Most people give Ljubljana just a couple of nights and then move on to their next destination. While it’s true that you can do the popular tourist activities in 1 super speedy or 2 leisurely days, Ljubljana makes a terrific base for day trips to castles, caves, and medieval towns all within an hour’s drive from the city.
- Open Kitchen
- Ljubljana Free Walking Tour
- Ljubljana Castle
- Plečnik House
- Skocjan Caves
- Postojna Cave
- Predjama Castle
Sampling the Chef’s Offerings at Open Kitchen
Every Friday the Central Market is buzzing with all types of food stalls in Ljubljana’s Open Kitchen. You’ll find plenty of opportunities for a meal or a bite here and there, with many of the stalls manned by the chefs and staff of some of Ljubljana’s restaurants. A terrific way to sample a restaurant’s finger friendly offerings at a fraction of the cost. Wine, beer, music and lots of happy people make a lively scene, a great way to start a stay in Ljubljana!
Tip: Open Kitchen is held on Fridays in the Central Market square from mid-March to October, 8 am until 9 pm (weather permitting).
Fascinating Facts, Myths, and History on a Walking Tour
My favorite way to learn about a city and get to know my way around is a “free” walking tour (you know it’s for tips, right?). On our first full day in city the Ljubljana Free Tour fit the bill perfectly, delivering a lot of fascinating facts, myths and history in an interesting and fun 2+ hour tour up and down the riverside, across bridges, to Congress square, the National Library, and finishing in the courtyard of the former Monastery of the Holy Cross.
Any tour of Ljubljana has to include some of the structures designed by the famous architect Jože Plečnik. An easy start is the bridge connecting the Old Town of Ljubljana to Prešeren Square. When the busy old bridge needed to be expanded to accommodate both traffic and pedestrians, Plečnik was chosen to design the expansion. His design used the same style as the original and added the two pedestrian extensions plus the stairs leading down to the river.
Some Scenes of Lovely Ljubljana Along the Walking Tour
Tip: On Saturday mornings the public market is in full swing – if you’re lucky your guide may give you a sample of the traditional sour turnip and sauerkraut (sour cabbage) to try.
The unromantic name Butcher’s Bridge is popular for the romantic gesture of love locks. This bridge is a modern construction that connects the market place to the other side of the river.
The massive National and University Library is considered one of Jože Plečnik’s greatest achievements. The huge reading room spans multiple floors and is filled with light from the windows on both sides of the building. The main stairs in the center lead up to the reading room and symbolize the central thought of the architecture, “From the twilight of ignorance to the light of knowledge and enlightenment”.
Up, Down, and In and Out of the Ljubljana Castle
The Ljubljana Free Tour was finished by 1:30, leaving plenty of time to visit the Ljubljana Castle. The big draw of the castle is the outstanding view over Ljubljana, but the castle itself has some interesting features that can keep you busy for hours. You can just get a ticket and wander around but there are other tour options – an audioguide for a do-it-yourself tour, or for the same price, a regular guided tour or a tour called Time Machine which is a guided tour featuring a variety of costumed staff members playing the part of historical figures. Time Machine it is! An entertaining 90 minutes at various stops around and in the castle as the characters describe their periods in the history of the castle.
If you’re expecting a picturesque crumbling old castle, you’ll be disappointed. The castle has been renovated from 2000 to 2015 to be used for community and private events, complete with a fantastic underground service area. An interesting pictoral exhibit of the history of the renovation and stabilization work is on one of the modern levels underneath the castle. The sublevels have some beautiful spaces used for photography exhibits and art galleries.
With the rest of the afternoon and evening to spend we saw everything in the castle from top to bottom – the Virtual Castle film, Slovenian History museum, Penitentiary, Chapel, Tower, galleries and – the fascinating and fun Puppetry Museum.
Tip: If you’re short of time you can skip the audioguide or tours and save a whopping…€2
Tip: Walk to the castle on the path near the funicular and back to Ljubljana on the path on the other side.
More Sights in Ljubljana – The Skyscraper, Metelkova, the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum, and the Plečnik House
For a terrific view of Ljubljana Castle, drop in for a cappuccino at the Nebotičnik (The Skyscraper) for terrific 360 degree views from the terrace and café.
A 15-20 minute walk from the Skyscraper, near the Central Bus station and train station, is Metelkova – an alternative culture community center that tourists love to visit to take pictures of the bizarre and artistically decorated buildings. Anything happening here is clearly in the evenings as evidenced by the bags and bags of empty beer cans and the spaces devoid of all but a couple of people. It doesn’t take long to walk through and snap a couple of pics.
The Slovenian Ethnographic Museum is just down the street from Metalkova and makes for a great rainy day visit for an hour or so.
The Plečnik House
If you’re interested in architecture and the architectural heritage bestowed on Ljubljana by Jože Plečnik, make time to visit the Plečnik House. The excellent hour long guided tour through the house that he lived in until his death gives you a great insight to this interesting man. There’s a short film and other exhibits in the house. It’s a little out of the way but a great walk along the river to see some more of lovely Ljubljana.
Ljubljana makes a great base for driving excursions out of the city to see some famous caves, castles and medieval towns. We took 3 days of our week long stay to see Predjama Castle, Postojna Cave, Škocjan Cave and the medieval town of Škofja Loka – all about an hour’s drive from the city. If you have to pick one excursion, make it Skocjan Cave! If you want to see both Skocjan and Postojna Cave, see Postojna first and save the best for last. Read Story >>
Tip: Lake Bled is only about a 40 minute drive from Ljubljana and it’s tempting to do a day trip from the city to walk around the lake and walk Vintgar Gorge. But to really enjoy this beautiful area give it 3 nights and visit Lake Bohinj, medieval Radovljica and the weather permitting, a drive over the Vršič Pass.
The end of April was a mixed bag for weather with sun, rain, hail, snow, and even thunderstorms while it was snowing! Spending a week with Ljubljana as a base gave us time to eat in some great restaurants and walk the delightful pedestrian streets along the river in the evenings, enjoying the sights of lovely Ljubljana. But magical? Oh yes, the crazy weather the end of April covered the city in a beautiful white blanket…just magical.
Slovenia is a small country and with a fabulous apartment to come back to, Ljubljana makes a great sightseeing base. Our luxurious apartment on Prešernova street was in a terrific neighborhood, was an easy 10 minute walk to the river, included a parking space, and had excellent WIFI. Staying for a week gave us plenty of time to see the city plus do some day trips that were under an hour’s drive away.
- Slovenia Map
- Fine Ljubljana apartments (Airbnb): Splendid Presernova Apartment, parking included.
- Ljubljana Airport Bus info
Arriving in Ljubljana
Fly from Vienna to Ljubjlana
The 50 minute Adria Airways flight zips you from Vienna into the Jože Pučnik Airport, a 45-55 minute drive from Ljubljana, arriving at 10:45.
Public Bus #28 from the Airport to Central Bus Station: It’s easy and cheap to get to the central bus station on public Bus #28, which pulls up promptly at 11:00 in the bus parking right in front of the terminal. Walk past the taxi cabs who want your business and over to the bus lanes, which may be closed off by yellow tape so people don’t park there. Buy your ticket from the driver for €4.40 per person, plus an extra €1 per bag that he’ll put under the bus. Easy peasy.
Tip: If you arrive too early to check in to your hotel, the charming riverside cafés are only a 10 minute walk from the central bus station.
Drive from Ljubljana to Lake Bled – 40 minutes.
Have you been to Ljubljana? What were the highlights of your visit?