Slovenia, a small country in Eastern Europe, has everything a traveler could wish for; city life, crystal clear lakes, and snow-topped mountains. I had wanted to visit Slovenia for a while and as I was planning my month-long summer vacation in Europe, I decided to include Slovenia in my itinerary
I arrived at Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia on June 1st and spent two days exploring the city. Ljubljana has a small and lovely old town that has been built around the Ljubljana castle. The city is divided by the Ljubljanica river that offers beautiful venues for afternoon walks and great spots for sunset views. The river embankments are peppered with picturesque cafes, perfect for a coffee break. Also, river cruises are offered regularly if you preferred to see the city from a boat.
The bridges of Ljubljana
Ljubljana is known for its unique bridges that cross the Ljubljanica river. I started my self-guided tour from the Triple bridge, meaning three adjacent bridges that cross the river from the Preseren square, opposite the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. It happened to be time for the Ljubljana science festival so the area surrounding the bridge was crowded with stalls and enthusiastic families and school groups. It was fun to wander among them and peek at the stalls on my way to the famous Robba Fountain. Two other bridges to check out are the Dragon Bridge and Mesarski Most, a bridge with sculptures and padlocks. Both are a short walk from the Triple Bridge.
From the Triple bridge, I continued toward Ljubljana castle. There’s a funicular that can take you up and down the hill, or you can choose to walk the paths up the hillside. I had planned to take the funicular up and walk down but as I followed the signs to the castle, I found myself on the paths and ended up walking the whole way. It’s not a bad walk, to be honest. It can get quite steep, occasionally, but the paths are clear and the whole walk takes maybe 10-15 minutes. I definitely recommend taking the walk instead of the funicular if you’re fit for a bit of exercise. To get inside the castle you need to pay an entrance fee and the guy at my hostel told me the castle is actually not that big. I decided not to pay the ticket, but I walked around the grounds and got some nice pictures of the view that opens down to the city. However, if you like castles and are interested in history the castle is probably worth visiting.
The central market and Tivoli Park
After getting back from the castle I decided to take a look at the central market and its numerous stalls selling handicrafts and things to eat. Unfortunately, a rainstorm surprised me so most of the stalls were packed away early but luckily there were plenty of restaurants and other eateries in the area, so I had a taste of traditional Slovenian Dumplings in Moji Struklji Dumplings. A contact in one of the travel forums I’m a member of had recommended it to me before my trip and it was definitely worth a visit! After my meal, I headed back to my hostel stopping at Tivoli Park, Ljubljana’s biggest park and outdoor recreational area.
Still, one place not to miss in Ljubljana is Metelkova Mesto. It’s a block where local artists and freethinkers come together and it’s full of colorful graffiti and installation type of art. I visited on my way back from Bled and Bohinj as I returned to Ljubljana for my flight to Poland. It’s a little outside the main tourist attractions, right next to Ljubljana bus station, which made it easy for me to visit it since I arrived by bus. Even if you’re not taking a bus from the station, this place is not very hard to find. It takes maybe 15-20 minutes to walk there from the old town and you get away from the crowds for a while. If you’re an art lover this is the place for you.
Where to eat?
Ljubljana has many different restaurants in the old town area alone. If you want to taste something local, the dumplings I mentioned earlier are certainly something to go for. They come in sweet and salty so you can choose whichever you happen to crave. However, several restaurants serve local dishes right in the heart of the old town. There are also many restaurants with international menus including pizza, pasta and steaks. If you like sweets, the guy at my hostel recommended two ice cream parlors. Vigo is located right by the Triple Bridge and Cacao is just a couple of minutes’ walk from it. According to my source, the difference mostly comes down to the flavors you prefer, since the places have different selections.
The good thing about Ljubljana is that most of the main sights are in the old town or close to it so they’re within walking distance from each other. There are also local buses if you don’t want to walk but Uber is not available. Instead, Slovenians use their own carpooling app Prevoz, which you can easily download. It only works in Slovenian and I didn’t test it, so I don’t know how easy it is to use if you don’t know the language. According to my contact on the travel forum more and more tourists are using it and the drivers are getting used to picking up foreign passengers.
Another good thing about Ljubljana and Slovenia, in general, is that basically everyone I talked with spoke English. Even though I usually like to look up at least the most common phrases of the language of my destination, it certainly makes things easier if you have a common language.