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Interest & Off-Beat Things To Do In Ljubljana That Are Not So Well Known
Travel writer Bram originally wrote this post, and then extra fun things to do were added by other writers at chasing The Donkey.
Not only has the Slovenian capital the honor of bearing the most tongue-twisting name of all European capitals, but Ljubljana is also one of the most livable and greenest capitals on the continent. With a historic center that is basically entirely car-free, this old city begs to be explored on foot. Without any cars—there are some buses, though—the entire Old Town is opened up to pedestrians and cyclists.
Ljubljana is blessed by its location. It lies on the crossroads between the efficient and disciplined Germanic cultures of Austria and Germany, and the relaxed and friendly Italian and Balkan cultures. These opposing influences make it an incredibly cosmopolitan and fascinating city for its size—Ljubljana is home to no more than 280,000 inhabitants. One of the best places to visit in Slovenia, Ljubljana, is also a super-easily accessible city, especially from Croatia.
Often compared to nearby Salzburg in Austria, Ljubljana shares some similarities with this old city, yet it is distinctly different as well. There’s the people’s Slavic language, and the city has its own cultural heroes, most notably the architect Jože Plečnik and the poet France Prešeren.
Ljubljana, Slovenia is All About Atmosphere
Where Ljubljana may lack the major tourist attractions that other European capitals do have, it makes up for that by being amazingly charming and atmospheric. Sure, there are no Eiffel Towers, huge Parliament buildings, or Colosseums, but there are a cobbled historic center, pastel-colored architecture, and lush riverbanks.
The Ljubljanica River makes its way scenically across the heart of the Old Town, its banks lined with greenery and, in summer, countless terraces of restaurants and cafés. Ljubljana is also a city of festivals. Even when there’s no festival going on, the riverside terraces give the impression of a continuous street party.
So, with a beautiful river running through its core and dotted with beautiful buildings and cozy eateries, Ljubljana sometimes feels too good to be true. This is a place where you can go on a Sunday stroll every day of the week. Below, you can find the top attractions in Ljubljana. Make them your priority when sightseeing in Ljubljana, Slovenia!
What To See And Do In Ljubljana
Taste A 40-Year-Old Burek Recipe
In Ljubljana, you can take advantage of the Burek confectioneries, which are traditional in the Balkans. Burek is a crispy dough with various ingredients such as cheese, apples, spinach, beef, and chicken. Burek is delicious, pleasant, and versatile. It can be a perfect breakfast that you can take with you on the go or an excellent nightcap when you come back from a party.
In Ljubljana, there are many bakeries selling a wide range of burek, but the best has to be Olimpija Burek near the Ljubljana train station. Olimpija Burek is known for its traditional recipe, selling it for over 40 years. You have to give it a try on your vacation!
Go On A Tour Of The City Of Tivoli
Looking for an escape from all the hustle and bustle of the big city? Try out the quietness of the city of Tivoli. There are always many benches and green parks to relax in. In the summer months, however, you can visit Library Under the Treetops, which comes to Tivoli in the afternoons on Thursdays and Fridays and all day on weekends from May to September.
See Amazing Graffiti, Ljubljana’s Alternative Side
While the overwhelming charm of Ljubljana’s Old Town enchants visitors, there is also an entirely different side to this fascinating city. When walking just beyond the old historic heart, you’ll quickly notice a different scene.
Ljubljana is also a city in repair. There are many crumbling buildings covered in graffiti around the Old Town. Surprisingly, however, Ljubljana seems to get away with that. Somehow, those graffiti-covered façades have become an integral part of the city’s charm. These buildings appear atmospheric, even beautiful in their own right, rather than trashy.
The best place to see the graffiti-covered buildings in Ljubljana is Metelkova. The former location of army barracks, this area has grown into the city’s hotspot of alternative culture. Literally covered in graffiti, it is also one of the nightlife hubs in the city.
Spend A Night In The Former Political Prison
Hostel Celica, one of the strangest places to relax in Ljubljana, is an old political prison that serves as a place of residence and artistic space for travelers and locals alike.
The Celica Hostel is situated in the hipster Metelkova District, an old military district.
The rooms and dorms are renovated from old prison cells. Each cell has its own unique design, drawn up by a different artist. Among the artists involved in the project were former prisoners who stayed for some time during the political oppression of communism.
This fascinating place in Ljubljana will not only give you a glimpse of the Yugoslav regime that built the prison but will also show you what modern liberal Slovenia can offer and hope for a brighter future.
Visit An Abandoned Factory That Has Become An Art Gallery/Skate Park
Rog is an independent factory or squatter building that used to be a bicycle manufacturer. These abandoned buildings were opened in 2006 and became art galleries and two skate parks. By registering on their website, visitors can see what is happening on that day. Rog events are always free and accessible to everyone.
These can be from a variety of art forms such as breakdancing, Bhangra dancing, or a techno night called “Spaceship Earth”. The residents organize concerts and cultural events and meet regularly to make joint decisions.
You can visit Rog’s Social Center, which supports vulnerable groups, including refugees and asylum seekers. The community center connects migrants with the local population, helping them to earn an honest living and adapt to life in the new country.
Enjoy A Romantic Dinner At A Medieval Castle
Spend a romantic evening feeling like royalty. Book a dinner for two at the Gostlina Na Gradu. Then, take the cable car to Ljubljana Castle and eat inside the walls of a fortress. The main dish is broccoli cream, and it is so tasteful. At dusk, watch the city’s skies light up with neon colors and, after dinner, climb up the spiral staircase to the watchtower and look up at Ljubljana’s starry night sky.
Take In The City From A Beautiful View In Solitude
Ljubljana Castle gives you a magnificent view of the city and is, therefore, one of the main tourist attractions of Ljubljana. It is usually very popular with tourists. However, what if you could enjoy equally beautiful views of the city in a lesser-known place that few people have heard about?
If you are looking for a quiet vacation, turn right on the small narrow streets that do not seem to lead anywhere in front of Stari Trg Square instead of Ljubljana Castle. A hundred steps further, you will discover the newest secret of Ljubljana: a hidden place among the surrounding trees with a beautiful view of Ljubljana. In this part of Ljubljana, there are many orange buildings that make the sunset even cooler.
Explore The Compact Ljubljana Old Town
Assuming that you’re visiting Ljubljana, Slovenia, as a tourist, there are a few particular Ljubljana attractions and spots you do not want to miss. Metelkova, mentioned above, is one of those. The others are located in the pedestrianized Old Town. Less than half a mile across, Ljubljana’s Old Town is easily explored on foot. In fact, it’s arguably the most walkable of all European capital cities.
Even though it’s incredibly compact, it does consist of many narrow cobbled streets. It may seem difficult to orient yourself at first, but, after some wandering around, you’ll soon figure it out. Additionally, much of the Old Town of Ljubljana is actually pedestrianized!
Visit Prešeren Square
Always-bustling Prešeren Square is the beating heart of Ljubljana. Named after Slovenia’s greatest poet, this square is exceptionally pedestrian-friendly. Prešeren’s statue is the centerpiece of the square, while striking buildings, such as the Central Pharmacy and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, surround it.
This is the city’s main square for more than one reason. It’s a popular meeting place for locals and visitors alike, as well as the location of many important events, celebrations, festivals, concerts, demonstrations, and protests.
Take The Children To A Park On The Banks Of The Sava River
The playground is located on the outskirts of the city, on the banks of the Sava River, and is not well known due to its remoteness. If you take public transportation, it will be quite a walk when you get off the local bus, but it is worth it because it gives us the opportunity to escape from the city and brings us closer to the beautiful nature all around Ljubljana. If you arrive by car, you can easily get here and find a parking space.
In addition to the children’s playground, which is a kid’s favorite, there is also a small farm with sheep, goats, chickens, and stables that can be arranged for horse riding. You can also visit this place if you are traveling without children. Enjoy the peace and a cup of coffee while enjoying the sunrise or a beer at sunset.
Stroll Along The Ljubljanica River
Winding its way slowly through the Old Town, the Ljubljanica River is a vital, impossible-to-miss part of the city. Flanked by tall, green trees and busy establishments, this is a superb place to go for a leisurely stroll.
Shop Local Art And Help The Homeless
This eccentric shop of used clothes is a place in Ljubljana, which you will not find in most of the guides but is becoming more and more popular among the locals. It is an interesting flea market named Stara Roba – Nova Raba, which means ‘old items, new use.’
It is an ideal place to buy interesting and cheap souvenirs in Ljubljana or even to give away things that you do not need anymore while traveling. The locals in and around Ljubljana eagerly give away their old and unused items in hopes of the artistic staff turning their old donation into a new treasure.
All the money raised goes to the homeless in Ljubljana. One of the main goals of this social enterprise is to provide employment, vocational training, and qualification of homeless people within the framework of environmental activities. When you shop here, you are a responsible traveler who does something for the city, which is always good.
Walk Across The Triple Bridge
One of the most famous tourist attractions in Ljubljana is the Triple Bridge. Located just off behind Prešeren Square and designed by Plečnik, this is one of the city’s most significant landmarks.
Dating from 1842, the middle bridge already existed when the architect added the two other ones between 1929 and 1932. He did so to help funnel traffic from no fewer than six streets on one side of the Ljubljanica River to the one street on the other side. They feature beautiful stone balustrades and lamps, while each of the side bridges have stairways that lead down to poplar-dotted terraces just above the river’s water level.
Shop At The Riverside Market
Ljubljana’s Riverside Market is a fun place to explore any day of the week. The main highlight is the white, Riverside colonnade—again, designed by Plečnik. At this bustling market, vendors sell everything from fruits and vegetables to cured meat and bread, and from woodwork to candles and souvenirs.
Admire The Ljubljana Cathedral
Officially known as the Church of St. Nicholas, the Ljubljana Cathedral is one of the city’s most impressive historical buildings. The church has undergone several transformations in the course of its long history, and the current Baroque building dates from the early-1700s. The dome is much younger, though, added only in 1841.
On the inside, you can admire beautiful artwork, including centuries-old frescoes, the statues of four bishops of Emona, paintings and altar angels. Arguably its most striking piece of art is the dome fresco, which was painted by Matevž Langus in 1844. Another noteworthy highlight is the relief in the main entrance, depicting Slovenia’s history and created to celebrate the 1,250th anniversary of Christianity in Slovenia.
Go For A Secret Wine Tasting
This 300-year-old wine cellar, located just steps away from the Ljubljana Riverwalk, offers many surprises. The stone walls belong to the most ancient times when Ljubljana was known as the Roman city of Emona.
Book a seat to sit with a small group at the table in Narazek, which literally means “cut to pieces.” In most cases, it is bread, meat, cheese, nuts, and olives that you can eat during tastings in various wine regions of Slovenia. Tall glasses with seven different wines makes it an excellent value for your money.
Then, you will slip on the eye covers (which is what makes this tour truly unique), and you can guess whether you drink red wine, white wine, or something special in Slovenia – but we won’t tell you what that might be. The hosts will be a local wine expert who will also provide you with fun facts such as the selection of the queen’s wine from each region. Make sure that you can get a certificate from the official Slovenian wine ambassador so you can take it home for bragging rights.
Hike The Path Around Koseze Pond
Koseze is an artificial lake located a few miles from the center of Ljubljana. When you arrive at the lake, you can choose the circular path that surrounds the lake, or you can relax on the wooden platform that juts out into the water.
Whatever you choose, pay attention to the local fishermen around the lake. You can join them by buying a fishing license at the Gostilna pri Cvicku restaurant. Come in winter for a real treat as the lake freezes over, and you can actually skate on it!
See The Dragon Bridge
A centuries-old symbol of the city, the dragon is featured most prominently in Ljubljana on the appropriately named Dragon Bridge. It’s been a symbol of the city ever since Jason (of the Argonauts) slew a dragon in a swamp near Ljubljana.
The Dragon Bridge is exceptionally photogenic. It’s located on the other end of the Riverside Market from Prešeren Square. Additionally, this is also the starting point of a steep trail leading up to Ljubljana Castle (see below). If you don’t want to hike up, you can also take the funicular to the top of the hill.
Visit Green Tivoli City Park
Located just to the west of the Ljubljana Old Town, Tivoli City Park is the city’s largest park. Designed in 1813, this gorgeous green area stretches right into downtown Ljubljana and is easily accessible on foot. It’s a great place to get away from the busy city center (even though that’s already pretty peaceful as it is).
Three chestnut-lined walkways cross the park, and there numerous fountains, statues, and flower beds. A major landmark in Tivoli Park is the Tivoli Castle, a 17th-century mansion built atop the ruins of a Renaissance castle. It’s a truly beautiful building, which now serves as a cultural center. You can walk past it on the Jesenko Nature Trail.
Take A Look At The Feminist History In Ljubljana
The Feminist tour of Ljubljana is a unique option for a simple tour of the city, which highlights lesser-known places, its history, and curious landmarks, which are shown through the life and history of the famous Slovenian women.
Discover some of the artists, writers, architects, politicians, and activists in Ljubljana and discover the Slovenian capital through its history, from the struggle for women’s rights to the experience of women in the anti-fascist movement and contemporary gender issues.
The tour begins in Gornji Trg, located in the historical center of the Old Town, and lasts about two hours. The tour must be booked in advance and must include at least two participants.
Visit One Of The Many Ljubljana Museums
As is the case in any European capital, some of the best things to do in Ljubljana include museum visits. Many of the country’s major institutions are located in Ljubljana, making this the best place to learn about the country’s rich heritage and history and see incredible works of art.
These are some of the best museums in Ljubljana:
- National Gallery of Slovenia
- National Museum of Slovenia
- Museum of Modern Art
- City Museum of Ljubljana
- National Museum of Contemporary History
- The Plečnik House
- Slovenian Museum of Natural History
Enjoy Panoramic Views From Ljubljana Castle
The views from Ljubljana Castle over the city and the countryside beyond are nothing short of fantastic. They alone are worth the hike up the hill. The castle itself is, unfortunately, a replica.
While there has been a fortress on this prominent hill since Roman times, the actual 12th-century castle became subject to disrepair in the 17th century. What you see today is a completely rebuilt version of that castle. It lacks any real history.
That being said, even though the building is of no historic value whatsoever, there are some interesting history exhibits inside that might be worth visiting if you’re interested in that kind of stuff. There are also a number of pretty great restaurants.
It’s the amazing views that make Ljubljana Castle worth visiting—it’s why it was built there hundreds of years ago in the first place.
Take In The View Of The Entire Ljubljana City
Scmarna Gora, or Mount Saint-Mary, is a towering double-peak mountain overlooking Ljubljana. The eastern peak, the Grmada, is just barely taller of the two. With its panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, a church that can be reached on foot from the city best shows off the impressive views which the mountain offers. The current church dates back to the 18th Century, but others have been built and destroyed dating earlier than that.
Contribute To The Social Responsibility Of The City
The people’s love for Ljubljana is unique when compared to other capital cities around Europe. Look no further than Ljubljana with Love, a novel which highlights the extraordinary journey and growing number of shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and other socially and environmentally responsible businesses in the Slovenian capital – all the places that are trying to change the world for the better.
The excursion begins in Gornji trg and lasts about three hours in the historical center of the Old Town. Among the places visited were a shop with bags and other recycled materials and a restaurant that trains young people from socially vulnerable groups to find jobs in the food industry.
In addition to sightseeing, the price includes a main course in one of the restaurants visited, a welcome drink, and a visit to the best cafe in Ljubljana where coffee is made to perfection. There is also plenty of time to do some souvenir shopping for your loved ones at home who couldn’t make it to this beautiful city with you.
See Metelkova’S Alternative Collection
Discover Ljubljana’s underground music scene at Metelkova, an autonomous and stimulating cultural center in the center of Ljubljana. Many squatters first took shelter in these old military barracks in the early 1990s. Over time, local artists have covered all available spaces with colorful street art.
You can check out interactive art installations such as a cellphone that rotates and rings when the door opens. Discover artist workshops and visit a shelter for the LGBT community. You can also have a beer at a dive bar and watch local musicians do their thing.
Go On, Drink Tap Water
The fastest way to be seen as a tourist in Ljubljana is to drink from a disposable plastic bottle of water. Residents know that tap water is tasty and safe for drinking all over Slovenia. Even in the best restaurants, Slovenians order “water from the pipe.”
Don’t forget to take a reusable water bottle with you on your vacation so you can blend in with the locals. Look for “tap water in Ljubljana” in the App Store for a map of all the freshwater fountains.
Hang Out At A Throwback Print Office
TipoRenesansa, a non-profit organization, is an old-fashioned print office in the heart of Ljubljana. This workshop is reminiscent of a living museum, where the printing press has been operating since the 1950s.
The founder of the company is a master of calligraphy and a great conversationalist. His mission is to preserve old printing methods as what they are – an art form. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with him – he’s happy to share his passion and experience with you. The studio is located on the first floor of Zois Mansion.
Day Trips From Ljubljana
So, when you’ve figured out what to see in Ljubljana in winter, spring, summer, and fall, you might also be interested in some potential excursions. This is Slovenia’s main city, after all, and it’s the perfect base for further exploration. Slovenia is a small country, and all its other destinations, such as Lake Bled and Triglav National Park, are just a quick drive away.
Discover Ancient Venetian Architecture
One of the most popular excursions in Ljubljana is a small coastal town of Piran, famous for its Venetian Gothic and Baroque buildings. Benecanka Casa Veneziana Piran (the Venetian House of Piran), dating back to the 15th century, is an example of Venetian Gothic city architecture and works of art. Fixed with a beautiful Gothic balcony and just a short walk from Tartini Square, it is surrounded by numerous restaurants and monuments of Piran.
From Ljubljana to Piran, there are several buses that run daily, and the trip takes less than two hours.
Take A Day Trip To The Oldest City Of Slovenia
Ptuj, the oldest city in Slovenia, is an hour and a half drive from Ljubljana. According to historians, its origins go back to Roman times. The city is worth a visit because of the bits and pieces of life from different eras.
To really get a grasp of the city, first visit the Ptuj Castle. The castle is situated on a hill and offers a beautiful view of the Drava River, which flows all over the city. The castle houses an exhibition with traditional masks and characteristics of the Ptuj region.
After the castle, you can head to the heart of the Old Town of Ptuj, the Slovenski trg, where you can see the Drava River from its picturesque slopes. Walk around the city and appreciate the Baroque architecture for its pure beauty.
Take A Trip Back In Time To A Medieval Village
Take the opportunity to visit Loka, the best-preserved medieval town in Slovenia. Together with Ptuj and Piran, it is one of the oldest cities in Slovenia. Take to the streets as if you were living in the past. Start with Mestni Trg of Old Town, where you can see many Renaissance and Baroque houses and examples of Gothic architecture. From here, you can reach the 14th century Capuchin Stone Bridge. It is an ideal place to visit the old town, the castle, and the river with its deep gorges.
See The Oldest Grapevine In The World
Maribor, an hour and a half from Ljubljana, is the oldest vineyard in the world. The actual age of the vine has become a subject of debate. In the Seventies, professor of Dendrology, Rihard Erke, dated the vineyard to be from the 15th to the 16th century. Despite its age, the vineyard still produces excellent grapes and still produces some of the tastiest wine in Slovenia.
Walk Around The 500-Year-Old Mining Museum
If you are looking for a day trip to a place that combines culture, history, and nature, the Idrija Mining Museum is a good option. The mine was closed in 1995, but it was one of the largest mercury mines in the world for ages. Thanks to this, Idrija became a real technological and scientific center in the Middle Ages.
Today, a small part of the mine is open to the public in the form of the mining museum and offers visitors an overview of the history of the mines. In order to protect themselves, all visitors must dress up as old-fashioned miners would back in the day. The museum is an hour away from Ljubljana and completely worth the journey.
Other suggestions for Ljubljana day trips are:
- Lake Bled
- Lake Bohinj
- Triglav National Park
- Postojna Caves
- Škocjan Caves
- Škofja Loka
- Predjama Castle
For more information about these day trip destinations from Ljubljana, you can check out this blog post.
How Long To Spend In Ljubljana
Although there are plenty of things to do in Ljubljana, lots of attractions to see and places to visit, this is still a pretty small capital city. Its historic Old Town, which is where almost all of the touristic points of interest are, is super-compact. You don’t really need more than two days to fully explore Ljubljana. That makes it a fantastic weekend destination, as well as a great base to explore other parts of Slovenia, too.
Where To Stay In Ljubljana, Slovenia
Whether you’re visiting Ljubljana as a day or weekend trip or using the city as your temporary headquarters while you go on day trips, you’re probably looking for the best place to stay in Ljubljana. To help you find your ideal accommodation, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to the best hotels, hostels, and apartments in Ljubljana here.
So, what things to do on Slovenia will make your travel list?