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When thinking of city break in Europe, Ljubljana might not be the first place that comes to mind. Well, it should be. Forget Rome, Barcelona, Paris. Ljubljana is where it’s at. And to prove this point to you, I have put together a list of the best things to do in Ljubljana.
The best things to do in Ljubljana
First up, Ljubljana castle. When wandering around the city you would be hard pushed not to notice the castle perched on top of the hill, looking down over the rest of the city.
There are two options to get up there. First up – the hike. I can’t attest how tough it is, as I went for option two. The funicular. This starts from the bottom of the hill, near the old town and ascends to the top of the hill in mere minutes. The cost of a return is €4. But, it is also included in the ticket for the castle.
The castle itself is free to wander around. However, in my opinion there isn’t that much to see without a ticket to get into the other parts. It’s not well signposted and loses a bit of its context.
I booked myself onto a tour – the behind bars tour. I found this gave a lot historical info and interest to the castle, but the price of the ticket also included the return funicular, and entry to ALL of the castles content. You can also buy a ticket, that doesn’t include a tour, for €10 which is 10% cheaper online. You also get all the content which includes by next two points (lots of options here!).
This castle has an amazing history throughout the ages – head to the virtual film to start to learn the fascinating origins of life on the castle hill.
For the best views, head up to the tower in Ljubljana castle. Access is via a beautiful red spiral staircase, cleverly designed to have an up and a down so you don’t have that awkward trying to pass someone moment.
Unfortunately the day I headed up there, the weather wasn’t the best. However, the views were still fantastic. You can see the curve of the Ljubljanica river around the city and all of the famous landmarks.
On a clear day, you can see a third of the entire country. A third!
Perhaps not for everyone, I definitely found it a little odd. But it was included in the price of the castle ticket, so hey why not?
Puppetry seems to be a big part of Slovenian culture and history, so this small exhibition is here all year round. It’s small but also interactive if you fancy giving it a go.
Free Walking tour
Featured on my best things to do in Ljubljana list as this is such a good way to get to know a city. The Ljubljana free tour meets every day, come rain or shine, in Prešeren Square at 11am. The tours are completely free, the guides work for tips only. Because their income relies on the tips they are given, they are super enthusiast, knowledgable and deliver a great tour.
It covers a lot of the main sights, Prešeren Square, Congress Square, the Cathedral, the bridges, Market & Plecnik Colonade, Town Hall, Town Square & Robba Fountain, National Library and the University. Brilliant for the first day you arrive, and gives so much history and facts about all the sights to see.
Of course some food needs to feature on a best things to do in Ljubljana list. When I go somewhere new one of the most important things is to eat some of the local food. This boxed was first ticked in the form of Jota.
A Slovenian dish consisting of sauerkraut, potato, tiny bits of fried lard and local sausage. Absolutely delicious. It does also come in a veggie version if the sausage isn’t for you!
Be warned though, it is incredibly filling! A perfect, scrumptious autumnal dish.
A very different part of the city. This area was once a former army barracks, but was then taken over by squatters. It has now been turned into a hub for nightlife, artists and independent spirit. At night its a really buzzing night scene – although not necessarily my vibe.
However during the day, it is really interesting to walk around and see some of the amazing street art which can be found on the buildings. Its only about a 15 minute walk from the river, so very easy to get to.
Check out all the bridges
Ljubljana is famous for its bridges, with good reason. Each has its own history, name and story behind it. I had two favourites.
Firstly the Dragon’s Bridge. The dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana. There are two legends behind the history of the bridge. One involving Jason and the Argonauts and the other George and the dragon. Both equally interesting and the architecture is definitely worth checking out.
My other favourite was Triple Bridge. When it was originally built, the first in the city, it was only one bridge. It is also the only bridge to have survived a great earthquake that re-shaped the architecture of Ljubljana in 1895. But when cars were introduced into the city, they realised it wasn’t wide enough. Instead of tearing down the well built bridge the architect, Plečnik (whose work is featured all over the city) added the two additional bridges for pedestrians.
The shoemakers bridge and butchers bridge are also both beautiful and need to be seen.
Grab some ice cream
Ljubljana is famed for having delicious ice cream parlours. I think people fall into two categories over which they prefer – the Vigo vs Cacao debate!
I tried both during my time in the city, and have to say Vigo was my favourite. At only €1,60 for a deliciously large scoop it was a highlight.
I think it is important to try both, just to be sure which one you prefer.
Try a burger at Pop’s Place
As I said in a point above, I know when you are visiting somewhere new the instinct is to want to eat all the local food. I do agree with this, but I am happy to make an exception for Pop’s Place. It definitely needs to feature on any best things to do in Ljubljana list.
This may be the best burger I have had. I went for ‘The Boss’ which is their classic. Grilled onion marmalade, stilton and truffle aioli. Yum.
Plus, they serve lots of local craft beers and local wines. Washing down my burger with a glass of Blažič Rebula felt pretty Slovenian to me.
Explore the open market
Every Friday evening there is an open market in the market area of the town. This is where a lot of the local restaurants set up stalls and serve some of their food. A great place to grab some absolutely delicious food, lots of options and cheaper than the restaurants.
Note, it is only open during the summer months so do check when the last one is, if you are visiting out of season.
Take a day trip
However beautiful the city of Ljubljana is, I am including a day trip on my list of best things to do in Ljubljana. It is definitely worth taking the time to get out of the city for a day. And as the country is so small, much of it is accessible from Ljubljana itself. There are so many day trips available.
Options include tours into the surrounding countryside of Slovenia, but also a day tour to Venice or Zagreb if you have more time.
I opted for a one day tour to go and see Lake Bled, and some of the other beautiful spots near Ljubljana. If time is not on your side, a trip out to Lake Bled is definitely where I recommend to start. Blog post on my day trip can be found here: Lake Bled
Check out the amazing architecture
One of the best things to do in Ljubljana is to see all the amazing buildings. There are lots of different influences to be found across the city with inspiration from Venice and the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Check out the amazing Vurnik building, which has such beautiful colours!
Stay in hostel Celica
I love staying somewhere quirky, and Hostel Celica certainly delivered on that! Once a former prison, and now a great place to stay. Located in the Metelkova area of the city, so super cool and easy to walk to all the main sights and city centre. More on my stay to come!
So there you have it, my best things to do in Ljubljana. A pretty cool city, I think you’ll agree and somewhere that I urge you to consider for your next city break!
Have you ever been to Ljubljana? What would be on your ‘best things to do in Ljubljana’ list?
If you are thinking about heading to Ljubljana have a look at my other posts:
Where to stay – Hostel Celica, Ljubljana – Hostel Review
A day trip from Ljubljana – Day trip to Lake Bled – and beyond
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