Maybe you are on a road trip in the Balkans or just want to get to know a new city? The Slovenian capital is perfect for a short trip. I’ll show you which sights in Ljubljana you can discover in one day and share my tips for a fairytale destination that took my heart by storm!
History of Ljubljana
Ljubljana has had a turbulent past and you wouldn’t believe how much history there is in this relatively small capital with just under 300,000 inhabitants. The first pile dwellings were built here as early as 3600 BC. In Greek mythology, Ljubljana became famous because the Greek hero Jason is said to have defeated a dragon at the source of the Ljubljanica River after stealing the Golden Fleece. Therefore, the dragon is still the heraldic animal of Ljubljana and appears again and again in the cityscape.
Later, the Romans founded the settlement of Emona here in 14 A.D., but it disappeared from the scene after the invasion of the Slavs around 600. Today, for example, the street name Emonska cesta in the middle of the old town reminds us of this.
In the course of history, Ljubljana was sometimes Austrian (the German name of the city, “Laibach”, comes from this time), sometimes Italian, sometimes French, and in a very inglorious part of the history also German. In 1945, Slovenia then became part of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia; in 1991, it became the first of the Yugoslav republics to become independent and, except for a ten-day war, was mostly spared the severe period of the Yugoslav war.
Sights in Ljubljana
The Ljubljana Castle towers above the city. You should not miss a visit here! You can easily make the climb on foot: there’s a pretty nice path to the top, which also offers a great view of the entire city and the mountains in the background along the way. In places it’s a little steep and I personally thought: better up before eating! On the other hand, you’re also providing a bit of a daily workout. If you are lazy or prevented from walking for other reasons, you can also take the funicular that leads to the top of the mountain.
Once at the top, besides the spectacular view, you can also see the castle itself from the inside. There is, for example, a museum of Slovenian history, a puppet theater museum and various temporary exhibitions. In summer, open-air events are often held in the castle courtyard.
You can also take a break up here: There are several cafes and restaurants on the castle grounds. If you like it very elegant, you will even find a star restaurant here with the Strelec.
The Dragon Bridge is another landmark of Ljubljana and reminds with the dragons of the founding story from Greek mythology. The dragon sculptures were created in the period of the Viennese Secession and with their Art Nouveau character fit perfectly into the charming old town of Ljubljana.
You should also plan an extensive walk along the waterfront promenade on the Ljubljanica. Here you will find many cafes and restaurants where you can really enjoy the picturesque atmosphere of Ljubljana.
Responsible for the successful design of the waterfront is the Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik, who also designed many other buildings in Ljubljana and had a significant impact on the overall cityscape. His urban planning concept can still be felt in Ljubljana today, and in 2021 his work in Ljubljana was even included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites . In addition to the waterfront and the bridges over the Ljubljanica, the World Heritage Site also includes, for example, the National and University Library of Slovenia.
Boat trip through Ljubljana
A boat trip on the Ljubljanica River is also said to be particularly rewarding. The boat ride takes about 45 minutes, and you just go up and down the river – which I imagine is really romantic, though, with the view of the enchanting old town and castle. Definitely a must-do for my next visit.
Other sights in Ljubljana
I had to postpone many sights until a next visit. To explore the whole of Ljubljana in just one day is not easy after all. (I would advise you on a short trip already to at least two days in the city). Some locations I haven’t seen anymore, but I’ll list them here anyway; maybe you’ll make it!
Tivoli Park is one of the many green spots in and around Llubljana. The large green park also houses several museums. To get there from the Old Town, you just have to follow the Jakopič promenade to Tivoli Castle, which, by the way, was also designed by Jože Plečnik. You can be there in 15 minutes on foot.
Central Market The Central Market is another work by Jože Plečnik and consists of a marketplace as well as several market halls. Here you can find everything from fresh local produce, traditional food to handmade souvenirs. The market complex is open every day except Sundays and is definitely on my list for my next visit to Ljubljana!
Metelkova Mesto I definitely want to explore the alternative cultural center again in the evening. Many cultural events take place here, there are concerts and clubs. Nearby is also the Metelkova Museum of Contemporary Art, the Slovenian National Museum of Contemporary Art.
Where to eat in Ljubljana
I was very surprised by the range of exciting locations in Ljubljana! Going out for a good meal or finding nice cafes is really no problem here. Nevertheless, I have brought a few tips for you, so that you already have a first clue for your trip to Ljubljana.
Vigò Judging by the queue outside the door, this place must really have the best ice cream in Ljubljana! But in any case it is really delicious. Tip: If you don’t feel like waiting for a long time at the branch in Mačkova ulica: Somewhat hidden, but still centrally located, between Congress Square and the waterfront is another branch, Vigò Sorbetto , where you can only get ice cream and which was not very busy during our stay.
Ljubljanski dvor Here you can get solid pizza, pasta and salads. But the real attraction is the terrace right on the waterfront: the view from this spot is unbeatable. Perfect location to soak up the atmosphere of Ljubljana on a sunny day.
Fancy some more city breaks in Europe?
Then get inspired by my ideas for a short trip here!
Day trips from Ljubljana
Not only Ljubljana is beautiful, but also the rest of Slovenia offers a variety of beautiful corners worth exploring. Especially outdoor and nature lovers will get their money’s worth here. High mountains, enchanted caves, crystal clear lakes and a lot of untouched nature make Slovenia a popular destination.
The good thing is that the distances are short. With only 2 million inhabitants and an area of just over 20,000 square kilometers, Slovenia is one of the smallest states in Europe.
A trip to Bled from Ljubljana is especially worthwhile. St. Mary’s Church, located on an island in the eponymous Lake Bled (Blejsko jezero in Slovenian), has become Instagram-famous and attracts visitors from all over the world. You can also take a small wooden boat to the island and have a close look at the sanctuary. Especially popular there is the ringing of the so-called “wish bell“.
Arrival to Ljubljana
Ljubljana has a small, but still very modern airport. Direct flights are available, for example, with Lufthansa* from Frankfurt or Munich.
By car, it is virtually a stone’s throw from Munich or many cities in Austria to Ljubljana. The travel time from Munich is about four and a half hours. (Attention: Tolls will be charged on the way!)
But Ljubljana is also easy to reach by train: From Munich’s main station, for example, there is a direct connection via Salzburg, which, by the way, is also very worth seeing. (Maybe you want to make a stop there, too? Here you can find my tips for Salzburg).
Accommodation in Ljubljana
I didn’t have to worry about the overnight stay in Ljubljana, because I was there on business. However, I’ve researched a few beautiful locations for every budget that you might enjoy as well.
Ibis Styles The Fuzzy Log* The Fuzzy Log is uncharacteristically a hostel for an Ibis Styles hotel, but the concept sounds very interesting; especially if you don’t want to spend a lot. There are only shared bathrooms, but still some private accommodation in the form of so-called “cabins”. In good weather, the tent structures on the roof are also an option.
Bloom Hotel* The Bloom Hotel has recently opened and is located in the middle of the old town. It doesn’t get more central than this!
Hotel Heritage* If you want to treat yourself, I would recommend Hotel Heritage. Not only the location in the middle of the old town is unbeatable, but also the ambience of the renovated old building, which perfectly matches the fairy-tale atmosphere of the city.
More travel inspiration for Slovenia
If you now have a taste for more ideas on what to do in the Ljubljana area, I recommend the blog of my fellow blogger Magda: On Wanderfolk.de you will find many more great reports and tips for Slovenia!