Hard word to say, hard city to leave! No one dislikes the very laid-back capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana (‘lyoo-BLY-AH-nah’). This small European destination is comfortably discovered by foot, offers interesting architecture to stare at, and has a very progressive attitude to zero waste. There are plenty of things to do in Ljubljana for those on a two or three-day city break so here are the top rated, in no specific order. If you have longer than two days in Ljubljana, don’t miss out on the majestic day trip to Lake Bled.
» You may also like: our extensive Slovenia travel guide
Ljubljana, Slovenia Things to do
1. Take It To The Bridge
…as Justin Timberlake once said.
First thoughts of Ljubljana, so many bridges and one of them is even split into three!
Regardless of there being so many, each one tells its own unique story.
In the past, local bakers who cheated their customers out of quality bread were dunked into freezing cold canal water via the Shoemaker’s Bridge (or Cobbler’s Bridge), an exciting spectacle for all to watch.
Today, lovers can secure their passion by hooking a padlock onto the Butcher’s Bridge.
Some of the architecture might seem curious, such as the Greek-like podiums on the Triple Bridge which was designed by Ljubljana’s resident architect, Jože Plečnik.
For an expert explanation of Ljubljana’s confusing architecture and the history of the city (with a ride on the Castle funicular), check out the two-hour official Ljubljana walking tour hosted by Ljubljana Tourism.
- Time: 10am daily during peak season
- Price: 17 euro
- Location: Town Hall
2. Ride Ljubljana’s Funicular
If you look up from your phones, you won’t miss Ljubljana Castle perched above the old town. You may, however, miss the unobtrusive funicular railway which connects the street to the Castle for under 5 euros.
The funicular is open all year round and one of the best ways to see the city from above. The ride is over quickly, in under a minute you race up 70 metres to the Castle Hill area.
Here you can take in the view for free, or purchase entry to the Castle grounds.
Views of lovely Ljubljana from the castle funicular
3. Fun Food Tour With Ljubljananjam
What’s the best way to find out about a country’s culture? Fill your belly like one of the locals with Ljubljananjam Food Walks!
Ljubljana is a foodie’s dream. Influenced by the Germanic/Austro-Hungarians, Mediterranean, and Yugoslavia, the Slovenian diet features lots of meats, cheese, veggies, bread, and wine.
Iva and her team will present a taste of the Ljubljana’s close-knit culinary community, as well as providing historical knowledge and bowls, plates, cups, and glasses full of Slovenian treats.
The trail takes you around some of Ljubljana’s traditional restaurants as well as the more hipster spots, leaving you with local tips and content stomachs for you to savour.
100% of Ljubljana best things to do for food and drink lovers. I am still thinking about the Orange wine we tasted and have only managed to purchase it once (in London) since then.
- Reserve your spot: Ljubljananjam Foodies’ Hub
- Price: 65 euros (individual food requirements respected)
Orange wine, my new favourite! Oh Ljubljana what to do? Drink my friend!
4. Ride Ljubljana’s Mean Streets By Bike
Everyone cycles in Slovenia’s capital, and you can too, at a ridiculously cheap price.
Pick up your bike at the Slovenian Tourist Information Centre (STIC) and for 2 euros you can have a wheely good time seeing the sights at a fast(er) pace.
An easy and enjoyable route is to pedal east to Ljubljana’s beach in the city (Špica).
An alternative option is to cycle south to Tivoli Park which, like the rest of Ljubljana, has designated paths for cyclists.
We hope this does not happen to you but people fall, the body fails (and taxi drivers mount pavements like what happened to us in Lima, Peru)- never travel without insurance.
We use True Traveller as our insurer and I had to claim in Canada (dizziness caused by ear crystals, nothing serious, just annoying), they paid out quickly. See if their website matches your travel needs here. North American readers may want to check out the most popular travel insurance provider, World Nomads. You can read our comparison review here.
5. Life’s a Beach in Ljubljana
Ok, so you won’t be making sandcastles at Ljubljana’s tranquil riverfront but the people of Ljubljana are so progressive that they do not let something as insignificant as sand get in the way of relaxation.
Pull up a sun lounger, buy a glass beer, and watch the world (and the waves) go by at Špica!
Apparently, there is even a floating bar but be aware, the river is not for swimming. One of the nicer things to do in Ljubljana in summer.
Plans are always best made with Slovenian wine!
6. Stay in a Prison
You heard me right; Ljubljana has a converted military prison where the cells have been moulded into special works of art, behind bars of course!
Hostel Celica, once home to political prisoners and menacing militarians is now a bright, modern building oozing with community spirit.
This local and tourist hotspot not only offers sleeping arrangements but also has a popular cafe, hosts live music, and an art gallery showcasing local artists of all ages and genres.
Visitors can select which cell they wish to sleep in (click here for details).
Since each room has been designed by different international artists, they are individually special!
A stay also includes a full continental buffet (not gruel, thankfully), Wi-Fi, baggage storage, solitary confinement, and use of the kitchen on the second floor.
People of all cultures, religions, sexual preferences and political beliefs are all welcome to the institution which once silenced its prisoners.
Find out more about Slovenia’s history in this [amazon_textlink asin=’174321572X’ text=’Slovenian travel guidebook’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’twoscotsusa-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’07bb4666-7152-11e7-8f2c-c9700206cc73′].
- Price: 20+ euros (cells, rooms, dorms)
- Location: Metelkova 8, SI – 1000 Ljubljana
» If you are a fan of staying in unique places you may want to check out our guide to staying in castles in Scotland!
Street Art Attack: Ljubljana Things to See and do
Tucked behind Hostel Celica is the abandoned military barracks, which has been taken over by the younger generation, loaded with spray paint.
Check out the artwork splattered over the converted buildings and the art gallery, Galerija Alkatraz.
Buy a beer and join in the laid-back vibe of the Metelkova area. This was not an easy ride for the community, it took nearly a decade of negotiating with the government not to bulldoze it and let Ljubljaneers do what they do best – regenerate!
You may want to check out the Museum of Modern Art too.
7. Ljublana Pub Crawl
One of the most popular tours in GetYourGuide is actually the Ljubljana Bar Crawl. If you are looking to party hard with a group of international visitors then reserve your spot with your party guide.
The pub crawl tours last for 5 hours and include 5 shots, drinking games (including beer pong) and entry to one of the best clubs or dance bars in the city. The guides really make solo travellers feel like friends.
8. Go Green
It’s no wonder that this small city has won the award for the EU’s greenest city.
Years ago, the government pedestrianised the canal streets (take note, Edinburgh) and introduced public water fountains on every corner.
» Budget tip – remember your water bottles.
As you can drink from the tap in Slovenia, there is no need for a filtering bottle. Something like the Tree Tribe bottle (which we personally use) is worth packing.
The city also has every type of recycling bin the Eco-warrior could desire, discreetly lined around the centre and by 2025, Ljubljana pledges to recycle 78% of its waste.
To play your part, you can purchase at any of the zero waste stores in the city, use the milk vending machines (from local farms) dotted around the town, and buy food at the market.
There is even a small bus called a Kavalir, which runs on electricity, for tourists. It’s green, naturally, looks like a large golf cart and cruises the historic area. You can book a ride here: +386 (0)31 666 331 or by hailing one down.
Finally, check out the castle lights at night, guess what colour they shine? It’s not just me that was impressed with how clean Slovenia is, check out Claudia’s views here in her guide of what to do in Slovenia.
9. Chase The Dragon
Warning: Ljubljana is so charming, you will be hooked and looking for your next fix as soon as you leave!
However, I don’t mean the consumption of heroin when I say ‘chase the dragon!’
I am referring to Jason’s dragon, that Jason from Jason and The Argonauts – the one he killed on his way back from stealing the gold fleece from King Aetes.
You’ll find these mythical beasts on Dragon Bridge, and in every gift shop. Ljubljana to do list, check it off!
10. Get High in Ljubljana
Take the lift to the top of Nebotičnik, the 70 meters high skyscraper with the torch–like top. The views from Ljubljana’s Empire State Building are stunning, day and night, and guess what?
A glass of red will only set you back a couple of euros! One of the cool things to do in Ljubljana at night.
If booze is not your bag, check out this guide to the best coffee shops in Ljubljana.
- Location: Štefanova ulica 1, 1000 Ljubljana (a Ljubljana must see)
» You may also like | Europe’s most romantic destinations
BONUS – Leave Ljubljana
Although this list of Ljubljana things to do and see could easily fill up a long weekend itinerary I highly recommend leaving the city.
It will be tough, but there are lots of lovely day trips from the capital, including the fairytale Lake Bled (the town with the church in the middle of the lake) and to the Slovenian/Croatian border where you can go glamping if you are in Slovenia for longer.
You can even visit Bled in winter to ski, sledge and watch the sunken bell tradition! Read more here.
Let someone else do the driving! This popular tour to Bled and Bohinj gives you ample time to take a short hike to Bled Castle and to ride a famous Pletna.
It also includes a stop at Vintgar Gorge (waterfall, rapids, lush green space) and dinner a local Alpine restaurant.
It’s not over yet! See the less touristy Lake Bohinj and wander through the medieval town of Skofja Loka.
How to Get to Ljubljana
Ljubljana is well connected, Slovenia’s capital is home to Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport (previously known as Brnik Airport/code: LJU), Ljubljana railway station and a bus station (Avtobusna postaja Ljubljana).
Thinking of travelling around Europe? Here’s a guide to how much you can expect to pay on transport, accommodation, food and tours.
Accommodation in Ljubljana
Considering Slovenia’s capital is such a small city there are numerous options to meet every budget.
For backpackers, there are over 30 hostels, with the majority of them located in the centre. Dorm beds start at under 25 euro and privates from 50 euros.
Check out your options and read reviews here.
Slovenia Packing List
- A waterproof coat like this Marmot Precip US / UK or Mountain Equipment Rupal US / UK
- Comfortable walking shoes and hiking boots – I swear Salomon Ellipse trek shoes US / UK
- Camera and battery
- Battery pack for your phone – I vouch for Anker’s range US / UK
- Osprey bag cover US / UK
- Eco water bottle as there are heaps of places to fill up for free – the practical Tree Tribe US / UK
- Or Water to Go Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off]
- Bamboo cutlery set US / UK
- Skross universal travel adaptor with USB slots US / UK
- Pacsafe safety net US / UK
- Hydration tablets US / UK if participating in some Slovenia wine tasting!
Don’t Forget Your Guide
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Thanks to Ljubljananjam, Hostel Celica, and Visit Ljubljana for their hospitality, an honest review as always!