As pretty as Prague, but without the men in morph suits, Ljubljana is the stag-free, less touristy answer to your city break dreams.
Once you’ve learnt how to pronounce it - the ‘j’s sound like ‘i’s; so it sounds really pretty - you’ll be recommending Slovenia’s capital city like TripAdvisor’s going out of fashion.
Head to Vodnikov Square market for a fruit and veg fest, on that fleeting day you feel like you *should* be healthy on holiday. Then, as you trot on over to Pogacarjev Square to sit at the food hall-esque tables or stairs, make a pitstop at the market in the middle of the two squares. There are cooked meats, home made bread, cheesy chunks and Slovenian biscuits up for grabs.
For a traditional Slovenian cuisine, go to Slovenska Hiša. The food is prepared using produce from Slovenian farms and they do a banging brunch too. The restaurant is welcoming and dishes are served on wooden platters.
Another good brunch spot is Druga Violina (which means ‘Another Violin’ and has nothing to do with druggies whatsoever). Located in the old town, get your fill of štruklji - buckwheat filled with cottage cheese or walnuts - and enjoy on the terrace, or indoors. Most of Druga Violina’s staff have special needs, and the restaurant aims to help break any social barriers surrounding them.
For somewhere arresting to lay your head, spend a night behind bars; Hostel Celica offers guests the chance to stay in renovated army prison cells. More than 80 local and international artists converted the former prison, and each cell has a different design and story to tell.
Set in a townhouse with a cute little garden, the Adora Hotel is close to the city centre and many of the key sights. Just a 10 minute walk from Congress Square and a 12 minute walk from Ljubljana Castle, you can have an especially long lie in, with the “do not disturb” sign on for both the cleaner’s and your own benefit (you don’t want to be known as a noro ženska – crazy lady), and still get a lot of sightseeing packed into the day.
Channel your inner Daenerys and collect dragons, Game of Thrones style… but, instead of riding them, you can just take photos instead. Grand dragon statues can be found all over the city, as a nod towards Ljubljana’s medieval architecture. A dragon even appears in their coat of arms.
Another strong medieval influence is the castle on the hill, a la Ed Sheeran. The castle has a viewing tower too, so you can observe the old and new town and cast an eye on the city below. When lit up at night, the building could be straight out of a fairytale.
Walk right into another fairy tale and cross the drawbridge (okay, it’s a normal bridge) to the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. Beautifully red among more muted colours, the church is striking both inside and out.
Where better to recharge your batteries than in last year’s European Green Capital of the Year? Escape the city rush, sit outdoors in Tivoli City Park and breathe the freshest air into your lungs. The city’s largest park; the grounds are peppered with statues and fountains to admire too.
Sweat out the nasties at Urban Roof, which is home to an indoor skate park, a dance hall and a climbing wall, all under one...well… roof. It’s great fun for kids and adults alike. Prices vary depending on the size of the group and whether you bulk buy sessions.
To admire a breathtaking view, head to the Hippodrome Stožice racecourse or Reber street. Behind the training track at the Hippodrome is a beautiful panoramic view of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. The latter is a little cobbled street in the old town, just before Stari trg. As you walk under and around the old houses, a few steps before the end of the staircase, you can catch the sun setting over Ljubljana.
Close to Hostel Celica (mentioned earlier), is the Metelkova Mesto. A cultural hub with an exterior covered in beautiful art. Metelkova hosts concerts, exhibitions and various other events, and the courtyard is a pretty popular beer spot for locals. The brightly coloured Žmauc is another iconic watering hole amongst locals too.
If you’re after somewhere that you can lounge at from dawn ‘til dusk, Centralna Postaja is the place for you. A lunch and coffee spot (and an info spot, where you can get super helpful tourist information) in the day, Centralna Postaja transforms into a lively bar with good music, good drinks and sometimes even a live DJ. It is a great place to start a night of drinking.
Do you have a more refined music palette, or just fancy something different? Jazz Club Gajo was founded 20 years ago by jazz drummer, Drago Gajo, and is the perfect place to sip on a drink and enjoy the talents of many jazz musicians. In the summer, the garden opens too, for a perfect evening atmosphere.
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