Skip to main content

Discovering Ljubljana: A Visitor's Guide


Travelling from Zagreb to Ljubljana – a distance of only 138 kilometres – we decided to take a bus, rather than subject ourselves to the tyranny of airports, or attempt to untangle the unreliable information we were given about rail travel. A flight would have taken longer anyway when you add in travel time to the airport, check-in time and the wait for baggage collection. In the event, our comfortable bus ride took less than two hours, and this even included a passport check at the border conducted at a glacial pace.


If, as we did, you approach the centre of Ljubljana through back streets from the bus station, you may not immediately be impressed by what you see. Everything looks very ordinary and the true grandeur of the city is hidden from view. But once we walked from our hotel directly into the street called Vegova ulica, we realised we were only minutes from all of the best the city has to offer.


We stayed at a conveniently located but disappointing so-called boutique hotel, just to the west of the Ljubljanica River Canal. The service was very erratic and some of the staff behaved as though they would rather be somewhere else. I was told later that it had improved but, nevertheless, a better choice would be the Eurostars UHotel, which was praised by some fellow travellers we met. It’s on the northern side of the river but still very close to all of the main attractions. One advantage of this hotel is that it is the meeting point for several tours.

5_20230913_1508586_20230915_1817257_IMG_0642 [2)8_IMG_0644 [2)

Ljubljana – difficult to spell and even more difficult to pronounce – is the capital of Slovenia and is a beguiling blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. With its picturesque streets, historic architecture and vibrant cultural scene, this cosmopolitan city offers travellers a number of pleasantly surprising experiences. Here's everything you need to know to make the most of your visit.

Getting there

Ljubljana is well-connected to major European cities by air, rail and road. The Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, located approximately 25 kilometres north-west of the city centre, serves as the primary gateway for international travellers. From the airport, you can easily reach the city centre by taxi, airport shuttle or public bus.


For those arriving by train, Ljubljana boasts excellent rail connections with neighbouring countries, including Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary, although we couldn’t find a train from Zagreb, Croatia, on the day we wanted to travel. The city's main train station, Ljubljana železniška postaja, is conveniently located within walking distance of the city centre. As I mentioned earlier, we arrived by bus from Zagreb with Flixbus, a German company operating all over Europe and offering very cheap fares.


Travellers coming by car will find well-maintained highways linking Ljubljana to major cities across Europe. Parking facilities are available throughout the city, although it's worth noting that driving within the compact city centre can be challenging due to limited on-street parking and no-go pedestrian zones.


I’ve already made some comments about hotels, but If you would prefer a more relaxed atmosphere, the leafy suburbs surrounding the city centre offer tranquil retreats with easy access to nature.


Alternatively, budget-conscious travellers will find plenty of affordable hostel options offering dormitory-style accommodation and communal spaces for socialising.


Getting Around

One of the best ways to explore Ljubljana is on foot. The city centre is compact and easily navigable, making it perfect for rambling along its winding streets and picturesque squares. Most of the major attractions including Triple Bridge and Preseren Square are within walking distance of each other, although the elevated Ljubljana Castle is a little more challenging. Pictured below are two alternative ways of getting up to it.


For longer journeys or those wanting to explore beyond the city centre, Ljubljana boasts an efficient public transport system. The city's buses operate on an extensive network of routes, making it easy to reach destinations both within Ljubljana and in the surrounding areas. Visitors can purchase single tickets or opt for a Ljubljana Card, which offers unlimited travel on public transport as well as free admission to many museums and attractions.

Must-See Attractions

Ljubljana Castle: Perched atop a hill overlooking the city, Ljubljana Castle is a symbol of the city's rich history.


Visitors can explore the castle grounds, enjoy panoramic views of Ljubljana from the viewing tower and visit the exhibitions inside the castle walls. One of these included the plaque below: travellers take note!


Preseren Square and Triple Bridge: Located in the heart of the city, Preseren Square is a lively hub surrounded by beautiful architecture and bustling cafes. The iconic Triple Bridge, designed by renowned architect Jože Plečnik, spans the Ljubljanica River and is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.


Tivoli Park: This expansive green space was designed by French engineer Jean Blanchard in 1813. It offers scenic walking trails, lush gardens, and recreational facilities, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind after all that walking. Jože Plečnik, mentioned above, also designed the Jakopič Promenade leading towards Tivoli Mansion.


Dragon Bridge: Once again Jože Plečnik comes to the fore with the Dragon Bridge. Yes, he designed it and it’s recognisable for its distinctive dragon statues, which are symbols of the city. Spanning the Ljubljanica River in the heart of the city, the bridge was completed in 1901 and was one of the first bridges in Ljubljana to be made of concrete.

25_Cathedral IMG_141326_combine_images - 2024-04-30T101715.728

Ljubljana Cathedral: Marvel at the stunning architecture of Ljubljana Cathedral, a masterpiece of Baroque design located in the heart of the old town. Visitors can admire the cathedral's ornate interior, including its beautiful frescoes and intricately carved altars.


For those so inclined there is also an alternative social and cultural centre at Metelkova mesto or self-proclaimed city, a supposedly artistic enclave located in a former military barracks near the city centre. Metelkova is a so-called autonomous cultural zone sometimes compared to Christiania in Copenhagen. I find it paradoxical that what is basically an illegally occupied block – a squat – can be registered as a national cultural heritage site, which it has been since 2005. Some websites describe it as “vibrant” but with refreshing honesty Travel Slovenia says it is practically deserted most weekdays. You can learn more about it here.

Cuisine and Dining

No visit to Ljubljana would be complete without sampling the local cuisine. Slovenian cuisine is characterised by its hearty flavours and fresh, seasonal ingredients, and the country is fast gaining a reputation as a gourmand’s paradise. In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller magazine about the world’s most underrated countries for food, Slovenia was recommended to food lovers as an alternative to Italy.


At one-tenth the size of the Australian state of Victoria, Slovenia is nonetheless divided into 24 distinct gastronomic regions, each with its specialties and style, says travel writer Ben Groundwater. The country sits at a culinary crossroads, the meeting point between cultures and influences of the Mediterranean, the Alps, the Balkans and the old Austro-Hungarian empire, so you can expect to see similar ingredients and dishes, he says. There are also three wine regions in Slovenia.


According to Traveller, in Alpine Slovenia the classic dish is the Carniolan sausage, similar to a German kransky or a Polish kielbasa. The region’s honey is also renowned worldwide. In the centre of the country, grains are more prevalent, and kasha, similar to risotto but using buckwheat grains instead of rice, is popular. On our visit we also sampled another traditional dish, štruklji, which are dumplings stuffed with various fillings, and jota, a hearty bean soup.


For a taste of the city's culinary scene, head to one of Ljubljana's many restaurants, cafes, or street food vendors. From cosy bistros serving up Slovenian comfort food to trendy eateries offering innovative twists on traditional dishes, there's something to satisfy every palate.

Shopping before leaving

Ljubljana offers plenty of opportunities for shopping, from bustling markets and boutique shops to modern shopping centres.


Explore the vibrant stalls of the central market, where you can browse for fresh produce, local delicacies and handmade crafts. For unique souvenirs and gifts, head to the bustling streets of the old town, where you'll find shops selling everything from handmade ceramics to locally produced wines.

35_20230917_08514636_20230917_091213 [2)37_IMG_1732

With its rich history, stunning architecture and lively cultural scene, Ljubljana constantly surprises. Of the major cities in the Balkans it was probably our favourite.

Photos © Judy Barford


Images (38)
  • 1_IMG_1410
  • 2_IMG_1695
  • 3_IMG_1510
  • 4_20230916_173430
  • 5_20230913_150858
  • 6_20230915_181725
  • 7_IMG_0642 (2)
  • 8_IMG_0644 (2)
  • 9_IMG_1769
  • 10_20230913_150016
  • 11_IMG_1780
  • 12_IMG_1707
  • 12A_IMG_1739
  • 13_20230917_100838
  • 14_IMG_1418
  • 15_IMG_1752
  • 16_20230917_104919
  • 17_20230917_105828
  • 18_IMG_0678
  • 19_IMG_1784
  • 20_20230915_184124
  • 21_20230913_152529
  • 22_tivoli-park_2
  • 23_20230916_111403
  • 24_IMG_1728
  • 25_Cathedral IMG_1413
  • 26_combine_images - 2024-04-30T101715.728
  • 27_IMG_1730
  • 28_IMG_1690
  • 29_IMG_1680
  • 30_20230917_094224
  • 31_20230915_182204
  • 32_IMG_1777
  • 33_20230916_105756
  • 34_IMG_1499
  • 35_20230917_085146
  • 36_20230917_091213 (2)
  • 37_IMG_1732

Add Comment

Link copied to your clipboard.