Ljubljana is one of the most delightfully surprising cities we’ve ever visited and there are a lot of memorable things to do in Ljubljana that arguably make the city hard not to love.
The small capital of the Balkan country of Slovenia is teeming with beautiful architecture, picturesque bridges, enchanting legends, and complicated history.
Easy to explore on foot, the city boasts a vibrant atmosphere and a progressive and commendable attitude on environmental sustainability.
So, if you are planning a trip to Ljubljana Slovenia this Ljubljana travel guide covers all you need to know about the Slovenian capital and the best things to do in Ljubljana.
About Ljubljana Slovenia
The capital and largest city in Slovenia, Ljubljana, pronounced LOO-BLEE-AH-NUH, is affectionately known as the City of Dragons.
The dragon is, in fact, the city’s official symbol, representing power, courage, and greatness. You’ll find dragons in souvenir shops throughout the city, and gracing one of Ljubljana’s most famous bridges.
There are several tales as to how the dragon became synonymous with Ljubljana.
Legends and Slovenian folklore recount stories of Jason, a Greek mythology hero, who fought and slayed a dragon in the marshland surrounding Ljubljana. But overtime, the dragon has evolved from a monster who needed to be defeated to a benevolent and powerful protector of the city.
Where is Ljubljana?
Ljubljana is located in the center of Slovenia. The Balkan country shares a border with Austria to its north, Italy to its west, Croatia to its south, and Hungary to the east.
The small country is big on scenery. In fact, mountains and forest cover approximately 7,827 square miles. And while many people journey to the country just to see all the picturesque destinations in Slovenia, like Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge, Ljubljana is also worth visiting.
How to get to Ljubljana
Getting to Ljubljana, at least from the United States, requires going through a couple of airports or train stations.
You can also get to Ljubljana by train. There are even sleeper trains available from cities like Munich or Zurich.
A brief history of Ljubljana, Slovenia
The region where Ljubljana is located has been inhabited for thousands of years, but Ljubljana wasn’t the capital until 1991. In fact, Slovenia wasn’t a country until that year.
The country’s history is complicated and a bit confusing.
It was formerly part of the now dissolved country of Yugoslavia. The state of Slovenia declared independence in 1991 and Ljubljana was established as the capital.
Where to stay in Ljubljana Slovenia
To maximize your time in Ljubljana, you’ll want to stay near the Old Town area. We stayed at Hotel Emonec, a budget-friendly hotel located a block away from Prešeren Square and the famous Triple Bridge.
The accommodations were nice, large enough for families, and included complimentary breakfast, which is a definite perk when trying to save money.
Fun Things to Do in Ljubljana Slovenia
Now that we’ve covered a little bit about Ljubljana and where to stay during your trip, let’s jump into the coolest things to do in Ljubljana – the lovely Slovenian capital.
Visit Preseren Square
Preseren Square is the heart of Ljubljana. A meeting point for events, festivals, and many walking tours, this central square is one of the best places to visit in Ljubljana.
On the south end, you’ll find the lovely Triple Bridge and to the north, the vibrant, coral facade of the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation.
At the east side of the pedestrian-only square towers the Preseren Monument, a statue dedicated to Slovenia’s national poet, France Preseren.
On nice days, you’ll find countless people sitting at the base of the monument or wandering through the lively square, admiring the river views and enjoying the energy of the crowds.
Walk through the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation
Built in the late 1600s, the Franciscan Church of Annunciation is the focal point in Preseren Square.
The Baroque-style church features a single nave with a fresco ceiling and a coral façade that stands out among other surrounding buildings. The church is free to enter.
The interior chapel is small enough that it only takes about 5-10 minutes to walk through. Give yourself plenty of time to study the altar, frescoes, and the statues found in the side chapels.
Cross over Ljubljana’s famous bridges
Some of the main things Ljubljana is famous for are its many beautiful bridges. And there are a few notable ones you’ll want to see and even cross while exploring Ljubljana.
A favorite bridge for many visitors to Ljubljana, the Triple Bridge is three bridges in one! It’s a choose-your-own-adventure bridge, if you will.
The three bridges, constructed adjacent to each other, cross the Ljubljanica River connecting Preseren Square with the Medieval Old Town area.
The middle bridge was first built in 1842, and in order to prevent a traffic bottleneck, Slovenia’s famed architect Jože Plečnik designed the two smaller, pedestrian side bridges that fan out at a slight angle.
When the area became a pedestrian-only zone in 2007, all three bridges – including the larger center bridge, became pedestrian-only bridges.
Of course, the City of Dragons would have a bridge adorned with it’s official mascot. And the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana is one of the most famous bridges in the city.
Located just north of the Central Market, large dragon statues marking the bridge’s corners are the main draw for visitors. However, take time to examine the bridge as you cross, because you’ll find 16 smaller dragons gracing the center of this road bridge, as well.
The bridge, which opened in 1901, was one of Europe’s first reinforced concrete bridges, and the first bridge in Slovenia to be paved with asphalt for vehicles.
The Butcher’s Bridge
Perhaps better known as the Love Lock Bridge, the Butcher’s Bridge isn’t necessarily famous for its unique design, but for the thousands of padlocks that have been symbolically locked onto the bridge by lovebirds who want to lock their love together forever and toss away the key.
A relatively new bridge, the Butcher’s Bridge was built in 2010.
Originally envisioned by architect Jože Plečnik in the 1930s but not constructed for nearly a century, the bridge is one of the more unique Ljubljana bridges.
A series of peculiar mythology sculptures and even some fairly grotesque sculptures span the center, creating a stark contrast from the displays of love left on the steel cable sides of the bridge.
While the center of the bridge is concrete, the walkway near the sides is thick glass, so you can see the river beneath your feet as you walk across.
Another beautiful Ljubljana bridge designed by architect Jože Plečnik, Cobbler’s Bridge was constructed in the early 1930s, and has a very Romanesque appearance.
With cylinder Corinthian columns topped with stone balls spanning the full length of the bridge, Cobbler’s Bridge.
Prior to the current stone bridge, a wooden covered bridge stood in its place. Along the wooden bridge, shoemakers – or cobblers – set up booths, giving the bridge its name.
A final bridge, you’ll want to cross in Ljubljana, the small pedestrian glass bridge is located between Cobbler’s Bridge and Triple Bridge.
There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the bridge. It has all glass sides so that it blends in with the surroundings rather than standing out.
But, the primary reason to venture across this little bridge is for the excellent view and photo opportunity of Triple Bridge and Preseren Square behind it.
For the loveliest view, go at night to see the square and Triple Bridge lit up.
Step inside Ljubljana Cathedral
Also known as the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, Ljubljana Cathedral is the city’s most grandiose church. With its green some and two side towers, it is an easily recognizable landmark in Ljubljana.
Historical records indicate a church has stood on the site since the 1200s, but the Baroque cathedral you see today was not constructed until the 1700s.
Prior to 1707 when the Baroque cathedral was completed, the church was a Gothic cathedral. However, that church burned down and the one you see today was erected in its place.
Ride the Funicular to Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle towers over the beautiful capital city. Perched on a hill overlooking Old Town, there are two ways to get to Ljubljana Castle.
You can walk the path from the ticket office up to the castle. The climb will take approximately 15 minutes. Or, the easier alternative to the castle is to take the funicular, which is located in Krek Square across from Ljubljana Central Market.
The modern, glass car climbs straight up the rail line, taking just 60 seconds to reach the top. During rain or shine, you’ll get great views of the city through the glass as the funicular ascends or descends.
Along the route, you’ll see ruins of a medieval defensive wall and moat that were unearthed during construction of the railway in the early 2000s.
Explore or “Escape” Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle is definitely one of the top attractions in Ljubljana.
While you can book a ticket to explore the castle on a hill as a self-guided discovery, if visiting Ljubljana with kids, particularly older kids, the more exciting way to explore the castle is by booking the Escape the Castle ticket.
Similar to an escape room, you’ll be tasked with solving puzzles, equations, and riddles in order to save the famous dragon and “escape” Ljubljana Castle. It is an interactive way to keep children engaged in the experience.
If you choose to explore on your own, don’t expect to find king’s chambers or other rooms you might find in a royal castle or palace. Ljubljana Castle is a museum where you’ll find ancient relics and learn about the history of the castle and the city.
With a large central courtyard, it also serves as a cultural center that routinely hosts events and temporary exhibitions.
Let your eyes play tricks on you at the Museum of Illusions (or visit one of the other great Ljubljana museums)
Ljubljana has several notable museums worth visiting if time allows. For history lovers, there is the National Museum of Slovenia.
For art lovers, the National Gallery is a must. And for families traveling with kids, like us, the Museum of Illusions is one of the best things to do in Ljubljana on a rainy day or a cold day.
Located in Congress Square, this three-story, self-guided experience is chock full of illusions that play tricks on your eyes and your mind.
With several interactive displays, like a bed of nails, an upside down room, and a spinning tunnel, kids and adults alike will enjoy this well-curated, fun museum.
Relax in Tivoli Park
The largest green space in Ljubljana, Tivoli Park is a great addition to any Ljubljana itinerary, particularly if you are traveling with kids or enjoy a momentary nature escape during a city break.
Not to be confused with Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, this public park, which opened in 1813, is an easy walk from Old Town, although you do have to leave the pedestrian area to get there.
Covering more than 5 square kilometers, the park is best known for its wonderful walking and cycling trails.
For families, there is also a children’s playground where little ones can burn off energy.
Shop for fresh fruit and vegetables at the Central Market
Ljubljana’s Central Market is one of the most robust open-air markets we’ve ever visited in Europe.
Aside from fresh Slovenian fruits and vegetables grown and sold by local farmers, you can find fresh cut flowers, breads, and food vendors selling cooked items.
So, whether you want to wander around and experience the atmosphere as locals shop for their weekly needs, buy some delicious fruits to snack on, or get a cooked meal, a visit to the Central Market is one of the best things to do in Ljubljana.
Open everyday except Sunday, you’ll find vendors and crowds here rain or shine.
Marvel at Robba Fountain
Standing prominently in front of Ljubljana Town Hall, the Robba Fountain is a landmark in the city. Also known as the Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers, Robba Fountain dates back to 1751.
The work of Italian sculptor Francesco Robba, the fountain was inspired by, and similar to, the fountain in Piazza Navona in Rome.
The marble fountain features three men with jugs, which pour into the shell-shaped fountain and an obesek which reaches 33 feet in the air.
The Robba Fountain displayed in Town Square is actually a replica of the original fountain, which was moved to the National Gallery in 2006 for safekeeping and preservation.
Walk and Dine along the Riverfront
The Ljubljanica River is the heart and soul of the city. One each side of the river you’ll find pedestrian walkways and streets lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating.
During nice weather, locals and tourists alike opt for a table outdoors where they can enjoy the view over a relaxing lunch or dinner.
During your visit to Ljubljana, be sure to spend some time wandering aimlessly along the river. Take in the views, dine outdoors, and appreciate the atmosphere along the riverfront.
Take a walking tour of Old Town
One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with a new city is to take a guided walking tour. These guided tours provide interesting detail and history of the city that you won’t get if you explore solely on your own.
This is a great way to make sure you aren’t missing any of the highlights of Ljubljana while also learning about its past and current times.
Explore the quirky Metelkova Art Center
The Metelkova Art Center is perhaps one of the more unusual areas of Ljubljana, and visiting it will give you a different perspective of the city than what you gain in the quaint and charming Old Town district.
The former abandoned military barracks have been transformed into an alternative social center, if you want to call it that, where graffiti and street art cover every inch of the walls.
In fact, Metelkova Mesto is actually an autonomous, or self-governed community that considers itself separate from Ljubljana, despite being in the center of the city.
While its history is complicated, Metelkova has become a haven for artists, musicians, creative-types, and free-minded individuals.
We had some reservations about visiting this area, as we had read mixed reviews that squatters and drug use abound. But since it was only a 10-minute walk from Old Town, we ventured over to check it out.
While we did not witness any drug use and felt completely safe at the Metelkova Art Center, we visited during the daytime hours, so we can’t speak to the nighttime atmosphere.
The area, which is just a small square or two, is located right next to Hostel Celica, a former prison-turned-hostel where you can spend a night behind bars.
It is also near the Museum of Contemporary Art, so if street art isn’t your style, you can check out other art forms inside the museum.
Frequently Asked Questions about Ljubljana Slovenia Things to Do
While this travel guide is about the best things to do in Ljubljana, Slovenia, understandably you might have other questions about the city when planning your trip. So, here are a few FAQs about Ljubljana travel.
Is Ljubljana worth visiting?
Ljubljana is worth spending a day or two. It also makes for a great base city if you prefer to do day trips instead of moving around from hotel to hotel. You can easily visit Lake Bled, Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle, or the charming, historic town of Skofja Loka as a day trip from Ljubljana.
How do you pronounce Ljubljana?
Ah, hard to pronounce and hard not to love. At first glance, Ljubljana might look like a difficult word to say. (Those Js really throw you off.) But once you get past the awkwardly placed Js, the city’s name isn’t actually hard to say at all.
Say it with me. Ljubljana is pronounced: LOO-BLEE-AH-NUH.
How many days do you need in Ljubljana?
How do you get around Ljubljana?
You can comfortably get around the main tourist areas of Ljubljana on foot. If arriving by train, it is about a 10 minute walk to Old Town Ljubljana.
Is Ljubljana Slovenia safe to visit?
Slovenia is one of the safest countries in Europe. In fact, it is ranked among the safest countries in the world! Like any city though, Ljubljana isn’t immune to petty theft, pickpocketing, or other crimes.
So as with everywhere else, just be aware of your surroundings when out sightseeing. But in general terms, we felt very safe exploring Ljubljana with kids.
What are the best guided tours in Ljubljana?
Final Thoughts – Why you should visit Ljubljana
With so many fun things to do in Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital is a must-visit. It’s unique architecture, cozy charm, and surrounding natural beauty is impossible not to love.
It is conveniently located in the middle of many of Slovenia’s other popular attractions, making it a great starting and ending point for a Slovenia road trip or a place to base yourself and venture out on day trips from the city.
Whether you have one day in Ljubljana or several days to discover the city, if you visit Ljubljana, you’ll likely come to the same conclusion we did – Ljubljana, and Slovenia in general, are extremely under-rated!
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