Ljubljana is known as the green city of Europe and is also a destination not to be missed when traveling to Slovenia. This city brings a beauty that is not inferior to magnificent cities like Paris or Venice. The Slovenian capital Ljubljana lies along the banks of the same name peaceful river. Although the city of Ljubljana is small, it is quite vibrant and bustling but gentle, romantic also. Especially when night falls is the great time to explore Ljubljana. So, is Ljubljana worth visiting, what to do in Ljubljana and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Ljubljana — the capital city of Slovenia for the first-time? Let’s check out our Ljubljana travel blog (Ljubljana blog) with the fullest Ljubljana travel guide (Ljubljana city guide, Ljubljana guide, Ljubljana tourist guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit, what to eat and things to do in Ljubljana to find out the answer!
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Ljubljana travel blog: Overview of Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a city possessing an extremely charming ancient beauty. It is located in the central Slovenia, about 320 km south of Munich, 477 km east of Zurich, 250 km east of Venice and 350 km southwest of Vienna. With an area of more than 163 km2, a population of nearly 300 thousand people, Ljubljana is currently the capital and also the largest city of Slovenia.
Ljubljana has been the cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative center of an independent nation of Slovenia since 1991. In ancient times, a Roman city called Emona was built here. In 2014, Ljubljana was voted as one of the most beautiful and clean cities in Europe. The ancient, charming and peaceful scenery of the city makes any visitor who comes here must be enchanted. That’s why people liken Ljubljana like a jewel of Europe.
Ljubljana blog: When is the best time to come?
Ljubljana is influenced by an oceanic climate with mild weather, warm summers and moderately cold winters with frequent snowfall. The rainfall in this city is quite large, up to about 1400mm per year and evenly distributed in all months. This makes Ljubljana considered the wettest city in Europe. So, you should go between May and June (Spring) because this is the time when the weather is warm, pleasant which is very suitable for sightseeing and outdoor activities also. You should not come here during the peak season (Summer) from July to August because the city will be very crowded, stuffy and hotel as well as service prices will also increase.
Summer (July – August) is clearly the busiest time to visit, the street filled with tourists and summer temperatures are warm for outdoor activities. Travelers all over Europe flocking here very crowded.
Autumn (September to early November) is when the autumn colors are breathtaking, romantic, less tourists and accommodation is a bit cheaper which is also a good time to come.
December is the festival month in Ljubljana, where its squares, streets, bridges and waterfront transform into the city’s most vibrant and central social hubs. The space-themed outdoor Christmas decorations were designed by renowned artist Urban Modic known for their splendor. The Christmas market with food and drinks provided by lovely little wooden stalls is the central social event accompanied by children’s activities and free concerts. You can also take a Christmas boat ride on the Ljubljanica river, which is a great experience.
Ljubljana travel guide: How to get to Ljubljana?
Ljubljana, although small, is a pretty famous destination due to its charming scenery and gentle people, so it’s not difficult to get to here. Every week there are about 200 flights from all major European cities to Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport. So as long as you plan early and book tickets, you can come here for less than 20 euros/one-way. The plan is important, as soon as possible.
Basically, Slovenian airline Adria Airways always has flights to and from the following cities: Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Moscow, Munich, Paris, Podgorica, Prague, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje, Sofia, Tirana, Vienna and Zurich. Not to mention other airlines.
To find cheap airfare as well as best flight routes based on your location, you can access search engines such as: Google Flights, Kayak, or Skyscanner.
Taking the train to Slovenia is not difficult either. Especially from Eastern European countries, or countries in the former Yugoslavia like Montenegro. Check out here.
Buses also have many options. At that time, in accordance with travel in the most economical way, I flew from Palermo to Bologna, then took a bus from Bologna to Ljubljana, it took about 8, 9 hours… But the ticket was very cheap, less than 15 euros…
From Ljubljana Airport to the city center
From Ljubljana airport, there is a public bus to get to the center of Ljubljana, costs around 4 euros, tickets can be bought at the airport. The bus frequently runs from 5am to 8pm. The waiting time of each trip is not too long (I don’t remember exactly but it’s quite frequent). But these buses often goes around, stops at all stops to pick up guests, so it’s a bit annoying, it takes about 50 minutes to get to the center. While Slovenia is small, the airport is only 2km from the center of Ljubljana. That means, if you walk, it takes about 1 hour in maximum.
So, there is a transfer service of getbytransfer which is quite convenient. Basically, if you take other types of transfer vehicles besides the bus, it takes only… 7 minutes. If you go in a large group, it is very good to take this way, share the cost, it is a little more expensive than the bus but saves time and effort. They will pick you up there, then drop you off at your required location, you can book the service in advance and then pay when you arrive. It is also possible to book this transfer service to other Slovenian cities, not just for Ljubljana.
Taxis in Slovenia are also available, not get rip off (if any, it’s rare). If you take a taxi, the traveling cost could be shared also, similar to renting the transfer service as above, around 30-35 euros/trip. Of course, you should still deal with the driver on the price first before get on.
In short, if you want to be convenient or go with a large group, just take a taxi or rent a transfer service. If you want to travel cheap, let take the bus.
Ljubljana travel blog: Where to go, things to do in Ljubljana and what to do in Ljubljana
Go to Preseren Square to admire the church at sunset
Preseren Square is the heart of Ljubljana. From here, there are many roads lead to almost all of beautiful attractions of the city. The most prominent structure in the square is the pink church Annunciation in Baroque style. Right in the middle of the square opposite the church is a fountain. In the hot summer, it will periodically spray to humidify the air to cool down and for children play.
Of course, you don’t have to come here at sunset. I suggest sunset because of in these short moments, you will witness the soul of the city is transforming, from a somewhat quiet day to a vibrant and bustling night. Especially in cold countries in general and Eastern Europe in particular, the sunset is very bright in red, stunning. It was feeling very peaceful and complete.
Take pictures next to the Triple Bridge and Ljubljana canal
Also in the central square, there is a three-bridge (Triple Bridge) in a strange architecture, very beautiful, crossing the canal that divides the city in two parts. Ljubljana is surprisingly pretty. From any angle to take pictures is also beautiful, as long as you take the time to avoid tourists. That said, Slovenia is not as crowded as Western Europe. The atmosphere is much more relaxed.
There is also another bridge, the Dragon Bridge. In my opinion, no need to see. It’s a normal bridge with a pair of dragon statues at the head. If you walk along the canal and happen to come there, you will see it. If not, then skip it to save time. It is better to go to a cafe next to the canal to sipping some coffee and watching people pass by or sit right on the wall of the canal and leisurely relax.
Strolling around the streets to feel the soul of Ljubljana
The beauty of Ljubljana is not in its tourist places, because honestly, churches or markets present everywhere in Europe. If you want to see spectacular churches, go to Italy, go to Hungary, or go to France. The churches in Eastern Europe is nothing special.
Instead of visiting the church, you should follow the small cobbled streets of Ljubljana to see its peaceful, charming, a little crowded but not hustle and bustle or noisy at all. Sitting down to have something to drink and watch people pass by is also great. Eastern European climate in the summer is hot but right after you rest in a shade it is cool, just avoid the direct sunlight, you can relax anywhere.
What to do in Ljubljana: Metelkova Art Center (“Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Centre”)
What do young people do in Ljubljana? Visit Metelkova “art” street. This is an autonomous street art neighborhood, mainly young people and artists gather here. This street consists of countless of bars, pubs, nightclubs, art shops and so on. You can easily realize this street by the walls are painted in vibrant colors and above it hangs… shoes. I strongly recommend to visit this area, during the day it is quiet but unique, at night, it relives all the activities that young people love: live music, nightclubs, shops…
Visit the Town Hall on your way to Ljubljana Castle
Town hall is the city square, but it is also a very long brick street, stretching up to the hill, very spacious and beautiful. There are plenty of beautiful angles here. In the past, the Town Hall was Gothic in style. By the time the principality of Venice was dominating, Slovenia (well, both Montenegro and Croatia) all fell into the hands of Venetians, so the architecture was heavily modified in Italian style. Coming to Slovenia, you will be surprised when you can’t clearly distinguish the architecture and culture of cities or towns. The styles are so diverse but harmonious that it almost becomes a new style.
What else to do in Ljubljana? Visit Ljubljana Castle on the hill.
Walk along the Town Hall up the hill and you will see a sign on the way up to Ljubljana castle.
The castle itself looks quite new, not ancient, spectacular, and spacious like other castles in other European cities. The museum, gallery inside it are not also too special, worth a visit. But the journey to there is so pleasant: You will walk through the old quiet streets, through the verdant gardens, when you arrive, you will see a large square for public activities.
This is a beautiful architectural complex located on a hill in the center of the city. It was built about 900 years ago but is still quite intact. You can come here by the old railway system or climb by yourself. The solid defensive wall system, unique architecture and majestic natural scenery of Ljubljana castle will surely make you impressed.
The special feature of this castle that is instead of just focusing on tourism, they open to all, tourists and local alike. Slovenians themselves also like to bring their children here to playing, reading books at free public bookstores located everywhere. They treat the castle grounds like a park, and the museums inside are mainly for tourists to visit.
Behind the castle is a dirt path leading through the forest. If you like nature, you will really enjoy walking these paths. Actually, at that time, I went with two friends who did not have the same interests, so I was a bit restrained. I think I’ll have to go to Slovenia again!
Picnic at Tivoli Park
I personally like this place. I’m a huge fan of the park, as you’ll find in many other posts. This park is a bit far to walk to. Renting a bicycle will be much more convenient. The park is extremely large, there are many places to rest and relax. If you take the trouble to carry it, even coming here to host a BBQ party, it won’t be a problem!
The Cathedral (Church of St. Nicholas)
Address: Dolničarjeva ulica 1, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
St. Nicholas is the largest church in the city of Ljubljana. It was built in 1701 in the beautiful Baroque style. Coming here, you will have the opportunity to admire the impressive wall paintings and many unique sculptures and art works.
Walking from the train station towards the center of the city, you will encounter a bridge with a dragon bronze statue, the unofficial symbol of Ljubljana. Visitors can also easily find image of this dragon statue on most souvenir items.
In fact, the bridge is also decorated with many dragon sculptures, the symbolic mascot of the city. But the stone dragon statue on the bridge is the most beautiful and mighty. Around is the old town with colorful houses with red tile roofs and brick walls.
The specialty market is located right next to the Annunciation church square. Looking across you will see the beginning point of the market. This market is beautiful, there are many good things. Every Friday there will be an international food market with various delectable foods for you freely to try.
The central market located between Dragon Bridge and Butchers’ Bridge is an extremely busy and bustling place. There are hundreds of stalls, large and small, selling everything. From grocery, food to fashion items, unique souvenirs.
In addition, you also stop by Ljubljana flea market where you can hunt something good such as antiques, old paintings, and 1001 other items.
Have a drink in the bustling atmosphere of the nightlife in Ljubljana
What to do in Ljubljana at night? Ljubljana itself has quite a rich nightlife. Everyone likes to go out for a beer or take a walk when it starts to get dark. Due to the reasonable price and nice location, you can absolutely have an great evening at most of the bars/cafes along the main canal of Ljubljana, or in the art district of Metelkova. I myself am a person who only likes to party with people who match with my style, so I rarely go. However, I found the atmosphere there very good, even if it was silent, it wouldn’t be awkward.
Why didn’t I share any museums?
If you are my regular “customer” through a series of previous posts, you will know that I really like the museum of history and art. Unfortunately, in Ljubljana, I can’t recommend any because I move too much, going outside the city to play is the main thing to do. I heard there are also quite a few interesting museums in Ljubljana. Personally, I think regarding art museums, no place is better than Italy, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. As for the history museum, it is rare for any country to win against Poland or Hungary. So in Slovenia, I don’t focus on museums anymore. Going mainly to the mountains, forests, rivers and streams.
Ljubljana blog: Where to stay?
Visiting Slovenia in general and visiting Ljubljana in particular, although it belongs to the EU and uses the Euro currency, the cost of living in general and sightseeing is quite low. So, the price of hotel and guesthouse is reasonable. Find a room on Hostelworld at 10, 15 euros/night is popular. On Airbnb, it is equally easy to find a private room or an apartment for under 30 euros.
We rented via Airbnb, a private room with 4 beds. The total is only about 10 euros per person per day. However, it is a bit far from the center because we book near the departure date. You should book early to reserve in the center. Should not be booked too far because outside the center, bus does not operate often. In general, in Ljubljana, it is easy to catch a taxi. But anyway, stay in the center is both convenient and saves money on traveling. The taxi here is well-managed, not afraid of get rid-off. If you need it, feel free to use it.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Grand Hotel Union (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hotel Cubo (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- City Hotel Ljubljana (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- uHotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Ljubljana (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Ahotel Hotel Ljubljana (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- InterContinental Ljubljana (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Ljubljana trave blog: What to eat in Slovenia?
Honestly, Slovenian food is not diverse. Slovenia is also a country near the sea, strongly influenced by Italy, so they mainly eat Italian food. If you see that Italian food in Italy is often expensive, coming here to enjoy is also an ideal choice! Not only are the cooking ways and ingredients similar, but the taste and quality are not too different. Importantly, the price is much “softer”!
Unlike Western Europe, where there is a mandatory “service fee” added directly to the bill or added directly to each dish, in the Eastern European when dining at a restaurant, the price is slightly lower, and the tip is not mandatory. But it’s also common practice and should be done. If you are satisfied with the service or waiter, you should round up the bill to tip the waiter.
Some typical dishes of Slovenian cuisine:
- Potica cake: It is a traditional lovenian-inspired yeasted nut cake (Slovenian Walnut Rolls). It is made from different types of flour (usually yeast dough), inside is filled with nuts such as walnuts, poppy seeds, tarragon… Potica is a typical Slovenian Easter dish. It is also customary to place it on Slovenian tables at Christmas and other holidays.
- Krainer sausage: Did you know that this dish has caused a controversy between two countries, Slovenia and Austria. The people of every country think that they are the first people to make that dish. But, those things are not important, right?! Because this dish has always been a traditional Slovenian dish from the 19th century to the present day.
- Prekmurje layer cake (gibanica): This cake can be found on every street corner here. The cake has many thin layers overlapping each other. The top and bottom layers of the cake are quite crispy, each inner layer includes poppy seeds, cheese, walnuts, apples, meat, and more… soft and luscious.
- Pizza: Pizza is quite a popular dish in the world, but this dish in Slovenia is impressively large, maybe the size of a tray. The base and edges of the cake are baked crispy, but the inside is extremely soft. Prominent on the surface of the pizza is a thick layer of cheese mixed with a very savory tomato sauce. You can choose delicious seafood fillings such as squid, shrimp, fish, scallops, crab, mussels…
- Buckwheat Porridge (Ajdovi zganci): As a very good food for the digestive system, people here eat Ajdovi žganci buckwheat porridge at any time of the day and can be used instead of daily meals. This dish is made quite simply with buckwheat flour as the main ingredient. It is often enjoyed with some other side dishes such as sauerkraut, meat sauce, black pudding, sausage…
- Grilled fish: Due to its geography near the sea, perhaps grilled fish is also one of the famous traditional dishes here. Grilled fish on the stove until the skin is golden and crispy, but the flesh inside is still white and firm. Slovenians eat grilled fish with potatoes and boiled Spinach mixed with salt and olive oil, and sipping a little white wine, the meal will be perfect and unforgettable.
Ljubljana travel guide: What to know before visiting Ljubljana, Slovenia?
To make sure you choose a destination that suits your interests, in this section, I will share my experience of visiting Ljubljana in particular and Slovenia in general.
- Slovenia, like the countries that once belonged to Yugoslavia, is a nature-oriented country, with mountains, rivers, lakes, and streams making up most of the country. Suitable for people who like nature, like to explore, and want to be active!
- Slovenia is small, its capital Ljubljana is even smaller. If visiting Ljubljana looking for crazy nightlife or thrill rides, my condolences, there isn’t. Aim for Amsterdam or Budapest or Prague instead.
- Slovenian architecture and culture is a “mixture” of Austrian style, Italian and a little Slovenian essence. Because the country is small, but it falls into the hands of dynasties after dynasties – first in the hands of the Habsburgs, then Italy, but still has a Slovenian Slavo population to maintain its culture. So enjoy its lovely mess.
Ljubljana blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Ljubljana you can refer to
- Best of Slovenia Day Tour from Ljubljana
- Ljubljana and Lake Bled Whole Day Tour from Zagreb
- Ljubljana Food Tour
- Ljubljana and Bled Small Group Day Tour to Slovenia from Vienna
- Bled Fairytale Tour from Ljubljana
- Slovenian Coast Day Tour from Ljubljana
- Ljubljana Card
- Ljubljana’s Historical City Center & Castle Tour
- Ljubljana Food Walking Tour
- Ljubljana Wine Tour
Read more Slovenia guide here.