Slovenia's capital and largest city is well known for its heavy university population and vast green spaces. Divided by the leafy banks of the curving Ljubljanica River-- which flows freely through the heart of town-- this pleasant and peaceful European travel hub is one of the most livable and eco-friendly cities in the entire continent. Quaint little terraced cafes line the streets alongside an emerald green river, while beautiful early modern and minimalistically-designed buildings grace the commercial center.
What’s more is that along with a wealth of historical riches to explore, such as the National Museum of Slovenia, or the Museum of Modern Art, which is home to numerous twentieth-century Slovene paintings and sculptures, Ljubljana also boasts an active nightly party scene that caters well to its 50,000-plus local students, as well as some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the country. And because car traffic is restricted in the Old Town, there’s truly a cheery, feel good, and totally worry-free vibe that’s provided to tourists hoping to experience Central Europe in an entirely different way. Go ahead and enjoy a delightful concoction of Baroque and Habsburg inspired-architecture, engaging riverside cafes, richly painted churches, and abundant green landscapes at this charming hotspot.
Both Ljubljana and Central Slovenia share a treasure trove of not just cultural and historical sites, but ample amounts of scenic countryside and stunning nature spots as well—perfect for travelers looking to enjoy an active holiday along with good food and a variety of vibrant events. As Europe’s green capital, this super relaxed charmer of a city is easily explored on foot. Stroll on super narrow yet perfectly safe pedestrian lanes past striking medieval buildings now housing designer shops and popular cafes within Old Town-- which is squeezed comfortably in between the castle hill and Ljubljanica river through two busy city squares, Mestni trg (City square) and Gornji trg (Upper square). Be sure to check out the sixteenth-century Ljubljana Castle, the Roman Ruins, the Ljubljana Zoo, the University Botanic Gardens Ljubljana, and Square of the Republic, where crowds gathered as Slovenia announced its independence from the Yugoslav Federation in 1991.
Also don’t miss out on those Sunday morning flea markets where you’ll find over two dozen stalls selling everything from antique sofas and vintage stamps to ex-Yugoslav military uniforms and other nifty knick-knacks. Outdoorsy types will love hiking up 669m to Šmarna Gora, which is five miles north of the city. When reaching the top, celebrate by snagging a warm cup of tea before making your way back down to Eipprova ulica, a lively canal-side street that serves as Ljubljana’s main entertainment hub. The array of Food Walks in town are also a must-do, as they offer a sneak peek into local Slovenian cuisine via deliciously-themed tours—choose from ones focused just on desserts to others providing an introduction to the local craft beer scene!
Though incredibly tiny, the city of Ljubljana is just a small part of an astonishingly diverse country – it’s also centrally located to be no more than a couple of hours away from other fascinating spaces such as the magical subterranean world of the Karst region, the imperious limestone mountains and glacial lakes of the Julian Alps, or the historic coastal towns and lush vineyards in Slovenia’s more unknown regions. There are, of course, plenty to keep busy with in Old Town itself, but since the entire country is super compact, those craving a fast change of scenery will be glad to know that various exciting adventures await close by. Skiers can hop a bus to Kranj in the Slovenian Alps, or cruise along a picturesque Lake Bled is just under a couple hours. There, you’ll find a scenic lake with an island church overlooked by a castle, as well as the world renowned Triglav National Park—a paradise for outdoor adventurers looking to engage in mountaineering, rafting, hiking, paragliding, and skydiving.
It’s even possible to avoid urban chaos in the summer months by heading off to the seaside via a train ride to one of the area spa resorts or beaches. There are also frequent international connections to choose from, including seven trains a day to Croatia’s capital Zagreb. Venice, Italy is also just several hours away by bus, or you can opt for somewhere a bit closer like Metelkova City, a self-declared autonomous culture place that’s become a hub for alternative artists and various youth subcultures that come together to party out at underground bars and nightclubs that can get super crowded on the weekends.
Nice places to stay can be found all throughout the area, including Cubo, the city’s sleekest luxury hotel, which is housed in a stunningly refurbished, white 1930s residential building, or the family run Adora that’s tucked away in a sleepy little corner of the Old Town and offers ten rooms of considerable style and charm. For more wallet-friendly options, there’s the Tresor Hostel, where you’ll get a chance to snooze in a bank turned buzzy hostel that’s just a stone’s throw from the Triple Bridge. The popular hotspot is set around a high central atrium featuring clean and surprisingly spacious dorms that sleep between four and a dozen people.
Though B&Bs are few and far between in Ljubljana, travelers often enjoy Slamič, or the local student homes that co-function as alternative accommodations during the summertime. Renters can seek the help of global short rental sites which will book holiday apartments in the region with flexibility and ease. Make sure to rent a bike along with that snazzy rental stay to make any Slovenian vacation all the more enjoyable!
Several airlines, including Adria, easyJet, and Wizz Air fly directly from London airports to Ljubljana. There are also bus and train stations conveniently located next to each other just north of the city center (both are a short walk away from most area hotels and attractions.)
What’s nice to know is that Ljubljana is the hub of Slovenia's rail system, which means that local trains run freely throughout the country. No point in Slovenia is more than a few hours away, so try out ICS (InterCitySlovenija), the fastest train, which runs from Koper to Maribor via Ljubljana, or cheaper options, such as LP or RG, which stop at every station. Car rentals are also an ideal option, especially for those planning to visit remote destinations outside of Ljubljana. And since the tiny city center is no doubt small enough to cover entirely by foot, be sure to snag up a free city map so that you can explore the streets with utter ease. Bikers can also choose to navigate via rentals from the Slovenian Tourist Information Center beside the Central Market, or at one of the area hotels. There’s even a local system called "Bicikelj" where you can rent bikes for a week for just 1€. It offers 300 bikes on 30 stations in and around the inner city and allows travelers to subscribe with a credit card online.
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