Are you wondering how to make the most of Slovenia in a weekend?
Then keep reading, we’ll tell you what’s to see and do in this beautiful country if you have only two or three days after having some unique experiences in Croatia.
Ljubljana is only a 1.5-hour drive from Zagreb. The minute you cross the border, the grass seems greener and the sky bluer. To say that Slovenia is a gorgeous country is an understatement. We were just blown away by the scenic beauty all around us and we hadn’t even gone to some of the more picturesque spots – the Julian Alps, Triglav national park, and the Soca valley. This is definitely one of the hidden gems in Europe and deserves as many visitors as its neighbors.
Tip: It is easy to drive around Slovenia. One thing to remember is to purchase a vignette. This is mandatory for all passenger cars on all motorways in Slovenia. Vignettes are sold in 3 validity variants: weekly, monthly and yearly. We purchased it at the border crossing itself. It is available at all major gas stations along the highway.
Ljubljana: Slovenia’s cute capital city
If you are thinking a large city with boxy buildings and a hurried atmosphere, banish the thought. Ljubljana appears to be ripped from the pages of a fairytale! Colorful buildings, the lovely Ljubljanica river flowing through the city, cafes all around the river where people are sitting and chatting, laid-back vibes make it adorable.
Ljubljana has to be one of the cutest European cities I have been to. We reached after an uneventful drive from Zagreb and parked near the local train station. The city center is pedestrian only, so best to park the car and explore the sites on foot.
I had scheduled a food walk, but we had some time before it started. We meandered through the streets at a leisurely pace and saw some cool street art. We also stopped at one of the several cafes that line both sides of the Ljubljanica river. There was a lot of food to be had later in the afternoon but a cup of coffee and ice-cream for my daughter was a welcome break.
Attractions in Ljubljana
There are several landmarks to visit. One of the popular attractions is the Ljubljana Castle – you can see it from most parts of the city center. It stands above the city and its ramparts offer beautiful views. The Castle can be reached by funicular railway, and serves as a venue for cultural events and family entertainment.
The Dragon Bridge, adorned with famous dragon statues, is one of the most recognizable images of Ljubljana. Then there is the Triple Bridge – yes, 3 bridges that meet! There is a Tourist Centre near the Triple bridge that has free maps of the city, offers advice on what to do and see, and also has a small shop for souvenirs.
You could also visit the home of architect Jože Plečnik, who designed many of the beautiful buildings and bridges you see in the town
Ljubljana for foodies
Alas, our time in this fairytale city was limited. We did an interesting food walk, tasted both traditional and modern Slovenian cuisine and got regaled with local stories by our food guide.
Some of the traditional Slovenian dishes that we tried: Jota (traditional cabbage stew) and Struklji (dumplings with different fillings) and pumpkin seed oil. We also tried a traditional Slovenian pastry – potica. The shop we went to offered mini-poticas with a variety of fillings. We tried a few with fillings of cheese and tarragon, plum, walnuts.
I was happy to sample some Slovenian wines. Slovenian wine regions are not very well-known internationally but the couple of wines I tried were quite good. I recommend the Malvazija, a crisp white from Vipava valley and the Sauvignon blanc from Čarga.
Read more about the food walk in Ljubljana.
Lake Bled: Beauty in the air
We were spending the night at Lake Bled, only a 45-minute drive from Ljubljana. Even in the evening, when there was little daylight left, the warm, peaceful view of Lake Bled was soothing and the perfect way to end one of the days of this Slovenia in a weekend adventure.
We stayed at a boutique property next to the lake. I was eager to get up early in the morning and get outdoors. The views of the lake and the surrounding mountains are lovely. Scenic, picturesque, calm. All of it applies and more.
Things to see and do around Lake Bled
The church on the island in the middle of the lake looks picture-postcard-like. There is also a bell tower that was built in the 15th century. One of the things this tiny church is known for is the ‘wishing bell’. There is a myth attached that whoever rings the bells gets his/her wish true, making it a popular excursion.
Another popular attraction is the Bled Castle. Visitors throng the castle for its cultural heritage – its fortified center, the restored chapel has frescoes painted and a museum. Equally important is the location of the castle which offers stunning views of the Lake Bled area. During summer months, the courtyard in the castles is the venue for many cultural events.
I had heard that mass tourism has made this area touristy but that was not our experience. I would have loved to spend the day exploring the area, perhaps renting bikes and going around the lake or taking a boat ride, but we needed to get back to Zagreb that evening, as our Slovenia short getaway was coming to an end.
Vintgar Gorge: An easy hike
So putting our limited time to use, we decided to drive to Vintgar Gorge. This is only a 20-minute distance from Lake Bled. There is parking right outside the park, which gets filled quickly as the morning progresses.
The 1.6 km long Vintgar gorge is quite a sight as it makes its way through the vertical rocks and has several waterfalls, pools, and rapids. You walk over wooden bridges and ends with a bridge overlooking the impressive 13 m high Šum waterfall.
The walk is suitable for everyone, including small kids. And putting on comfortable shoes and carrying some water and snacks is all you need. There is a small cafe near the Sum waterfall, where you can buy water and snacks.
It had started raining by the time we finished our walk and a hot bowl of soup at the restaurant right outside the park was an enjoyable break.
We were delighted with our short break in Slovenia and drove back to Zagreb with lovely memories.
Have you been to Slovenia? Are you planning to do a short trip there? Drop a comment below.