Ljubljana is the cute capital city of Slovenia and for me it turned out as one of the better cities when it comes to the smaller capitals of Europe. While it's not very big in size, it is big in the hospitality it offers to its visitors. It's definitely hard not to like a city trip to Ljubljana. To me one of the best hidden gems in Europe.
Let me give you the best must-see's and must-do's to make your city trip in Ljubljana unforgettable! Here are my top things to do in Ljubljana.
1. Frančiškanska cerkev
Right in central Ljubljana you'll find a beautiful pink church with a nice square in front of it and the Tromostovje (three bridges) that lead up to the church. It's the building you see in almost every picture when you Google Ljubljana things to do. A minor setback: the interior is not pink...
2. Free Walking Tour Ljubljana
The square in front of the Frančiškanska cerkev church is also where the daily Free Walking Tours of Ljubljana depart. If you want more explanation about the highlights of Ljubljana then that is definitely a nice thing to do, but because the city centre is so small (and the groups of the walking tour quit big) you can also easily walk and explore it yourself and just Google some background information.
Make sure you stay connected on a trip to Ljubljana. Click here to read more about buying a sim card in Slovenia.
3. Ljubljanski Grad
High on the hill is the beautifully renovated castle of Ljubljana. Decide whether you are in a sporty or lazy mood: go to the top by foot or by funicular. The walking path can be quite steep, so the funicular is a good option for just a few euros.
I experienced the Puppet Path to be the easiest way by foot. Once at the top you'll not only be rewarded with beautiful views of Ljubljana, but also with nice activities to do in the castle.
The Ljubljana Castle is a must-visit in my opinion. You can enter for free if you only want to see the inside square and views over the city, but the castle has more to offer!
A ticket is €10 and gives you extra access to the Puppet museum (which I found surprisingly fun to walk around), the Viewing Tower, a short film about the history of the castle and an exhibition about the Slovenian history.
If you're lucky you'll find an artist in the chapel who will write your name on a bookmark in elegant letters which you can bring home as a souvenir. In the end I spent around 3 hours visiting the Ljubljana Castle
4. Sunset at Ljubljanski Grad
You may hate me for getting you climb up the same mountain twice, but believe me when I tell you it's again worth it! In front of the castle you'll have an amazing view over the city centre and when the sun is disappearing behind the mountains it gets even better.
You can bring your own food or drinks, but there is also a restaurant where you can sit during the sunset.
5. Tivoli Park & Ljubljana Zoo
Just outside the city centre is the big Park Tivoli. Perfect for a walk in the shade if the sun is too bright or to find a more quit place to get away from the crowded city centre. You can also find the Ljubljana Zoo in this park, which is a small but nice thing to go to if you have some spare time.
Take a look at the feeding schedule at the entrance, so you'll make sure you won't miss a 'show'. The bus stop is right in front of the entrance of the Zoo, so getting there and back to Ljubljana city center is also really easy.
6. Walk along the Ljubljanica
The Ljubljanica is the river that flows through the city Ljubljana. It's possible to do a boat tour on it, but I prefered to do it on my own speed and with nice stops along the way, so I did a walk along the river by foot. In the city centre there are countless terraces along the river that get especially during summer evenings very cozy and crowded.
But the river goes on and so can you. I walked further south where it gets immediately more serene.
A very cute local café on the way is Mala Pražarna where you can get delicious coffee. A little further down the river is also a place where you can rent sups, kayaks or canoes. I definitely want to try that during my next visit to Ljubljana.
7. Zmajski Most aka Dragon Bridge
There are a lot of stories told why Ljubljana is all about dragons, one of them is a legend about Jason, a Greek Hero that stranded near Ljubljana after he stole a ship from the King of the Black Sea. He ended up in swamp near Ljubljana where he fought the residing dragon. After he killed the dragon he became the first citizen of Ljubljana.
The dragon symbolizes courage, grandeur and power. You can find them as cuddly toys, on your beer glass, on buildings, on almost every souvenir and so on this bridge. Close to the Dragon Bridge is also the central market which is cool to visit.
8. Metelkova art district
Close to the main train station is the cool Ex Prison hostel Celica, which is the hostel I stayed in during my city trip to Ljubljana. Next to the hostel is an art district named Metelkova with graffiti everywhere!
This cultural centre was the military headquarters of the Army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following up by the Yugoslav National Army back in the days. The place feels a little bit spooky at first, because a lot of people are hanging around playing loud music, but it's safe to visit. Everyone is just doing their own thing. Insta worthy pictures incoming!
9. Day trip to Lake Bled
The famous Lake Bled is pretty close to Ljubljana and therefore easy to visit as a day trip from Ljubljana, or as your next destination in Slovenia. I decided to do an organized day trip to Lake Bled from Ljubljana with Roundabout. We visited the small town of Škofja Loka, Lake Bovinj, Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge.
You can find all kind of day trips from Ljubljana to Lake Bled. Half day, full day, only Lake Bled, including other activities... there should be some perfect day trip for everyone, but if you want to save money you can also go by yourself with public transportation.
The famous Lake Bled is the most famous place to visit in Slovenia. With the turquoise water, the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary in the middle of the lake on an island and the Bled Castle on the hill it's a magical place. You can visit the church on the island with the traditional Pletna boats, but you have to pay extra for both the boat as the entrance to the church.
I decided to dive into the clear water for free instead. If the temperature let you, you have to go for a swim. It's such a refreshment.
You also must try the traditional Bled Cream Cake which you'll find in every restaurant in the city of Bled.
If you want to see the lake from above you can visit the Bled Castle on the hill. The entrance fee for the Bled Castle is €13, but the view is amazing. It’s also possible to do a hike which will bring you to a point with the best views over Lake Bled, the church and the castle, all in one. I did not do it this time because of the extreme high summer temperatures, but it’s definitely a reason why I want to go visit Lake Bled and Slovenia again in the future.
10. Day trip to Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj is a beautiful lake that is way less touristic than the famous Lake Bled. The road to this lake will show you amazing views over the Slovenian Alps. Lake Bohinj has brighter blue and clearer water than Lake Bled and has a pebble beach which makes it a little easier to access the water.
I would not say one is more beautiful than the other. They're very different and definitely both worth the visit.
11. Visit Škofja Loka
Škofja Loka is a small town close to Ljubljana. It has one of the best-preserved medieval urban towns in Slovenia and therefore a very nice place to walk around or drink your morning coffee on your way to see the other highlights of Slovenia.
12. Vintgar Gorge
Go for an easy 45 minutes hike in the gorge along the river Radovna on the wooden path. At the end you'll be rewarded with a nice waterfall. The entrance fee is €10 and if you want to visit the gorge in the morning you have to buy online tickets.
Definitely worth booking a day trip in my opinion when visiting Ljublana.
How to get to Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is close to and easy to get to from multiple other cities in Europe by bus or by train, such as Trieste (Italy), Zagreb (Croatia) and Graz (Austria). That makes it a perfect stopover if you're traveling in Europe. Ljubljana is also a famous stop for interrailers after a visit to Vienna of Venice for example. Ljubljana also has her own airport, which is about a 30-minutes’ drive from the city centre. Two days are enough to explore the city herself, but you can also add daytrips to for example the famous Lake Bled or Lake Bohinj to your city trip. Just please promise me you'll take your time to explore Ljubljana as well, because the city is really worth it.
This Ljubljana travel blog was written by Margot van der Linde, member of the Traveltomtom Team, who lately did a big road trip around Europe and also wrote her top tips for a weekend in Cologne.
I hope all the above travel tips for visiting Ljubljana are helpful for your city trip to the lovely capital of Slovenia. Thank you so much for reading! May you have any questions or other recommendations, please leave us a comment below.
Enjoy your trip to Ljubljana!