Earlier this year I spent a whole week in Slovenia. And I got to spend quite some time in Ljubljana. Although sightseeing time was limited to the evenings, I got to see quite a bit. So, if you are thinking about heading to Ljubljana any time soon, let me tell you what to do and see in Ljubljana.
But before I tell you what to do and see in Ljubljana, let me tell you a little about Ljubljana in general:
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and with almost 300.000 inhabitants also its largest city. As someone living in London with its 9 million inhabitants, a 300K town doesn’t seem large. But if you put it in relation to the 2 million living in the whole of Slovenia, it gives it another proportion, I guess.
Ljubljana is located in central Slovenia, with the river Ljubljanica running through its centre. Ljubljana’s symbol is the dragon, which you will see all over town, not just in Ljubljana’s coat of arms or on the pillars of the Dragon Bridge (more on that later).
How to get to Ljubljana
Ljubljana has an international airport, which offers direct flights to / from several European cities. First time I flew from London to Ljubljana I was lucky and got a direct flight from Stansted. This time I had a connecting flight with LOT Polish Airlines via Warsaw.
Ljubljana Airport is located approx. 25km outside Ljubljana. To get from the airport into town you can use the shuttle bus service, taking you to Ljubljana bus station in around 50 minutes for 4.10€.
If you can’t find a suitable flight to Ljubljana, you could also consider using one of the surrounding airports. Zagreb is only 140km away, Trieste 130km, Klagenfurt 85km. And you can get a shuttle bus from either of those airports to Ljubljana for as little as 10€.
If flying isn’t your thing, Ljubljana can also be reached by train or long-distance coaches, both will take you to Ljubljana main station, in the centre of town.
Now that you know how to get to Ljubljana, let’s move on to what to do and see in Ljubljana.
What to do and see in Ljubljana: Ljubljana Old Town
The centre of Ljubljana old town is completely pedestrianized, making it really easy to walk the streets without fear of being run over.
The central square in Ljubljana is called Prešeren Square, after the Slovenian poet France Prešeren. There is a large bronze statue of Prešeren on the square, as well as a bronze model of Ljubljana city.
The Triple Bridge leads from Prešeren Square across Ljubljanica River towards Town Square.
As the name already suggests, the Triple Bridge is actually a cluster of three bridges.
When you wander the streets of Ljubljana Old Town, don’t forget to look at all the beautiful houses. There are so many beautiful old facades, including some rather pretty examples of Art Deco (like the Emporium Gallery).
On Town Square you can find the Robba Fountain, also known as the Fountain of the Three Carniolan Rivers. Well, to be precise, you will only find a replica of the fountain on Town Square. The original fountain was restored and moved into the National Gallery in 2006.
If you are visiting Ljubljana in summer, I would recommend a walk along the Promenade. There are plenty of bars and restaurants here, making it the perfect spot for dinner or evening drinks along the river bank.
I visited Ljubljana in October and January, but even then, you could sense how lovely the area must be in summer.
What to do and see in Ljubljana: Dragon Bridge
The dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana and you will come across it pretty much everywhere. But one of the finest examples must be the dragons on the dragon bridge. There are four large dragons sitting on the four posts of the bridge.
Legend has it, that the dragons will wail their tail if a virgin crosses the bridge. Sorry to say, no tail wagging witnessed whilst I was there.
What to do and see in Ljubljana: Ljubljana Castle + Funicular
Obviously, you can’t have a proper European capital without a castle.
The Ljubljana Castle dates back to the 11th century and sits prominent on top of Castle Hill, overlooking Ljubljana. If you want to visit the castle, there is a 10 EUR entrance fee. Otherwise you can just go up to enjoy the view
If you want to go up to the castle, there is a winding path meandering up, but be advised, it is rather steep. If you don’t fancy the climb, you can use the funicular instead. This funicular might not be a nice old one (like Budapest for example). In fact, it was only built in 2006. But to get you up to the castle, it surely does the trick. And at 2.20 EUR (one way) or 4 EUR (return) it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Along with the dragon, Ljubljana Castle is depicted on the Ljubljana coat of arms.
What to see and do in Ljubljana: Admire the Churches
As you explore Ljubljana Old Town, it is hard to miss the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. The bright red Baroque church stands proud at the edge of Prešeren Square, overlooking the square and the river. Its altar was sculpted by Francesco Robba, the same one that did the Robba Fountain.
What to see and do in Ljubljana: Visit the Market
Ljubljana Central Market is located on the right side of Ljubljanica River and spans from Dragon Bridge to Triple Bridge.
The building along the river bank was built in the early 20thcentury and it houses a few shops, cafes and restaurants.
Six days a week there is a fruit and veg, fish and flower market on the square. Unfortunately, I did not actually manage to see the market open during my week in Slovenia, as the market shuts around 6pm (so I could just about catch the last 10 minutes one evening). But if you are visiting Ljubljana as a tourist rather than on business, chances are you will have more luck than me.
What to see and do in Ljubljana: Explore Tivoli Park
If the weather is nice, why not head to Tivoli City Park for a stroll. Tivoli Park is the biggest park in Ljubljana and is located a little away from the main town centre, but still within easy walking distance. Stroll along Jakopič Promenade until you reach Tivoli Castle and the sculpture of the ‘Boy with a Whistle’ in front.
Walk around Tivoli Pond and enjoy the flowers in the greenhouse and the rose garden.
When I visited back in January, there was a picture exhibition from the National Gallery all along Jaopič Promenade. However, I am unsure whether that is still in place.
What to see and do in Ljubljana: National Gallery + Museum of Modern Art
If you have some time to explore Ljubljana, I would recommend you go and visit the National Gallery and / or the Museum of Modern Art. I mean who doesn’t love a museum?
What to see and do in Ljubljana: Head to the Opera
Next door to the National Gallery is the Ljubljana Opera House. Why not check if you can secure some tickets to see a performance of the Ljubljana Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet.
How many days do you need to see Ljubljana?
As I was visiting on business, I was in Ljubljana for five days. However, this obviously wasn’t five days of exploring. I only had the evenings for that. If you are visiting Ljubljana for the first time, I would recommend you stay for two or three days. So, a weekend trip to Ljubljana should be perfect. Or stay a little longer and explore the rest of Slovenia as well. Slovenia might be a tiny little country, but it is beautiful and well worth a visit.
So tell me, have you been to Ljubljana? Would you consider visiting?