Ultimate Ljubljana Guide: 10 Best Local (and Touristy) Things to Do
Ljubljana, Slovenia: The greatest place you’ve never heard of. To be completely honest, I had never considered travelling to Slovenia until a few months ago. We met a well-travelled Czech couple in the mountains of Georgia, and they swore it was one of the most beautiful countries they had ever been to. Naturally, we added it to our long list of future destinations we hoped to reach.
We ended up staying in Slovenia for a little over two weeks and WOW — what an understatement! Slovenia is as close to perfect as a country could ever be. Everything just works. And it’s beautiful. It’s like a fairytale. It’s easily my favorite city in Europe, and and I found it much more enjoyable than major tourist sights like Paris, London, Barcelona, and all the Italian regulars.
At the centre is the capital, Ljubljana ("lyoo-blyaah-nah”). From a tourist perspective, it’s got everything you need to have a prefect vacation: ridiculously good food, stunning architecture, cafe culture, and a vibe that makes you want to pack your bags and move here ASAP. I have so much love for Ljubljana, so I decided to put together a list that goes through the touristy things that are worth it, and other things I just thoroughly enjoyed.
1. Feast your eyes on stunning architecture
Ljubljana is the most beautiful city I have ever laid eyes on. It’s a stunning mix of mainly Austro-Hungarian grandeur, with other classic periods, like Art Nouveau. All the buildings are maintained perfectly, and the streets are spotlessly clean, so the only phrase I can use to describe it is “magical fairytale land”. The centre is closed off to cars, so you can meander the streets without fear of being hit – minus the occasional biker.
2. Food tour Open Kitchen
Every Friday from mid-March to October this market takes place in the central marketplace in the old town. Vendors come from all over Slovenia to sell their best dishes – and it’s the PERFECT place to food tour! Skip breakfast and come hungry, because you’ll want to have as much room as possible to sample all the dishes. Traditional dumplings, burgers, vegan options, very not-vegan barbeque, ice cream… and beer and wine, too!
3. Explore the city on two wheels
My favorite way to explore a city is via bike, and Ljubljana makes this incredibly easy with their (almost) free bikeshare, Bicike(LJ). For 1€, you get an unlimited number of rides for seven days (the max. amount of time you can take a bike out for is 1-hour, which is plenty of time). There are bike lanes all over the city, making it easy for even the most novice cyclist. My favorite areas to bike in are Tivoli Park, along the Ljubljanica River, and through the old town.
4. Go bridge spotting
The center of Ljubljana is divided down the middle by the Ljubljanica River, and crossing over ever few hundred meters are unique bridges. The most famous is the Triple Bridge: a set of three bridges which links Prešernov Trg (the main square) to the Old Town. Walk over the Cobbler’s Bridge, where public shamming’s were held and bad civilians dumped into the river below. Or the Dragon Bridge, flanked by four very real looking dragons.
5. Hydrate at drinking fountains that are pieces of art
Hidden among the streets are many drinking fountains, some of which take the form of intricate statues. My favorites are the huge bronze kangaroo in front of the puppet theater, and the fountain on Kljucavnicarska Ulica (connects Cankarjevo nabrežje with the Mestni trg) – a drinking fountain from where turning a chubby hand washes water over an alleyway of sad faces. Symbolism much?
6. Eat dumplings
I’m not talking about dumplings you’ve ever encountered before –Slovenian dumplings are a whole new ball game! They resemble a crepe layered with toppings, rolled into a log, steamed, and served hot topped with buttery bread crumbs. They don’t look terribly appealing, but we ate them every other day at My Dumplings of Slovenia (Slovenian name: Moji štruklji Slovenije).
7. Taste the best ice cream this side of Europe
One word: Vigò. The best gelato I’ve had in Europe — and that takes into account two weeks I spent eating my way through Italy. This Italian-style gelateria has flavors like coconut + passionfruit, almond cookie + pistachio, and chocolate + peanut butter. It also has plenty of vegan options. And they give you free melted dark or white chocolate topping. We ate there everyday!
8. Get lost in Tivoli Park
A few minutes from the city center you’ll find Tivoli Park. This expansive patch of greenery is great for an afternoon meander, or my favorite way to see it is on two wheels.
9. Climb Castle Hill
Aside from the stunning castle at the top, the walk up Castle Hill is equally as rewarding with some of the best views over Ljubljana and the surrounding alps. Take some extra time to explore the park behind the castle, where you’ll find locals working out and relaxing – and you can even check out a vineyard!
10. Taste local craft beer
The local craft beer scene is still very new in Slovenia, but there are a handful of great microbreweries creating delicious beverages. We found fantastic craft beer shop in the old town called Pivoteka Za Popen’t, which has a large selection of beverages. The best beer I tried was a sour from Bevog! On a sunny day, I recommend grabbing beers and taking them to the Ljubljanica for an afternoon drink (drinking in public is legal in most of Europe).
Questions on planning your visit to Ljubljana? Drop us a comment below or say hello @nutritiontraveller.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which help keep Nutrition Traveller running. I personally use every product I recommend on here and truly love them!
looking for more unique ways to explore your next destination?
Post updated on October 17, 2018.