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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Places to visit in Ljubljana
Here are a few suggestions of the top sights to see in Ljubljana.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where to stay in Ljubljana
Ljubljana has many different accommodation options right in the heart of the city from hotels to AirBnBs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recommend budget tours in Ljubljana
- Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle Tour from Ljubljana
- Ljubljana Food and Wine Walking Tour
- Slovenian Coast and Karst Region Day Trip from Ljubljana
- Highlights in a Day: Vintgar Gorge, Bled, Postojna Cave, Predjama Castle
- Bled Fairytale
- Full-Day Triglav National Park Tour from Ljubljana
- Bled and Postojna Day Tour from Ljubljana
- Pub Crawl Ljubljana
- Ljubljana Small Group Food Walking Tour
- Hiking on the Edge of Ljubljana
- Ljubljana Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Lesson and Tour
- Salzburg Day Trip from Ljubljana
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