A day in Ljubljana, is it worth it? It sure is. Slovenia’s charming capital is far more than just a gateway to the countries famous lakes.
Our first Slovenia experience was the capital city of Ljubljana and it didn’t disappoint. Capital cities usually fall into two categories for us: big, busy and unattractive, or big busy and attractive. We weren’t expecting much from Slovenia’s capital and were very pleasantly surprised to find a small, quaint and almost sleepy city.
We only had a day in Ljubljana, so after an early morning bus arrival from Budapest we hit the sunny streets to explore. Here’s our recommendations on how to spend a day in Ljubljana.
Head up to Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljanski Grad)
From anywhere in the city you can see the Castle perched on the hill proudly overlooking and guarding its city.
There are a few ways to get up to the castle. The two most popular are by the 70m Funicular Railway (which takes about 1 minute) or by foot, as we did. There’s a few different routes:
- Študentovska ulica – Starting from Ciril Metodov trg
- Ulica na Grad – Starting from Gornji trg
- Reber ulica – Starting from Stari trg
We took the Študentovska ulica route starting from the Ljubljana Central Market, which took us along cobbled stone lanes past some archaic buildings. The uphill walk takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the top, from where the castle grounds are free to explore. However, there is a fee to enter the Watchtower and the Chapel of St George. Prices can be found HERE. As the highest point in the city, the Watchtowers impressive panoramic views are perfect way to start a day in Ljubljana.
Tip: This is also a cool vantage point in the early evening, where you can watch the sunset and Ljubljana light up.
Explore Old Ljubljana one bridge at a time
Ljubljana is clean, green and pedestrian friendly, making it a cheap, easy and rewarding city to explore by foot. Unsurprisingly for a city bisected by a river, Ljubljana has plenty or riverside paths lined with cafes and attractive buildings. Our tip is ‘go with the flow’, no pun intended. By this we mean there’s no real ‘must-see’ attractions, it’s just a nice area to leisurely wander around. You don’t need to follow a strict itinerary or walking route. It doesn’t matter if you get a little off track, just go where the mood takes you. For us, that was loosely heading south along the river zigzagging from one bridge to the next.
Old Ljubljana must be a ‘bridge-spotters’ dream, if bridge-spotting is even a thing. Each one is completely different. Furtherest north is Zmajski Most, better known as Dragon Bridge. Much like Ljubljana’s city symbol, this bridges four corners are adorned with a dragon. This is based on folklore, with the most popular myth relating to Jason and the Argonauts. The greek hero and his army were fleeing from King Aetees with their Golden Fleece. They ended up at a lake near the source of the Ljubljanica river. Being too shallow to sail, they elected to dissemble their ship and carry it, however winter forced them to set up camp near a lake. And here it is said they came across a fierce marsh dwelling dragon whom Jason eventually killed, giving rise to the legend of the Ljubljana Dragon.
If you’ve crossed over to the colourful Central Market and walked parallel to the river, the next bridge you’ll come to is Butchers’ Bridge (Mesarski Most.) It spans the river from the Jože Plečnik designed covered Central Market colonnade and the nearby Ljubljana Cathedral, across to Petkovsek Nabrezje Promenade. Butchers’ Bridge is Ljubljana’s lovers bridge and is bedecked with ‘lovelocks,’ where couples have symbolically padlocked their love and thrown away the key.
The most central and architecturally grand bridge is the Triple Bridge aka; Tromostovje. Also designed by famous Slovene architect Jože Plečnik, this iconic group of bridges connects Prešeren Square with its pinkish Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, to the heart of the old town. Here you’ll find the Mestni trg (town qquare) and Robba Fountain (Robbov vodnjak.)
The neighbouring bridge is the modern and sleek Ribja Brv Footbridge. The bridge’s architects designed it to be as ‘minimal and transparent as possible, in order to maintain focus on the surrounding architecture’. Comparing it to the adjacent Triple Bridge, we think they hit their brief.
The final bridge was another Jože Plečnik design, known as Cobblers Bridge aka; Čevljarski Šuštarski Most. It marks the finish of the Cankarjevo Nabrezje promenade and the start of the Gallusovo Nabrezje promenade. The promenade continues on with more beautiful old buildings, restaurants and cafes, but it does begin to peter out the further down you stroll.
From here it’s a great place to make the most of the tourist boats going back under those famous bridges for a different perspective. Or as we did, just head back by foot along the lively Cankarjevo Nabrezje ‘strip’ for a few cheeky craft beers and some pizza.
Slovenia has jumped onboard the craft beer revolution and Ljubljana is an ideal place to get amongst it. There’s some awesome breweries here making some seriously tasty beers. If one leads to two and two leads to five, here’s a few breweries we recommend from our time in Slovenia.
- Union Brewery
- Human Fish Brewery
- Tektonik Brewery
- Loo-Blah-Nah Brewery
- Bevog. Yes, we know it technically comes from Austria. Try telling the locals that. They claim it as their own!
If you really want the full craft beer experience and time permits why not jump on the ‘Craftbeer Walk’ and sample several tasting sessions in some of the city’s most popular drinking spots. For more information, click HERE.
Enjoy a sunset beer with a view
We definitely recommend heading up to Nebotičnik’s rooftop bar to end your day. Known as The Skyscraper, this bar offers awesome city views and cold beer.
This was our favourite viewpoint of the city. It was a lovely spot to watch the city light up as day turned to night and the perfect place to end a day in Ljubljana. We were really surprised at how affordable the drinks were. Expecting to pay a premium for the views, we couldn’t believe a 500ml beer was only €3.50.
Getting to/from and around
We found travelling by bus to be the most affordable way to get to Slovenia and took an overnight FlixBus from Budapest to Ljubljana. Prices vary depending on departure times and season. For more info head HERE.
Slovenia is also connected by domestic and international train. The train and bus stations are next to each other.
From Ljubljana, we took a local bus to Bled, which took 80 minutes. As it was September they were still running half-hourly summer timetable from 5/6am. In peak season, it’s worth booking your tickets in advance to avoid missing out. For domestic bus/train journeys, try booking your outbound tickets on the day you arrive while you’re at the station. It will save you time later and guarantees you a seat.
It is also worth considering renting a car to. This will give you the freedom to explore without being dependent on public transport and can help you make the most of your time in Slovenia.
Slovenia’s accommodation can be a little on the pricey side. If you want to maximise your time in the country without blowing the budget, consider hostels with private rooms or dorms with self catering facilities.
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