People often overlook Slovenia for their next holiday getaway. It’s no surprise as this small country of 2 million inhabitants is mainly unknown, despite its rich history. It’s not that visible on Instagram. It’s not on many bucket lists. But, to be honest, that’s the great part about it. You can discover its beauty all for yourself!
Ljubljana, the country’s capital is a small and quaint city. There’s plenty to explore here, but it’s also a great place to unwind and relax. It has a bit of everything for everyone, from castles to dragons to fairytale day trips. So here’s how to spend a quick 48-hours here.
The people of Ljubljana are laid-back, friendly and often smiling for no reason. Though we can’t really blame them. We would be smiling too if we lived in such a cute city… especially considering its abundance of bars and outdoor terraces.
Ljubljana is a small town. Pretty much everything you want is walking distance from the centre of the old town. The streets are lined with delicious restaurants, cute boutiques and don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a market or two. You can criss-cross the canals, get lost walking around a maze of streets, fully taking in the beauty of this place.
When to go
If you’re looking for heat, festivals and tons of outdoors drinking and eating, the summer is the best time to check out Ljubljana. The city comes to life with festivals drawing in tons of tourists. Just note that it does get quite crowded then.
If you want to enjoy warm and sunny weather, without tons of tourists, May and September are awesome for that. When we were there in November, the weather was cold but still bearable. And if you want to check out the Christmas markets, head there in December.
What to do
As we mentioned, there isn’t a ton to do here, which is why two days is the perfect amount of time to see what we’ve lined out. It includes a trip to Lake Bled and a day in Ljubljana. However, if you want to make two day trips from the capital, consider spending a third day.
Perched on top of a hill, the Ljubljana castle keeps a watchful eye on the city. You can take the funicular up for 2.20 euros (or 4 euros for both ways). If you want to get a little workout in, there are also stairs to get up there.
It’s free to stroll around the castle and in courtyard. If you want to check out the museum or go inside the castle, you will need to pay an entrance fee.
From the castle, you can get beautiful views of the city. We loved walking around the grounds at night, seeing the lights of Ljubljana sparkle in the darkness.
The bridges of Ljubljana
One of our favourite things to do in Ljubljana was walking around the canals and crossing all the famous bridges in the city. A map could be helpful (but you really don’t need one). Just walk around the Ljubljanica River, you will cross them all!
By far, the coolest bridge we’ve seen in a while. Pointing you toward the Ljubljana castle, this bridge is guarded by four dragons. That’s one more than the Khaleesi, making this bridge even cooler (especially for us Game Of Thrones fans).
The Dragon Bridge dates back to 1888, and was built in honour of the 40th anniversary of Emperor Franc Jožef I. It’s our favourite bridge in Ljubljana.
This is a decent bridge, with cool columns, but what makes it interesting is how it got its name. The Cobbler’s bridge is actually one of the oldest bridges crossing the Ljubljanica River. It dates back to at least the 13th century.
It didn’t quite look like what it does today. It started as a wooden bridge with butcher shops on it. Maybe the emperor of the time was a vegetarian, because he didn’t like the stench from the meat, so he paid to have them relocated. The butchers were replaced by shoemakers and that’s where the name come from.
If you look hard enough around the bridge, you may even find an art piece paying homage to them.
We really wonder where the name for this one comes from! Just kidding, it’s actually pretty obvious. This bridge has three different passages. They connect and intersect across Ljubljanica River. Made up of white stone and ornate columns that frame diagonal stairs. They lead to underground walkways and bars. It’s fun crossing this bridge a few times, never on the same path!
As if that doesn’t make the bridge cool enough, it’s also in a prime location. Across the beautiful pink Franciscan Church and Prešeren Square.
Prešeren Square is the central square in the city. It’s actually a major meeting point where they hold festivals, the Ljubljana carnival, concerts, sports, political, and protest events. It may not have much going on while you’re there, so it’s not a must, unless you want to check out the next stop.
Cerkev Marijinega oznanjenja
This is a beautiful pink Franciscan church dominating the square. The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation was built between 1646 and 1660, and actually replaces an older church that was on the same site. Its colour is symbolic of the Franciscan monastic order.
Since 2008, the church has been protected as a cultural monument of national significance of Slovenia. Its quite imposing and beautiful so we understand why. Just make sure you don’t follow our lead and go when it’s actually open!
This beautiful pink building is just so cute! The Vurnikova hiša is one of the city’s most famous buildings. Built in 1921, with its intricately decorated facade, it stands out from the surrounding buildings. It’s celebrated as one of the finest examples of Slovenian national style architecture.
Unfortunately, the building is not open to tourists, but it sounds beautiful as much on the inside as it is on the outside. It comes complete with a large reception hall, a glass ceiling constructed from small blue squares of glass with an inbuilt decorative strip made from various coloured bottles. To add to it, the staircase hall, on the first and second floors, is decorated with stained-glass windows depicting geometric motifs. Now if only we can find a way in! Can anybody hook us up?
We just love markets. We love seeing the locals come together, get friendly with each other, and just go on with their daily loves. It’s always a great place to people-watch… oh, and try local food!
There are 2 parts to this market. The outdoor part in the main square, as well as the indoor part.
Cathedral of St. Nicholas
It’s hard to miss the Cathedral in Ljubljana. Its dome dominates the cityscape but it was only built in 1842. Originally a fake dome was painted on the arch above the centre of the cross.
Its location was originally where you could find a three-nave Romanic church. After the fire of 1361, it was re-vaulted in the Gothic style, and then underwent several changes. It was burnt down again in 1469. Not such a lucky history!
We really liked this cathedral. The way the doors had figures melted into them, the beauty of the decor inside, the intricate design all made it very special.
The fountains & statues
Ljubljana is home to many beautiful statues and fountains. They are littered all over town, but unfortunately for us, they are covered for winter… While I’m sure this helps to preserve them, especially in the long term, we would have loved to see them!
Lake Bled is a fairytale land dream come true. We’re not sure if the residents of Bled know how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful place. We highly recommend you take a day trip there from Lake Bled and spend a whole day exploring its beauty.
This is a beautiful place to walk around, no matter what time of year you go. The lake, nestled in the valley, surrounded by mountains and cliffs is the best view you can ask for.
There’s not a ton to do here apart from the main attractions, such as the castle, the lake and island and the lookout point.
Going up to the castle is a must. It is beautiful and brings you back in time with things like an old fashion forge, wine cellar and print shop. Visiting the castle will only set you back 11€ per person, definitely worth it in our opinion.
There is also a museum, which you get access to when you buy your ticket. It’s small but interesting, so take the 20-30 minutes and check it out.
The best time to go is before 10 am, before the crowds start coming in.
To get to Lake Bled, get to the main bus station in Ljubljana and take the bus to Bled (platform 7). It takes about 1h20 min. Bled is the last stop and you can walk to the lake from it.
We didn’t have a chance to make it to Lake Bohinj, but it’s on our list for our next trip to Slovenia. Take the sights around this beautiful lake, go hiking and just enjoy the beauty and serenity of the place. If you are in the area, make sure you head there!
Where to stay
When in Ljubljana, we stayed at Atticus B&B, and cannot recommend it highly enough. Equipped with dorms and private rooms, the B&B has everything you need to have an amazing stay. Another plus, the location is perfect! It’s close enough to everything you want to see, just a stone’s throw from the Ljubljana Castle.
The rooms are located on the last 2 floors of the building, in the attic. But don’t expect them to be creepy like grandma’s old attic. These rooms are beautiful. With wooden beams and bright ceiling windows, they are so cozy. If we could have, we would have moved in! The beds are comfy, and we loved the multi-functional desk where we could get work done!
We adored having breakfast at the café downstairs. We had everything we needed to get the day started on the right foot. How can you go wrong when you’re being offered the most delicious chocolate croissants ever and a hot delicious coffee?!
The highlight of our stay however, was meeting and talking to the owner, Minca. She was such a vibrant and sweet person. We saw her work tirelessly to help her other guests have an amazing time in Ljubljana. She had some great recommendations for us as well. Talking to her, it was impossible not to leave without a smile plastered on our faces. Minca, we hope our paths will cross again, and expect to get a postcard soon!
Where to eat
There are a ton of delicious places to eat in Ljubljana, and you have quite a selection of meals as well. From cheap eats to super fancy meals, there’s something for everyone. These are the two spots that we really enjoyed:
Gostilna Dela: Situated right in from of Atticus, not only is Gostilna Dela affordably priced, the food is excellent, with a menu changing every day (or so). But what we loved most about this restaurant, is their purpose. They offer vocational training to young people who are more vulnerable. People without formal education, with disabilities or with special needs. We loved this about them. We also loved their pumpkin risotto!
Gujžina: A little more on the pricey side, Gujžina Prekmurska Gostilna is absolutely delicious. This is where you can try traditional Slovenian food, although they specialize more in the cuisine from the northeast of the country. They make the most amazing cheeses (we had sunflower seed and pepper), as well as melt-in-your-mouth knodels. Their gnocchi with pumpkin seed pesto was out of this world. We had never had pumpkin seed oil before, but after this meal, we have fallen in love, and want it on everything, all the time!
Ljubljana and Lake Bled really stole our hearts. We went with no expectations, but we were blown away by their beauty. You have all the charm of Europe, in the cutest little packages! Cozy, warm and friendly, we can’t recommend Slovenia highly enough!
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