in Ljubljana – Main attractions and activities
Ljubljana is filled to the brim with beautiful historic buildings and sites. One of the loveliest ways of discovering Ljubljana city centre is the free walking tour running all year round (twice a day during the summer high season and once a day during the winter low season). This tour stops at the majority of Ljubljana’s hotspots accompanied with a great story as well. Let’s look at a couple of Ljubljana’s finest.
- Prešeren Square: the very best place to start discovering Ljubljana. This is the meeting point of all the major tourist walks and tours around Ljubljana. It’s the central square that hosts many events all year round, most notably the much-anticipated Christmas lights switch-on.
- Ljubljana Castle: this 12th-century medieval fortress is arguably Ljubljana’s unofficial emblem. The castle can be found in every tourist shop, pictured on a simple postcard or stylish t-shirt. It is built on top of Castle Hill around which Ljubljana, as we know it, has been built. The hill itself gives you a unique look over the city and offers you the chance to explore the medieval life through exhibition rooms. Reaching the top of the hill is not very physically demanding, but you can opt to use the funicular which takes you all the way up to the hill in just a few minutes.
- Ljubljanica River: the perfect way to discover this emerald river is to take one of many boat tours (pro tip – catch the one during sunset for an unforgettable romantic ride through the city). Most of them will offer English-speaking tour guides to let you know all the secrets of the city’s rich history. You will pass by the historic Dragon Bridge, another symbol of Ljubljana, as well as the Triple Bridge – the 19thcentury architectural beauty created by the city’s most famous architect Jože Plečnik. Alternatively, you can also try out stand up paddling (SUP) or river canoeing. And don’t worry, you can still get the most of Ljubljanica River even if you don’t enjoy boat tours. Grab an ice-cream or a refreshing drink and sit by the river to enjoy a quiet moment surrounded by a beautiful scenery.
- Galleries and museums for the whole family: there is a plethora of incredible cultural activities and events right in the heart of the city centre. To see Ljubljana’s own tiny version of the Louvre, check out the National Gallery, exhibiting national and international art pieces from various centuries. If you’re hoping to see many things at once, why not check out the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova and Slovenian Ethnographic Museum, located right next to each other. When in the neighborhood, take a walk through Metelkova City – an Autonomous Cultural Center famous among alternatives. The Museum of Illusions and the House of Experiments (Slovenia’s first hands-on science centre) are some of the best options if you’re visiting Ljubljana with your little ones. The Ljubljana Zoo is another particularly popular spot for families with young children.
Nightlife – Hip clubs and wild pub crawls
Just like the city itself, Ljubljana’s nightlife has something to offer regardless of your preferences. Ljubljana after dark is a vibrant, and yet a very safe partying destination. The city is truly buzzing with atmosphere and English-speaking staff will make every foreign visitor feel at home.
Whether you’re looking for a perfect place for a hen or stag party, energetic pub crawl, an iconic, hip club or just trying to find a traditional pub – Ljubljana has got it covered. Some of the most popular clubs are Cirkus, Daktari, Top Six, Nebotičnik Klub and Klub K4. There are plenty of internationally-inspired spots such as TOZD (Berlin-inspired hip bar) and Cutty Sark Pub (British-style bar). The single most popular alternative clubbing destination is Metelkova, offering everything from contemporary art exhibitions, music events and nights out at the club. Lovers of retro vibes will enjoy Klub Daktari and Café Evropa (café and pizzeria at day and more of a bar at night).
If you’re planning a night out, there are also several must-see music venues, such as the Križanke Theatre, Jazz Club Gajo and Orto Bar.
How to get to Ljubljana
Ljubljana is getting easier to access every year. New connections between the Ljubljana Airport and all major airports throughout Europe are being established on a regular basis. Make sure to check out our Where we fly section to discover our entire list of flight connections. Reaching Ljubljana by plane has never been easier or more accessible! Upon arriving at Ljubljana’s expanding airport, you will be able to see the striking snow-covered Julian Alps in the distance, probably one of the best landmarks in Slovenia. Your journey from the airport to central Ljubljana will take you through small local villages, enabling you to get the taste of everyday life in this tiny European country.
Ljubljana is the city to fall for – offering all the excitement of a big city, but delivered with a small-town charm.
Accommodation - Where to stay in Ljubljana
There is an abundance of places to stay regardless of your budget. Ljubljana offers 5-star hotels, affordable youth hostels and everything in between. While the city centre is relatively small, it’s in fact very tourist-friendly and offers a fantastic variety of accommodation.
- LUXURIOUS HOTELS: several superb hotels offer top-rated accommodations in the heart of Slovenia’s capital. You can choose between several established options such as the Grand Hotel Union, Hotel Slon and Hotel Lev, favorites among both locals and tourists. Moreover, you will also be spoiled for choice if looking for contemporary hotels with absolutely stunning features, such as the newly-built luxury InterContinental Ljubljana or Radisson Blu Plaza.
- QUIRKY APARTMENTS: there are endless options to find a quirky apartment right in the city centre. These are more affordable compared to some luxury hotels, will offer a large space and the option to cook your own meals. Use Booking.com or AirBnB to search among countless apartments (pro tip – book your apartment overlooking the Ljubljanica River to experience the most stunning views of the city!)
- BUDGET-FRIENDLY HOSTELS: Ljubljana is every backpacker’s dream, offering affordable accommodation and close proximity to the widest variety of sights. Particularly popular are Hostel Tresor, located on Ljubljana’s lively Čopova Street and Hostel Celica – an artistic hostel transformed from an old military prison. If you’re on a tight budget, it might also be worth checking out the vibrant online community Couchsurfing for short stays hosted by locals.
Furthermore, there are many accommodation options that fall somewhere in between luxurious hotels and cheap hostels. If you decide to stay outside of the city centre, the accommodation prices tend to drop rapidly, while the well-organised public transport ensures the city is still at the tips of your fingers. The city centre is well-connected to the outskirts, thanks to Ljubljana’s public transport (LPP) which offers affordable and comfortable journeys from early in the morning to very late at night (city centre journeys are priced at 1,2 eur). If you prefer discovering this hidden European gem on your own terms, why not rent one of the local bicycles (Bicikelj). Another popular transport option is the train, especially if you’re considering travel outside the boundaries of Ljubljana towards the suburbs or nearby towns. To sum it up, what makes Ljubljana’s public transport so popular among foreign visitors is:
- frequent connections
- easy-to-understand route maps
Best restaurants and bars
Ljubljana is not only known for affordable food but quality food that has something to offer to everyone. It’s worth trying out the local cuisine, based heavily on hearty food such as sausages, potatoes, and stews. Visit the upscale favourite Špajza to taste top-rated Slovenian cuisine and experience a chic atmosphere. Those of you who would like to experience something truly local shouldn’t miss out on Güjžina – a traditional restaurant that celebrates the popular food originating from Slovenia’s Prekmurje (Pannonian) region in the far North East of Slovenia. Güjžina is loved among locals and visitors alike, and is considered one of the best places to try out traditional Slovenian cuisine. Lovers of meat should definitely pay a visit to Klobasarna and taste the artisan sausages for a truly authentic Slovenian experience. Another popular hang-out spot, as well as eatery, is Pritličje, offering one of the hippest atmospheres in the city.
If you’re visiting Ljubljana don’t miss out on Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen), Slovenia’s most popular and unique open-air food market happening every Friday (weather permitting). There are plenty of local restaurants such as Hood Burger and Centralna Postaja, serving craft beer and gourmet burgers. In fact, Ljubljana is becoming quite the beer capital, with local award-winning breweries like Pelicon offering outstanding craft beer.
If you’re a lover of tea, then visit Čajna Hiša (The Teahouse) for a fantastic lunch break with the most outstanding selection of carefully prepared teas. Local streets will be packed with people enjoying gelato, so make sure to try out at least a couple of the must-see ice cream spots such as Vigὸ, Zvezda and Cacao. To enjoy coffee and a slice of cake surrounded by one of the most stunning interiors (the café has been nominated for Best International Interior) visit Lolita. Located right in the heart of the city centre, Lolita is an upscale café that could easily compete with some of Europe’s trendiest coffee and cake places.
Even vegetarians and vegans won’t be left out. The local plant-based scene is growing rapidly, offering local restaurants such as Organic Garden and Barbarella Arkade, as well as larger vegan chains like The Loving Hut. There are also plenty of international restaurants featuring traditional Mediterranean cuisine as well as Asian cuisine (Moy Sushi, Han, Master Noodle Bar).
Weather – When is the best times to visit Slovenia’s capital
Ljubljana has a typical temperate climate and experiences four distinct seasons. The summer is long and warm, with temperatures frequently reaching over 30ºC. This attracts a lot of visitors from all around the world, making the summer the peak of Ljubljana’s tourist season. Spring and autumn are popular as well, but the winter months shouldn’t be overlooked. Ljubljana’s city centre turns into a magical town during the months of November and December. The city is decorated with Christmas lights and hosts a number of events, most notably the fantastic Christmas Markets. Ljubljana experiences relatively cold winters, with temperatures around zero, but the fairytale-like atmosphere makes you warm inside.
Discovering Slovenia beyond Ljubljana
If you’re visiting Ljubljana for more than just a couple of days, why not discover the extreme versatile nature and culture that Slovenia has to offer? Within just a couple of days, you can experience the diversity of Slovenia’s natural landscape all year around.
- Visit the Slovenian seaside, featuring the salt pans of Piran and hip Portorož with its palm trees and sandy beaches.
- Not far away from Ljubljana is also the world-famous Lake Bled, another top-rated tourist destination with frequent bus and train connections to Ljubljana city centre.
- The culture hub of Maribor (European capital of culture 2012) is another easily-reached destination that offers plenty of charm and a diverse range of activities.
- Other must-see destinations include the stunning Soča Valley and the surrounding Triglav National Park, as well as the world-famous Postojna Cave.
All in all, Ljubljana is the city to fall for – offering all the excitement of a big city, but delivered with a small-town charm. Don’t be surprised when you plan to visit just once and end up coming back for more!