Barely as many inhabitants as Graz and already a capital: Ljubljana – called Laibach in German – is in our opinion something of a insider tip when it comes to city trips in Europe. Although Since we live in Vienna and therefore only about 3.5 hours by car from Ljubljana, we only knew the city from short stopovers on our way to Italy.
Curious, isn’t it? You live so close for decades and don’t even know the capital of the neighboring country. We finally wanted to change that and made a stopover in Ljubljana on our little road trip to Trieste. How would we describe Ljubljana in one word? Underestimated. And how! There were three of us and we all shared the same opinion: pretty Laibach really doesn’t need to hide. In this blog article we tell you why a city trip there is definitely worthwhile and give you our tips for Ljubljana.
1. City break Ljubljana: What awaits you The picturesque, almost car-free old town from Ljubljana is manageable and can be quickly explored on foot. A river, the Ljubljanica, meanders through the city. We really love water in the city. This gives a town center a completely different flair. Many cafes and restaurants are located in Ljubljana along the river. If it had been warmer during our visit, we would never have left this part of the city.
Ljubljana is a university city, that’s how we got the impression that the city has remained quite young. Compared to our last short stopover a few years ago, we also noticed that more and more young, hip cafés are opening in Ljubljana. We also found it nice that in the old town you are not confronted with branches of large, international fashion chains. There are still a lot of small, individual shops here. It just has so much more charm.
Walking through the narrow streets, we asked ourselves how best to describe Ljubljana. And it quickly became clear: Ljubljana is a bit like the “Salzburg of the East” with a touch of Italian flair. With the castle and the narrow streets, Ljubljana reminds us of the old town of Salzburg, is worlds less touristy and of course not quite as “dressed up”.
How much time should I plan for Ljubljana? We had often read before our trip how tiny Ljubljana actually is and that you can easily visit the highlights in one day. After our stay we can confirm: Ljubljana is really small and manageable. With one night you actually get a very nice impression.
Of course two nights are less stressful. Then you can enjoy the flair of the city even better and maybe take a coffee break or two.
The best time to go to Ljubljana Of course you can visit Ljubljana all year round. If you really want to enjoy the picturesque flair of the city center, then we would recommend a visit in spring. At this time of the year the trees start to blossom, but it is not yet as hot as in midsummer.
We ourselves were in Ljubljana at the end of March. With a bit of luck, it can be quite warm at this time of the year. Well, unfortunately we weren’t that lucky. Nothing was blooming when we visited. We chatted with a local who confirmed that May is the best month to visit Ljubljana.
2. The most beautiful sights in Ljubljana The most important sights in Ljubljana can be perfectly explored by walking through the city. As most of the sights are very close together, walking distances are not far. The city center is almost traffic-free, which is of course wonderful. We also think it would be nice to explore Ljubljana by bike.
Ljubljana Castle (“Ljubljanski grad”) Ljubljana Castle is perched on a hill above the old town. From up here you can enjoy a beautiful view of Ljubljana. Don’t worry: the ascent is also absolutely feasible for less fit people. There are several paths that lead up to the castle. We chose the 10-minute walk from the Central Market Square (“Vodnikov trg”). Alternatively, a funicular very close to this footpath also conveniently takes you to the castle. A ticket (back and forth) costs 4 euros for adults.
We had read in advance that visitors were disappointed with the castle itself. We cannot confirm that. We liked the combination of historical substance with modern elements . Sure, you shouldn’t expect a stately knight’s castle, but a visit to the castle is definitely worth it just for the view alone.
There are several museums in the castle itself or exhibitions which we did not visit. The Strelec restaurant, which is located within the walls of the castle, is highly recommended.
Our tip: If the weather is nice, then visit the Castle at sunset. The mood lighting is simply at its most beautiful at this time of day. (Unfortunately, the sky was overcast on the day of our visit, so we could only guess at the sunset, well.)
Central Market Square (“Vodnikov trg”) and Marktarkaden A visit to the central market square can be ideally combined with a climb to the castle (provided you walk up the castle hill during the day and not in the evening). Locals visit this outdoor market to stock up on fruit, vegetables, cheese and the like. The market stalls are open every day except Sundays and public holidays: weekdays from 6 a.m. to 17 o’clock (in winter 13 o’clock), Saturdays from 6 to 04 o’clock.
Hard to miss the Marktarkaden, which are located right next to the Central Market Square directly on the riverbank („Plečnik’s Colonnades”). In the basement you will find a fish market worth seeing.
The Three Bridges (“Tromostovje ’) & Prešeren Square A stone’s throw from the Central Market Square you get to one of the landmarks in Ljubjana: The Three Bridges including Prešeren Square. As the name suggests, three stone bridges lead more or less parallel across the river, the Ljubljanica.
We were quite lucky that the sun came out when we visited the three bridges . You can take really nice photos here. Incidentally, the place is, in our opinion, the most frequented in all of Ljubljana. So you have to be patient for a “photo shoot”.
The middle bridge is very steeped in history: She was first introduced in 13. Century mentioned as a wooden bridge. The characteristic triple bridge was only created in the 17s of the last century.
If you cross the Three Bridges, you will get to Prešeren Square, the Main Square Ljubljanas. There are some important buildings here, including the salmon-colored Franciscan Church.
Historical center: Mestni trg & Stari trg Parallel to the river bank runs Mestni trg, which flows into Stari trg. Together they form a kind of promenade with a few local and international shops. Here you will also find one or the other well-known brand (L’Occitane, Quicksilver, etc.). On the whole, however, there are unusually few large chains represented here. You shouldn’t leave Ljubljana without taking a stroll here. The historic center has been largely renovated.
Metelkova A quite unusual place which is located away from the city center near Ljubljana train station is Metelkova. In a vacant barracks complex, an alternative cultural scene has developed over the last few decades.
We were there during the day and had to go to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen immediately think. Somehow we weren’t quite sure in Metelkova whether the people live there (which had that effect on us) or “only” spend their time there. In the evenings (and especially in summer) there are a lot of concerts in Metelkova.
Location & arrival: South of the train station turn into Metelkova ulica.
3. Restaurants, cafes & bars: our tips Slovenska Hiša This restaurant was recommended to us by a local. The Slovenska Hiša (“Slovenian House”) serves – as the name suggests – traditional , Slovenian dishes which are quite modern in inspiration and presentation. The interior is also young. Note: Slovenska Hiša has two locations with slightly different concepts.
Slovenska Hiša – Figovec If you want to have a quiet lunch/dinner then larger Slovenska Hiša – Figovec is the right choice for you. There are plenty of tables and seats here, as well as a more extensive menu. We can definitely recommend that you try a Gibanica there. This 4-layer strudel (apple, poppy seed, curd cheese, nut) is one of the sweet specialties of Slovenia.
Address: Gosposvetska cesta 1, Ljubljana
Slovenska Hiša in the old town If you’re more in the mood for a quick snack, head straight to Slovenska Hiša in the old town. This is run more as a small bistro. There are almost only high tables with stools and the menu is manageable. There is also a small sidewalk café in front of the restaurant. We opted for the cheese platter and even ordered a second portion – very tasty!
Address: Cankarjevo nabrežje 17, Ljubljana
TOZD From the moment we saw the café from the outside, we knew this was going to be our favorite. And that’s how it turned out: The TOZD is a hip café right on the riverbank, which could just as well be in Berlin or London.
The Coffee here was very good. We didn’t eat anything, so we can’t judge the quality of the food. However, snacks are served rather than sophisticated dishes. The TOZD is also open as a bar in the evenings. So worth a visit too any time of the day.
Address: Gallusovo nabrežje 17, Ljubljana
Črno Zrno This tiny, very friendly coffee bar is located directly in the old town. Your owner prepares the coffee with a lot of passion. In addition to the classics such as espresso, cappuccino & co, you can also get more unusual coffee specialties such as cold brew.
Address: Gornji trg 10, Ljubljana
Neboticnik Café One café where, without a doubt, the focus is on the view and not the place, is the one on the top floor of Nebotičnik. Translated, the name means something like “skyscraper”. The Nebotičnik is quite a long way from that, but with its thirteen floors it is one of the tallest buildings in the old town.
One can argue about the interior, but from the café terrace you can enjoy a really beautiful view of Ljubljana and the castle. We can only recommend!
Address: Štefanova ulica 1, Ljubljana
Le Petit Cafe When it comes to breakfast in Ljubljana, then it is very often named the “Le Petit Cafe” as a recommendation. We were there too and tested the breakfast. It was a bit too hearty for us personally. Or to put it another way: We simply had a different idea of “Eggs Florentine” (see the photo).
The atmosphere is cozy – very “cluttered”, but we actually like that. The café was packed on a Tuesday morning and we just got a seat. So it might be worth making a reservation.
By the way: Right next to the “Le Petit Cafe” there is a quite modern cafe (“Bazilika Bistro”), which also looked very nice.
Address: Trg francoske revolucije 4, Ljubljana
Cacao Although we were visiting Ljubljana on a still fairly fresh March day, every outdoor table at Café Cacao was occupied (and there are tons of them!). Somehow we had the feeling that the Cacao is one of the most important hotspots for a short coffee break for both tourists and locals .
The cakes are solid, but didn’t knock us off our feet. The location of the café is great for this: The Cacao is directly on the river. From here you have a beautiful view of Ljubljana’s famous market arcades.
Address: Petkovškovo nabrežje 3, Ljubljana