The warm September sun warms nicely as I stroll towards Ljubljana’s old town for the first time. There are many people around, but the atmosphere still feels like that of an intimate small town. Everyone seems to be in a good mood. Children run through a weather-themed art installation, young couples choose gelato hand in hand, and tourists enjoy their Aperol Spritz by the river at the spread-out terraces. Initially, I was uncertain if the 7-hour bus journey from Munich to Slovenia’s capital was worth it, but after seeing the old town, I knew the trip was well worth it.
What made me fall in love with Ljubljana? Well, at first, the city is small enough to have this cosy vibe – it has just under 300,000 inhabitants. I feel much more at home in small cities rather than in Europe’s major metropolises. Vilnius is my favourite among the Baltic capitals, and Bratislava, in my opinion, outshines its neighbour Vienna. In Munich, I quickly longed for a smaller city’s peaceful atmosphere. Ljubljana provided exactly that.
Another of Ljubljana’s merits is its car-free old town. Actually, the old town is one of Europe’s largest car-free areas. Thirdly, I always appreciate it when there’s water in the city centre, whether it’s a river, lake, or sea. It’s delightful to walk along the Ljubljanica River with a broad pedestrian walkway nestled between the river and the buildings. What’s even better is the huge old trees that stretch their branches over the promenade, providing refreshing shade from the sun. In many cities, riverbanks are not optimally utilized, but in Ljubljana, they are filled with restaurants, cafes, and boutique shops.
What to see in Ljubljana?
This is not an exhaustive list of the city’s attractions. However, I wanted to provide some tips on what to see if you have just one day. First and foremost, in Ljubljana, you can spot dragons. This mythical creature is the city’s symbol, and you can find these creatures scattered all over the city. The most famous dragons are on the Dragon Bridge, but you can also find them on flags, park benches, and, of course, in souvenier shops.
Before 2 p.m., it’s worth stopping by the outdoor market where locals sell seasonal vegetables, fruits, and other goods. The products were of really high quality! Every Friday from mid-March until the end of October, the square hosts a food market where chefs of Slovenian restaurants prepare various dishes from all over the world. It was a shame that I wasn’t there on Friday.
When you visit the city, you’ll almost inevitably explore the surroundings of the river. Ljubljana is full of bridges (according to my Google search, over 20), which makes the city feel like a delightful mini-Venice. Probably the best way to fully appreciate the scenery is to go on a river cruise (€14 per person in September 2023), which departs every half hour to an hour.
In addition to a river cruise, you can also admire the city from a different perspective. You can hike (or take a funicular) up the hill, where Ljubljana Castle watches over the city. I arrived there just before sunset, and oh, what spectacular views there were from up above! People had gathered at the castle’s wine bar to enjoy some excellent Slovenian wine and watch the golden, late-summer sun set behind the mountains. It was the perfect way to end the day in Slovenia.
In the next post, I’ll tell you about my visit to Slovenia’s iconic Lake Bled.