Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia, in Central Europe and one of the 11 countries of The Balkans.
With an old town, a castle, a river running right through the center, and an up-and-coming food and coffee scene, here are 15 things to do in Ljubljana to introduce you to Slovenia and inspire further travels within the country.
How to Get to Ljubljana
Ljubljana is easily accessible from many other countries as it borders Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary. It’s also easy to travel to Ljubljana from other parts of Slovenia as the country has an extensive bus and train system and Ljubljana is a busy hub for transportation.
In addition, you can reach the city by plane via the international airport, Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport.
Best Ljubljana Things to Do
All of these following 15 places are easy to reach by foot because Ljubljana is such a walkable city except for the day trips which you can get to by your own rental car, bus or guided tour.
There’s enough Ljubljana activities to spend 3 days in the city but Slovenia as a country has a lot to offer so it’s definitely worth visiting more of Slovenia best places. But not before you explore the capital city. So here’s the top suggestions for what to do in Ljubljana!
Walk Through the Old Town
Walking the old towns of any European city is always a treat and Ljubljana old town is no different.
Here you can admire the Art Nouveau architecture, soak in the atmosphere, people-watch, cross the bridges, spot ducks and nutrias in the river, take a guided tour to learn the history, visit St Nicholas’s Church, see the town square with fountains and cobbled streets, and of course, great views of the castle.
One of the best things to do in old town Ljubljana is to admire Preseren Square, an unconventional square for a European Capital city as it has a big pink building and a statue of a poet. It’s also impressive at night as the river and bridge lamps light up. Here you will find live music, locals hanging out, sellers, buskers, protests and travellers snapping pictures of it all.
Eat Slovenian Food
Ljubljana has a variety of restaurants serving world cuisine like Middle-Eastern, Indian, American and Italian. The gem in this capital city though is the array of Slovenian restaurants to try the very best Slovenian food, which some consider one of the best cuisines in the whole world!
Some dishes to try include Jota, a traditional Slovenian soup, Krajnska Klobasa, a popular Slovenian pork sausage, and Struklji, rolled Slovene dumplings.
Explore the Coolest Street: Trubarjeva Cesta
Trubarjeva Cesta is an entrancing street in the heart of the city. You will see street art, posters, a Slovene book shop with a large English-print shelf, outdoor music and vintage shopping.
This is also the best place to eat with cheap Indian food at Namaste, incredible Middle Eastern food at Abi Falafel, fresh italian food at Raw Pasta Bar, delicious burgers at Burger Time and craft beers at Že V Redu Primož.
Play Chess at Kavarna Mackon
On the charming street of Trubarjeva Cesta you’ll find a small area with benches either side of the walkway which belong to the pub, Kavarna Mackon. Each of these beverage tables double as chess tables and you can request chess sets from the bar after you buy a beer or coffee.
This is one of the best things to do in Ljubljana when it rains because they have gazebos that cover the entire area, you are still among the city life and you get to enjoy a beer, play chess and listen to the rain. Of course, it’s also a fun Ljubljana thing to do all year around.
Also, with all the amazing places to eat on this street, you can take things to go and eat it at this bar!
For unique things to do in Ljubljana, this alternative art centre tops it. Metelkova is an autonomous community built on an abandoned army base and the barracks have been squatted since 1993. The neighbourhood is a hub for socialising, street art and culture with live music and bars open every night.
You can also stay in a former Yugoslavia prison, Hotel Celica, in Metelkova for alternative accommodation in Ljubljana.
Cross Ljubljana Bridges
Ljubljana is a city full of bridges to admire and walk across. Some of the best include Butchers Bridge, Cobblers Bridge, The Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge.
The Butchers Bridge is the place you can go to place a lock next to the hundreds of others and throw the key into the river.
Ljubljana is known as the ‘city of Dragons’ as the Dragon is thought to be the protector of the city and is even on the coat of arms. If you want to explore this part of the city, Dragon Bridge is the best place to start because either edge of the bridge has huge Dragon statues which make for great photo opportunities.
The Triple Bridge is, as the name suggests, a group of three bridges connecting the old town with the new town. The middle bridge was placed there as an important connection between North-Western Europe and The Balkans over 50 years before the side bridges were added.
The architect, Jože Plečnik, designed the triple bridge by adding the two side bridges and refurbishing all three bridges with stone walls and lamps and added steps leading to terraces on the river making it an iconic image of Ljubljana today.
Go For Wine Tasting
With over 28,000 wineries, Slovenian wine is not one to miss in Europe. Some of the wine production still used in the country today can be dated back to the 4th century BC.
While it’s mainly White wine that is produced, there is a delicious Orange wine that is a traditional Slovenian wine, not just a trend. The best way to enjoy the traditions and wines is to join a wine tasting tour in the city.
Peruse Ljubljana Central Market
Ljubljana Central Market contains a farmer’s market located between Vodnikov Trg and Pogačarjev Trg squares, a covered market in the middle and small food shops along the riverfront. It is a great place to be among locals, buy fresh goods, and eat from local food trucks.
Ljubljana is known as one of the greenest cities in Europe, the people look after their city with excellent recycling rates, almost zero litter and local businesses are supported by residents and tourists which is why this market is always so busy.
Get the best local produce here and contribute to the sustainability of the city.
Eat at Odprta Kuhna
On Pogačarjev square, between March and October, a unique street food market is open every Friday called Odprta Kuhna which translates as ‘Open Kitchen’ and is a chance to try local Slovene food as well as world cuisine cooked by Slovenian chefs at food trucks.
Learn How to Pronounce the City Name Through its Beer!
Loo-Blah-Nah is a local craft brewery serving ales, ciders and IPA beer. The name is the phonetic spelling of Ljubljana because many people are confused when trying to pronounce this capital city.
You can visit the brewery, find the brand served in most bars or even catch them at the central market to try a local beer and learn how to pronounce this city’s name.
Visit Ljubljana Castle and Ride The Funicular
Ljubljana Castle is a landmark of the city that dates back to the 11th century and looks over the city with the Slovenian flag and the municipal flag of Ljubljana flying from its tower. The castle lights up at night too which you can see from the old town.
At the castle you can learn about the castle’s history in exhibition rooms, eat at the Slovenian restaurant, visit the puppet museum and enjoy epic views of Ljubljana.
There is a route to walk to the castle but a more fun experience is riding the funicular which can be accessed near the Central Market.
Stroll Through Tivoli Park
To the West of Ljubljana, you’ll find the city’s largest park and best green space to take a break from the bustling life in a metropolitan.
Within Tivoli Park, you can see art, museums, mansions, gardens, cafes and walking trails.
By the way, here is an article on the best Slovenia hiking trails you could enjoy!
Visit the National Museum of Contemporary History
One of the museums located within Tivoli Park is one for history lovers or anyone interested in knowing more about how Slovenia has been formed during the 20th century. The National Museum of Contemporary History is home to permanent exhibitions, photographs, furniture, posters and art that provide information about Slovenia during the 20th century.
If your taste in museums is different, there are other options in Ljubljana such as The National Gallery, The Plečnik House or Museum of Modern Art.
Wander Congress Square
Congress Square is another cool area to hang out in Ljubljana with people playing instruments in the bandstand or other events happening in the square’s central park or from the University of Ljubljana. It’s also a good place to grab an ice cream and sit on the benches between the trees.
Take a Day Trip to Lake Bled
Just an hour and a half away from Ljubljana is the town of Bled where Lake Bled can be found which is the postcard-perfect image of Slovenia. I highly recommend incorporating Lake Bled into your Ljubljana trip or Slovenia road trip itinerary because it is a breathtaking spot with its own island and castle which is all backed by stunning mountains.
For easy instructions on how to get the bus from Ljubljana to Bled, read this guide.
Other Day Trips from Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a great base for exploring other places in Slovenia as well as being connected to other cities in Europe like Prague, Salzburg or Bratislava. Some of the best places to visit in Slovenia are just a few hours away from Ljubljana including Lake Bohinj, the seaside town of Piran and Predjama Castle, the impressive castle perched on the edge of cliffs.
Don’t forget to check the events calendar when in Ljubljana too as they have festivals, concerts and events happening which are sometimes free in the city. I attended a free chili and chocolate festival including a hot wing eating competition held at Central Market when I was in Ljubljana!
Shireen is a travel blogger who writes about food and literary travel. She has been to 30 countries and lived in Wales, Australia and Canada.