Top 10 locations in Ljubljana
As the first lady of Slovene popular song, Marjana Deržaj, once memorably sang: "To Ljubljana, to Ljubljana, to Ljubljana we go..." The 2016 European Green Capital is among the global top 100 sustainable destinations and is also recognised as a bicycle-friendly city. Though small in size and with a population of less than 300,000, Slovenia's capital is sure to enchant you.
Ljubljana's small size is actually an advantage, since it means that all the tourist attractions are within easy reach and you can explore them on foot or by bike, since the entire city centre is closed to traffic. Ljubljana's streets are full of cafés, bars and restaurants where you can sample Slovene cuisine and discover local producers. There is also a rich and varied programme of cultural events to choose from throughout the year. Below are the top 10 locations that you simply must visit when in Ljubljana.
#1 LJUBLJANA CASTLE
For a little over 900 years a castle has stood on the hill that rises steeply above Slovenia's capital city. You can reach the top in a single minute via the panoramic funicular or climb the hill on foot via a marked footpath. The roots of the present castle date back to the Middle Ages. Over the course of its history it has undergone many changes and witnessed significant events. You can experience the history of the castle via a twelve-minute "Virtual Castle" projection and see various permanent exhibitions – we recommend seeing them as part of a guided tour. You can also taste the present through the gastronomic treats served up in the castle's restaurants. Finally, don't forget to take in the fantastic view of the city from the top of the Lookout Tower. You will treasure it as one of your favourite memories of your visit to Ljubljana.
#2 DRAGON BRIDGE
The Dragon Bridge, guarded at either end by a pair of large bronze dragons, is perhaps the best-known image of Ljubljana. The bridge itself is a remarkable technical monument and a fine example of art nouveau architecture from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. Two reasons led to the construction of the bridge: the increase in the amount of traffic towards the railway station, and the poor condition of the old wooden bridge it replaced. Two interesting facts worth mentioning are that this was one of the first reinforced-concrete bridges in the territory of present-day Slovenia, and that its roadway represented the first 33 metres of asphalt to be laid in Slovenia. Many people say that if you don't come home with a holiday snap of yourself next to one of the dragons on the Dragon Bridge, you haven't really been to Ljubljana.
#3 OLD TOWN
Ljubljana's Old Town, the heart of the city, lies between the Castle Hill and the river Ljubljanica. Its most notable elements are three narrow cobbled squares. "Town Square" (Mestni trg) is lined by imposing baroque buildings, among them the Town Hall, the seat of the City of Ljubljana. In front of it stands the Fountain of the Three Carniolan Rivers, also known as Robba's Fountain. To the south is "Old Square" (Stari trg), with the colourful façades of nineteenth-century townhouses, quiet courtyards, hidden passages and the Hercules Fountain. The last of the three squares is "Upper Square" (Gornji trg), with its medieval buildings and numerous good restaurants.
#4 THE TRIPLE BRIDGE AND PREŠEREN SQUARE
"Tromostovje" or the Triple Bridge – the trio of bridges over the river Ljubljanica in the heart of the city – bears the signature of the great Slovene architect Jože Plečnik. The left and right banks of the river were originally connected by a single wooden bridge, later replaced by a stone structure. When commissioned to build a new bridge, Plečnik decided that it would be a shame to demolish the existing structure, so instead he added a footbridge on either side. The Triple Bridge is lent a particular charm by its balustrades (with their 642 balusters), its two sets of steps and the trees planted on either side of it, uniquely complementing its attractive appearance. The area leading into Prešeren Square, which is actually the junction of five streets, is full of diverse activity throughout the year – from street theatre to street musicians.It is a popular meeting point for the people of Ljubljana and somewhere that tourists can really feel the buzz of the city. Following construction of the Church of the Annunciation (also known simply as the Franciscan Church), the existing crossroads was changed into a square and paved. The square is adorned by a statue of Slovenia's greatest poet, France Prešeren. The figure of a Muse holds a laurel branch above his head. A sculpture of the poet's great love, Julija Primic, gazes symbolically at Prešeren's statue from the façade of one of the nearby buildings.
#5 RIVER LJUBLJANICA
The river that flows through the centre of Ljubljana is a mysterious one: it disappears underground several times along its course, and each time it returns to the surface it has a different name – which is why it is sometimes known as the River of Seven Names. It was an important traffic artery even in Ancient Roman times. The bed of the Ljubljanica is among the most important archaeological sites in Slovenia. Objects unearthed here date from a variety of historical periods. Visitors to Ljubljana can also observe the lively activity of the city centre from one of the many boats that ply the river.
#6 LJUBLJANA ZOO
Ljubljana Zoo – one of the smallest zoos in Europe – lies in a setting of natural woodland and meadows that form part of a protected landscape or nature park. Just 20 minutes' walk or a short drive from the centre, the zoo offers you the opportunity to see animals from the five continents, but in particular species characteristic of the area where the Alps meet the Pannonian Plain and the Mediterranean Basin. Another advantage of Ljubljana Zoo is that visitors have the chance to come into direct contact with the animals at workshops, and can even help feed them. Perfect for those who have always wanted to be a zookeeper for a day.
#7 LJUBLJANA UNIVERSITY BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Botanical Garden is a little patch of nature where, surrounded by greenery, visitors can forget that they are in the middle of a city. The garden is located in the very centre of Ljubljana and can be reached by city bus. In 2010 the botanical garden celebrated its 200th birthday. Visitors can receive a guided tour, listen to talks, take part in workshops and attend various events. Feast your eyes on more than 5,000 botanical species and subspecies, more than a third of them domestic, and experience a genuine green oasis in the tropical greenhouse with its many exotic plants.
#8 OPEN KITCHEN
Every Friday from spring to autumn (provided the weather is fine), Pogačar Square (Pogačarjev trg) in Ljubljana comes alive with a multitude of flavours and aromas. This is a place where young and old come together to enjoy gourmet adventures as they discover local Slovene cuisine, contemporary gastronomy, exotic flavours from far-off lands, boutique desserts and genuine street food classics from all over the world. Complement the experience with a glass of Slovene wine or craft beer and together with your friends enjoy an unforgettable foodie journey round the world.
#9 PLEČNIK'S HOUSE
The famous architect and town planner Jože Plečnik did a great deal to shape the image of Ljubljana as we see it today. For a unique insight into his life and work, visit his home and his personal legacy, consisting of original furniture and exterior fittings and accompanied by a permanent museum exhibition. Plečnik's House is a place of enormous cultural value, thanks to its excellent state of conservation and its original design and furnishings. Particularly worth mentioning is the conservatory or "winter garden" which Plečnik added to the south wall of his new house and which gives access to the garden.
#10 METELKOVA MESTO
Metelkova Mesto makes its home in a former army barracks and is today a world-famous "autonomous culture centre" and melting pot of arts, crafts, politics, music and theatre. Many people also know it as a relaxed and inspiring place to hang out. Over the years, Metelkova has developed a distinctive look of its own that at every step reminds visitors of significant events and society's responses to the works created here. It also has several bars and clubs where you can view unique exhibitions and graffiti and enjoy concerts of a variety of genres.