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January 6, 2012

How to Spend One Day in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Things to do in Ljubljana

Things to do in Ljubljana

Swirling with dragons and medieval beauty, Slovenia's capital also hits hard with punchy art and challenging history. Cosiness returns through heart-warming food, striking Art Deco and the common courtesy of arranging pretty much everything within walking distance. Here's our inside guide to how to spend one day in Ljubljana.

One Day in Ljubljana

Ljubljana was one of the cities of my dreams, my Atlantis.

Sure, the taxi driver left me stranded on the outskirts in the rain - but let’s chalk that up as an occupational hazard. Thereafter, Ljubljana gave me enough experiences and inspiration to choke up my long-suffering hard drive. There are simply so many unusual things to do in Ljubljana, it's a joy to write about the place.

Ideally, of course, you should spend more than one day in Ljubljana. But if one day is all you have, then here is your 24 hour itinerary for Ljubljana.

Seatbelt fastened, tray tables stowed and seats in the upright position? All right, then. Let’s go.

Ljubljana: where is it?

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, which was part of Yugoslavia when people my age were growing up. Before that it was part of the Habsburg Empire but before we disappear down the rabbit hole of history, let’s stop and make sure we’ve got our bearings.

This is where Slovenia lives, landlocked between Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary.

Nicknamed "White Ljubljana"

Apparently, Ljubljana earned this nickname thanks to the pale churches & mansions that appeared during the Habsburg era – but I have another theory.

Wander along Ljubljana’s riverside Christmas Markets and you’ll find that the mulled wine scorns the traditional reds found across the rest of Europe – for an unmistakeable Ljubljana white.

Ljubljana One Day Itinerary

First, the good news. Central Ljubljana is compact and delightfully walkable. So, with only one day in Ljubljana, you can stroll or pace your way around and see quite a lot in quite a short time. 

Skip tours and in-depth visits to museums if you're short on time. But make sure you see the following...

Unusually Striking: Ljubljana’s Art Nouveau

It's not just about cobbled streets and medieval city centres. Ljubljana had a thriving art nouveau scene, with opaque glass and ornamental door work still easy to spot across the city.

Ljubljana, Slovenia Art Nouveau

Shop at Ljubljana’s Chic Boutiques

Slovenia Ljubljana Sleek Boutiques

Warm Yourself with Ljubljana’s Hearty Food: Jota

jota - traditional dish from Ljubljana, Slovenia

The icy winter winds have really started to bite as I've travelled north. Arriving in Slovenia was the watershed. It is cold.

That's what makes jota so perfect. Warm, hearty, bursting with flavour from beans, pork cubes and sauerkraut (don't laugh, it tastes better than it sounds,) this dish of jota was enought to sweep out the chill from my bones and usher in an interesting chat with the chef.

Delicious.

Sleep in a Jail Cell 

Ljubljana Slovenia Edgy street art

Wander around the streets near Hostel Celica (which itself used to be a prison) to catch up with plenty of street art and edgy living.

Enjoy Ljubljana’s "Unusual" Street Art

Ljubljana Street Art in Slovenia

Yet you can find sweet street art like this as well...

Take on Ljubljana and the Dragon

Ljubljana Dragon, Slovenia

Ljubljana has not one but four dragons guarding the, er “Dragon Bridge” (one of the earliest asphalt bridges in Slovenia, if you’re into that kind of thing.) From paper dragons in China to scarlet flag-emblazoning ones in Wales, to patriotic dragon slayers called George in England and Jordi in Catalunya, I’ve never quite worked out why so many different cultures have such similar takes on this mythical, fire-breathing creature.

Discover Ljubljana and the Iron Curtain

Slovenia, Ljubljana History - military tank

OK, here’s where we get serious again. For all the above-mentioned frivolity, the iron curtain is the real reason why I came to Ljubljana on this particular trip. Apologies if you know this already, but I’d started in Istanbul and travelled by InterRail up to Berlin in order to zigzag across the former iron curtain, the barrier that carved up Europe while I was at school.

Slovenia, and hence Ljubljana, and to an extent all of the former countries of Yugoslavia, formed a vital part of this route. But not, perhaps, for the reason you might imagine.

To be continued...The story continues over here with The Cold War, the Iron Curtain & Somewhere In Between
. To put the iron route into context, visit the #ironroute page and watch the video.

Where to Stay in Ljubljana

Recommended place to stay: the Antiq Palace Hotel & Spa

Getting to Ljubljana

By Air

The closest airport is Ljubljana Joze Pucnik Airport, which is 25km from the center of the city.

The next closest three are: Klagenfurt Airport in Austria which is 85 km away, Trieste Airport in Italy, 130 km away and Zagreb Airport in Croatia which is 140 km away.

Upon arriving at the airports, the recommended shuttle service is GoOpti. This service is available at the Ljubljana airport and all surrounding airports to take you into the city. The services run 24/7.  From Zagreb the cost is 9 euros, from Trieste it is 10 euros, from Klagenfurt it is 15 euros and from Ljubljana airport to the Ljubljana main railway station it is 9 euros.

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There is also the option to travel by train or bus to the city and you can often get to Ljubljana from the neighboring countries and European cities. You can book your train tickets up to two months in advance and for 2.20 euros you can travel unrestricted between stations in Ljubljana’s rain hub. There are ticket discounts available for families, weekend and public holidays, persons under the age of 26, persons over the age of 60, group travel and persons traveling from other countries. 

More detailed information can be found at this website

To travel by bus, you can book your ticket online. The offer international transfers, transfers from the airport and tourist packages available. They have a PDF of all their prices available on the website. Overall, it is fairly affordable. 

For bus information visit this website.

Getting Around Ljubljana & The Ljubljana Card

To travel around the centre of Ljubljana, you can mostly just use your own two feet. However, there are other options.

The Ljubljana card is valid for up to 72 hours and provides free transportation and access to the city's major attractions. You'll find a discount if you buy online. 


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  • Luisa Woodcock says:

    When I travelled to Ljubljana in 2008, I had never heard many people talk about it so it’s great to see the city getting the praise it deserves. I remember the street art very well, particularly as I stayed in Hostel Celica (a fantastic, fun and clean hostel by the way). What a beautiful city, this makes me want to go back!

    • Oh, Celica is so much fun! (For the uninitiated, it’s a prison turned accommodation block with great modern art installations all around and some of the best white hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.) I loved Ljubljana and would love to visit in summertime…

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