After spending 5 days in Montenegro, we were ready for our next adventure. I found a reasonably priced direct flight from Montenegro to Ljubljana, Slovenia and couldn’t resist booking tickets. I had heard so much about this charming city and the beauty of Slovenia. We had 3 nights and a list of things that I wanted to do both in Ljubljana Old Town and beyond. We ultimately settled on spending 1 1/2 days exploring Ljubljana Old Town. On our day trip, we left and visited Lake Bled, Vinter Gorge, Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave.
In this article, I am going to list 7 of my favourite experiences in Ljubljana Old Town. In a later blog, I will highlight our day trip. Although I wish that we had more time to explore the beautiful countryside and national parks of Slovenia, I felt that our four days gave us a taste of what a magnificent and interesting country Slovenia is.
Slovenia was formerly a part of Yugoslavia and is currently a member of the European Union, The country lies in Central Europe in the Julian Alps at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea. It is bordered by Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia. Although it is 50 % bigger than Montenegro, it is still a very small country.
Slovenia is blessed with beautiful terrain that includes 46 km of coast along the Adriatic Sea, an alpine mountain region next to Italy and Austria, and many mountains, valleys and rivers. It has 48 major protected natural areas and nature parks, 52 natural reserves, and more than 1200 natural monuments. I can attest from our time in Slovenia that the scenery was magnificent. On our day trip, we travelled on rolling green hills, saw majestic mountains in the background, and visited lakes and national parks that were rugged and wild.
Ljubljana Old Town
Ljubljana is Slovenia’s capital and largest city. Within it, Ljubljana Old Town is an exquisite historic part that over the last decade or so, has been refurbished and designed to welcome locals and visitors alike.
We spent most of our time exploring Ljubljana Old Town while in Ljubljana. I loved it there. Here’s 7 reasons why.
1. Pedestrian Zone
We really enjoyed the pedestrian zone in Ljubljana Old Town. I think it is one of the best in Europe.
Most of Ljubljana Old Town lies within a pedestrian zone that is 10 hectares or 24 acres wide. Cars are not allowed except with a special permit and only to deliver goods. For those who need a bit of assistance, transport by “Kavalirs” (“Gentle Helpers”) is available free of charge. They are small electric vehicles that can transport (slowly) up to 5 people. They run throughout the pedestrian zone. You can flag one down or call a toll free number to book one.
It was Beautiful
The pedestrian zone was simply beautiful. For most of it, we walked on flat, cobble stone and spacious paths in between gorgeous store fronts or inviting restaurants.
Lots of Temptation
Temptation was everywhere. Most of the restaurants had wonderful outdoor tables and seating areas in front along the walking zone. All day long, all I ever seemed to want to do was sit down at each one of these and try one of their coffees, or cocktails, or desserts…. Interspersed amongst the restaurants, were cute shops with local crafts and goods, or trendy fashion on display.
2. Lesar Hotel Angel
We had a fabulous stay at Lesar Hotel Angel, a small gorgeous boutique hotel in Ljubljana Old Town.
The hotel is located in the pedestrian zone, a dozen or so buildings away from the first of many restaurants and outdoor patios. I loved the location. It was the perfect spot to access everything that we wanted to do in Ljubljana Old Town. Also, it was in a quiet spot, a little removed from the crowds.
We had two rooms. They were both extraordinarily large and beautifully appointed. Breakfast was included and it was absolutely delicious. I particularly appreciated the complimentary croissants, cookies, fruit, tea and coffee available all day. Cocktails were readily served at the small intimate bar, out front, on the upper deck, or anywhere else that we requested. The staff were friendly and very helpful. I would highly recommend staying there on your visit.
3. Spectacular Sights
We loved sightseeing in Ljubljana Old Town. Here are a few of our favourites.
- Lbjubljanica River which runs through Ljubljana Old Town. We spent most nights at restaurants or bars with patios nestled against the river bank. At night, I relished the magic that the lights had when they reflected off of the water.
- Presernov trg Square which is arguably the centre of Ljubljana Old Town. Within the square is the pink facade of the Franciscan Church, the monument to the poet France Preseren, and Plecnik`s Triple Bridge. We found it hard to walk around Ljubljana Old Town and not be drawn back to this square again and again.
4. The Views from Ljubljana Castle
We were thrilled by the stunning views from Ljubljana Castle.
Ljubljana Castle is a complex perched over top of Ljubljana Old Town. It was built around the 12th Century as a medieval fortress, but has since been transformed into a cultural centre. There are museums, restored historical rooms such as the Chapel of St George and the prison, and art exhibitions throughout.
There were many vantage points in the Castle and on its grounds to see beautiful views of Ljubljana Old Town. Some of them were free while others required a purchased ticket to access. All of them offered spectacular views. Luckily, we also saw a stunning sunset from the Castle. If possible, I would try to organize your day to explore the Castle in the late afternoon and then, watch the sunset.
5. “Free The Dragon” in Ljubljana Castle
We had a blast exploring Ljubljana Castle while playing a game on the Castle grounds. It was called “Free The Dragon”. The goal – to discover the Castle secrets and awaken the sleeping dragon!
For a little more than admission to the Castle exhibits, we worked as a team against a clock to solve several riddles and find clues. This game took us all over the Castle grounds, into both public areas and private exhibition rooms. We signed an agreement not to take photos or give away answers to any of the clues. However, suffice it to say, it was A LOT of fun. My kids were totally into the game and focused on finding and solving everything as quickly as possible. In the process, they learnt a ton about the history of the Ljubljana Castle and Ljubljana Old Town.
6. Ljubljana Alternative Tour
A highlight of our stay in Ljubljana was taking a half day private walking tour called Ljubljana Alternative Tour offered by Ljubljana Urban Tours. This tour was normally offered for free each day. However, the time did not work for us. Accordingly, we asked for a private tour and for 60 euros, we were accommodated.
I can not say enough about how fantastic this tour was. We walked the streets of Ljubljana Old Town and beyond, and learned about modern history. Specifically, we focused on the last 20 -30 years and it was fascinating. We also saw some UNBELIEVABLE street art. We went to Rog Factory, a former bicycle manufacturing plant that is now home to artists squatting on the grounds. Everywhere we looked, there was amazing paintings and sculptures making political or cultural statements.
Later, we walked up to Metelkova, another squatters’ spot nearby. Metelkova is an independent social and cultural centre. It was formerly the military headquarters of the Army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, followed by the Slovenian headquarters of the Yugoslav National Army. After Slovenia became an independent country, the space was supposed to become a government sanctioned alternative art scene. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Hence, the squatters moved in. Today, it is a vibrant artistic and cultural spot. In my opinion, it is an absolute must see experience while in Ljubljana.
We ate at a lot of amazing restaurants with fantastic food.
As I said earlier, the walking zone in Ljubljana Old Town is packed with restaurants and bars. As you walk, you are forever tempted to stop for a cocktail or two, or to try yet another flavour of gelato. While in Ljubljana, we had sophisticated cuisine, delicious cocktails and dessert, and endless choices.
Our favourites were:
- Gostilna across the Ljubljanica River, around a 10 minute walk from our hotel. The concierge recommended this restaurant and we had a delicious Italian meal here.
- Gujzina about 10 minutes from our hotel in the direction of Castle Ljubljana. This was another recommendation by our hotel. We had fantastic traditional Slovenia food in an elegant surrounding.
- Aroma near Presernov trg Square. We stumbled upon this restaurant while exploring the pedestrian zone. It offered both traditional Slovenia food and Italian food. It was well priced, with very good food.
Our stay in Ljubljana Old Town was short, but long enough to fall in love with this beautiful historic part of Slovenia. Within easy walking distance along a lovely pedestrian zone, we saw stunning architecture, and ate and drank at some fantastic restaurants and bars. I like that it was both modern and sophisticated and yet, still in touch with its history and culture. We loved exploring this lovely part of the world and encourage you to do so before it is over run by tourists.
If you are interested in reading more about our time in Montenegro, please take a look at the following articles:
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