This year seems to be the year of traveling to up and coming or ‘off the beaten path’ destinations… reaching the bottom of our travel bucket lists, we traveled to places that we never considered visiting before living in Europe. As you may have read (and if you didn’t go read now!), we went to Zanzibar, Iceland and Riga.
And now added to that list: Slovenia. After some research, it was an easy decision to visit this tiny country wedged between Italy, Austria and Croatia.
We started our two-week Parisian August exodus with two nights in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. There is plenty to do in this charming city that feels more like a big town. Three days was more than enough to explore the city and not feel rushed. (And more than enough time to learn how to spell and pronounce the city’s name!)
Hope you can can take some wanderlust inspiration from what we did and saw.
A Free Walking tour
If you regularly read this blog, you’ll know I LOVE free walking tours. Ljubljana Free Walking tour was an excellent way to see the city. I liked how they split the large group of tourists into smaller groups as they had about 4 guides. They are clearly popular. Our guide showed us around Old Town for two hours with ample seating breaks (which is key!) We learned about the long history of the city as well as that of the relatively young country. As we walked by centuries old buildings, she shared more about the culture, customs, and notable Slovenians. She also gave some good coffee and restaurant recommendations. It was the perfect introduction to the city.
A jog through Tivoli Park
If you are active or just want to feel less guilty about all the gelato you’ve had (I swear, there is an ice cream shop every 100m), going on a jog is a great way to get some exercise and explore the massive park just west of Old Town. Numerous cement paths and dirt trails criss-cross among the plush greenery and recreation facilities. It’s clear why Ljubljana was named the Green European Capital for 2016.
A drink with view from the Skyscraper
This building was once the tallest residential building in Europe. Even though that isn’t true today, it still towers over Ljubljana providing excellent views of said greenery, Viennese succession architecture and Castle Hill. A trip to a city really isn’t complete without climbing the tallest building, church steeple or tower and looking down.
A day trip to Škocjan Caves
We actually made this trip on the drive into Ljubljana, otherwise it would only take a few hours to explore and enjoy this UNESCO World Heritage Site from the city. We, along with 200+ tourists, were ushered in through a narrow man-made tunnel into the vast openness of the cave some 150m deep underground. There are two parts of the cave system: the silent cave and the murmuring cave. The murmuring is due to the river that runs underground, part of the largest known underground canyon. The stalagmites and stalactites aren’t as impressive as in other popular save systems but you come here to be in awe of the sheer size. The feeling that you’ve journeyed to the centre of the earth. The pedestrian path is safe and secure, but at one point, we crossed a bridge with impressive depths that made me cling to the handles just a little bit harder. No photos were allowed in the interior but the ones at the exit are just a small example of how big this cave is. Well worth the visit.
A meal on the River Banks
We spent most evenings and afternoons just strolling the recently developed river banks. Countless restaurants, bars, cafes and ice cream shops line the river making it a perfect place to enjoy a meal and people watch. Speaking of meals, we found good food in most places we went. In addition to the traditional štruklji and klobasa, the fresh fish and Italian style pizzas kept us well fed and satisfied.
Our favourite places for amazing coffee: TOZD and Cafetino
A stroll along the bridges
Ljubljana is a walkable city. The beautiful bridges, old buildings, fountains and parks remind me of a smaller Paris with a Viennese twist. Soak in the sights and smells of the city with long leisurely strolls through the main artery. Craft markets and buskers add to the experience. We also ventured further down to the beaches area for a quieter exploration of the river and its bridges. Down here you can usually see paddle boarders, fisherman and families enjoying the sunshine seemingly miles away from any city. Along the way, try to spot as many dragons as you can.
A hike up to the Ljubljana Castle
While you’re still on the move, talk a short but steep walk up to Ljubljana castle. There is a funicular too if you’ve had enough walking. We didn’t go into the castle to visit or eat at the well-rated restaurant there, but instead took a rest break and enjoyed the large esplanade that has a lively program during the summer.
Perusing the daily market
Nothing showcases the pulse of the city or Old Town like a visit to the local market. Here you see the foods locals eat, the social interaction and daily of life of residents. You can also grab some milk to go from the vending machine! We missed the famed Friday night market with all the food stalls but it sounds like the best place to be to sample a variety of cuisine.
BONUS TIP: Take a boat trip
We didn’t do this ourselves, but it’s a popular way to see the city from another point of view and if you want to give your feet a break, this isn’t a bad way to do it. The Free Walking Tour provided discounts for boat trips.
During our three days in Ljubljana, we averaged 15,000 steps per day! Now that’s how you explore a city.
Share your thoughts in the comment section!