Spring Break 2019 is underway, and our Croatia Roadtrip has just started! Since our first leg of the trip would be a long one, I wanted to specifically choose one of our top areas to visit as our first overnight stay. The capital of Slovenia seemed like a wonderful place to spend the night. I’ve only heard great things about Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana, so I made sure to carve in some time to check out the area.
Fun Facts About Ljubljana
Before I dive into what we did in this beautiful city, you’re probably wondering what Ljubljana is all about and how in the world do you pronounce the name?
- First and foremost, let’s talk about the intimidating name. How in the world do you even say the name? It’s not quite that hard, really; pronounce it as loo·blee·aa·nuh. Easy, peasy, huh? Listen to it HERE.
It’s the capital of the beautiful country of Slovenia.
It is one of the smallest capitals in Europe, yet the largest city in Slovenia; thus, it feels so quaintly small (it’s actually perfect for its size, making it a truly charming city)
The city is famous for preserving its historical culture and traditions and becoming one of the up-and-coming cities with a modern flair.
It’s a college university city too, all the more reason for the modern influence.
The locals speak perfect English and are so friendly! We found out from a local store owner that English is mandatory for children during their Elementary school years.
Slovenia and Ljubljana ranked number ten on the Global Peace Index 2016 of the safest countries to live in; no wonder I told myself I wouldn’t mind living here!
Rick Steve’s says Ljubljana is known as the next Prague
The dragon is actually the city’s symbol and is seen everywhere throughout the city (so make sure you go on a scavenger hunt around the city for dragons). Legend has it that Jason, the Greek Mythology hero, who stole the golden fleece, stopped at one of the marshes near the Ljubljanica River and fought and killed the dragon that lived there. Therefore, the dragon has since been the symbol and protector of the city.
It’s a green capital in a green country!
After settling into our awesome Airbnb in Ljubljana, we ventured off to explore the city. The city was not far from where we were staying, specifically why I wanted to choose a place to stay close by and walk to Old Town.
- Most of the city is pedestrian and or bikes only in the Old Town area.
Once we arrived at the city’s outskirts, we immediately wanted to head to the river to lead us to the city. The Ljubljanica River flows right through the city and is the hub for where everything to do is centrally located.
Things to Do in Ljubljana
1. Admire the Architectures
Strolling along the riverside, we noticed the colors and architects of the many beautiful buildings and bridges. Many buildings had a mixture of styles between Baroque, Art Nouveau (Viennese Secessionist), and the most modern style of Slovenia’s own, Jože Plečnik.
Thanks to the world-famous architect Jože Plečnik, his vision is what gives the city of Ljubljana its unique, beautiful look today.
He helped preserve most of the city’s green spaces and influenced sustainability and preservation in his country (hence why Slovenia is known to be a Green Country).
2. Explore Prešeren Square
Walk around the Prešeren Square/Prešernov TRG (square) and Stop by the Tourist Information Office.
Prešernov TRG Square is the centermost location of the city. You can find people sitting around the square, eating ice cream, or people watching.
Here, we walked around and admired the views from this square and the Ljubljana castle perched above the city.
You’ll also find the bright, salmon, pink church here called the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation; it’s the backdrop for almost every picture of Ljubljana.
Across from Prešeren Square, on the other side of the Triple Bridge, is the Tourist Information Center. I grabbed a free map here and information about the riverboat tour (coming up).
3. Take a Peek Inside the Salmon-Pink Church
- While you’re in the Prešeren Square, check out the inside of the Salmon Pink Church (aka the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation).
- It was once a monastery and home of Augustine monks and was built in the mid-1600s and has been rebuilt and renovated throughout the centuries.
- It’s easy to admire the outside, but the inside is intricate and beautiful on its own with its Fresco style and beautiful painted ceiling and walls, as well as the main altar.
- It’s free to enter
4. Go on a Hunt for Ljubljana’s Beautiful Bridges
You’ll find many unique bridges around the city of Ljubljana, but the Triple Bridge (aka Tromostovje) beats the rest.
The Triple Bridge is located right by the Prešeren Square.
This bridge is unique on its own! It’s actually 3 bridges side by side connecting the two parts of the Old Town of Ljubljana.
- It’s one of the most popular sites around the city
The bridge was originally one bridge. The middle of the three bridges is actually the original that has been there since 1842.
Remember that famous Architect Jože Plečnik, the one who’s responsible for making the city beautiful? He devised up a plan to have the two other smaller bridges built between the middle bridge. These smaller bridges were meant for pedestrians, and between 1929 and 1932, that became a reality.
Mainly the two smaller bridges were added to prevent the main central bridge from overcrowding.
Butcher’s Bridge (800ft walk from Preseren Sq.)
Check out the Lover’s Lock Bridge, aka Butchers’ Bridge (the two names are so contrasting, lol)
- Find creepy statues and love padlocks here left by lovers professing their love and throwing the key into the river.
Dragon Bridge (0.2 mi walk from Preseren Sq)
- No visit to Ljubljana is complete without a photograph next to the Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most), the next bridge we checked out. It’s just a few-minute walk after the Butcher’s bridge.
Remember, Ljubljana is the city of Dragons.
**So, don’t forget to go on a scavenger hunt around the city for these dragons
Besides the Triple Bridge being popular, the Dragon Bridge is the most photographed spot in the city.
- Resljeva cesta 2, 1000 Ljubljana for location
5. Eat Fresh Produce at the Ljubljana Central Market (600ft walk from Preseren Sq)
- After our encounter with the Dragon on the bridge (hee hee), we needed some food refreshments and headed the way back to the Old Town towards the Central Market on the other side of the river.
- If you know me by now, I love a good old-fashioned open-air market, and Europe does them best! Ljubljana offered both an open-air market and an indoor market.
- We arrived as soon as the market was getting ready to close, but we could peek in and look inside. We also found a few shops offering souvenirs and likes around the central market area.
- The markets are open daily, except Sundays (more hours are below)
Central Market Opening Hours
Weekdays 6:00-18:00 and Saturdays 6:00-16:00 during summer; from Monday to Saturday 6.00-16.00 in winter, Sundays and holidays closed
The covered section in the Pogačarjev trg square:
Weekdays 7:00-16:00, Saturdays 7:00-14:00.
Covered section under Plečnik’s Colonnade:
From Monday to Friday 7:00-16:00, Saturday 7:00-14:00.
6. Take a Boat Ride Tour of Ljubljana
- The best way to see most of Ljubljana is to take a boat tour along the Ljubljanica River.
- The Tourist Information Office directed us to the tourist boat arrival and departure dock located at the Ribji trg pier right by the Triple Bridge. It’s a 600ft walk south of the Prešeren Sq, diagonally across the Tourist Information office.
- You can find several boat tours being offered right by the river.
- The boat we took charged about 12 Euros each for Adults, while Kids were 6 Euros for a one-hour tour. Some boats may offer kids under 6 no fee, so there are cheaper options for tours.
- We paid around 29 Euros for a family of four.
- The tour was also offered in English and took us along the Old Town on the River.
- Honesty, I felt like we got a lot out of our tour to include seeing some parts of Ljubljana we probably wouldn’t walk to, and we got to learn some good history of the city with the tour.
- This was a good way also to relax our tired feet from walking.
- It’s also a great way to get different photography shots of the city, from the River.
- Most boat tours run from April 1st- October 31st
7. Enjoy the Cafés by the River & the Local Food
- There are several cafés you can enjoy a nice meal or snack by the River to relax and enjoy the scenes of the city.
- We sat for a few minutes here, just enjoying our Gelato.
Try the many Gelato Shops.
- Since the kids were tired of walking, we decided to treat them to their obligatory Gelato at a local Gelato shop by the River.
a.) Gelato shops to try
This is a wonderful cafe that offers desserts and homemade ice cream.
Named after the novel Lolita by Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov, this cake shop serves various cakes, pies, crostatas, mousses, Panna cottas, chocolate bars, biscuits, and other sweets.
The specialties are candied oranges and roses and lollipops made from various kinds of chocolate.
Ice cream shop by the Triple Bridge
Grab mini pancakes from Puffy
- We found this cute concessioner along the street and enjoyed the pancakes as our afternoon snack.
Eat Dinner at As Aperitivo
- Not a riverside restaurant, but the atmosphere was very relaxing and comfortable. Though the food was good and there is a kids menu offered, the price was somewhat reasonable.
- It did feel like an upscale dining restaurant, but honestly, we weren’t dressed fancy at all, but we were still able to eat here.
Other Restaurant Recommendations
- If you’re a serious foodie, here’s a great source to look into for the Best Places to eat in Ljubljana
8. Explore Old Town and Visit the Local Shops for Souvenirs
- We love getting lost and exploring Old Town and finding Ljubljana’s treasures.
- For each place we visit, I do like to buy at least one item (nothing too extravagant) to remember this special place. Besides my postcard, I did purchase a watercolor sketch of Ljubljana by a local artist.
- Ljubljana has several quaint boutique stores on the Riverfront and side streets for visitors to enjoy and shop at.
9. Enjoy the Views at the Ljubljana Castle (0.5 miles walk from Preseren Sq.)
- Perched atop the hills of the city is the castle fortress of Ljubljana overlooking the city and can be seen during our walk around the city (it’s that high)
- If you’re into touring the castle, do this; otherwise, skip the tour and do the funicular instead if you would like to see a view of the city from above.
- We skipped this as we were stumped for time and needed to get back to our Airbnb. However, we enjoyed the Prešeren Sq’s castle view while listening to a local street performer.
- For more information about the castle and Funicular openings and closures and ticket prices, visit here.
10. Other Things to do in Ljubljana on My List That We Didn’t Get To Do
- Visit the Metelkova District
- I hear the street art graffiti and buildings are neat to check out; the area is where you’ll find crowds of students and music fans as it is the district home for many clubs.
- It may not be a welcoming atmosphere for families with kids, and I’ve read it’s an Unorthodox area to visit, but the street art again is what is cool to check out.
- Although we didn’t get to visit this district, we did see some graffiti on our second brief return on the way home from our Croatia trip.
- One of Ljubljana’s oldest cathedral dating back to 1262; it once had a Gothic interior replaced with a Baroque interior design.
- You can find this church with its twin towers and single, weather-worn green dome.
- Have a picnic in Tivoli Park.
- Known as the largest and most beautiful park in Ljubljana
- Perfect for picnics and relaxing
- Walking distant from Old Town
- Take a Ljubljana Free Tour
- This group is ranked #1 on TripAdvisor’s #1 tour company in Ljubljana, and it’s free (I like free)
- Of course, I would donate a few Euros after the tour
- They offer tours daily with no booking needed (except for English and private tours)
- Check their website here for more info
- Visit the Museum of Illusions (5min. walk from Prešeren Sq. or 0.2-mile walk)
- We didn’t quite make it to the museum, but I think it would be fun for those with or without kids looking for something fun and unique to do in the city.
- Parking nearby the museum: Parkirna his Kongresni trg
Address: Kongresnis trg 1, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia (2.40E/2hr)
Park along the street with automated street parking w/ P
On Kongresnis it is 1.40E (Ljubljana parkirisca Beethovna ulica 1000 Ljubljana
- Parking and/or driving is not allowed in Old Town as it is a Pedestrian-Only area.
- Parking can be found here.
- Walking and/or riding a bike is a good way to get around the city.
- Don’t forget the Boat tour I mentioned earlier as a wonderful way to tour the city.
Ljubljana was a lovely city to explore! The small city was charming in every way possible, and there is a quaintness and friendly persona about the people and city. Since we could only hit up the city for half the day, I would definitely come back (and we did on the way home from Croatia for a brief stop) to visit and explore the city some more!
The city is small enough that you could hit up most of the city in a day and enjoy most of what Ljubljana has to offer! Now, on to our next adventure! Until next time (Do naslednjič)!