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Ljubljana, Slovenia – what to see in a weekend




by Aurora Brink

You’ll fall in love at first sight, with Ljubljana! Slovenia’s capital has gathered the best of the Balkan and Venetian cultures, it’s a story teller, and has its own guards – dragons. Here are some of the key landmarks in Ljubljana, which you can visit over a couple of days.

The Old Town - The Old Town in Ljubljana is composed of three squares: City Square (Mestni trg), Old Square (Stari trg), and Upper Square (Gornji trg), filled with restaurants and shops. Walk down the streets with houses in Baroque design, or enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the cafes, while the city is pulsating around you. Next to the town hall is the Fountain of Three Rivers – Sava, Krka, and Ljubljanica, and in the background you can see the Triple Bridge, over the river.

Preseren Square - This is the heart of Ljubljana. Here is the statue of Slovenian poet France Preseren, which is a popular place for people to meet. On the square you will see a 3D map, with miniature figures, depicting the landmarks of the region, as well as many shops, cafes and restaurant. Opposite to the square is the Old Town with the Triple Bridge, as well as the Franciscan church.

Triple Bridge - This is one of the city’s symbols. It rises over Ljubljanica River and is composed of three bridges, built next to each other. The central bridge was built in 1842, and then in 1932 two more bridges were built on both its sides, which were meant to be used as pedestrian areas. The stone staircases lead to the green lanes beside the river. Today, the entire area is designated for pedestrians.

Dragon’s Bridge (Zmajski most) - This is the symbol of the city. Decorated with four huge statues of dragons, and a few smaller ones on the lamps, which illuminate the bridge, come nighttime. According to a local legend, if a virgin girl walks down the bridge, the dragons wag their tales. The bridge hangs over Ljubljanica River, a few meters after the Triple Brdige.

A Boat trip down Ljubljanica River - The boat departs from the shore near the Triple Bridge. You will go by the houses in the Old Town, under lots of bridges, and cheerful street musicians. Flowing down the river, whether you decide to do it during the day or the night, you’ll feel yourself falling in love with Ljubljana forever.

Picnic - The green hills around the city are an ideal setting for a picnic in nature. Follow in the locals’ footsteps, and don’t forget to enjoy a bottle of wine, along with a homemade sandwich, on one of the hills, during the weekend. The hills that are also the best viewing platforms of Ljubljana are Smarna gora, Krim, and Roznik.

Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljanski Grad) - This is a Medieval Castle, built in the 15th century. During the 17th and 18th century it served the purpose of a military hospital, and then in the 19th century was used as a prison. Today, it houses many exhibitions, concerts, and theatre plays. From its tower you’ll have a beautiful view of the entire city. It is located on a hill above the city, which you can either reach by foot or take the cable car.

Krizanke Monastery - Today it is a hub for cultural events year-round, but especially in the summer, during the Ljubljana Festival, when there are outdoor exhibitions, concerts, dance performances, and theatre plays. In the 13th century the complex served as the headquarters for one of the orders of the Teutonic Knights. It is located a few kilometers away from the central area of the city.

National Museum of Natural History (Narodni Muzej Slovenije) - Slovenia’s National Museum is the oldest one in the country. Here you will see the only Egyptian mummy in Slovenia, dated back to the 5th century BC., as well as the oldest musical instrument to ever have been discovered – a 50 000-year-old flute, made from a large piece of bone. The museum also has plenty of sarcophaguses and gravestones, mosaics and columns from Roman buildings, clay dishes, coins, and a large library. It is located in the same building as the Museum of Natural History, in the center of town.

Ljubljana has gathered the best of the Balkan and Venetian cultures, it’s a story teller, and has its own guards – dragons.

In the Natural History Museum (Prirodoslovni muzej), which is located in the same building as the National Museum, you will see the only fully preserved mammoth skeleton in Europe, as well as a unique human fish, which is an amphibian with skin the color of a human. You will also learn about the plants and animals in different climate zones.

National Gallery (Narodna Galerija) - The National Gallery displays the largest collection of artwork by Slovenian artists, from late Medieval times, until the beginning of the 20th century. You will also see paintings by Italian, Spanish, French, and Dutch artists. Every Saturday, after 2 PM, the entrance if free. The gallery is located in the Old Town.

Museum of Architecture and Design (Muzej za arhitekturo in oblikovanje Ljubljana) - The museum has an exhibition of works from local and foreign architects and designers, but apart from that, you will also learn about the development of urbanism, industrial design, and photography. The museum is located in the outskirts of the city.

Museum of Modern Art (Moderna galerija Ljubljana) - You will see paintings, sculptures, and photographs by Slovenian modern 20th century artists, as well as works by today’s creators, influenced by modernism. It is located in the city’s central area. 

Tivoli Park (Mestni park Tivoli) - In Tivoli Park you’ll find many flowery lanes, intricate sculptures, and a beautiful lake. The largest park in Ljubljana is the ideal place to take a walk or just relax. Here, you can jog and enjoy the pollution-free air, ride a bicycle, or read on a bench. Visit the glass house with tropical plants, as well as the rose garden by the lake. The park is located near the center of the city.

The Ljubljana Zoo - Antelopes, elephants, giraffes, parrots, monkeys, lions, bears, seals, and many more species are expecting you at the zoo in Ljubljana. Are you ready for an adventure? Pick one of the special itineraries, and you’ll have the opportunity to feed the giraffes and monkeys, give the elephant a bath, train the seals, or touch a snake and a tarantula. The zoo is located in Tivoli Park.

Ljubljana Central Market - The Central Market is housed by a gallery over Ljubljanica River, which continues onto the square, on one side. Here you will find all sorts of goods: flowers, fruits and vegetables, meat, spices, fish, as well as clothes, shoes and bags. At the end of the market, there is a public scale, so that you can measure whatever you have purchased, and make sure that one merchant hasn’t cheated you. This is also the location of the annual Christmas bazar. The market’s booths are open every day, apart from Sunday. It is located in the Old Town.

Taste strukli - These are traditional Slovenian buns, or wreaths of dough, prepared in various ways. You can have strukli with jams, meat, or vegetables – it is entirely up to you.

Taste orehova potica - This is a traditional Slovenian desert, with walnuts, in the form of a roll. Have it with a cup of hot coffee or tea. You will find it in most restaurants and cafes in Ljubljana.

Shops in Ljubljana -The main shopping areas are the City Square (Mestni trg) and the Old Square (Stari trg), in the Old Town. There are plenty of boutiques there, as well as music stores, bookstores, and souvenir shops. The outdoor markets, spread throughout the smaller streets, offer an abundance of cheaper merchandise, as well as antiques, textiles, and handmade dishes. In Ljubljana, there are also a few shopping malls, which offer all sorts of goods.

Nightlife in Ljubljana - The bars and restaurants in Ljubljana are busier during the summer. Start off the evening in a restaurant or a bar by the river, in the Old Town, and then move on to one of the dance clubs, offering a variety of music genres, a club with live music, or a concert at the summer festival.