You know what drives me nuts? When, on various message boards and in travel guidebooks, the gorgeous, compact, and laid-back capital city of Slovenia is given a day. As in, you can visit and see everything in Ljubljana in a day. It is worth so much more time, and I love the vibe of the city so much that I have made it our base for the entire seven days of my Slovenia tour. We will go out in the day, but every night come back to this vibrant town with a river running through it.
The first time I went to Slovenia, I spent a week there sharing an apartment with friends. My friends planned that trip, so I had no idea what I was getting into. It didn’t take long – less than a day – to fall for the cafe and bar scene running along both sides of the Ljubljanica river. There is a fabulous outdoor market, an indoor market with meat and fish stalls, and a thriving restaurant scene. Slovenia has good wine, and there are a number of places to taste it in town. And, it is just a really beautiful place to walk around in.
Above the city, there is an ancient castle/fortress that has been renovated into a complex with a great restaurant, a bar, areas to visit, and places to check out the views of the town below. There is a funicular to get up, or you can walk (or drive.) The switchback path is easy to follow down the hill back to the town.
The restaurant in the castle, Gostilna na Gradu, is wonderful. I go every time I am on my own in Ljubljana and I also bring my groups there. And there are the views! Those are the Alps!
If you go up to the castle by yourself, there is an area you can pay to go into, but to eat at the restaurant and to enjoy this view, you don’t have to pay. There is a charge for the funicular, of course. If the funicular is closed after a dinner at Gostilna na Gradu, they have an arrangement with a taxi service to get you back down the hill for a very reasonable price.
The historic center of Ljubljana is primarily pedestrian only, though you do have to watch out sometimes for bicycles. Its a university town, so there are a lot of students who seem to be in a pretty big hurry to get to class on their bike.
One area of Ljubljana that not too many travelers seem to visit is the Tivoli Garden, a very large park with plenty of space to walk, run, bicycle, and picnic. There is also a really great cemetery in Ljubljana with some interesting sculpture.
On Friday nights from early Spring until the end of October, there is an outdoor food hall called Open Kitchen. If the weather cooperates (and sometimes it doesn’t) the market area is taken over by local chefs, who prepare plates to enjoy alfresco. On Sundays, there is a great flea market along the banks of the river.
Slovenia is a small country, so it is quick and easy to get to many other areas of the country in a very short period of time. Lake Bled, for instance, is less than an hour away. Ljubljana, with its restaurants, cafes and bars, and hip vibe, makes a truly fantastic urban base to explore the stunningly beautiful countryside. And if you really don’t want to leave, you don’t have to; there are all kinds of events going on in town all year long.
One of my dreams is to one day spend a month in Ljubljana. I hope it comes true some day! But for now, at least we will base there for a week in April, on the GrapeHops Wine & Food Journey Through Slovenia tour.
Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.
Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.
When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.