What to do in Ljubljana

Ljubljana is the vibrant capital city of Slovenia, with rich history and culture. The architecture is astonishing, and Ljubljana’s cobblestone streets and river banks are made for long walks. The city and its surroundings offer many ways to spend the time when visiting.

Ljubljana is young, very hip and green as can be: In 2016 it was the European Green Capital, in a part of Europe not always known for environmental friendliness. The city centre is now mostly car-free, public transport is low-emissions and there’s a new cycling network. The squat-turned-cultural zone Metelkova is the go-to for hipsters and live music, and has nightspots, bars and public art installations in an old barracks.

According to the Quality of Living survey released by Mercer, a well-known international consultancy firm, the Slovene capital Ljubljana is the third best Eastern European city to live in, trailing only Pargue and Budapest by the slimmest of margins. Despite the fact the Slovenia is geographically located squarely in Central (if not Western) Europe, and has always been culturally and politically closer to Vienna and Paris than Moscow, this is still quite an accomplishment. 

Here is a list of my favourite best things to do, that will make your stay in Ljubljana unforgettable.

 

Obviously and so is out of the way.... I can only recommend one of my Photo walk and workshop and are HERE

 

Ljubljana Castle

 Ljubljana Castle and Congree Square

Ljubljana Castle and Congree Square

When you’re looking up from one of the Ljubljana’s squares or the river, the castle seems dauntingly high. If you’ve got the stamina you can try to get up there on foot, but there’s also a tourist train and a funicular railway.The castle has changed a lot since it first came together 900 years ago.The early stone wood and stone fortress was succeeded by more practical military buildings, becoming an Arsenal in the 16th century as a regional bulwark against an Ottoman invasion.The main courtyard is free to enter, and has a cafe, nightclub, galleries and a restaurant.

 

Prešeren Square

Right by the Ljubljanica, Prešeren Square is the place where the city meets up and celebrate.

If there’s an event going on in Ljubljana there’s a good chance it will happen in this space.

With a rough triangular outline, the square is at the convergence of a number of major arteries, and gained its current opulent appearance after the earthquake in 1895. This was when regal halls replaced the medieval houses that had been here before, joining the Baroque Church of the Annunciation, which dates to 1795. The square takes its name from the 19th-century poet France Prešeren whose work “Zdravljica”, “A Toast”, became Slovenia’s national anthem.

You can find his statue next to the Central Pharmacy, across the square from his unrequited love and muse Julija Primic.

Triple Bridge

Ushering you off Prešeren Square is a group of three bridges decorated with stone balustrades and lanterns.

The central bridge of the three is much older than the two that flank it, and dates to 1842. This was intended for road traffic, while the two alongside were added for pedestrians at the start of the 1930 and were the work of Jože Plečnik, Ljubljana’s most revered architect.

Also dating from this project are the riverside terraces lined with poplars, and the temple-like flower shop that connects with the colonnade of the Central Market on the right bank.

Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most)

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Dating back to 1901, the bridge was built for the 40th anniversary of Emperor Franc Jožef I’s rule and it symbolizes the history, beauty and architectural style of Ljubljana. Those dragons have been integrated into the city’s coat of arms, and as a result, they are found all around Ljubljana.

Tivoli Park

Tivoli Park is the green heart of Ljubljana the its biggest. Located on the northern outskirts of the Center District, it offers facilities such as playgrounds, fountains, ponds, exhibitions, mansions and sports facilities. 

Tivoli Park also hosts a tropical greenhouse managed by the city’s Botanical Gardens and sits beside a pond. But if there’s one reason to come it’s to walk the Jakopič Promenade, an arrow-straight avenue that runs from the eastern entrance up to the Neoclassical Tivoli Castle.

Central Market

Jože Plečnik also designed this market in the early 1930s as part of his beautiful set piece that included the Triple Bridge.

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It hugs the riverside between this bridge and the Dragon Bridge and is on the site of an old diocesan college for girls that collapsed during the earthquake in 1895. That handsome colonnade on the fringe of Prešeren Square shelters stalls selling herbs, spices and handicrafts, while further along are bakery stalls, cured meat, dried fruit and nuts, dairy products, fresh fruit and veg and fish.

The market is open every day except Sunday, while the covered sections have slightly shorter opening times to the open-air stalls.

Congress Square

This cultured central square has played host to some momentous occasions in Slovenian history.

Independence from Austria-Hungary was announced here in 1918, while Josip Broz Tito addressed the crowds from the balcony of the university building in 1945. Later, the first free protest took place here in 1988, in a movement that would end with Slovene independence in 1991. Finally in 1999 Bill Clinton read the first line of the Slovenian National Anthem to a crowd on this square.

Dating to1821, it’s a formidable space that has civic buildings and palaces on all sides and the Zvezda park at the centre.

A couple of sights to note are the resplendent Slovenian Philharmonic and the copy of a Roman gilded bronze statue excavated on this site in 1836.

Metelkova Mesto

Soon after independence, a disused army barracks from the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was occupied by squatters to stop it from being torn down. This large space in the centre of Ljubljana has gone on to become an autonomous urban enclave, not unlike the famous Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen.

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It’s an alternative haven where almost every wall is covered in graffiti and imaginative murals. Come for photos during the day, and return at night when it’s full of life. After dark, the bars and clubs book live bands and DJs, and there are outdoor concerts in summer.

Nebotičnik

Get High in Ljubljana and take the lift to the top of Nebotičnik, the 70 meters high skyscraper with the torch – like top. The views from Ljubljana's Empire State Building are stunning, day and night, and guess what? A glass of red will only set you back 2 euros! One of the cool things to do in Ljubljana at night. 

 

Šmarna Gora

If you need to break out into the countryside, this park is only ten kilometres north of Ljubljana and brings the wilderness to the suburbs. Unmistakable for its twin humps, Šmarna Gora is more than 660 metres above sea level, but has been made hospitable by 15 well-tended hiking trails, all serving the summits.When you make it to the top of the eastern peak you’ll be met by a restaurant and a Baroque church from the early 1700s. There’s also a Marian column up here from the same century to mark an outbreak of plague that took place in the 1600s.But the greatest sight is Ljubljana in the distance scattered around at the bottom of Rožnik and Castle hill.

 

Ljubljanica River 

The Ljubljanica River is the main river that runs through the old town of Ljubljana and divides the medieval centre with the rest of the city. There are a lot of cafes & restaurants lining the Ljubljanica river which makes it the perfect spot for sitting and watching how the world goes by. A walk along the river is a good way to discover the beautiful Ljubljana decorated by many bridges throughout the river.

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Have lunch at Open Kitchen Market

Every Friday from early spring to the late autumn, Open Kitchen Market is the best option for lunch in Ljubljana. The Open Kitchen presents the best foods from Slovenia and around the world and wineries and breweries from all over the country offer their best drinks to compliment the food.  Hugely popular among locals, visiting this market is a great place to get good food and make new friends.

Leave Ljubljana

It will be tough, but there are lots of lovely day trips from the capital, including the majestic Lake Bled (the town with the church in the middle of the lake) and to the Slovenian/Croatian border where you can go glamping if you are in Slovenia for longer.

Let someone else do the driving! Take a tour of Bled, a short hike to Bled Castle and ride the Pletna boats in Lake Bled. Next, explore the Vintgar Gorge then dine at a local Alpine restaurant. It’s not over yet! See the less touristy Lake Bohinj and wander through the medieval town of Skofja Loka.

Highlights

  • Bled castle + boat trip
  • Vintgar Gorge
  • Lake Bohinj

 

Visit a Bookstore in Ljubljana

Azil Bookshop Café 

What used to be a tiny bookstore called Azil (Asylum) is now a bookshop café that combines two bookstores and a café. Azil has a bookstore sister called Beletrina next door and a café inside and outside this place. Novi trg or New Square is surrounded by beautiful baroque palaces, so visiting this place will also give you the possibility to see one of the palaces from the inside.

Azil is run by the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, so what you can mostly get there is academic literature on humanistic and sociological sciences in Slovene, English, French and Russian. The atmosphere here is truly cosy and you can almost smell all the knowledge that the shelves store.

There’s a really good English language selection on philosophy. You can also find books on cultural studies and anthropology, arts, history, gender studies and even comic books. Check out for books by Slavoj Žižek, the most prominent and notorious Slovenian philosopher of all times! Azil is also a bookcrossing zone, so you might even find some free books or leave your own behind. My favourite here, the excellent selection of comics!

Knjigarna AZIL 

Website  Novi trg 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

Konzorcij Bookstore and Stationery  Mladinska knjiga založba d.d. 

The best bookshop between Vienna and Milan. If you like traditional bookstores you will love this spot. There is a small paper shop in the basement, and kingdom of books in the first floor. There is a great selection of books for kids as well. It has a great selection of English books (as well as Slovenian of course) also had quite a large Slovenian language learning book section which is impossible to find elsewhere! The bookstore is littered with cute gifts and souvenirs at reasonable prices

Website    Slovenska cesta 29, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

Coffee in Ljubljana

Pavin Caffe

This is my local! Cosy, warm, friendly helpful staff and a great choice of cakes! Super pet-friendly, my Westie favourite place, dogs get free snacks! They have amazing ice creams,

Lovely place with outdoor seatings.

Stari trg 30, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

Kavarna Union

This is probably the best café that i have been in years. The location could not be better, it has the historic ambient, the service is friendly and fast, and the cake was just superb. Would recommend it to anyone seeking a good coffee and cake in centre of Ljubljana.

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The recent restoration of this 1905 cafe is very welcome It feels right for a traditional Austro-Hungarian cafe - which were civilised institutions but also relaxed and democratic

 

Ziferblat Ljubljana

Very close to home and a place I miss when not in Ljubljana. The coffee here is free. Ziferblat follows the trend of cafes opening around Europe that wish to work as extensions of people’s homes. This is a place to have coffee with a friend, come to create, read a book, or meet new people. The only thing Ziferblat charges for is time. After finishing coffee or tea, guests pay for the time spent there instead of the drinks they had.

Vegova ulica 8, Ljubljana, 1000, Slovenia

Café Čokl

Conveniently located next to Ljubljana’s public market, Café Čokl is a perfect place to rest tired feet after browsing the market shops. The staff of this small and cosy café is knowledgeable and always prepared to help the guest select a perfect cup of coffee.

 

Krekov trg 8, Ljubljana, 1000, Slovenia

Nebotičnik Café

After being shut for nearly a decade, the best views in the city are once again open to the public. Occupying the top floor of Ljubljana’s famed Neboticnik building, the highest residential structure in Europe when it opened in 1933, the terrace’s 360° views from the Alps to the castle to the mountains in the south are truly breathtaking, and the coffee, cocktails and homemade cakes are worth trying as well. This is an absolute must for all visitors to the city.

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Where to eat in Ljubljana

 

Druga Violina

 is a great restaurant to enjoy a traditional Slovenian brunch. Located in the old part of Ljubljana’s city centre, it offers delicious food on its terrace or its cosy inside area. Most of Druga Violina’s employees are people with special needs and the restaurant is helping with their inclusion into society. Ordering the traditional Slovenian dish štruklji, made from buckwheat and filled with cottage cheese or walnuts, will make for a brunch like nowhere else in the world.

Stari trg 21, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Gostilnica Pri Škofu

Located in a tiny eclectic neighbourhood, this temple for foodies serves dishes that emphasise traditional Slovenian cooking, but not the sort that makes it onto many standard menus. It's located in  Trnovo, and will immediately make you feel at home with its welcoming service.. The food is absolutely delicious! Home-made but creative food, where the ingredients' taste is highlighted.
Can't be missed in Ljubljana!! Is a welcome get-away from the busy/noisy town center and offers an experience that is far from the traditional restaurant-food meals.

At lunch time they offer a fixed price menu for less than 10 Euro!

Rečna 8, Ljubljana, N/A Slovenia, 1000, Slovenia   tel 01-426–4508

Klobasarna

Klobasarna, located on the premises of a once famous watchmaker's shop, is a fast food restaurant offering the best known traditional Slovenian dish, the Carniolan sausage.

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The restaurant's menu is simple: it includes the original, high quality Carniolan sausage, recognized as a product with Protected Geographical Indication, served with a fresh Kaiser roll, fine mustard, and fresh horseradish.

Ciril-Metodov trg 15, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

Gostilna Čad (Balkan)

When you ask locals to name their favourite Balkan restaurant in Ljubljana, Čad is one of the most frequently heard answers. Situated by Rožnik Hill around the corner from Tivoli Park, it's also the longest-running restaurant of its kind in town, and guests can dine in the shady garden surrounded by nature or in the rustic homey interior. Specialising in spit and grilled dishes, the beefsteaks, grilled peppers and ražnjići skewers all come highly recommended.

 

 Cesta Na Rožnik 18       

Namasté (Indian)

Set along the beautifully redeveloped Breg riverside walk in the Old Town, Namasté is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in all of Slovenia and offers one of Ljubljana’s most romantic dining experiences of any flavour. With its soft, yellow-hued lighting, hand-painted walls and a relaxed atmosphere, the house specialities on offer here are from the Rajasthan and Punjab regions, are prepared individually with spices directly imported from the subcontinent and can be ordered from mild to extra hot. Sometimes we like to stop by just to savour a cup of spicy masala chai.

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I like and go more often to their other plave the Namaste Indian Express
in Trubarjeva Cesta 31, Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

Burek Olimpija

This tiny takeaway at Bavarski Dvor is a true Ljubljana institution, and has been serving up piping hot Serbian-style burek almost literally non-stop, around the clock since the 1970s. It was the runaway winner of a Battle of the Burek competition way back in 2010, and consistently ranks as a local favourite year in and year out. No night out on the town is complete without a pre- or post-club stop here, so don't be surprised to see a queue at four in the morning. And while they renovated not too long ago, the menu and prices have thankfully stayed the same.

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Shambala

Not only does Shambala's kitchen turn out some of the best (and spiciest) Asian cuisine in Slovenia, but the tranquil, almost meditative, ambience of the place allows you to enjoy your meal in a state of perfect relaxation - with some of the best service in town thrown in as an added benefit. During the warmer months, diners can also take advantage of the pleasant little garden that is tucked away in one of the buildings inner courtyards. Situated down a narrow alleyway off Breg, this hidden gem is definitely worth finding.

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Balkan Express (Balkan)

What better way to deal with an exhausting day of shopping than hoeing into a big plate of juicy čevapčiči. Thankfully Balkan Express at the first-floor dining area in City Park BTC has us covered with a solid range of Balkan favourites from smoky grills meats to burek and make sure to leave room for baklava. And if you don’t want to go to BTC but have a craving for pleskavica, Balkan Express also delivers throughout Ljubljana seven days a week.

 Šmartinska 152g       

Gostilnica Rio-Momo (Balkan)

Situated between the central post office and Kongresni Trg on the city's main thoroughfare, we've never found the exterior to be the most inviting but once you get inside it's actually quite warm and cosy. The thick leather covers on the menus portend the ample selection of grilled meat dishes within, although vegetarians have a handful of a pasta and salads to choose from as well. On your way in don't forget to check the table outside for flyers entitling you to a free glass of wine.

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Učilna Okusov

An interesting new model for a cafe and deli, Učilna Okusov (it translates to ‘classroom of flavours') is a joint venture by three Slovenian vocational schools. Located beside Dragon Bridge at the Ljubljana Central Market, it is an outlet for quality regional products - much of it organic and some produced by students themselves. Učilna Okusov teaches students hospitality and retail skills, whilst giving market goers and tourists alike a taste of traditional Slovene foods either to take away or stay for a tasty great value daily lunch with a glass of wine, or else drop by for a Turkish coffee and delicious sweet treat.

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Shops

Pekarna Osem

A must stop and an absolute gem in Ljubljana. Whilst this small and unassuming doorway at the very end of the 'high street' does not look like much the bread and the raw produce sold packs a punch.

If you enjoy simple things done well then you should come here

Gornji trg 10, Ljubljana 1000, Slovenia

+386 40 562 699