I could write a book about Ljubljana. There’s so much to see and do, and the more time you spend there, the bigger will be the payback. However, the Old Town is so chocolate-box small that you can see the highlights in a day, and I can tell you about them briefly in this blog post.
European Green Capital
Ljubjlana was awarded this title in 2016, and deservedly so. It is one of the greenest, cleanest and most picturesque cities I have visited in Europe. Recently, a shift has been made towards green transport in the city centre and this is noticeable in the remarkably fresh-feeling city air.
The first permanent settlement at the site was built by the Romans who bridged the Ljubljanica river and called their city Emona. It has been inhabited and elaborated ever since, and much evidence of the medieval city survives, though the city’s architectural heyday belongs to the Habsburg period of Austro-Hungarian rule. The castle dates back to the 11th Century AD but has been remodelled throughout the centuries. Perched on top of a hill in the centre of the city, it commands a stunning viewpoint over Ljubjlana to the dramatic alps and fertile plains beyond.
A Tour of the Old Town
Let’s start in Kongresni Trg (Congress Square): here you will find the main buildings of Ljubljana University, and a beautiful tree-lined green, with the Castle its proud backdrop. From here, head North by the riverside until you reach Prešerenov Trg, the famous square commemorating Slovenia’s celebrated national poet, France Prešeren. Prešeren’s gaze is fixed towards a building on the opposite side of the square where his unrequited love, Julia Primic, looks back at him. Here you will also see the Tromostovje, the famous three bridges of Ljubljana: take any one of them to cross into the heart of the old town below the castle. This area is filled trendy boutiques and luxury gift shops catering to the high-end tourist market. But there’s no need to spend a lot of money to enjoy the centre. You can walk up to the castle for free, or take the scenic funicular. The main courtyard of the Castle and its cafe are free to enter, but if you want to take a proper tour, there is an entrance fee. Allow around 2-3 hours to explore the castle properly.
Descend by either of the scenic walkways or the funicular, and be sure to visit the Cathedral, Mestni Trg (Town Square) and the Robba Fountain representing three Slovenian rivers, the Sava, Ljubljanica and Krka. Cross back over the river via the Mesarski Most (Butcher’s Bridge) or Zmajski Most (Dragon Bridge) for a slightly longer walk. The Dragon is the heraldic symbol of Ljubljana and as such you will find it depicted on the City’s flag and in sculptures and artworks all over town. Following the river back to Kongresni Trg, you will find a great variety of riverside bars and restaurants in a peaceful leafy setting should you wish to take a rest and soak up the ambience.
Alternative Forms of Transport
If you don’t fancy doing so much walking, or you are unable to get around on foot, you can take the free ‘Zeleni Kavalir‘ electric bus service round town. There is also a tourist train running from Kongresni Trg up to the castle, and in Summer you can take a boat trip down the Ljubljanica and enjoy views of the city from a new perspective.
Much of Ljubljana’s beauty lies not only in its buildings but also in its compact size and setting in a broad and verdant plain with the Alps forming a dramatic backdrop to the North and West. There is much to discover here and I have only scratched the surface. I will be sure to provide further Ljubljana-based itineraries and activities at a later date – stay tuned for more Postcards from Slovenia! You can find more images from Ljubjlana on Instagram @experimentsinfiction.