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 finding the best and most unusual things to do in Ljubljana. Updated 2019.
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.
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.
Unusual Things To Do in Ljubljana
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.
Shop at Ljubljana’s Chic Boutiques
Warm Yourself with Ljubljana’s Hearty Food: Jota
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.
Sleep in a Jail Cell
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
Yet you can find sweet street art like this as well…
Take on Ljubljana and the Dragon
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
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
Getting to Ljubljana
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.
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.
To travel within the city, they offer a modern public transportation system. Buses are the easiest way and they have about 40 bus lines to take you around the city. If you have a Ljubljana card you can travel around the city for free. The Ljubljana card is a card you can purchase and use for up to 72 hours and it allows you free transportation and access to the cities major attractions. Prices range depending on how long you with the card to stay active and age of the cardholder. They also offer an online discount if you choose to purchase it online. It ranges from 24.30-45 euros.
Ljubljana card information can be found at this website.
The city also offers taxis and bicycles for rent. Bicycles are practically free according to the website and taxis are not overly expensive and can be ordered by phone or the taxi stations throughout the city.
All tourist travel information can be found at this website along with tourist guide information, places to stay and things to do.
Disclosure: #IronRoute was sponsored by Eurail. As usual, I had complete editorial control.