Positioned at a crossroads where east meets west, the small and lesser-explored European city of Ljubljana resembles something from a fairytale. Learn how to pronounce the name of Slovenia’s capital, and then explore this perfect Ljubljana itinerary to discover all its historic charms!
Ljubljana is bite-sized compared to other European capitals, but it presents a refreshing opportunity to become intimately acquainted with a place over the course of a weekend. The moment you arrive, you’ll want to ditch your bags and explore this city on foot. Hotel options include Central Hotel, Grand Hotel Union, and Hotel Cubo. For a more social or budget-friendly experience, check out Most Hostel, Vila Teslova, or Sax Hostel (above the legendary jazz bar Sax Pub. Centrally located rental apartments are also available in the old town.
Dine in the heart of the old town, where a maze of cobbled streets and decadent bridges straddle a gently winding river. Close to the iconic Dragon Bridge, Luda restaurant offers a modern take on Slovenian cuisine in an intimate setting. If your visit coincides with summer, also consider Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen) a gourmet culinary market that gathers Slovenia’s top culinary artists in one atmospheric church square.
After dinner, embark on a riverside bar hop. With outdoor patios lining both banks of the Ljubljanica, you’ll have many chances to sip on local vino (wine) and craft pivo (beer) with views of Ljubljana’s hilltop castle.
Embrace the day with a Slovenian breakfast at Druga Violina, a traditional gostilna-style restaurant that serves local dishes and employs people with disabilities. For an outdoor patio and people-watching by the famous Triple Bridge, try Slovenska Hisa (Slovenian House).
Get the lay of the land with a free walking tour, bike tour, or SUP tour. Whichever adventure you choose, be sure to soak up Ljubljana’s natural wonders. It was, after all, named Europe’s Greenest City in 2016.
Refuel with lunch at Robba, Altroké, or Monstera Bistro. For lighter fare, claim a seat at one of the many bar cafes clustered in the old town including Magda, Tozd, or Pritličje. You’ll discover that like Italy, Slovenia’s coffee culture favours small but strong cups of kava. Cafes in Slovenia tend to double as bars and wine is frequently enjoyed with lunch.
Spend a magical afternoon at Ljubljana’s 11th-century castle. A funicular and several winding paths lead from the cobbled streets of the old town to this hilltop fortress, where unparalleled views await. On a clear day, you’ll even see the Kamnik-Savinja Alps to the north. Take a guided or self-guided castle tour and be sure to check out at least one of the three museums.
How often does one get a chance to dine within castle walls? Two of Ljubljana’s Michelin star restaurants, Strelec and Gostilna Na Gradu, offer this rare experience. It’s all downhill from there as you meander back down to the old town and grab drinks at local hangout Daktari.
Let loose at Metelkova. This former military headquarter has been transformed into an autonomous social and cultural centre hosting the city’s best bars, clubs, and events. When hunger strikes, grab a Balkan staple called burek from Burek Olimpija. You will rave about this savoury stuffed pastry long after your first bite.
Seize the day with an early morning and make your way back to the iconic Dragon Bridge, worth marvelling at by day. Constructed in 1901, this Art Nouveau bridge was the first reinforced concrete structure in the city and one of the largest bridges of its kind in Europe. Next, stroll through the open-air Central Market and underground market, both designed by Jose Plečnik nearly a century ago.
Taste the classic Slovenian dish called štrukli, a sweet pastry traditionally stuffed with fruit or cheese. Moji Štruklji Slovenije (My Slovenian Struklji) offers a wide variety and is located close to the market. For a more filling breakfast, try Ek Bistro or Gostilna Vida, an LGBTQ-friendly establishment with vegetarian and vegan options.
Immerse in Slovenia’s rich history at the National Museum of Slovenia, where you’ll find everything from the world’s oldest instrument to Roman and Medieval artifacts. Modern art admirers can explore the National Museum of Contemporary History located inside Tivoli City Park. Architecture and design lovers must visit Plečnik House. The former home of national architect Jose Plečnik has been converted into a free museum where you’ll learn just how many of the city’s architectural wonders were designed by Plečnik—the Triple Bridge, Central Market, and the National University Library included.
Get a taste of Slovenia’s Balkan heritage with lunch at Gostilna Čad or To Je To Balkan Žar. Follow it up by indulging in Slovenian wine, a well-kept secret as the majority is consumed in Slovenia by Slovenians. Head to Vinoteka Storija, where sommelier David can tell you about Slovenia’s Mediterranean terroir, three distinct growing regions, and orange wine—which has nothing to do with oranges. David might even serenade you with his guitar. For more wine and charcuterie, head to Wine Bar Suklje.
If you’re a beer lover, dip your toes into Slovenia’s small but passionate beer scene at Tektonic Brewery, Loo-blah-nah Brewery (whose name helps with pronunciation), or Pivovarna Union, established in 1864 making it the oldest (and also largest) in the city, as well as the best option for a guided tour.
Watch the sunset from Nebotičnik, a Neoclassical and Art Deco landmark boasting unobstructed castle views from its rooftop patio lounge. Splash out on your last night and celebrate a perfect weekend getaway with dinner at JB Restaurant or Remi’s Place. Cap it off with one last romantic stroll through Ljubljana’s magical streets and if you meander into a bar for a final toast, make sure it’s local homemade schnapps.
Before you hop a train to Venice, Budapest, or Vienna, be sure to explore Slovenia beyond its capital. Whether you take a day trip to Lake Bled, a road trip through wine country, a venture into limestone caves, or a hike to the summit of Mount Triglav, there are countless natural, cultural, and historical wonders waiting to be discovered.