Do you like the feeling, when the city breathes with seaside atmosphere although the closest sea is hundreds of kilometres away? Roads, where you don`t have to avoid trumpeting cars and motorcycles at every step? And on top of that a place, where the best attractions don`t cause too much harm to your credit card? If your answer is triple yes, Ljubljana is the right spot for your trip.
Beauty is in the eye of the person who is looking, that´s how the saying goes. And while there are many places which scream ROMANCE at the first sight, there are lots of others, where you have to dig slightly deeper. Ljubljana might not make it to the top ten most romantic places in the world, but once it offers you its beautiful green soul, you won´t resist anymore.
Green? You bet. Ljubljana won the title European green capital 2016 for being greener and healthier to live in and to visit as well. The city, which used to be dominated by cars, has totally transformed in the previous years. I visited the city in August (after a week in the beautiful mountains close to the Triglav national park) and it was a delightful (and still green) dot after the trip.
Although many locals told me that I would get bored of the city after one day, it turned out not be the case. I like slow travel, so this might be the reason. I was also a bit broke at the end of my trip, but surviving in the Slovenian capital on a small budget wasn`t difficult either. If getting lost in the cosy streets is your thing, then the centre of Ljubljana full of charming buildings in Baroque and Art Nouveau style will get under your skin, too. Getting hot? The Ljubljanica river, which crosses city in the middle, will cool you down instantly just by looking at it. You can also regain energy at one of the multiple cafes and restaurants on both riverbanks. The best thing – the city is so compact, you won`t really need a map.
Follow these steps to enjoy Ljubljana for free
When was the last time you were sitting on a poem? Weird question, right? But in this petty alley full of poetry you will have plenty of possibilities to do so. This romantic hideaway is paved with benches and collects verses of poets from all over the world. The poems are attached to the benches or printed directly on them. In the 17th century, this street was home to painters, writers, actors and artists of every kind. Its fame has disappeared over time, but thanks to the successful initiative of its current tenants, the poetic spirit is back in the street – welcoming you 24/7. And it doesn`t ask whether you are happily single, ready to mingle or in a relationship.
Roman ruins Emona
Ljubljana was once part of the Roman settlement Emona and its remains can be found scattered throughout the city. I enjoyed especially the southern wall of the fortification, where I found a small park with a pyramid, colonnade and other ruins covered with moss and ivy – a true journey through time (and a great place to hide during midday summer heat). If you happen to be there in August, check Emona Promenade – a street festival that features plenty of performances (at Emonska Street and Trnovo Bridge).
Closer to the clouds
Don´t miss a visit to the castle, which towers over the city. The walk up leads under the treetops and is very pleasant, but if you don´t feel like walking, a funicular with transparent walls will do the job (and you can take great photos during those few minutes). Its boarding point is behind the Central market, a street market, which comes to life during the weekends. It is another place, that you should definitely visit – colourful fruits, vegetables, flowers and food trucks make a great sensory experience. If you need a coffee break, stop at Čokl Café next to the funicular (if you have to spend, then try the fair way – Čokl is all fair trade). Up at the castle, which is lit by green spotlights at night (so that the city stays green even after the darkness swallows the day) you can walk around the place freely, however if you wish to climb the watch tower or visit the exhibitions, you have to pay.
In summer you will stumble on a lot of open-air events at the castle including Film under stars – outdoor movie festival where choice movies are screened on the castle walls. Cool experience! I definitely recommend going there in the evening even if there is no show on the program. There is a spot right in front of the castle, where you can sit on the walls and watch the summer concerts in the city centre from above. The mellow tunes will easily reach you up there while giving you a chance for a nice talk with your friends without screaming your lungs out.
If you prefer the view of the city from the opposite side, head to the Nebotičnik. Calling 70 meters tall building a skyscraper is quite bold nowadays, but when Nebotičnik first opened, it was the tallest building in Central Europe and the name stuck. Take a lift up to the terrace and enjoy the most beautiful view of the castle. If you are an early bird, start your day in the sky – breakfast at the restaurant starts at €1,5 for a croissant or € 3 for an omelette – definitely worth it.
I already mentioned a few of them, but in general – summertime in Ljubljana is one endless cocktail of outdoor festivals including concerts of classical or rock music, theatres, musical or video performances and many others (Trnfest, Let`s meet in front of SKUC, Young Lions, The Old Town Nights, etc.). Let`s not forget about the street artist shows. I was lucky to stumble on a funny guy from New Zealand who was juggling with fire on a supertall unicycle and his performance was a nice and unexpected refreshment. Simply walk the central pedestrian zone and you are sure to stumble upon several stages featuring both local and foreign acts.
City of the Bridges
I always love when we make funny thematic trips like “Tour de ice-cream within the distance of 5 km” or “Tour de most atmospheric cemeteries in the city”. Ljubljana is a great place to make “Tour de bridges”. Those, which cross the Ljubljanica river, are so numerous (no spoiler, counting is up to you) and each of them tells a different story. Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) by the most beloved Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik is really unique and gives you the chance to pick any of the three different routes everytime you go from the main square to the Old Town (and since 2007 no traffic is allowed at any of them:)
Don´t miss the Dragon Bridge guarded by ominous winged lizards who allegedly wag their tails when a virgin passes over or the Cobbler’s Bridge, which was the oldest one in medieval Ljubljana. Especially couples will enjoy the Butchers´ Bridge. Ok, the name is not very romantic (it is actually based on the location near the marketplace) but it is full of love padlocks and you can sure add more if you wish. There are two glass walking belts at the sides and crazy sculptures from ancient mythology.
Do rock–paper–scissors to decide whether you start your exploration of the bridges on the left or right and then just criss-cross the city in the snake pattern. Make sure to do the same on the way back once you reach the end. If you get thirsty or hungry, plenty of cafés, bistros and restaurants will save your day on the way (animal lovers should head to Cat Caffé, which serves drinks together with cuddles – but you know cats – they do what THEY want, not what you want).
Travel well, travel slow and enjoy!
Are you ready for more tips? Come back to check out the second part of the blog:)