This is the question Hubby and I faced a dozen times before setting off to Ljubljana, Slovenia. All we knew setting out for Ljubljana was that it is a fairly new European country (they voted for independence from Yugoslavia in 1991!) and was traveled less often by tourists.
Ljubljana was a convenient stopping point on our trek from Italy to Hungary. In fact, Slovenia has a reputation for being exactly that – a pathway between destinations. So much so it was perfect for conquering armies, leaving Slovenia unfortunately stuck in the middle of many fights throughout history. Since the country is relatively new, the surrounding countries influence can bee seen in it’s history, food, and art.
Where We Stayed:
A very basic hostel as part of the H20 hotel grouping. We booked our room to overlook the canal, and it was OK. I probably wouldn’t stay again since we came to relax and a hostel isn’t exactly a luxury stay.
- Great location and price for two nights.
- Great bathroom with amazing water pressure.
- Almost no traffic along the street.
- Woke up to the sounds of singing birds in the morning.
- Staff had a lot of fun activities available of the city.
- Fast Laundry service.
- Basic bedding
- No curtains so we woke up with the sunrise.
- We stayed on the third floor -there is no elevator.
What We Saw
Ljubljana is adorable. It is the capital of the whole country, yet it has this small town feeling with a big castle looming over it. The city has everything you would want in a European town: cobblestone streets, cheery bars filled of friends, gelato stands, and coffee shops.
Best of all – almost NO TOURISTS! It had a wonderful, authentic hometown feel.
We spent our first day walking along the canals and through the quiet city center. It was just the relaxing evening we needed.
There be dragons here. The symbol of Ljubljana is the Dragon. They can be found on the city’s flag, its bridges, its castle…even the sewer covers. The dragon is said to protect the citizens of Ljubljana.
The myth of the dragon for Ljubljana comes from the Greek myth Jason and the Argonauts. Jason is searching for the golden fleece, which was protected by a monster. The story goes that the monster was in fact the Ljubljana dragon, living in the swamplands of the country.
Ljubljana Castle is a medieval castle on Castle Hill. The castle has been used continuously since 1200 BC. To get to the top you can take the funicular, a sort of box escalator for groups up the hill.
Once inside you can explore the castle. View the dungeon and videos of history.
Climb the stairs to the top and take in spectacular views of the city.
Total Time Spent: 2 hours, Tickets including the funicular ride up the hill: 10 Euros
The Triple Bridge is in fact three bridges that connect the city to the Old Town. The entire area is filled with bars and great restaurants.
Tivoli City Park
This is Ljubljana’s largest park and is arguably one of the most beautiful parks in Europe. We strolled through the park hand in hand. Since we visited in March we imagined how much more beautiful the park would be in the summer with the gardens in bloom and the trees full.
Slovenia is not a large country, making it perfect for day trips. The entire country takes about a few hours to get from furthest point to furthest point. With Ljubljana as a base, you can experience the influence of other countries in the different regions without much difficulty. There was so much I wanted to see, but we were limited with our visit. There are underground caves, castles, volcanoes and much more!
We decided to make the most of our time and visit Bled, a city about an hour north of Ljubljana. The day we arrived at the train station in Ljubljana we bought a bus ticket for the next day. When we arrived in Bled, we were greeted by a nice gentleman from the tourist office that offered us maps and shuttle rides to Vintar Gorge. We told him we did want to go to the Gorge, but we took off to have breakfast and explore the famous lake first.
We sat at the lake for awhile and just watched the water lap. Watched the ducks swim. Watched the joggers run by. Just sat. Just relaxed. It was amazing. Set up a pair of hammocks and gave us some warm Chai and I think we would have stayed all day. It was extremely peaceful.
Because we visited in March, the boats out the the church island were not available so we set out to see Bled Castle.
Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia. We hiked up the hill and practially had the entire castle to ourselves. We walked around and took photos. Sat and admired the lake while we at Bleds famous Cream Cake. After our visit to the castle we went down the hill and back into town for our trip to Vintar Gorge.
Total Time Spent: 1 hour, Tickets: 10 Euros
We took a shuttle from Bled for the 20 minute ride up to Vintar Gorge with Mamut Tourist company. No pre-booking involved since we visited in March. They offer a TON of services so they are worth checking out if you have more time to spend in Bled and want to do more active activities in the surrounding area.
Vintgar Gorge is one of the most spectacular places I think we’ve ever visited. Crystal blue-green waters, lush greenery, and a lattice work of walkways to enjoy it all.
Total Time Spent: 3 hours, Tickets: 4 Euros
What We Ate:
Ljubljana’s nightlife is surprisingly good. All of the bars and restaurants were packed with laughing smiling people that seem to come out of the woodwork. Nobody all day and then filled at night!
Enjoyed a night of ramen and burgers outside. Sorry no pictures. I was so hungry and tired I completely forgot. I recommend you sit outside in their beer garden and people watch. Try their local brews!
Wonderful family owned restaurant with local Slovenian dishes. They were nice to accommodate us without a reservation. Even as the night went on, they were packed, but were always attentive. The food was delicious. HIGHLY recommended.
Ljubljana Castle Cake
Inside the castle is a lovely little restaurant. You simply must stop in for a slice of cake. We tried two AMAZING cakes of white chocolate-raspberry and an apricot-currant. Both perfection.
Cevapcici is a Croatian dish consisting of a pile of small rolled patties of ground meat, seasoned with paprika and garlic. Served with sliced onions, a pocket bread, and ajvar, a dense roasted red pepper sauce.
We ate it for breakfast at a little restaurant right next to the bus station in Bled. I cannot remember the name (sorry!). It was a bit heavy for breakfast, was was oh so good. One plate was more than enough to share between the two of us.
The Bled Cream cake is famous so we had to try it. It was delicious, of course. The flavor is filled with a light and creamy vanilla custard with a crisp pastry top. If I ever find myself back in Bled, I will most certainly be making a trip to get another piece. Sitting next to a gorgeous lake, with perfect weather, and a delicious sweet to slowly enjoy…it was a perfect moment.
We came to Ljubljana and Bled seeking nature and quiet. The people were friendly, the food delicious and the atmosphere was just right. If you are looking for a little respite from your European travels, Ljubljana is deserving of a dedicated trip. The cities and the surrounding country did not disappoint.
Relax. Unwind. And take it all in.