Sitting along the Ljubljanica River smack in the middle of Slovenia, the capital of Ljubljana is an alluring destination marked by sidewalk cafes, wine bars, and specialty boutiques that line the leafy banks of the river. Once overrun by traffic, today the center of the city is a pedestrian-only district, save for bicycles, buses, and a few toll-free electric taxis known as Kavalirs. It’s perfectly convenient to get around on foot, and you can freely walk between the north and south ends of the district in roughly 20 minutes. Thanks to its population and location, Ljubljana boasts a fascinating mix of old and new along with urban and country. Baroque cathedrals and romantic bridges sit beside popular nightclubs, while luxe hotels and modern museums share the streets with peaceful parks. Outside the city, the stunning surroundings of the Julian Alps provide an ideal landscape for outdoor recreation, while close proximity to the borders of Italy, Austria, and Croatia offers easy access to other tourist destinations including Venice, Graz, and Zagreb.
Areas & Neighborhoods in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is divided into 17 districts and countless neighborhoods, but the best and most beautiful attractions are clustered near the center of the city.
Center District — The Center District is split in half by the Ljubljanica River, with the historic heart of the city lying to the east and the more contemporary commercial hub sitting to the west.
- Old Town: Squeezed between Castle Hill and the Ljubljanica River, the medieval Old Town is perhaps the most charming neighborhood in the city. Home to picturesque squares and cobblestone streets, the area is where you’ll find long-standing landmarks like the Ljubljana Cathedral, the Robba Fountain, and St. James’s Parish Church. Atop the hill, Ljubljana Castle looks down upon the city and offers a permanent exhibit highlighting history and art. Back down along the river are bistros and cafes to suit any taste, as well as unique shops to find interesting souvenirs. At the south end of the dragon-adorned bridge, Central Market draws locals and visitors alike with its fresh produce, aromatic flowers, and homemade cheese. From March through October in nearby Pogacarjev Square, around 50 of the city’s top restaurants come together every Friday to serve up innovative concoctions from morning until night.
- City Center: West across the river, the colorful City Center thrives with options for shopping, dining, sightseeing, and partying. Garden restaurants, international eateries, and swanky nightclubs lend a vibrant atmosphere at all times of day. In the small boutiques, shoppers can peruse everything from globally known brands to independent Slovenian designers. There’s history and culture to be found here as well, with attractions like the National Museum of Slovenia, the Museum of Modern Art, and the National Gallery. Further west, the neighborhood encompasses much of Tivoli Park, which is Ljubljana’s largest green space. Here, find paved paths, grassy picnic areas, and formal gardens. The park is also home to a lakeside bar, a bowling center, the Museum of Contemporary History, and the International Center of Graphic Arts.
- Tabor — North of the Old Town, across the river, Tabor is an artsy hub that’s driven much of the city’s alternative scene for the last few decades. During the day, locals get their coffee fix at the garden and cafe at the Ethnographic Museum. Once the sun goes down, the Metelkova Art Center calls out the cool crowd to nightly events including concerts and gallery showings held in graffiti-laced studios.
Trnovo District — South of the Center District, Trnovo is a quieter section of the city, but still offers much in the way of things to see and do. In the north part of the district, the Plečnik House details the life and work of architect Jože Plečnik, who still dictates much of the city’s aesthetic to this day. See the remarkably preserved home, where original pencil stubs, eyeglasses, and even packs of cigarettes remain in their place. On the streets surrounding the house, particularly around the park, quirky restaurants and bars have become popular with the city’s young professional and student populations.
What to See in Ljubljana
While Ljubljana boasts a wealth of wonders for the eyes, no first-time trip is complete without paying a visit to the top of Castle Hill. From the funicular station in the alley across from Krekov Square, board a glass cable car for a quick ride up the hill. On a clear day, gaze out upon postcard-worthy views of red-roofed buildings, cobblestone streets, and the emerald-green river. If you choose, you can even take the car once the sun goes down to marvel at the city when it’s lit up at night. Upon arrival at the fortress, the time is yours to do with as you please. Embark on a tour through time with costumed characters, explore the weird and wonderful world of the Puppet Museum, or climb to the top of the 19th-century watchtower to see the city from even an higher perspective.
Sightseeing in Ljubljana
Discover the top sights of Ljubljana as you wander artistic enclaves, atmospheric districts, and locally loved neighborhoods on a walking tour of the city’s bohemian heart. With a local leading the way, begin in the City Center and set off on a stroll that takes you past ancient Roman remains and minimalist architecture byJože Plečnik. Continue over a footbridge through the Baroque buildings of the Old Town before settling in for a beer at a tucked-away bar. After chatting with your guide about the daily life of the city, journey back over the river into the trendy neighborhood of Tabor. Immerse yourself in Ljubljana’s alternative culture as you wander around the lively bars, eclectic clubs, and glowing graffiti at the Metelkova Art Center.
Once you’ve explored the sights of the city, it’s time to dig into the food. Over the course of a few hours, sample 9 traditional dishes from the region, which is known for a mix of influences from Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia. Tuck into creations such as hearty beef stew, a rolled dough dish known as struklji, and a sweet and crunchy dessert called prekmurska gibanica. As the country is also home to 3 winegrowing regions, you tour comes complete with 4 different pours to complement the food. Sip and savor varietals like oaky chardonnay, fruit-forward pinot noir, and powerful refosco.
If traveling to Ljubljana, why not seize the opportunity to see one of the other beautiful cities that are easily reachable by car? On a full-day tour, sit back and relax as a guide drives you into the dramatic Karst region, where you’re treated to sites like the 13th-century Predjama Castle built into the face of a cave. Continue on to the coastal resort towns of Koper, Izola, and Portorož. At each destination, enjoy free time to wander the medieval squares, stroll the sandy beaches, or dine on a mouthwatering meal of fresh seafood at one of the many locally owned restaurants or cafes.