Ljubljana attractions: 10 best sights to see in 2 days

 

23

NOVEMBER 2019

I’m not usually a fan of arriving at night to a new destination. The darkness masks many of the city’s attractions and daylight seems a lifetime away.

Ljubljana Old Town at night, however, is a whole different bag. Street lamps illuminate the way along the cobbled streets, shedding light on packed restaurants and intimate wine bars. It’s charming as it’s romantic, and in this instance, daylight can wait a little longer.

The size of the historic old town is fitting given Ljubljana’s small population. There are plenty of attractions to fill a 2-day trip, before moving on to see Bled or Bohinj.

This post’s all about helping you to see the best of Ljubljana attractions, and in a short amount of time.

Ljubljana quick facts

The best sights to see in the capital are all within the old town. Just outside are other shops and places to eat, but the old town’s more appealing.

If arriving by taxi, they’ll more than likely drop you by the entrance to the old town near the funicular.

Green transport in Ljubljana Old Town

The only form of transportation within the old town are small electric cars called kavalirs, which are also free. Meaning ‘gentle helpers’, these cars mainly transport elderly or mobility-impaired people. However, everyone is welcome to hail one down.

There are just 4 kavalirs in the fleet: 2 for summer and 2 for winter. The summer kavalirs are open-sided and run from 1 April to 31 October.

Winter kavalirs, on the other hand, are glazed, heated, and run throughout the year.

You can also order a kavalir by telephone:

+386 (0)31 666 331
+386 (0)31 666 332

 

Arriving in Ljubljana Old Town is an exception to the rule

 

1. Best Ljubljana attractions — bridge hopping

There are an impressive 17 bridges in Ljubljana, which form pathways over the Ljubljanica River. Each range according to when it was built, and its architectural style.

Dragon Bridge — Ljubljana attractions

Arguably, the most famous of the 17 is Dragon Bridge. Four rusty seafoam green dragon statues sit at each corner of the iconic bridge.

Shorter in length than it appears in photos, it’s a must visit, and is also an important Ljubljana landmark.

Built between 1900 and 1901, Dragon Bridge was one of the largest of its kind constructed during this period. Its name was also different from what we know it as today. It was originally called the Jubilee Bridge of Emperor Franz Joseph I, named after Slovenia’s then head of state.

What’s more, the bridge was also supposed to have winged lions instead of the mystical dragons we see today.

Dragon Bridge, Resljeva cesta 2, 1000

 

A Ljubljana landmark — Dragon Bridge

 

“Street lamps illuminate the way along the cobbled streets, shedding light on packed restaurants and intimate wine bars.”

Map: 10 must-see sights in Ljubljana

Triple Bridge

Between the river embankment, central market and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is the Triple Bridge. Its Slovenian name is Tromostrovje.

Also known as Three Bridges, this unusual construction is another iconic Ljubljana monument.

The story goes that there wasn’t enough room for pedestrians, as well as transport, to cross the one central bridge.

Renowned Slovenian architect, Jože Plečnik, added the side bridges for pedestrians between 1929 and 1932. Without realizing it, he’d gifted the city a unique architectural gem at the same time. 


Best Ljubljana attractions — Cobbler’s Bridge

There’s something quite romantic when you set your sights on Cobbler’s Bridge for the first time. Different size pillars with stone balls sit atop a balustrade platform. The slightly shorter central two pillars give the bridge its unique appearance.

Its name comes from the bridge being the former space where cobblers would set up their workshops. Cobbler’s Bridge was also formerly a covered wooden bridge that connected 2 public squares, Mestni trg and Novi trg.

The artificial stone bridge is also close to a weekly flea market. It happens every Sunday morning, and is an interesting browse into trinkets and gadgets from the past.

 

Best Ljubljana attractions — Triple Bridge

 

2. Ljubljana Grad

There are 2 advantages to having a castle in an old town. One is the obvious historical perspective, which also acts as a place of interest. The second, is that it’s a helpful landmark to help you find your way should you get lost.

Ljubljana Castle (or ‘Grad’ in Slovenian) is the first attraction that you’ll probably see when arriving in the old town. Situated high on a hill above the city, it holds the title of Ljubljana’s number 1 attraction.

Head to the castle’s outlook tower to grab some of the best views of Ljubljana and beyond. 


Inside the castle, you get the opportunity to see original rooms of the building, like the Chapel of St George. There’s also a café, nightclub, a museum exhibition on Slovenian history and a puppet museum.

Prior to visiting, I was unaware of Slovenia’s long-standing tradition of puppeteering. The museum provides a better understanding, and it also allows you to see some cool puppet creations.

 

Chapel of St George - Ljubljana attractions

The Chapel of St George inside Ljubljana Castle

 

 

How to reach Ljubljana Castle — best Ljubljana attractions

The quickest, and some may say the laziest, way to get to Ljubljana Castle is by funicular railway. Look for the ticket office, which sits by the foot of the funicular. 



One important thing to note are the ticket prices. Some include the castle with a return journey, and there’s another that’s a single trip with entrance to the castle.

There’s also a third ticket price that just allows entry to the castle.

 As with all popular attractions, lines can build quickly. That said, getting your ticket in advance is worth considering.



The second way to reach Ljubljana Castle is to walk. It’s a bit of an uphill climb, but the views overlooking the city should make up for it.

Admittedly, we didn’t make the walk up — or down the hill. Locals in Ljubljana say that it takes about 10 minutes, but this all depends on your fitness levels.

Daytime or night at Ljubljana Castle? Which is better?

Personally, we preferred visiting the castle at night. It was far less crowded than during the day, with more than ample lighting to illuminate the grounds. 



Another reason we preferred visiting at night, was the memorable experience we had at Strelec Restaurant. It’s one of 2 restaurants on site, along with Gostilna na Gradu.

Strelec Restaurant is a step into the nostalgic past, offering diners a taste of medieval dishes. The food’s a fusion of Alpine, Adriatic and Pannonia cuisine, and the wine list’s packed with quality Slovenian wines.

It’s open Monday to Saturday, from 12pm to 10pm. Strelec Restaurant is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Come here with an empty stomach and an open mind.

Ljubljana Castle is one of the best attractions and is also a point of reference if you get lost!

 

3. Ljubljana Cathedral

The baroque cathedral, whose official name is St Nicolas’s Church, is another of Ljubljana’s finest attractions. It’s located in the main street of the old town, close to central market and the Triple Bridge.

Building began in 1701, and was designed by Italian architect Andrea Pozzo. The church was fully completed in 1706.

St Nicolas’s Cathedral is the only cathedral in Ljubljana, and is easily recognizable from its green dome and 2 towers.

Inside are several features of interest. These include frescoes by Italian painter Giulio Quaglio and statues sculpted by Angelo Putti. Along with the interior baroque décor, there’s also the grand bronze door that was added later in the 20th century.

Come December, the church has 2 special celebrations for children in the run-up to Christmas. On 6 December, St Nicolas’s Day, children receive presents from their parents. Also, in December, is the procession of Grandpa Frost, the Slovenian counterpart for Santa Claus.

Riding in his carriage drawn by white horses, Grandpa Frost is accompanied by snowmen, animals and fairytale characters.

Tips on visiting Ljubljana Cathedral — best Ljubljana attractions

Drawing upon our experience, Sunday is the most difficult day to visit, because it’s the predominant day of mass.

Signs outside the door lets visitors know that Ljubljana Cathedral is closed for the service.

Unless you’re Catholic, and wish to attend the service, it’s better to plan your visit for another day.

However, take note, because even Catholic worshippers can be refused entry if late. People are on hand to politely turn you away even if you’re 5 minutes late. You’ve been warned!

Dolničarjeva ulica 1, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana Cathedral is one of the city’s best attractions  — just try to avoid visiting on Sundays

4. Central Market, Ljubljana

Regular readers of my website will know that I’m a sucker for a good market. And, upon hearing about Ljubljana’s central market, my foodie senses began to tingle.

Locals here say that the market’s more than a place to shop, and I can understand why. Along the main market square is a row of small cafes and shops. It’s an ideal place to stop, take refreshments and to also engage in some people watching.

The central market consists of an open-air market, a covered market and several food stalls along the river. The open-air market’s open every day from 6am to 6pm.

On Saturdays, it runs from 6am to 4pm. It’s closed on Sundays and also on public holidays. Saying that, you may still find some stalls operating.

The open-air market brings the best of fresh and locally produced Slovenian products. There are also more ‘exotic’ items such as pineapples and avocados on display.

As you meander in and out of the open-air market, you’ll also spot vendors selling herbs and flowers.

The covered market’s located between the two squares, Vodnikov trg and Pogačarnev trg. Inside are a number of small food shops selling everything from bread to cheese to bear salami.

This market’s commonly known as ‘Plečnik’s covered market’ given the location in a colonnade designed by the Ljubljana native. 

 

Flower market - Ljubljana attractions

Bloomingly beautiful: the flower market at Ljubljana central market

 

 

Ljubljana fish market — best Ljubljana attractions

On the lower floor of the building is the fish market. It’s easily a ‘blink and you might miss it’ kind of place. Look for the sign ‘Ribarnica’, which means fish market. Here, you’ll find a short flight of stairs that leads downstairs.

Not only will the smell let you know you’re in the right place, the display of fish will too.

Once you pass the fish market, the next section through the double doors leads to an art gallery. DobraVaga Art Gallery is open to the public.

Meaning ‘good scale’, the gallery’s a quiet place to chill and it’s also free. Small round windows provide views of the flowing river and activity on the other side of the bridge. On the display tables and in the side rooms are mini art exhibitions.

I should also mention that there’s a fish restaurant next to the market. Okrepčevalnica Ribica serves up the catch from next door, and from what the locals tell me, it’s very good.

Events in Ljubljana central market — Ljubljana attractions

If you happen to visit Ljubljana between mid-March to October, be sure to visit open kitchen. The foodie event takes place every Friday in Pogačar Square, and is popular with locals and visitors alike.

It’s your chance to see, smell and taste dishes around the world. The event also gives you the opportunity to meet some of the country’s finest chefs.

Browse some Slovenian specialties inside the covered market

5. Tivoli Park

About 10 minutes by foot from Ljubljana Old Town is the grand Tivoli Park. Wide, green, with tons of open spaces, it’s a firm local favorite.

You can reach the park by an underpass, or by crossing over the main road.

Tivoli Park was designed in 1813 by French engineer Jean Blanchard. It covers an area of about 5sqr km, encompassing 3 wide tree-lined walks, flower beds, trees, statues and fountains.

Tivoli Park also meets with the slopes of Rožnik hill. Paths here are used by joggers, dog walkers and leisure seekers. Keeping active is a top priority for Slovenians, as shown by the ‘trim trail’ which has exercise stations along the way.

Upon visiting, we did see several bicycles in the park, but no clear sign of a bike path. Tivoli Park is huge however, so maybe we just missed it.

Other sights to see include a fish pond, which is next to a small botanical garden with a glasshouse. Inside, is an exhibition of tropical and carnivorous plants. A children’s playground, which was built in 1942, is also a short walk from the fish pond.

Above all, Tivoli Park is a place where you can grab some nature away from the old town.

 

Svicarija meal - Ljubljana attractions

A mouthwatering meal, with music, at Švicarija in Ljubljana

 

 

Where to eat in Tivoli Park, Ljubljana — Ljubljana attractions

Given the park’s size, there are several places to eat within its grounds. Here, you can enjoy some light refreshment, or instead, sit down to a 3-course meal.

Gostilna Rožnik, Gostilna Čad d.o.o. and Bistro Švicarija are the restaurants within Tivoli Park. We didn’t have to time to visit the first 2, but did book in for lunch at Bistro Švicarija.

Housed in what seems to be a transformed Slovenian cottage, we came for Sunday lunch and ate remarkably well. Excellent service, delicious food and live musicians turned a regular lunchtime into something memorable.

What’s more, the 4-course menu is also excellent value for money, at just €21 ($23 / £18). Bistro Švicarija is a place where families, couples and friends come together, and we were glad to experience it.

Come here for good food, service, and a moving violin performance.

Bistro Švicarija, Pod turnom 4, 1000


Best Ljubljana attractions — roaming around Tivoli Park

6. Congress Square

Every European city has its largest square, and in Ljubljana, theirs is Congress Square.

The square (Kongresni trg in Slovenian) was built in 1821. Its space was used for ceremonial celebrations during the Congress of Ljubljana, after which it was named. As you walk the length and breadth of the square, you can imagine crowds of people filling up the space.

The square has undergone several name changes, which reflects the country’s different political periods. Congress Square became Revolution Square during the communist period, and then Liberation Square some years later.

In 1990, the square went back to its original name, and remains the same to this day.

Ljubljana attractions — what to see in Congress Square

There are several buildings in the square that stand out for its importance, and also for its architectural style. The University of Ljubljana occupies what was once the former provincial mansion, which is where the congress took place.

Also, Congress Square is home to the Slovenian Philharmonic building and the country’s oldest publishing house. Established in 1894, the building reflects the Biedermeier architectural style of the period.

This was a time in central Europe when people embraced artistic styles in literature, music, and interior design. The Biedermeier period influenced later styles, particularly buildings originating from Vienna.

At the north end of the square is the Casino (Kazina) building. This neoclassical building was the former meeting place of Ljubljana’s elite. Today, it’s home to several institutions, including the Institute of Modern History and the Archives of Slovenia.

Star (Zvezda) park, stretches across the central part of Congress Square.

Best Ljubljana attractions — soak up the history

As with most historical sites, it’s difficult to imagine the events that took place there. Congress Square has been the site of several important historical events, most notably the proclamation of independence from Austrian-Hungarian rule.

On October 29, 1918, a mass demonstration celebrated their new status in the square. The day also marked the establishment of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs.

To get a better understand of the history of the city, I highly recommend booking a tour. We discovered several sights on ours, which we’d never have found on our own.

Take the remains of the Roman town walls. Emona was a Roman civil town built around 14 AD. The city was defended with 29 towers, which were built every 60m along the walls.

In fact, one of the burial grounds are in Congress Square and Zvezda Park. Here, you can also find a replica bronze statue representing an Emona patriarch. It’s on display next to an information board giving details on the excavation site.

The capital celebrated a landmark of 2,000 years of Roman Ljubljana in 2014.

Explore the sights of Congress Square — Ljubljana attractions

7. Skyscraper building

Without our tour guide, we’d have had a hard time looking for Skyscraper. This high-rise building in the center of Ljubljana is 13 storeys high and 70m (231ft).

Nebotičnik is the Slovenian name, but most locals will understand Skyscraper if you get lost. Upon opening in February 1933, it was the tallest building in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and the 9th tallest high-rise in Europe.

It’s one of the city’s most popular attractions and is also a good place to get panoramic views of Ljubljana. Aside from being a hotspot for visitors, the building’s also home to shops, offices and apartments.

 

A slice of Potical cake at Skyscraper - Ljubljana attractions

Tuck into a slice of warm, and traditional, Slovenian Potica

 

 

360° views and cake — best Ljubljana attractions

The entrance is an obscure-looking, and very heavy-set, door, that’s another ‘blink and you might miss it’ moment.

As you enter the building, you immediately get a sense of its communist past. The black stone décor and stone statues in the lobby highlight the strong architectural style.

Take the elevator to the 12th floor. The top 3 floors of Nebotičnik consist of a café, restaurant, bar and observation deck. The third is clearly the star attraction of Skyscraper and is an absolute must see. What’s more, there’s also a nightclub inside, just in case you fancy extending your time here.

Outside are tables and chairs around the terrace, offering a different perspective of the capital and beyond. Temperatures were still mild during our visit in November, and dry enough too, to sit outside.

While here, grab a slice of traditional Slovenian Potica (walnut roll), served warm with a shot of blueberry liquor. It’s the ideal accompaniment for the glorious views of the city.

The opening hours for the café and nightclub are:

  • Sunday to Wednesday 9am to 1am, and
  • Thursday to Saturday 9am to 3am.

The restaurant’s open Monday to Saturday from 12pm to 10pm. It’s closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Admiring the view from the top floor of Skyscraper in Ljubljana

8. Decadent desserts

Technically, a food group doesn’t count as an attraction, but it does for me in Ljubljana. As a foodie, and someone with a serious sweet tooth, the capital’s a mixture of naughty and nice.

For the size of the old town, there are a good number of patisserie shops in the vicinity.

While I didn’t get to try them all (sadly), we did make a lastminute stop to Zvezda. As mentioned above, the name means ‘star’ in English, and I can’t think of a more fitting name.

Zvezda, Ljubljana — Ljubljana attractions

There are 2 parts to the café. The first’s a cake and ice cream shop; perfect if you’re on the move and want a quick fix.

The second’s a sit-down café. A cozy and inviting space, the sight and smell of the cakes instantly sets your endorphins alight.

Choose from a number of different desserts, such as the house cake of the store’s name. Zvezda is a creation packed with sour cherries, mascarpone and strawberries, sitting atop a linzer dough base.

We opted for something a little more traditional, and chose the Gibanica. A Slovenian classic, this pastry / strudel is filled with layers of deliciousness, including cottage cheese, apple and walnuts. Some versions are served with sour cream, and most come with poppy seeds and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

It’s not the lightest dessert around, but for a blustery fall day, Gibanica goes perfectly with a cup of tea. Another plus of Zvezda, is that they also have a selection of cakes suitable for vegans and diabetics.

Zvezda, Wolfova ulica 14, 1000

Other must-try patisserie shops in Ljubljana

If you’ve more time in the capital, there are other patisserie shops worth visiting — just not in 1 go!

Fetiche is an award-winning French patisserie that’s won 2 prestigious awards. In 2015, it won the award for its cake, and the second for its ice cream in 2016.

Fetiche, Cankarjevo nabrežje 25, 1000 Ljubljana

If you love cheesecake, you may want to squeeze Soba 102 into the itinerary.

This fine dining restaurant and bar serves everything from New York style, to strawberry cheesecake. For the diet conscious, there’s also a skinny choco cheesecake on the menu.

For the rest of us, sink your teeth into a decadent sounding Nutella cake or a traditional chocolate cake.

Soba 102, Cankarjeva cesta 4, 1000

Don’t visit Ljubljana without trying a traditional slice of Gibanica

9. Franciscan Church of the Annunciation

The only other time that I’ve come across a pink church was during my travels in Mérida.

In Ljubljana, their ‘pink church’ is officially called the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. The name’s a bit of a mouthful, hence me shortening it according to its pink façade.

Located opposite the Triple Bridge in Prešernov trg, it’s another recognizable landmark in the old town. The church has been protected as a cultural monument of national significance of Slovenia since 2008.

Features of the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation — best Ljubljana attractions

The church consists of 2 buildings: a church and a monastery. Its reddish pink color symbolizes the Franciscan monastic order.

Its front facade was built in a baroque style in 1703 to 1706 and redesigned in the 19th century.

Built between 1646 and 1660, the church has several standout features. A statue made from beaten copper of St Mary sits atop the church’s roof. It’s the largest statue of Mother Mary in Ljubljana.

 

Franciscan church in Ljubljana by day

The ‘pinkish-red’ church by day

 

 

Inside the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation — Ljubljana attractions

The church’s interior is as striking as its façade. An altar, constructed by Italian sculptor Francesco Robba is the eye-catching centerpiece.

A devastating earthquake in Ljubljana in 1895 created cracks in the ceiling and ruined many of the church’s original frescoes. In 1936, Slovenian impressionist painter, Matej Sternen, painted the ‘new’ frecoes which you can see today.

The monastery

Augustine monks lived at the monastery up to the end of the 18th century. The building dates to the 13th century, its most notable feature being the library.

Said to hold more than 70,000 books, the monastery library is also thought to include medieval texts.

The monastery’s next to Prešeren Square, and sits between 3 streets (Čop, Nazor and Miklosich).

The ‘pink church’ at night — Ljubljana attractions​

10. Metelkova mesto

This last ‘attraction’ doubles up as a 2-in1.

As you walk past Dragon Bridge, and exit the old town, continue on the street alongside the river. This street’s called Petkovškovo nabrežje and it’s a pedestrian-only area.

Here, you’ll pass by several small shops and bars. You may also notice the atmosphere feeling a touch more local.

For a good café and brunch in Ljubljana, I suggest stopping by EK Bistro. A modern diner with a rustic feel, they serve up tasty Slovenian breakfasts and good coffee.

Behind Petkovškovo nabrežje is another street called Trubarjeva Cesta. Along with some small shops, it’s where you can also find some non-Slovenian eateries.

The street’s currently undergoing a complete transformation, and builders at work occupy the street. Admittedly, it’s a far cry from the pretty streets of the old town, and it won’t be for everyone.

Still, if you want to see something a little different, and alternative, there’s no harm in passing by.

 

Street art in Metelkova mesto Ljubljana Slovenia

Never a dull moment at Metelkova mesto in Ljubljana

 

 

Metelkova mesto — Ljubljana attractions

Speaking of alternative areas, if you’ve some time to spare in Ljubljana, you may want to visit Metelkova mesto.

A colorful cultural center set in a former military site, there are 7 buildings extended over 12,500 m². Metelkova mesto showcases different arts and sculptures, and it also hosts various events like concerts and club nights.

The place is named after the 19th century Slovenian Roman Catholic priest and philologist, Fran Metelko. Its gritty and grungy appearance reminds me of the free-spirited Christiania in Copenhagen — just without the strict rules.

There’s a stark contrast from day to night at Metelkova mesto. Daytimes are quiet, somber and if I’m being honest, a little lifeless. At night is when the place comes to life, with crowds including students and music fans coming together.

While everyone’s welcome, there’s a slight hipster vibe at Metelkova mesto and it may not suit everyone. Yet, the colorful art, buildings and unique sculptures are worth a visit, and make for some cool travel photos.

Metelkova mesto, Metelkova ulica 10, 1000

A less obvious attraction to see in Ljubljana — the colorful area of Metelkova mesto

Where to stay in Ljubljana?

I can’t sing the praises enough of our accommodation in Ljubljana. Vander Hotel is a 4-star chic boutique hotel in a superb location in the old town.



Booking.com

Rooms embrace a modern design, and the hotel also has a restaurant and champagne bar on site.

 

Bedroom and bathroom at Vander Hotel Ljubljana

Modern, yet cozy accommodation, at Vander Hotel, Ljubljana

 

Come summer, the rooftop pool is a popular spot for guests to relax, swim and sunbathe.

Have you visited Ljubljana? Are there any other attractions you think are worth mentioning? Let me know in the comments below.

Till next time, happy boutique travels x

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended. Thank you for your support.

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Lisa Rivera

Lisa Rivera

Founder

 

Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience; a demographic (late 20s onwards) that enjoys glamping over camping, staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels, sampling the local food and wine, cultural activities, and indulging in a spot of wellness on their travels. Read more here…

       

 

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