Traditional Slovenian food — 10 things you must eat in Ljubljana
What do you know about traditional Slovenian food? If it’s a big fat zero, you’re not alone. Before visiting its capital, Ljubljana, I also had no idea about Slovenian cuisine.
If I’d had to guess, I would’ve said it was something similar to the food we ate in Poland. Plenty of heavy red meat-based dishes, potatoes and cabbage — hearty, traditional flavors. However, because Slovenia borders Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, I was also aware of additional surrounding influences.
Given our minimal knowledge of Slovenian food, booking the Ljubljana Food Tour seemed like a good idea.
With the help of our guide, we were about to discover some of the best things to eat in Slovenia.
Gastronomy in central Slovenia
The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, is located in the central region of the country. The woodlands here are bursting with mushrooms and forest fruits, and the grassy pastures are ideal for roaming cows.
Something we also didn’t know before visiting, was the number of beekeepers — and the number of bees — in Slovenia. With around 11,000 beekeepers in a small country, you won’t be surprised to read that Slovenians like their honey.
There’s an endless number of varieties to count, also available in differing shades and textures.
The best places to tuck into some traditional Slovenian dishes is at a restaurant, café, snack bar, or gostilna. These are similar to an Italian trattoria, where gostilnas also tend to be family run, and serve up homestyle cooking.
Holy Spirit Street in Tallinn, the location of Estonia’s first 5-star luxury hotel ©Schlössle Hotel
1. Start with Carniola sausage
One of my predictions about Slovenian cuisine was spot on as I found out from our first dish. Sausages are a popular item on the Slovenian table and their varieties are lip-smackingly good.
Its traditional name is Kranjska klobasa, which translates to Carniola sausage. The sausage was named in the 19th century after the former Austro-Hungarian province of Carniola.
Kranjska klobasa is made primarily from pork and pieces of bacon. Other ingredients also include sea salt, garlic, black pepper and 5% water. So important is Kranjska klobasa in Slovenian cuisine, that it’s now a protected food.
A protected meaty foodstuff — traditional Slovenian food
In 2015, the country entered Kranjska klobasa into the register of protected geographical indications (PGIs) and it was accepted. The oldest recipe to make Kranjska klobasa dates to 1896, and is still used by Carniolan sausage producers.
Grab your first taste of traditional Kranjska klobasa at Klobasarna. This eatery on Ciril-Metodov trg is easy to spot — just look for the large sausage (in shape of pretzel) sign.
Look out for the sausage sign at Klobarsna — traditional Slovenian food
“The woodlands here are bursting with mushrooms and forest fruits, and the grassy pastures are ideal for roaming cows.”
Map: best places to eat traditional Slovenian food in Ljubljana
2. Move onto some beef tongue
Upon first hearing what we’d be eating at the next place, I’ll admit, I wasn’t overly keen. Despite being a meat eater, and having tried many different parts of the cow, its tongue just didn’t appeal.
Boiled and marinated beef tongue with horseradish is a very traditional dish in Slovenia. Typically served on Sundays, or during holidays, the beef tongue and horseradish is still popular and served in many restaurants.
Traditional Slovenian food — my first try
The first thing I noticed, when our plates arrived, was how thin the slices were. A delicate flavor, and a texture that melts in the mouth, I was pleasantly surprised.
I’m not big on spicy foods or condiments, so I added a dot of horseradish to the beef tongue.
We tried the dish together with homemade bread, and a glass of robust Sauvignon Cabernet at Hiša Pod Gradom. This gostilna is 1.4km (0.8m) from Ljubljana Castle, and about 200m from the Central Market.
Hiša Pod Gradom also has apartments for hire if you’re looking for accommodation close to the town center.
Traditional Slovenian food — taste of beef tongue
3. Room for sautéed potatoes
More often than not, the simpler the dish, the tastier it is. And this couldn’t be truer than a traditional Slovenian potato dish that we tried on the Ljubljana food tour.
Pražen krompir is to Slovenians what steamed white rice is to many Asian countries. This super simple dish consists of boiled potatoes sautéed with onions in lard until golden brown.
A sign of a good Pražen krompir is when the potato slices has a golden-brown crust.
Druga Violina — where to eat traditional Slovenian food
You’d be forgiven upon entering the premises that Druga Violina looks like any other restaurant. However, once you’ve settled in and had a look at the menu, you’ll notice this place has a unique feature.
A small restaurant in the center of the old town, Druga Violina is also a social project. The eatery employs people with special needs, inviting them to connect with the wider community.
Druga Violina is also where we had our first taste of Pražen krompir and it was delicious. The restaurant also serves up other Slovenian classics such as beef soup, and veal stew in butter.
Lastly, I should also say that Druga Violina is very reasonable in price, and ideal for travelers on a budget.
Pražen krompir, or sauteed potatoes and onions, is a traditional, and very popular, Slovenian dish
4. Fried chicken, Slovenian style
Of all the dishes I’d had an inkling of trying in Ljubljana, fried chicken wasn’t one of them. Leteči žganci is popular in Ljubljana, and as you can imagine, is incredibly tasty.
Traditional Slovenian food — the story behind žganci
The word ‘žganci’ refers to a dish that many Slovenians commonly ate. A bland combination of flour and water, it’s a dish that was associated with poverty and struggle for survival. žganci was also often the only thing poor people could afford to eat.
What gave the žganci its flavor were the side courses or toppings that came with it.
Leteči žganci translates to ‘flying žganci’. The name, oddly enough, has nothing to do with the boiled flour combination. Instead, it was more of a joke associated with the workers who worked by the river ports in Ljubljana.
These workers would eat fried chicken in the morning, which during the 17th century, was seen as extraordinary. Many people couldn’t afford to eat this kind of meal once a month, let alone every morning. Because of this, people began calling the chicken dish, ‘flying žganci’, the flying part referring to the animal.
While flour is used to make the crunchy coating, water doesn’t appear in the ingredients for Leteči žganci. Crispy on the outside, and tender in the middle, I can completely understand why the workers ate it every day.
Traditional Slovenian food — where to try Leteči žganci in Ljubljana?
We had our first bite of the traditional fried chicken dish at Restavracija Romansa 1971. The restaurant’s just past Congress Square on Trg Republike 1.
As well as classic Slovenian items, they also serve up Balkan, Italian and Mexican (!) cuisine.
Leteči žganci, or fried chicken, Slovenian style
5. Perfect potica
My ears pricked up upon discovering what was next on the menu on our Ljubljana food tour. With a sweet tooth to keep in check, I couldn’t wait to have my first taste of traditional Slovenian potica.
This rolled pastry made from paper-thin dough is packed with many different fillings. These may include walnuts, cottage cheese, hazelnuts and chocolate.
Along with sweet varieties of potica, there are also savory versions too. In the municipality of Logatec in central Slovenia, they make a potica with crackling. It’s typically made in the winter and is best eaten warm.
Elsewhere in the municipality of Velike Lasce, they add tarragon and crackling to their savory potica rolls.
Where to try potica in Ljubljana
Experience 2 firsts in 1 go in Ljubljana at Skyscraper (Nebotičnik). As its name suggests, it was once one of the tallest buildings in the capital.
Today, its café on the top floor is one of the best places to get panoramic views of Ljubljana. Enjoy the view, along with a warm slice of potica and a small shot of blueberry liquor.
You can’t visit Slovenia without trying a slice of potica
6. Soups to warm the soul
We arrived quite late on our first night in Ljubljana. Without knowing where we were, or where to eat, we wandered into the first cozy restaurant near to our hotel.
Gujžina is a gostilna-style restaurant that specializes in Slovenian food from the Prekmurska region. This is the region to the north east of Slovenia, which is also very close to the border with Hungary.
The restaurant’s the first Prekmurje restaurant in Ljubljana. Both of its owners have roots from the region and wanted to bring its cuisine to the forefront.
What to eat at Gujžina
Slavic is one of the most difficult languages I’ve ever come across. Usually, you can find some clue as to what the dish is, but this time around, I was totally stumped.
Fortunately for us, we didn’t get the chance to try and dissect the menu. The kitchen was closing in 15 minutes, and they could only offer us 2 options: a choice between 2 soups.
And on an autumn evening in mid-November, I could think of nothing better.
I ordered a soup called Bujta Repa, while my partner took the traditional Prekmurje Bograč.
In layman’s terms, mine was a fragrant hotpot of sour turnip with pork, pickled and grated turnip and millet.
The Prekmurje Bograč was a rich stew-like soup loaded with pork, beef, venison, potatoes, onions and garlic. It reminded me of a goulash, just with a little more heat.
Dishes for everyone at Gujžina
If you do arrive earlier than 9.45pm, Gujžina also has an excellent menu with something for everyone.
For meat eaters, there are several options to choose from. They include the Gypsy-style pork cutlets in garlic sauce, and fried turkey fillet with pumpkin seeds. Both items come with a side dish.
Vegetarians and vegans are also catered for at Gujžina. They’ve a homemade vegan plate, with delicacies like smoked vegan ham and vegan spreads. Gujžina also has a vegan version of my soup, simply called Vegan Turnip.
As I mentioned before, restaurants tend to close earlier in Ljubljana. If it’s something you’re not accustomed to, booking ahead, ie for 7.30 / 8pm guarantees you’ll get a table.
Gujžina, Mestni trg 19, 1000
Tuck into a hearty turnip and pork soup at Gujžina — traditional Slovenian food
7. Gorgeous Gibanica
There’s no escaping trying a slice of Gibanica when in Slovenia. This pastry-style cake is a Slovenian classic, and it’s filled with creamy deliciousness.
There are different versions of Gibanica, where fillings vary according to different parts of the country. Typical ingredients include cottage cheese, apple, walnuts, poppy seeds and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. You can also find some versions that come with sour cream, which only adds to the richness of the cake.
Gibanica isn’t the lightest dessert — as you can tell from the photos — and I wouldn’t suggest it after a big meal.
However, on a rainy Autumn day, with the wind sweeping the leaves up outside, Gibanica is the perfect antidote. In Ljubljana, we took the advice of the locals and headed to Zvezda. This patisserie in the heart of the old town serves up traditional desserts, which are also suitable for vegans.
Zvezda, Wolfova ulica 14, 1000
8. Beef + noodles + vegetables = soup
On a sunny Sunday lunchtime in Ljubljana, we took a stroll to the city’s largest park, Tivoli Park. A well-kept space, with plenty of walk paths and foliage, it’s a mini nature getaway from the old town.
And, among the greenery and sculptures you find while wandering through Tivoli Park are several great restaurants like Bistro Švicarija.
While its name may not be the easiest to pronounce, the food and ambience is something you’ll never forget.
From the outside, Bistro Švicarija resembles some sort of medieval farmhouse. Its prime location, atop a small hill, provides uninterrupted views of Tivoli Park, and a little beyond.
Inside, is a scene so inviting, we ended up staying for over 2 and a half hours! A traditional setting with wooden oak tables and chairs, all that was missing was a roaring fire.
Every Sunday, the restaurant has a 4-course set menu featuring many traditional Slovenian dishes. Not only is it great value for money, but it also means you can try many dishes in one setting.
Begin with prosciutto at Bistro Švicarija
Prosciutto in the park
It didn’t seem long after the menus were taken away, that the first course arrived. An antipasto of prosciutto and cheese made its way to our table, along with a bread basket.
Also, on the tray were some olives and pate. It was a struggle not to want to eat everything, but with 3 more courses ahead, making space was essential.
Beef noodle soup is served — traditional Slovenian food
Next to arrive was the beef noodle soup. When I read it on the menu, my mind immediately imagined a Japanese-style beefy ramen broth.
Of course, the reality was a little different than where my imagination was taking me. More similar to a consommé rather than a soup, the silky smooth first course made an ideal light starter.
The noodles are thin long strips of egg pasta, handmade, and they melt in the mouth. These noodles are also much shorter and finer than the Chinese or Italian noodles you may be accustomed to. Save the slurping for another time, because this noodle soup’s a more sophisticated affair.
The beef flavor isn’t overpowering. Instead, it’s as light and as delicate as the rest of the dish.
Traditional Slovenian food — a fragrant meaty, yet delicate beef noodle soup at Bistro Švicarija
9. A Slovenian roast lunch
In many cultures, Sunday lunch is traditionally spent with family, and Slovenia is no exception. At Bistro Švicarija, most of its clientele consist of extended families, along with couples and groups of friends.
And what better way to celebrate family time, than with a traditional roast lunch? Just as the English have a roast on Sundays, so too it seems do the Slovenes.
Veal and potatoes — traditional Slovenian food
Have you ever been at a restaurant, received your order, and found that it was just too pretty to eat?
This was my dilemma at Bistro Švicarija with the main course. A multicolored plate of flavors, colors and textures was presented before me — it almost felt wrong to ruin it.
A perfectly cooked roast of veal leg was the king of the show. Tender, and a little bit pink, I’d to contain myself from wolfing it down.
Alongside the veal, there was the traditional Pražen krompir (potato dish), winter vegetables, and a little savory puff pastry. It reminded me of an English Yorkshire pudding, only ¾ smaller in size.
Beautifully put together, and sublimely delicious, I was in Slovenian food heaven.
Almost too pretty to eat — traditional Slovenian roast lunch at Bistro Švicarija
10. End on a strudel
You might think that after annihilating the main course, we wouldn’t have any room left for dessert — you’d be wrong.
After a reasonable amount of time to digest our earlier courses, the final of the 4 arrived. A fragrant and warm slice of apple strudel, accompanied with a scoop of ice cream was presented before us.
Unlike other varieties we’d tried in the past, the Slovenian version is much lighter. Crispy thin sheets of filo pastry envelope filings of cooked apples, sugar and spices. The ice cream also comes with an apple crisp on top to finish the plate.
Lunch at Bistro Švicarija was an immensely enjoyable affair. The icing on the cake was the live music they have (each Sunday), to entertain the guests.
Two musicians provided a few hours of superb music, which made it even more difficult to leave. If you’ve time to visit for lunch at Bistro Švicarija, go, and don’t eat anything beforehand.
It’s the kind of place that ticks every box for an excellent dining experience, and its staff are attentive and friendly.
In short, it’s the kind of place you’ll want to return to again and again.
Bistro Švicarija, Pod Turnom 4, 1000
What are your thoughts on Slovenian food? Is there anything in particular that you’d like to try from the dishes in the post? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll get back to you!
Till next time, happy boutique travels x
Disclosure: Though I was invited by Visit Ljubljana on the food tour, all views expressed are my own. 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.
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…