A cute, compact city with impressive green credentials, Ljubljana is perfect for a weekend break. I’ve been twice now and loved it both times, for the beautiful views, riverside cafes and independent shops. Car traffic is restricted, giving it a dreamy feel and leaving the riverbanks free for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy. It also has a very studenty feel, and is cheap enough to have a budget weekend break. If travelling here by train, the city is surrounded by beautiful countryside.
The first time I went we stayed in Hostel Tresor, which is really central, just a stone’s throw from the Triple bridge. This costs around 24€ per person per night in July. A former bank, it is set around a high, central atrium, with dorms each named after a different currency. Many of the bank’s original fixtures and fittings, such as the lockers, can still be seen. Its really lovely, modern and light, and even had a Bitcoin machine downstairs where you could buy currency – first time I’ve ever seen one of those! This one is likely to book up though, so definitely one to plan, especially in summer. You also get a wristband between your group that opens the hostel room door electronically, which is fine until you go to bed earlier than your friend after a night out, fall fast asleep wearing said wristband and lock them out of the room (oops).
The second hostel we booked as we travelled towards Ljubljana, hence we had less choice (and a lower budget!). This was ‘Students Residence’, which is not currently on Hostel World website, as I believe you can only stay in summer when the halls are empty. This room was a twin and cost around 18€ each. It was nice, pretty basic but there was a kitchen and shower area which were basically ours as it was very quiet! Not one to go for if you’re alone or after more of an atmosphere, but fine for a quick stop. Being a towerblock though, we were on the 9th floor and it did have amazing views.
Firstly, Ljubljana castle always tops the list of things to do. It’s a leisurely 20 minute walk up the stairs (at most – it’s not steep) or a five minute 70m funicular ride.
You can see the castle from pretty much everywhere around the city! Above is part of the old town.
As you’d expect, there’s beautiful views from the top.
It’s free to wander around the grounds, but you can also pay to go inside for the Watchtower and to see art installations, the Slovenian History Exhibition and the Puppet Theatre. If you’re short of time, I personally wouldn’t go inside, but to fill a day it’s an interesting experience.
Whilst walking around, you may see a statue of a dragon, on the aptly named ‘Dragon Bridge’. There’s actually one of them on each corner, and many more smaller ones around the city.
The dragon is part of the city emblem and is said to symbolize courage, grandeur and power. Its origins can be traced back to the legends of Jason and the Argonauts and St George. They crop up everywhere, like these small metal sculptures on the riverbank.
The only food we ate here was sort of snack foods, I think the super hot weather meant we didn’t really want big meals. One of my favourite placess was Cacao, a riverside cafe offering soya lattes, smoothies and a few different sorbets. This dark chocolate and raspberry sorbet was consumed far too many times during my time here.
If you’re on a budget, then DM is a good place to go to get vegan/organic health food. It’s a bit like Boots in the UK but with more food, and they’re all across Europe.
If you fancy a mooch around the shops, there were a lot of cute, quirky ones in the Old Town, selling things such as jewellery, travel journals, slogan bags – a few reminded me of Tiger or Paperchase!
The triple bridge is a unique architectural highlight, designed by the architect Jože Plečnik. You’ll cross it a lot just wandering around. Just next to the bridge is the start of the Central market (left on the below pictures), which has loads of food and local craft stalls. For market lovers, Ljubljana also has a Sunday antique flea market.
The central Preseren Square was a hub of activity when we went. There was a man with a singing dog, a lot of small shops, the Franciscan church, food stands, the statue of the Slovene national poet France Prešeren… and an area with its very own microclimate. I’m not sure if it’s there every summer or actually why it was there, but the rain was pretty refreshing in the heat!
This fountain near the funicular is just really cute.
Congress Square is a beautiful Baroque piazza surrounded by some amazing buildings such as the Philharmonic Concert Hall. To be honest though, we used it as a place to sit, relax in the shade and observe some very unusual characters. For some reason the leaves were already falling off the trees, so we also took some very insta-worthy pictures…
What I’d do next time
A few bits I’ve seen since I went, and would love to do! Firstly, hiring a bike is a really popular activity as there’s so little traffic around the centre. I’d love to cycle up the river (look how pretty it is!) and also explore Tivoli park.
I’d also check out the Metelkova Alternative Culture Centre, which developed from a squat in a former army barracks. I’m not actually sure how we missed this! There are DJs, club nights and art performances. Now known as ‘Europe’s most successful urban squat’. You can even stay in a former cell – Hostel Celica was a prison for over 100 years.
The Christmas markets and lighting displays also look beautiful. I’d definitely book to go back at this time of year! Take a look at everything that’s going on here.
The Onward Journey
From here we went on to Pula, which involved a stressful (though again beautiful) journey involving a very hot rail replacement minibus. We were sat in very close proximity to strangers, had to endure a lot of brexit jokes at the border, and with everyone’s 40 litre rucksacks it was a bit of a squeeze… The glamour of interrailing!
Have you ever been to Ljubljana? Did I miss any of your highlights? Please comment below or come chat on Instagram.