Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is a fantastic destination for a relaxing, easy-going holiday in picturesque surroundings. Ljubljana is not about seeing famous attractions all day long. Instead, it’s about eating well in nice restaurants, shopping in picturesque boutiques and having a few drinks by the deep-green river passing through the town. If this is what you have in your itinerary, Ljubljana is one the best destinations in Europe.
It’ll only take a day or two to explore the city center. If you’re in for a longer holiday, you might want to combine other nearby destinations to the program. The Alps and the Mediterranean are just about an hour away by car.
Where to stay in Ljubljana
The city center is situated at the bend of the river. The old town is located between the river and the castle, and the newer center is located north of the river.
The central area is small. The distance between the train station and the old town is a little over one kilometer.
Things to do in Ljubljana
Ljubljana Castle stands on a hill right next to the Old Town. There’s only a short but steep climb to get there, with many different walking paths to choose from. There’s also a paid funicular from Krekov trg to the castle.
There’s free entry to most parts of the castle. However, you need to buy a ticket to the tower and museums etc. If you’re not going to visit the paid areas, just walk through the gate into its cozy courtyard in the middle. The castle is not particularly large.
For more information: ljubljanskigrad.si
River cruises are a popular pastime on the river Ljubljanica that flows through the city center. There are cruises departing from morning till evening, which usually last for an hour or a little more and cost around € 10 per person. There are plenty of different types of boats on offer. The departure points are situated mainly south of the Triple Bridge, i.e. between Pictures 24 and 17 on the map.
A river cruise is a great way to see Ljubljana from a new perspective, and there's usually a recorded audio commentary available as well (check availability when booking). Each cruise passes through the center. In the south, most cruises head to a river crossing, near picture 34 on the map, and make a U-turn back. In the east, there's a dam by picture 35 on the map, restricting cruises to go any further. The main focus areas of the cruises are the city center and the lush southern parts of the river.
Private cruises can also be arranged. You’re sure to come across cruise vendors around Ljubljanica.
It is also possible to explore Ljubljana via the river by paddling on a SUP board (Stand Up Board). If you're already familiar with the center, try paddling trips southward along the Ljubljanica River.
Tivoli Park is a large, green park area in northeastern parts of the city. It’s easy to walk there from the center: go to the end of Cankarjeva cesta and through the underpass.
The park contains:
- University Botanic Gardens (image)
- International Centre Of Graphic Arts (image)
- Open air photography exhibitions on Jakopič Promenade (image)
- Museum of Contemporary History
- Playgrounds for children, mini-golf, cafes, etc.
The festival, which takes place from June to August, hosts a wide variety of cultural events both indoors and outdoors. The main outdoor stage is located at the Congress (Picture 27 on the map).
If you're traveling to Ljubljana in summer, check this calendar to plan your trip.
This former military barracks and prison area is now Ljubljana’s version of Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, a heaven for all hipsters. The area is quiet during the day but becomes busier towards the evening and night. During the day, you could enjoy the colorful street art of the area, among other things.
Metelkova is situated a few hundred meters southeast of the train station (Metelkova ulica).
The National gallery, also referred to as Art Gallery, hosts permanent and changing exhibitions. It’s situated right before the Tivoli Park underpass at the end of Cankarjeva cesta. The Museum of Modern art is situated on the opposite side of the crossing.
The latter link leads to the combined website of Museum of Modern Art and Museum of contemporary Art. It’s not only the website they have in common; they also offer discounts on combined entrance tickets. The Museum of Contemporary Art is situated just under 2 kilometers eastwards on foot.
For a nice walk outside the center, the Ljubljana Botanical Garden is a good choice, since the route follows the riverbank. Other more obvious options are the Tivoli Park and the Castle mountain.
The park-like garden itself is not very diverse. There's no admission fee, except for the tropical greenhouse.
For opening hours and prices, read here.
Ljubljana is ideally located for day trips, since most of the best Slovenian destinations are less than a 2-hour drive away.
A rental car is the best way to get around Slovenia, as the railway network doesn't cover all destinations, and bus connections are rather slow.
Piran is an idyllic town with picturesque narrow streets at the westernmost tip of Slovenia. It's an excellent day trip destination by the Mediterranean Sea.
Portorož is a small resort three kilometers south of Piran, and as such the two can be combined into the same trip conveniently. While Piran has narrow alleys, squares, churches and walls, Portorož has spas, beach bars and a sandy beach. The sandy beach, however, has been manufactured by bringing sand to a certain area, and there's a promenade between the sea and the beach.
The railway doesn't cover the Mediterranean destinations. Therefore, the main travel options are a rental car (Ljubljana-Piran approx. 1 h 20 min) or a bus with a travel time of more than 2 hours.
The Soca River is an incredibly turquoise and clear-water river that begins its descent from the Julian Alps, and flows to the Italian side of the Mediterranean.
On the Slovenian side, near the Italian border, the Soca River Valley provides a fantastic setting for rafting. Other activities in the area include climbing, hiking, biking and paragliding.
For more information: soca-valley.com
The clear-water Lake Bled is the second most popular holiday destination in Slovenia right after Ljubljana. Since there are plenty of services and recreational opportunities available around the lake, it is well suited both for longer stays and day trips. There is an easy walking trail around the lake, and the swimming opportunities are good.
Since the airport is situated between Ljubljana and Bled, you may want to consider combining both destinations on your itinerary.
It takes about an hour to get to Bled by bus. For more information, see the Gate98 Bled Travel Guide.
The Vintgar Gorge is located a few kilometers north of Bled. It is a 1,6-kilometer-long gorge, with the clear and in places turquoise Radovna River flowing in the middle. Following the river on both sides, there's a walking trail that is convenient for walking from start to finish. For more information, see the Bled guide mentioned above.
Just like Lake Bled, Bohinj is an Alpine lake with clear water. However, Bohinj is situated farther away and higher up in the Triglav National Park. In spite of its location in the wild, there are services available around the lake.
It takes a couple of hours by bus and an hour by car to the lake (Bohinjsko Jezero).
Postojna contains a vast network of stalactite caves, which will be explored by train and on foot. Postojna is one of the most popular and impressive tourist destinations in Slovenia. Take some warm clothes with you even in summer, as the temperature in the caves is only about 10 °C.
The Predjama Castle is situated just over ten kilometers away from the Postojna Caves.
There's about an hour-long train connection from Ljubljana to the village of Postojna, with a couple of kilometers of walking remaining to get to the cave. The bus (Postojnska jama) takes you all the way to the cave.
More information: postojnska-jama.eu
The Šcocjan Caves have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Šcocjan and Postojna Caves are both located along the same route to the Mediterranean, the Šcocjan caves being 30 kilometers farther away from Ljubljana.
Škocjan is not as tourist-oriented as Postojna, and the start times of the guided tours should be ensured in advance to avoid long waiting times. The nearest town is Divaca, which can also be reached by train.
More information: park-skocjanske-jame.si
Shopping in Ljubljana
- Most shops are scattered in the center and the Old Town. Some international brands, such as Benetton, Zara, Mango and H&M, have stores in at the crossing of Slovenska cesta and Čopova ulica.
- Galerija Emporium, the multi-storey department store next to Prešernov trg, contains top fashion and luxury brands.
- There’s another department store, Maxi, between Kongresni trg ja Republike trg on the outskirts of the center.
- BTC City, one of the largest business, shopping, entertainment, recreation and cultural centers in Europe, is situated a few kilometers eastwards. In the same area, there’s a shopping center called CityPark.
- For fresh food and much more, go to the Central market between Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge south of the river. In the area, there’re indoor and outdoor markets. According to a given schedule, the area is packed with stands selling all kinds of things, ranging from street food to handmade crafts.
- By far the best supermarket for groceries, Mercator, is to be found on the bottom floor of the aforementioned Maxi department store. If there’s anything you can’t find from the indoor and outdoor markets, you’ll surely find them at Mercator.
Slovenia is the wealthiest of the former Yugoslavian countries. In fact, the general price level is closer to Central Europe rather than its southern neighbors.
Below, there are examples of restaurant and hotel prices in central Ljubljana. The prices are median prices at Booking.com.
Pizza in restaurant
Steak in restaurant
33 cl beer in restaurant
Hotel, 3-4 stars (April)
Hotel, 3-4 stars (July)
From the airport to the center
The only international airport of Slovenia, Jože Pučnik, is situated in Brnik, 26 kilometers from the capital. It is often referred to as Ljubljana airport.
There’s no railway connection from the airport. Buses are the only public transport option. The main bus station, Ljubljana Avtobusna Postaja, is situated next to the railway station, which is indicated with a red tag on the map.
Information on public bus transportation can be found here. In the connection menu, use “Brnik/airport Ljubljana” for the airport bus stop and “Ljubljana Avtobusna Postaja” for the Ljubljana bus station.
Weather in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a good summer destination with regard to weather. The rainy climate of the Alps does not extend as far as the capital. Instead, the days are mostly sunny.
However, Ljubljana is nonetheless one of the wettest cities in Europe, and traveling outside the summer months is a big risk in terms of weather. Even in summer, it rains in abundance in the form of heavy thunderstorms - which mostly take place in the afternoons, while the rest of the days are sunny. Entire days with rain can't be avoided either.
The highest daytime temperatures range between 25-33 °C. At night, temperatures drop to 20 °C or below.
Text: Jussi Ryynänen
Images: Jussi Ryynänen, Adobe Stock
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