Fairy tales come to life in Ljubljana where colourful buildings line the river, a castle overlooks the old town and leafy trees greet you at every corner.
The Slovenian capital is a complete charmer, and one of the prettiest locations in Eastern Europe.
Touted as a “green city”, Ljubljana was named the European Green Capital 2016 and it is one of the most sustainable destinations in the world.
Ljubljana boasts beautifully maintained green spaces, car traffic is restricted in the city centre to encourage cycling and walking, and it is the first EU capital city to adopt a zero-waste initiative.
The traditional heart of the city is the old town – a labyrinth of small streets and historic buildings that merge with a modern city.
Foodies will revel in a visit to Ljubljana, as they indulge in traditional dishes lovingly made in local taverns while the newer parts of town offer edgy, modern dining.
From Baroque and Habsburg architecture to abundant greenery and enchanting riverside cafes, there’s plenty of charm in Ljubljana.
Things to do in Ljubljana
Walk the steep path or ride the funicular to the base of Ljubljana Castle and explore Slovenia’s medieval history dating back as early as the fifth century.
A series of castle tours are on offer – take the Time Machine Tour to see the past come to life at six points along the walk.
You’ll meet real life characters that shaped the history of the castle, from Roman soldiers and brave knights to kings and prisoners.
Ljubljana Castle: Grajska planota 1, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Boat cruise on Ljubljanica River
For a different perspective of the old town, take a relaxing boat cruise on the Ljubljanica River.
As you slowly motor along the water, passing under the many walking bridges of the old town, the captain will share a few facts about life on the river and the city in general.
Drinks are available on board for a few Euro during the 45-minute journey.
Boat cruise on Ljubljanica River: departs from Breg 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Open Kitchen (Odprta Kuhna)
Market stalls with green and white awnings are set permanently in Pogačarjev trg square, and every Friday between 10am and 9pm in spring and summer they offer local fare.
Boutique growers and producers, chefs, wine makers and brewers sell small signature dishes and drinks, with each stall focusing on just one or two things that they really excel at.
Open Kitchen(Odprta Kuhna): Pogačarjev trg 1, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Day trip from Ljubljana to Lake Bled
If time permits, plan a day trip from Ljubljana to the town of Bled. A local bus from Ljubljana will get you there in about 1.5 hours.
The stunning Lake Bled and Bled Castle are within walking distance from the town bus stop and worth the trip.
See our travel guide to Lake Bled here.
Places to eat and drink in Ljubljana
Ice cream shops – Vigo, Gelateria Romantika and Cacao
What’s the best thing you can do to make the most of Ljubljana’s stunning scenery? Grab a delicious ice cream, sit back and enjoy the view.
These three ice cream shops made a big impression:
- Vigo is set in a beautiful heritage building and offers some unique flavours of ice cream. The bonus here is the extras you can add free of charge: milk, dark or white chocolate drizzle and a wafer
- When it comes to delicious, Italian-style gelato, you can’t go past Gelateria Romantika. This shop has some distinct flavours including pumpkin seed oil and parmesan
- Cacao offers ice cream in traditional flavours and a thick, creamy texture, making this destination perfect for dessert.
Enjoy a meal that makes a difference at Druga Violina.
This social enterprise restaurant gives young people with disabilities the opportunity to learn hospitality skills.
The restaurant serves traditional Slovenian dishes in generous portions, and beer comes in ‘large or small’. Guests can choose from indoor or outdoor seating.
Druga Violina: Stari trg 21, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Stop for lunch at this tiny shop marked with a giant sausage sign hanging out the front.
The simple menu at Klobasarna features Carniolan sausage accompanied by a crusty bread roll, horseradish and mustard, and a selection of local craft beer.
Klobasarna: Ciril-metodov trg 15, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Where to stay in Ljubljana
We recommend staying at an Airbnb in Ljubljana.
Try to stay within walking distance of the old town your feet will thank you.
Getting to Ljubljana
Slovenia is well connected by road and rail to neighbouring countries Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary so can be easily accessed from these locations.
Flights arrive via Joze Pucnik Airport, about 27km north of Ljubljana.
Buses run from the airport to Ljubljana bus station and the journey takes about 45 minutes.
Alternative options include airport shuttle service GoOpti which takes passengers to the city centre in about 30 minutes, or a taxi.
Long distance bus services such as FlixBus can get you to Ljubljana from various destinations, including neighbouring countries such as Italy.
Disclaimer: The writer travelled at their own expense.