Slovenia has been named the world’s greenest country. From the Alpine peaks to the Adriatic coast, wherever you look you are surrounded by beautiful nature and lots of greenery. Somewhere in the middle lies the green capital – Ljubljana. Known for its bridges across the river Ljubljanica, this town is one of the smallest European capitals. Visit Ljubljana and discover the perfect blend of bustling urban life and nature!
Why visit Ljubljana?
Since Slovenia is a moderately small country, its capital – Ljubljana is also one of the smallest capitals in Europe, with less than 300.000 residents. It is located in the heart of Slovenia, which makes it a perfect starting point when visiting Slovenia or Balcan region.
The city of Ljubljana stands on a place where an ancient Roman city of Emona stood. It is known by the name Ljubljana since the 12th century when it was first mentioned in a written document. In the Middle Ages, both the city and the Slovenian culture began to flourish.
In the centuries that follow, Ljubljana changed its appearance more than once. It was first built in the Renaissance style and then renovated in the Baroque style. Later, in the 19th century, the town was under the influence of Romanticism – some of the buildings were renovated and a few new bridges were built across the river. At that time Ljubljana was also a home to the most famous Slovenian poet – France Prešeren, whose poem was later adopted as Slovenia’s national anthem. Today, the main town square bears the poets name.
After the earthquake in 1895, most of the town was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style. But the appearance that Ljubljana has today is mostly a work of Jože Plečnik, the famous Slovenian architect. It was sometime between the two world wars that this visionary left his mark in Slovenian capital. Until this day, Slovenians are proud to show off with his work, which includes The Triple Bridge, National and University Library, Central Market, Trnovo Bridge, Cobblers’ Bridge, and Križanke Complex, just to name a few.
of green area
Europe’s Green Capital
What to see in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is one of those places that you can easily visit in just one day but also has enough to offer if you decide to stay for a longer period of time. Most of the main attractions are located in the city center, along the Ljubljanica river. A different and cool way to see all the highlights of this beautiful city is a boat ride along the Ljubljanica river. Your alternative is to explore Ljubljana on foot or to rent a bike. Don’t worry, you can manage to see everything in just a few hours!
Ljubljanica river and its bridges
River Ljubljanica is the soul of the city. As it flows through the city center, it divides Ljubljana into two halves. On one side of the river, we have the old town and the access to the castle, while the other side is a commercial and political part of the city, along with the main square – Prešern square.
With its numerous bridges, picturesque embankments, and tree-lined walks, river Ljubljanica is the favorite place of both tourists and locals. You can take a boat ride along the river, explore all the bridges that criss-cross it, or just relax in one of many riverside cafés and enjoy the view.
There are 6 bridges located in the very center of Ljubljana. These are, from north to west, the Dragon Bridge, the Butchers’ Bridge, the Triple Bridge, the Fish Footbridge, the Cobblers’ Bridge, and the Hradecky Bridge.
Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most)
Dragon Bridge is the most famous of all the Ljubljana bridges. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the bridge is a fine example of Art Nouveau style. It is one of the most recognizable images of Ljubljana, whose trademark is four Dragon statues, one on each corner of the bridge. It is said that you must take a foto with a Dragon, because, otherwise, it’s like you’ve never been to Ljubljana!
Butchers’ Bridge (Mesarski most)
The Butchers’ Bridge, built in 2010, found its place between the Dragon Bridge and the Triple Bridge. It was given the name by the butcher shops that were situated on the same spot many years ago. The bridge is decorated with mythological bronze sculptures, but that’s not the only reason that tourists visit it. The Butchers’ Bridge is also known as the “love bridge“, because of all the love padlocks, that lovers attach to it hoping for their love to last forever.
Triple Bridge (Tromostovje)
The most central, and maybe the most interesting bridge is the Triple Bridge. It is located right next to the Prešern square and, as its name says, it consists of three separate bridges. The central bridge has been standing here since the 19th century. However, it was only in the 20th century that the bridge got the appearance it has today. The famous Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik decided to add two side bridges for the pedestrian use. Today, all the three bridges are closed for traffic, and on each side of the Triple
Cobblers’ Bridge (Šuštarski most)
Another Plečnik’s creation is the Cobblers’ Bridge, named after cobblers’ workshops that once stood at the site. The bridge is decorated with two kinds of pillars: the Corinthian pillars, which extend on both sides of the rail, and the Ionic pillars, which serve as the lamp-bearers, one on each side of the rail.
Fish Footbridge (Ribja
Next one is the Fish Footbridge. What distinguishes this bridge from the others is that it is made of glass and illuminated by LED-lights. The Fish Footbridge was formerly made of wood, but it got its new „glassy appearance“ after the renovation in 2014. It connects the Kongresni square and the Town Hall.
Hradecky Bridge (Hradeckega most)
The Hradecky Bridge is located a bit further from the center, but it is another work by Jože Plečnik, so it’s worth to mention. It is a cast-iron bridge, which was also one of the first hinged bridges in the world.
Prešeren Square (Prešernov
The central square in Ljubljana is Prešeren Square. Located in the heart of the city, near the river Ljubljanica, the square was named after the most famous Slovenian poet – France Prešeren. The square is located right next to the Triple Bridge, which connects it with the Central Market.
The Prešeren Square was formed in front of the medieval town’s entrance, as a junction of all the streets that lead to it. This happened in the 17th century when the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation was built on the junction. Today, the square has a circular form and is covered in granite block pavement. Many interesting and architecturally valuable buildings can be found at the Prešeren square. These are palaces such as Central Pharmacy building, Urbanc House and Hauptman House, to name a few. At one side of the square stands Prešeren Monument, while at the other side a bronze scale model of Ljubljana is set.
Ljubljana Central Market
The Ljubljana Central Market spreads from the Triple Bridge to the Dragon Bridge, over two squares – Pogačar and Vodnik square. It consists of an open-air market, held in squares, and the covered market, located in a colonnade along the riverside. Since the colonnade was another design by Jože Plečnik, it is often referred to as “Plečnik’s Market“.
Apart from fresh fruits and vegetables, the market offers different meat products, fish, bakery goods, dry fruits, sweets, and flowers. You can also buy fresh milk here, as well as honey, and other similar local products.
Ever since the Middle Ages, Ljubljana Castle has been standing on a hill above the city. The castle is one of Ljubljana’s main tourist attractions since it has one of the best views of the city. Ljubljana castle might not be as attractive as the Bled Castle, but it would be a pity not to visit it while in town.
Just the walk up to the castle is a great experience itself since you are passing the ancient path through the forest and parks. But if you are not fond of walking up the hill, you can take a ride in the funicular, or just hop on a local bus.
Once you reach the top of the hill, you have several options. You can just walk around and explore the castle surroundings by yourself, or you can buy a ticket for the guided tour and learn everything about it. You can visit the Permanent Exhibition of Slovenian History, Museum of Puppetry, Viewing Tower, or The Penitentiary. There is also a restaurant, jazz club, and shop at your disposal.
The ticket to the castle will cost you 7,50 EUR. However, if you want a guided tour, the cost of the ticket will be 12 EUR (but it includes the funicular ticket, as well!). Visit the official website of Ljubljana Castle to find more info.
Tivoli City Park
The largest park in Ljubljana is Tivoli City Park. Located only 10 minutes walk from the city center, Tivoli park is one of the reasons why Ljubljana is called a green city. It is Ljubljana’s largest and most beautiful city park. Situated at the foot of the Rožnik hill, it covers the area of 5 km2.
Tivoli park is a home to the Tivoli Castle (today known as the International Centre of Graphic Arts), Cekin Mansion (a.k.a. National Museum of Contemporary History), fish pond, a small botanical garden with a glasshouse, children’s playground and a sports park. It also hides numerous monuments and tree-lined walks. The most picturesque among them is the Jakopič Promenade, which is nowadays used as an outdoor venue for exhibitions.
Many events take part in the park’s area, as well as at the next door Tivoli Hall, which is intended for concerts and sports events.
Ljubljana Botanical Garden
Ljubljana Botanical Garden is another green area of the town that is worth a visit. It is much smaller than Tivoli Park, but it contains more than 4.500 different species of plants. For a fee of 2,80 EUR, you can spend a day surrounded by a beautiful nature and even learn something new. The garden is located only 15 minutes walk from the city center. Check the link for more info.
Story of a Dragon
Dragon is the most recognizable symbol of Ljubljana. Ever since the Middle Ages, it was depicted in the Ljubljana coat of arms. The image of a dragon on the top of the tower of Ljubljana Castle was an inspiration for many different stories.
Legend has it that Argonauts, the Greek mythological heroes who were passing the area, were attacked by a monster from the lake. After a long struggle, Jason, one of the heroes, has defeated the dragon and killed him. He then founded the city of Ljubljana on that same spot. The monster eventually became known as the Ljubljana Dragon and became the symbol of the whole city. Today, you can see an image of a dragon on the Slovenian flag, on the Ljubljana coat of arms, on football team crest, but also in many sculptures all over town.
When to visit the capital of Slovenia
As Ljubljana lies in a basin surrounded by the mountains but is also influenced by the Mediterranean streams, it has a mild climate with warm summers and cold winters. In the summer, average temperature goes up to 25 degrees Celsius, which is not too hot and allows you to have a nice walk around the town. In the winter, the average temperature is below 0 and it snows. However, you should know that in colder months there is also a big chance of rain, so prepare yourself in advance!
What to do in Ljubljana
Apart from sightseeing, there are many different activities that you can take up while in town.
For example, you can visit one of many of Ljubljana’s museums or galleries. Besides from the above-mentioned museums that are placed in Ljubljana Castle and Tivoli Park, you can take a tour of the National Museum of Slovenia, National Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (MSUM), City Museum of Ljubljana (MGML) or Museum of Illusions.
If you are a nature lover, just grab a picnic basket, go to the Tivoli Park and make a day of it! Those of you that are more active nature lovers, and enjoy hiking, should consider climbing the Rožnik Hill, which rises above the park.
While in Tivoli Park, you can also pay a visit to the Ljubljana ZOO, which is located a few minutes from it. For a price of 8 EUR for the adults and 5,50 EUR for children, you can take your whole family on an excursion and explore the animal world together with your children.
To all the beer-lovers, we recommend a visit to the Brewery Museum at Ljubljana’s Union Brewery. The brewery is located just across the street from Tivoli Park, and 20 minutes walk from the city center. After learning about the history of the brewery and beer making in Slovenia, switch to the nearby Union Pub, where you can test everything you’ve just heard while drinking their fine beer.
And, at last, when you get tired of everything, just hop on one of the boats and take a ride along the Ljubljanica river. This kind of activity is especially recommended for couples in love!
Don’t let this title fool you! Ljubljana
How to get around in Ljubljana
As it was already said, Ljubljana has banned traffic from the city center. The only exception is the electric bus, urban tourist train and electric vehicles, known as Kavalir. Besides that, elderly and disabled people, as well as mothers with children, are offered free rides in electric taxis. You can also rent a bike or hop on a boat that is cruising along the Ljubljanica river.
How to get to Ljubljana
You can get to Ljubljana by car, plane, train, bus or organized transfer. Since Slovenia is a small country, you can easily get from one place to another in just an hour or two. Ljubljana has a great central position within Slovenia, which makes traveling even easier.
If you’re arriving by bus, check out the links below for the detailed bus schedules and plan your trip! The central bus station is located only a few minutes walk from the old town.
When taking a train to get to Ljubljana, you should get off at the central station that is located next to the bus station, a few minutes from the center of Ljubljana. You can catch a train from Zagreb, Klagenfurt, Villach, Trieste or Venice, but you must note that the train takes more time to get to Ljubljana then bus or car. Plan your journey here.
If you are taking a plane to get to Ljubljana, you will be happy to know that the Ljubljana airport (Jože Pučnik Airport) is only 30 minutes drive from the town’s center. You can easily find a taxi or a local bus to reach the center. Your other options are airports in Portorož (1h20 from Ljubljana), Maribor (1h20 from Ljubljana), Zagreb (1h45 from Ljubljana), Trieste in Italy (1h20 from Ljubljana) or Klagenfurt in Austria (1h30 from Ljubljana).
How to get to Ljubljana from Bled
When heading from Bled towards Ljubljana, first take Ljubljanska
How to get to Ljubljana from Zagreb
If you are driving from Zagreb to Ljubljana, get on the motorway A2/E70 following the sign Ljubljana/Slovenija/Krapina. Continue on A2/E61 and follow the signs Ljubljana jug. Take exit 32 toward Ljubljana-jug/Kočevje/Škofljica and continue onto Route 106. Turn right onto Dolenjska
Driving in Slovenia
If you are driving a personal vehicle, please note that by entering the country you need to buy a vignette that allows you an uninterrupted traffic flow within the borders of Slovenia. There are few types of vignettes available: 1-week vignette (15,00 EUR), 1-month vignette (30,00 EUR) and 1-year vignette (110,00 EUR). You can find out more here.
Where to stay in Ljubljana
Hotel Cubo is a centrally located contemporary hotel. You’ll need 5 minutes on foot to get to the main square, and even less to access the river Ljubljanica. The hotel has a restaurant and a bar, but also offers a room service. Besides that, it houses all sort of events and meetings. If you are arriving by car, you can leave it at the secured parking space in the hotel’s inner courtyard, for an additional fee of 15,00€ per day. More information is available here.
Grand Hotel Union⭐⭐⭐⭐
Grand Hotel Union has found its place in the very center of Ljubljana. Situated in an old Art Nouveau mansion, it offers a view of Prešeren square and the river Ljubljanica. Although it is located in the traffic-free area, the Hotel offers a secured parking garage, where you can leave your vehicle. Among the other facilities, it has two restaurants, a bar, and a café. Follow the link to gather more information.
City Hotel Ljubljana⭐⭐⭐
As the name says, City Hotel Ljubljana is located in the center of Ljubljana, only five minutes walk from the main square. With 200 rooms, this hotel offers you free WiFi, a restaurant and bar, as well as reading area and a fitness center. Since it is located right at the beginning of the traffic-free area, it is accessible by a car, which you can park in the hotel’s underground garage. Check it out here.
If you are planning to extend your stay in this beautiful city, consider buying the Ljubljana Card, which will let you visit all the highlight of Ljubljana with a discount. Also, if you find yourself in a need of a toilet, you will be happy to know there’s a free public toilet located at Triple Bridge, just down the side stairs.
Where to eat in Ljubljana
Located in the city center, just a few steps from the river Ljubljanica, the restaurant Julija offers both Slovenian and international cuisine. Here you can taste Mediterranean dishes, seafood, and grilled dishes – all that accompanied by finest Slovenian wines. Follow the link for more information.
The restaurant Sokol is located in the very center of Ljubljana. The restaurant is decorated in the traditional style and it is specialized in traditional Slovenian food. You can also try their homemade beer and Slovenian wine. Since it is one of the most attractive places to eat, you should book your table in advance here!
The restaurant Most is centrally located. It is situated by the Butchers’ Bridge, to be exact, which explains its name – “Most” means “Bridge” in Slovenian. The restaurant serves traditional Slovenian food, but also has a lot of fish dishes to offer, since it is influenced by the Mediterranean cuisine. Check out their offer here!
What to visit near Ljubljana
While in Slovenia, don’t miss a chance to visit Lake Bled, the most beautiful Slovenian lake. It is located only 50 minutes drive from Ljubljana and is definitely worth a visit. Lake Bled is famous for its Castle and Church in the middle of the lake. The city of Bled is also a home of the original cream cake – Kremšnita.
One of the most visited sites in Slovenia, along with Ljubljana and Lake Bled, is Postojna. The Postojna Cave Park is the largest show cave in Europe, famous for its captivating cave formations and diverse fauna, and it’s located only 40 minutes from Ljubljana!
Not far from the Lake Bled, the second most famous Slovenian lake is located – Lake Bohinj. The Lake Bohinj is the largest lake in Slovenia and it is a paradise for adventurers and nature lovers. Although it doesn’t offer as many cultural sights as Lake Bled, it is a great place to visit if you enjoy peace and quiet, and just looking to spend your time in nature. You’ll need about 1h20 to get to the lake by car.
If you are planning on spending your summer holiday in Slovenia, check out the summer destinations such as Portorož or Piran. Both towns lie near the Adriatic coast and have everything you need for a perfect holiday-by-the-sea. It will take you only 1h20 to get from the capital to the sea.
Just an hour away from Ljubljana, there’s a little town of Lipica. If you are a horse lover, you should definitely pay a visit to Lipica stud farm. This farm is the oldest stud farm in Europe. For centuries the graceful Lipizzaner stallions take their first steps here. Follow the link to plan your visit.
Triglav National Park
If you are a nature lover don’t miss visiting the Triglav National Park. The Park is part of the Julian Alps area and it is the only national park in Slovenia. It was named after Triglav – Slovenia’s highest peak. You can climb to the top or hike across the mountains. People still live in the park’s protected area, so you have an opportunity to visit one of the local farms, as well, and even try their products. Visit the park’s website to gather more information.
The city of Maribor is located 1h30 drive from Ljubljana. Located on the river Drava, Maribor is Slovenia’s second largest city. It is often referred to as “the city of wine” since the world’s oldest vine was planted right there.
In only half an hour you can get to Kranj, the capital of Slovenian Alps. The city of Kranj lies on a river Sava and it is known as the cultural center of Slovenia. The Kranj old town is one of the most interestingly designed old towns in Europe.