Wondering about what to see and do in Ljubljana?
Ljubljana, the largest city in Slovenia, is one of the greenest European capitals. It’s a compact, easily walkable town filled with historical architecture, lovely cafes, many art galleries and some great concept stores. To make your trip to the capital of Slovenia more enjoyable, here is Culture Tourist’s Ljubljana travel guide with places you shouldn’t miss in Ljubljana.
What to see & do in Ljubljana
Each time I was in Ljubljana, I visited it on a day trip from Zagreb. However, it’s also easily reachable by plane or train from many other European cities.
One of the things I love the most about Ljubljana is how green it is. The city has an outstanding balance with nature. And everywhere you look, you’ll spot mountains, trees or a green river Ljubljanica.
Located on the outskirts of the Alps, you can often see the snow covering peeks of the surrounding mountains, even in the middle of the summer. That fantastic coexistence with nature makes Ljubljana so liveable.
The city is also relatively small and compact, so it’s easy to stroll around and explore it on foot. Most of its city centre is a pedestrian area, making it very walkable.
Although a small town, there are many things to see in Ljubljana. To help you organise your trip to Ljubljana a bit better, here are some of my tips about what to see and do in Ljubljana.
⤷ Read more: Ljubljana LUV Fest
1 – Stroll around Ljubljana city centre
Well, this is one of the obvious things to do in Ljubljana, right? However, Ljubljana city centre is filled with charming cobbled streets and beautiful architecture. The city was built and rebuilt a few times throughout history, so you’ll find buildings from different periods standing next to each other.
You’ll often stumble on some great street art, public statues and lovely local shops. So, if you are wondering what to see in Ljubljana, reserve a lot of time for wandering around its city centre.
My favourite area to stroll is alongside the Ljubljanica River. It’s a lovely promenade from where you’ll have beautiful views of the surrounding buildings.
⤷ TIP: If you’d like to learn more about this city during your visit, join this Ljubljana city centre and Ljubljana Castle guided tour.
2 – Visit Ljubljana Central Market
The city’s food market is always a great place to feel the local culture, mingle with locals and try some traditional food. Ljubljana is home to a fantastic market, situated in a building built by the most famous Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik and located next to the Ljubljanica River. Try typical Slovenian food in restaurants there or just explore it and buy local produce.
I enjoyed having a coffee with the river view in one of the cafes at the market. And bought delicious chestnut honey from one of the stands. If you’d like to explore it, put Central Market on your list of places to see in Ljubljana.
3 – Get a funicular ride to Ljubljana Castle
Opened in 2006, the electric funicular soon became one of the touristic highlights of Ljubljana. The ride is scheduled every five minutes, and it will quickly get you up the hill on which Ljubljana Castle is located. You can enjoy some fantastic views of Ljubljana and its surroundings from there.
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4 – Explore Ljubljana Castle
Located on a hill above the city, Ljubljana Castle is one of the most recognisable symbols of that Slovenian town. Its construction started during the Middle Ages as the residence of the Dukes of Carniola. However, it was rebuilt and expanded on numerous occasions later on. That’s why you’ll find parts of the castle having Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance features.
Today it’s home to a few museums, and you can also explore some of the castle’s former rooms and galleries. I especially loved the Museum of Puppetry and the Viewing Tower. However, there are loads to see and do there, and you can easily spend hours exploring Ljubljana Castle.
⤷ TIP: Buy your Ljubljana Castle online ticket on this link.
5 – Visit the National Gallery of Slovenia
The National Gallery of Slovenia is the leading art museum in the country and one of the best museums in Ljubljana. It displays the works of fine arts from the 1200s until the present day. Besides the permanent collection, it occasionally organises interesting temporary exhibitions. It’s a must-visit in Ljubljana for all art enthusiasts.
⤷ TIP: Get the National Gallery of Slovenia online ticket on this link.
⤷ Read more: Discover the best museums in Ljubljana
6 – Look for the dragons around Ljubljana
Ljubljana is known as the City of Dragons, and you’ll find its images and statues all around the town. There is even one in the official Ljubljana’s coat of arms.
The legend says that the ancient Greek hero Jason ended up somewhere around Ljubljana on one of his adventures. This is where he slaughtered the monster beast, which in later stories became a dragon. The well-known Greek myth soon became one of Ljubljana’s most famous legends.
Even the chapel in Ljubljana Castle is dedicated to Saint George. He was a saint who, according to the story, slaughtered the dragon. So you’ll find the dragon symbols on every corner in Ljubljana.
7 – Explore Ljubljana bridges
Although Ljubljanica is a relatively small river, it has quite a few bridges crossing it. A stroll alongside the river is one of the best ways to enjoy beautiful Ljubljana architecture. However, you can also explore some of its bridges while walking next to it.
One of the most famous among them is the Dragon Bridge. Built in 1901, it’s decorated with four large statues of dragons. And it’s one of the most beautiful examples of the Vienna Secession bridge architecture.
Another bridge you should visit in Ljubljana is the Triple Bridge. It is located next to the central Prešern Square and consists of three bridges decorated with stone balustrades.
⤷ TIP: Prešern Square is definitely worth exploring, too. It was named after one of the most famous Slovenian poets, Franc Prešern, whose statue is located in the middle of the square. You’ll recognise it by the famous red-facade Franciscan Church of the Annunciation built during the 17th century in the Baroque style. A model of the city located on the square will also give you a better idea of how the city centre of Ljubljana looks from above.
8 – Have lunch in one of the restaurants next to the Ljubljanica River
The promenade next to the Ljubljanica River is probably the most picturesque part of the town. If you’re visiting Ljubljana during the warmer part of the year, have lunch or a coffee in one of the restaurants there.
They all have lovely terraces where you can sit, soak in some sun and enjoy the view of the river, stunning architecture and Ljubljana Castle.
9 – Look for Jože Plečnik’s architecture in Ljubljana
Jože Plečnik is the most important Slovenian architect and a person who largely shaped the appearance of Ljubljana in the 20th century. Some of the buildings he made in Ljubljana are the Triple Bridge, the Ljubljana Central Market, and the embankments of the Ljubljanica River.
⤷ Read more: Jože Plečnik & his architecture in Ljubljana
10 – Visit some of Ljubljana’s art galleries & concept stores
While wandering around Ljubljana, I was surprised by a large number of great art galleries and concept stores. Many art galleries are located on the river bank. They have huge windows, so you can peek inside and see which kinds of exhibitions they are currently hosting. During my last visit to Ljubljana, I stumbled on an old printing shop called tipoRenesansa, where you can see historical printing presses and buy some prints made in an old-fashioned way.
If looking to buy some souvenirs while in Ljubljana, then concept stores could be a great place to go. You’ll find some fantastic works of Slovenian artists and designers in them. Some of the best concept stores in Ljubljana are Smile and Petlja, but you’ll find many more in the narrow streets of its old town.
Some more tips for exploring Ljubljana
⤷ Get Ljubljana Card – If you’re planning to visit a few attractions during your trip to Ljubljana, it could be handy to get yourself Ljubljana Card. With it, you’ll have free admission to many museums, Ljubljana Castle and unlimited use of public transport. Check this link to see all the discounts and free entries, and get your Ljubljana Card.
⤷ Have coffee in Nebotičnik – If you’d like to have a coffee with a view in Ljubljana, then go to Nebotičnik. The name of this building means the ‘skyscraper’ in Slovenian. It’s seventy metres high, consisting of thirteen floors. When it opened in 1933, it was the tallest building in Europe. The cafe and restaurant are located on the top floor, where you’ll have a fantastic view of Ljubljana.
⤷ Visit Metelkova – If you’d like to explore a bit of an underground art scene in Ljubljana, visit Metelkova. It was established in 1993 when seven former Austro-Hungarian barracks were transformed into art galleries and bars. The neighbourhood was self-proclaimed as an autonomous area and became the alternative art hub of the city.
⤷ Try Prekmurska Gibanica – if you’re wondering what food to try in Ljubljana, then be sure to put Prekmurska Gibanica on your list. It’s a cake made of different layers of cheese, walnuts, apples, poppy seeds, and other delicious ingredients. You’ll find it in many pastry shops in Ljubljana.
Ljubljana is one of the most charming European capitals and the city I love visiting over and over again. Hopefully, this Ljubljana Travel Guide will help you organise your trip to that lovely town. Do you have anything else you’d like to add to this list of things to see in Ljubljana? Let me know in the comments!
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