On my way home from Italy, I thought I might as well take a little detour into Slovenia. I mean, it’s right next to it, so why not right? Slovenia is a former Yugoslavian country that declared independence on the 25th of June 1991. Three days after my birth. Coincidence? I think not! (definitely a coincidence). Either way, Slovenia has become very popular in the past few years as the new must-see destination in Europe, due to its stunning nature, quaint little towns and reasonably affordable prices.
Since I am always late in hopping on the bandwagon, everyone kept telling me to go and I was super excited. My first stop was Piran, which I immediately fell in love with. From Piran, I took a bus to Slovenia’s capital: Ljubljana.
Ljubljana is a small University city, with a beautiful historic city centre. Although it is small and Slovenia is a country you should visit for its countryside scenery, I really liked Ljubljana’s fairytale architecture. It is a great base to explore the country from and perfect to relax for a day or two. Here are some tips on things to do in Ljubljana:
1. Walking around the historic city centre
You can really see the Austrian-Hungarian influence on Slovenia in Ljubljana’s architecture. The historic city centre has all the same fairytale charm as small towns in Austria and some of the elegant Jugendstil and Baroque design of Viena. A great way to explore this city and its fascinating history is by joining the twice-daily Free Walking Tour. They will take along all the highlights, such as the Dragon Bridge, Cathedral, Market and Town Hall. The city centre is small and easy to navigate, so simply wander the cute little streets and take in all the colourful buildings, boutique shops and hip cafes.
I also highly recommend strolling along the river boardwalk at night when all the bars have string lights and lanterns up on their terraces.
2. Climb up to the Castle
One of my favourite things about Ljubljana is that you can catch a glimpse of the castle everywhere you go. The view of the castle through the little streets is really pretty and the view from above is great as well. I didn’t find the castle itself all that interesting, but its worth the steep hike to the top (or take the funicular).
3. Visit a museum
Ljubljana has a couple of great museums. The National Gallery houses paintings and sculptures from different time periods and hosts some great temporary exhibitions as well. It is also right across from Tivoli park, which is perfect for a stroll in sunny weather. If you want to know more about the man who basically designed Ljubljana, visit Plecnik House. And for some lighthearted fun: the popular Museum of Illusions.
4. Take a day trip to Lake Bled & Bohinj
The main reason that people flock to Slovenia is to see the beautiful Bled Lake. This mountain lake has a little island in the middle of its crystal clear waters with a pretty church. Boats are available to peddle you there and back. Although it is a very picturesque place, it is also very touristic, especially in summer. Close to Bled lies Bohinj lake, a much more rugged and bigger lake, right between the mountains. Here, there are no shops and cafés, but it is perfect for hiking. If you decide to go to Bled and/or Bohinj, you can take the bus from the train station (1,5 hours) which continues to Bohinj (30 min). You can see both in one day and I would recommend spending minimal time at Bled, just to see the island.
Slovenian cuisine is a delicious mix between Austrian, Balkan and Italian cuisine. The best food is found at the weekly open-air food market on Fridays. Every Friday (if the weather allows), local restaurants cook here. Here you find both Slovenian and international cuisine, as well as local wine and craft beer. Perfect for lunch and/or dinner. If you want to buy fresh produce and local artisan craft, visit the normal market which is on every day except Sunday.
Slovenian food is heavily meat-based, but there are plenty of international restaurants and vegetarian and vegan options available as well. My favourite is Loving Hut, which has a delicious and affordable vegan buffet.
Here are some more tips on what to indulge on in Ljubljana.