Despite being the largest city in the country, Slovenia’s Ljubljana is actually one of the smallest capitals in the whole of Europe. What it may lack in terms of size and stature, however, it more than makes up for with its charming, cultured, and cool vibe. The city is a very pleasant place to spend some time and is regularly ranked amongst the most liveable cities on the continent.
Lying along the leafy banks of the Ljubljanica river that runs through the city are lots of lovely cafes and restaurants for you to grab a bite to eat or drink at. Its Old Town features elegant buildings and interesting historical sights. In addition to this, there are many delightful parks, museums, and galleries for you to check out. There is even a happening nightclub scene, thanks to its sizeable student population. Although it has no world-renowned attractions to speak of, Ljubljana makes for the perfect weekend getaway, with plenty for you to see and do.
12. Gornji Trg
A very quiet and laidback part of the Old Town, the small square of Gornji Trg looks very cute and charming with its cobblestones and inviting outdoor terraces. Lined by some fantastic old medieval buildings, ‘Upper Square’ (as its name means in English) is also home to the slightly plain-looking Church of St Florian, which was built all the way back in 1672.
With secret gardens, underground cocktail bars, and a small art gallery for you to discover, alongside an array of brilliant restaurants, this cozy corner of Ljubljana has lots of surprises waiting for you.
11. Franciscan Church
Located on Preseren Square, the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation certainly dominates its surroundings in terms of both size and color and is very hard to miss. Built between 1646 and 1660, the large building is now painted an eye-catching salmon-pink and lies just a stone’s throw away from the Ljubljanica river.
Boasting a wonderful Baroque facade backed by two bell towers set further back, the church is one of the most important in the city and has a fittingly lavish interior. The 18th-century altarpiece is one such fine example, while the magnificent ceiling frescoes were redone in the 1930s after the previous ones were damaged in an earthquake. As it lies so close to lots of other sights, it is well worth popping by while you explore the city.
10. Central Market
Lying between Dragon Bridge and Butchers’ Bridge on the banks of the Ljubljanica river, the city’s Central Market is a bustling place that is lots of fun to visit. The outdoor market has a dazzling array of different stands and stalls for you to visit, with some sections selling fruit and vegetables, and others meats, cheeses, and pastries.
With local handicrafts and artisanal products also on sale, it is a very handy place to pick up some souvenirs and is open every day apart from Sunday. Besides taking in the lively atmosphere, some stands also sell delicious snacks if you need to refuel before seeing the rest of Ljubljana.
Once upon a time, a military headquarters for both the Austro-Hungarian and then Yugoslav armies, the Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Center is now a squat, and has been for over 25 years. Flipping the barracks’ regimented ways on its head, the area is now full of bars and nightclubs, while underground artists have covered every imaginable surface in graffiti and murals.
Very similar in terms of both look and vibe to Christiania in Copenhagen, Metelkova has long been a tourist attraction, so a number of art galleries and shops have sprung up. Although its alternative and anarchistic lifestyle isn’t for everyone, Metelkova is definitely worth checking out and is home to some of the best nightlife in the city.
8. Dragon Bridge
Spanning the Ljublanica river, Zmajski Most – or Dragon Bridge, as it is known in English – is the most famous of the city’s bridges due to the four fierce-looking dragons that lie at either end of it. Modeled after the city’s coat of arms, the small dragons look remarkably life-like and are a very popular place to take a photo or two amongst tourists.
Although the rest of the bridge does not look all that impressive, its construction in 1901 was actually heralded as a great success due to the new technical achievements it represented. Sporting one of the largest arches for its time, it was one of the first reinforced concrete bridges around. As we now know, its magnificent dragon statues became a symbol of Ljubljana.
Widely considered to be the prettiest Vienna Secessionist style bridge around, you’ll almost certainly pass over it at some point during your stay.
7. Cathedral of St. Nicholas
One of the most recognizable symbols in Ljubljana, the Cathedral of St. Nicholas’ distinctive green dome and twin belfries can often be seen poking above the rooftops as you’re wandering around the city. Now showcasing some fabulous Baroque architecture, the current cathedral dates to 1707, although earlier Gothic and Romanesque versions have stood on the same spot since at least 1262.
Its interior is the star of the show, however, and boasts some stunning frescoes by Giulio Quaglio, with the dome painted by Matevz Langus. With lovely stuccoes and sculptures also spotted alongside epic scenes depicting the history of the church in Slovenia, a visit to the Cathedral of St. Nicholas really is a visual treat.
6. Union Experience
Although records show that brewing beer has taken place in Ljubljana since at least the 1590s, the Union Brewery (one of the nation’s favorites), was only opened in 1864. Now you can learn all about their fascinating history and brewing heritage at the Union Experience – a small museum where you also get to sample some of their delicious brews.
As well as taking a tour around the brewery, watching a short film, and learning about how their brewing techniques changed with the times, you can also see their modern production line in action. Unsurprisingly, the Union Experience is particularly popular with beer lovers and is located just a short walk away from the city center.
5. Tivoli Park
Covering a vast expanse of land, Tivoli is the largest park in Ljubljana and can be found just to the west of the center. With elegantly landscaped gardens and a beautiful Botanical Gardens on offer, it is a very peaceful place to stroll around, with lots of beautiful nature on show. While some parts are very manicured and trim, others are wild and untouched, with paths and trails winding their way beneath the trees and by the playing fields.
Tucked away either in or alongside the park are some splendid buildings for you to check out, with Cekin Mansion and Tivoli Castle the most impressive of the lot; the former now houses the Contemporary History Museum. As popular with locals as it is with tourists, Tivoli Park is ideal if you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature without heading out of the city.
4. Presernov Trg
Lined by beautiful buildings that exhibit a fantastic range of architectural styles, Presernov Trg is the main square in Ljubljana. It is here that most cultural events or festivals in the city are held. Named after France Preseren, Slovenia’s national poet whose bronze statue lies at one end of it, the square is quite spacious and is bordered on its south side by the Ljubljanica river.
Besides the wonderful Baroque Church of the Annunciation, there are some exquisite Vienna Secessionist style halls and palaces for you to gaze upon, with the magnificent Triple Bridge being another highlight.
3. Triple Bridge
In actual fact, Triple Bridge is not one but three bridges that span across the Ljubljanica river and connect Preseren Square to the Old Town. Lying side-by-side, the bridges were designed by the architect Joze Plecnik, who embellished them with pretty stone balustrades that are beautifully illuminated by soft lights once night falls.
Although it seems rather bizarre to have the three so tightly packed together, this is because two pedestrian bridges were added in 1930 to complement the main bridge, which was meant solely for road traffic. In any case, Triple Bridge is not to be missed out on when in Ljubljana. Its refined features make for some great photos.
2. Ljubljana Castle
Perched atop a hill and surrounded by trees, Ljubljana Castle looks imperiously out over the Old Town and is one of the city’s main tourist attractions. While archaeological surveys indicate that the mount has remarkably been in continuous use since at least 1200 BC, the castle itself was built in the 11th century, with most of its buildings and fortifications now dating to later centuries.
As such, there are lots of different architectural styles on show. If you want to learn all about the castle and Slovenia’s past, it is well worth visiting its fantastic Slovenian History Exhibition. Two of the castle’s other main draws are the incredible frescoes in the Chapel of St George and its towering Watchtower, from which you can enjoy splendid views out over the city.
1. Old Town
Tucked away between the steep hill upon which Ljubljana Castle is set and the gushing Ljubljanica river, the city’s Old Town is a delightful place to explore and is the highlight of many people’s visit. Despite its small size, there are loads of twisting cobbled lanes and hidden nooks and crannies for you to discover, with well preserved medieval buildings wherever you look.
Centered around Mestni Trg, it is here that you’ll find the 15th-century Town Hall, as well as the beautiful Robba Fountain – one of the symbols of the city. Not far away are the Cathedral of St. Nicholas and the Central Market for you to wander around, while many of the Old Town’s colorful buildings are home to cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops. With a lovely, laidback feel to it, you can easily spend a couple of days taking in the atmosphere and checking out its many sights.