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Slovenia

The Ultimate Guide to Ljubljana

view of city Ljubljana from Ljubljana castle - Slovenia

Ljubljana is Slovenia’s breathtaking capital city, known for its luscious green landscapes, clear rivers, and gorgeous architecture. With a young university crowd, an abundance of outdoor cafes and countless art galleries, Ljubljana is quickly becoming one of the coolest cities in Europe.

With a population of under 300,000, Ljubljana is a relaxed and laid-back place to visit, which may be exactly what you need! Follow our ultimate guide to this underrated European gem and learn how you can best spend your time when you visit Ljubljana.

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How to get to Ljubljana

You may be wondering how to get to Ljubljana, and the answer is easier than you think! With Slovenia’s convenient position in Central Europe, Ljubljana is a well-connected city. In fact, you have a few different options depending on your budget, time constraints, and where you’re coming from first.

Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport (LJU) is 24 kilometres northwest of the city in Brnik. It’s about a half hour taxi or car ride to the centre of Ljubljana, and the journey will set you back roughly €30. If you’re in no rush, you can catch an Alpetour bus for only €4.10. It’ll double the time it takes to get to the city, but you’ll save a lot of money. If you’re travelling in a group, one of the best options is to book a shuttle bus from €10 per person.

It doesn’t take too long to reach Ljubljana from neighbouring European countries either. The city is a three-hour drive from Venice, and an hour and 15 minutes from the small Italian town of Trieste. If you prefer to take public transport rather than rent a car, you can catch a regularly departing FlixBus instead. Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is 140 kilometres east, and Austrian cities like Graz and Klagenfurt are only a few hours north.

What to expect in Ljubljana

Ljubljana is a charming, safe and unique city. Not to mention, the locals are incredibly friendly and welcoming.

Although the official language of Slovenia is Slovenian (or Slovene), almost everyone in Ljubljana is fluent in conversational English. If you speak any Slavic languages, such as Serbian or Croatian, you’ll find many similarities to Slovenian.

As a member of the European Union, Slovenia uses the euro. If you’ve been travelling around Europe before stopping in Ljubljana, you won’t have to worry about converting to any unique currency!

There are no rules about tipping in Ljubljana, and it isn’t expected. That said, many Slovenians themselves round up the bill to show appreciation for good service and friendly staff. If you’re accustomed to tipping, feel free to leave the usual 10% at a restaurant or bar.

How to get around Ljubljana

The centre of Ljubljana is easily walkable, and the best way to enjoy the city is by wandering around on foot. Renting a bicycle is another enjoyable, slow-paced away to get around. There are 38 Bicikelj stations around the city where you can rent a bike 24/7 for the bargain price of €1 a week.

The bus system is clean, reliable, and costs only €1.20 per journey. To ride any buses, you’ll first need to buy an Urbana card for €2 and load on at least €1. The city encourages eco-friendly choices, so cycling and public transport are always preferred over taxis.

Ljubljana architecture and tourist bikes, capital city of Slovenia

The best time to visit Ljubljana

Ljubljana is a city that looks picturesque and pristine no matter the time of year. As you may expect, tourism peaks during the summer and the Christmas/New Year holiday season, so avoid these periods if you’re on a budget.

For the most comfortable weather, book a trip for April, September or October. Late January and February are the least crowded months, and the city transforms into a snowy and magical winter wonderland.

Winter Snowstorm - Ljubljana City - Slovenia

Things to do in Ljubljana

Although the city isn’t as jam-packed with attractions as many other European destinations, you won’t run out of fun things to do. Here are a few suggestions for some relaxed yet enjoyable Ljubljana activities.

Get to know the city’s cultural hub

Metelkova is the heart of Slovenia’s alternative cultural and social scene. After the country became independent in the 1990s, artists and activists decided to occupy a former military headquarters and use the site for peaceful, creative purposes. The abandoned barracks have been completely transformed to become one of Europe’s most thriving urban areas.

Covering 12,500 square metres, Metelkova is considered an autonomous city that sits right outside the centre of Ljubljana. It’s the home of the underground music and arts scene and is a place for Slovenes of all walks of life to express themselves freely.

Wander the area and explore the vibrant street art by day, then listen to some great live music in the evenings. You can’t miss checking out this lively and memorable cultural centre!

LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA - : Graffitti, sculpture and mosaics on a wall in squat located in Metelkova street in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Relax in the park

Tivoli City Park is the largest park in Ljubljana. It covers five square kilometres and is a popular spot for locals to hang out at on weekends.

The park is home to Tivoli Castle, a 17th-century mansion built on the ruins of an old Renaissance castle. In the northeast corner of the park, you’ll find the pale pink Cekin Mansion. You’ll also find a swimming pool, a bowling alley, and tennis courts here if you feel like getting active.

Picturesque autumn landscape. Beautiful Park in the fall. City Park Tivoli is a popular vacation spot in the center of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Explore the museums and galleries

Ljubljana has dozens of fantastic museums and art galleries to keep you interested.

The National Museum of Contemporary History and the Technical Museum of Slovenia are two wonderful places for learning about Ljubljana’s history and early life in Slovenia. The National Gallery of Slovenia (Narodna Galerija) also has some fantastic collections of Impressionist paintings and Baroque sculptures.

If your tastes are more eclectic, head to the Modern Gallery (Moderna Galerija) to see a range of installations and have a cup of coffee in their cosy cafe. For a more intimate experience, Visconti is one of the city’s top fine art galleries.

Last but not least, the Museum of Illusions is popular with all ages and provides a very different experience than the other museums in the city.

Ljubljana, Slovenia -The main building of the National Gallery of Slovenia in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Places to visit in Ljubljana

Here are a few suggestions of the top sights to see in Ljubljana.

Ljubljana Castle

One of the must-see attractions in the city is the Ljubljana Castle. For the past 900 years, it has stood atop a hill overlooking downtown Ljubljana. Within the castle is an exhibition covering the entire history of Slovenia, dating back 200,000 years. You’ll also find the Puppet Museum dedicated to puppeteering, one of Slovenia’s favourite traditional pastimes. From the Outlook Tower, you can look across gorgeous views of Ljubljana and surrounding areas. If you get hungry, enjoy a delicious meal at the Gostilna Na Gradu restaurant in the castle’s courtyard.

In addition to providing a beautiful view and permanent exhibitions, the castle also holds regular cultural events, open-air film screenings, and family-friendly entertainment.

Ljubljana Castle standing on the Castle Hill above downtown Ljubljana, Slovenia is a key landmark of the town.

Dragon Bridge

The Dragon Bridge crosses the Ljubljanica River and is adorned with statutes of, you guessed it, dragons! Built in 1901 during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it incorporates both Vienna Secession and Art Nouveau styles. The bridge is one of the city’s most recognisable attractions and is a perfect spot to take your touristy photos.

Famous Dragon bridge (Zmajski most), symbol of Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, Europe.

Žale

The largest cemetery in Ljubljana, Žale, was intricately designed by renowned architect Jože Plečnik. It features a monumental two-storey arch at the entrance, symbolising the two worlds of the living and the deceased. The beautiful chapels and headstones range in architectural styles and influences, from Greco Roman to Byzantine.

As many prominent poets, painters, composers, activists and politicians from Slovenia rest here, the entire area is considered a cultural monument. If you’ve been to Père Lachaise in Paris or are simply a lover of great architecture, you’ll want to put Žale on your list of places to go.

Plecnikove Zale or Zale Central cemetery is largest and central cemetery of Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia. Shot in dramatic weather before the storm.

Franciscan Church

The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is in the heart of Ljubljana’s Prešeren Square. With its rosy pink exterior, the church stands out from most others. It was constructed between 1646 and 1660, with the Baroque-style facade added in the early 1770s. Inside, the church is painted with impressive frescos and illuminated by a stunning chandelier. It’s best to visit in the afternoons, as the church holds daily services in the mornings and at night.

Romantic Ljubljana's city center: river Ljubljanica, Triple Bridge, Tromostovje, Preseren square and Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. Ljubljana, Slovenia, Europe.

Robba Fountain

In front of Ljubljana Town Hall is the Fountain of the Three Carniolan Rivers, commonly known as Robba Fountain. This Baroque-style monument was sculpted in 1743 with white Carrara marble and was unveiled in 1751. It was inspired by the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Rome and represents the gods of Ljubljana’s three rivers: Ljubljanica, Sava and Krka.

Ljubljana, Slovenia - . View from the Robba Fountain of an old street, houses and the St. Nicholas' Cathedral.

What to eat in Ljubljana

Although influenced by neighbouring countries, Slovenia has a ton of traditional dishes to try. Here are a few recommendations so you won’t be left wondering what to eat in Ljubljana.

Fresh, local ingredients are always used in Slovenian cuisine. Some of the best restaurants for authentic local food are Julija, Špajza, Klobasarna, and Gostilna Sokol. Meat and cheese platters are common to share. It’s a tourist rite of passage to try a traditional cream cake, aka kremšnita. Although the recipe originates from Bled, you’ll be able to find this treat everywhere in Ljubljana. Prekmurska gibanica is another popular dessert made up of pastry layers filled with poppy seeds, walnuts, apples and cottage cheese.

Vegetarians can sample idrijski žlikrofi, traditional Slovenian dumplings made from dough and potatoes, as well as the popular buckwheat dish ajdovi žganci. Meat lovers, on the other hand, won’t want to go past the favourite kranjska sausage.

Sausages with sauerkraut and buckwheat mush on wooden background

Where to stay in Ljubljana

Ljubljana has many different accommodation options right in the heart of the city.

The studio apartments at Bed and Breakfast Petra Varl will make you feel right at home in Ljubljana. The renovated 16th-century building sits at the foot of Castle Hill in the old town, making it an unbeatable location for exploring the city on foot. If you like to prepare your own meals while you’re away, each studio comes with a kitchenette equipped with a fridge, an electric kettle and a toaster, and stocked with basic ingredients for breakfast. All studios have a double bed and are warmly decorated.

A more upmarket hotel that provides great value is Hotel Cubo. You’ll spot the building on the corner of Slovenska and Erjavčeva streets quite easily, thanks to its all-white, art deco exterior. The interiors are chic and elegant, with rooms available for couples, friends or families. The hotel is a short walk from the Triple Bridge, the City Museum of Ljubljana and the National Museum of Slovenia.

Photo of river in Ljubljana old town Slovenia

Tours to do in Ljubljana

Take a private tour of Ljubljana’s wineries and sample some of the best wines Slovenia has to offer. A personal guide can show you around some of the city’s most charming landmarks and vineyards, all while you enjoy a drink and some complimentary snacks.

In such a pedestrian-friendly city, it will come as no surprise that Ljubljana has a few interesting walking tours on offer. The Music Walking Tour is run by a violinist who will teach you about the city’s musical history. There’s also a three-hour Food Walking Tour for small groups that’ll take you through a farmer’s market and the local diners. Since the experience can be completely customised, it’s a perfect option for anyone with vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free dietary requirements.

Ljubljana Slovenia - View of the square inside the castle of Ljubljana and several tourists passing by

Day trips from Ljubljana

Slovenia is reasonably small, making it easy to take day trips from Ljubljana to other parts of the country.

One of the most popular outings is a trip to Lake Bled, one of Slovenia’s most iconic lakes. This picturesque natural beauty is only 50 kilometres from the city centre. The fairytale-esque Bled Castle is perched atop cliffs in the centre of the lake’s own island, which can be reached by a traditional pletna boat. Once you’re done exploring, you can spend your day kayaking, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding.

Lake Bled Slovenia. Beautiful mountain lake with small Pilgrimage Church. Most famous Slovenian lake and island Bled with Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria and Bled Castle in background.

You could also take a joined trip to Bled and the Bohinj Valley. This 10-hour guided tour allows you to enjoy the gorgeous views of the Julian Alps, ending with a visit to the peaceful and serene Lake Bohinj, the largest glacier lake in the country.

Bohinj bridge and church, Slovenia. Look to old historic ancient bridge and the church near the Bohinj lake, in Triglav national park. The Ribcev Laz village. Sunny sky with clouds, summer weather.

Want to learn how to travel on a Budget? Check out our dedicated “Budget Conscious Travel Guide”

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The Ultimate Guide to Ljubljana

The Ultimate Guide to Ljubljana

The Ultimate Guide to Ljubljana

Article written by:

Hi, my name is Samantha, Finance Managing Guru by day, Travel Blogging Enthusiast by... well... day too! Haha! Travelling King is the destination hotspot for the wannabe traveller! Showcasing affordable, luxurious getaways for the budget conscious!With the combination of my financial knowledge and travelling experiences I aim to show you, with a little planning, the right budget and a realistic goal you can fulfil your travel fantasies and explore the world whatever your budget or desires may be!