10 things to do and see in Ljubljana

A complete and detailed guide about 10 things to do and see in Ljubljana in 1, 2 or 3 days

10 things to do and see in Ljubljana
10 things to do and see in Ljubljana

Ljubljana is the small capital of Slovenia. Romantic and rich of history, vibrant and full of attractions, Ljubljana surprises visitors. With its beautiful landscapes, stunning architecture, rich cultural heritage the cheerful and relaxed atmosphere, it’s easy to love it. It’s not hard to discover its treasures, all reachable by a walk or a nice ride.

On the hill, the castle dominates the town on the Ljubljanica river (worthy of a boat trip), the historical center preserves the major monuments, excellent museums and galleries celebrate the art, the city market is a concentration of history and traditions. Each district has its historic character: Medieval, Baroque and Art Nouveau, the whole city is “marked” by the amazing works of the brilliant architect and urban planner Jože Plečnik. Since the ‘20s  until the beginning of World War II, he had  the goal to rebuild the city. Bridges are a characteristic feature of the Slovenian capital. Numerous cross the Ljubljanica river and offer panoramic views. Cute cafes and restaurants on the riverside where, especially at night, the atmosphere is filled with magic. Many, therefore, the reasons for visiting Ljubljana, tourist destination, perhaps a bit too much neglected.

On this page we suggest you 10 things to do and see during your visit in Ljubljana

If you are looking for a hotel in Ljubljana, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 400 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

The Library of Ljubljana

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The eclectic art of the great master Joze Plecnik is manifested in the National and University Library (NUK), his most important work in the city of Ljubljana. Designed in 1932, the library was built between 1936 and 1941.

The Library of Ljubljana
The Library of Ljubljana

The huge building with the shape of an irregular rectangle consists of four floors, four wings and two courtyards. The façade is decorated with red brick and stone blocks placed randomly. The classic architectural element is represented by a Ionic column which bisects the windows. The handles on the front door have the shape of two heads of horses, representing Pegasus, a kind of symbolic guide for visitors to the library in the world of knowledge. Inside, the monumental central staircase in dark marble with 32 black columns leads to the large reading room with glassy walls that let natural light enter into the space. The NUK is an important cultural monument. It has in fact, the largest collection of literature in the country, and has a number of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts prints.

Where: Turjaska 1
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: Mon – Fri: 8 am – 8 pm ; Sat: 9 am -2 pm

The Castle of Ljubljana

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On top of the hill called Grajska Planota stands the oldest castle in Ljubljana. The earliest records of its existence dates back to the Middle Ages when the wooden castle was the seat of the Carinthian Prince Spanheim, governor of the province.

The Castle of Ljubljana
The Castle of Ljubljana

In 1335, the castle became property of the Habsburgs and was fortified because of the frequent Turkish invasions. Only in the second half of the fifteenth century, the changes made by the Duke, completely changed the appearance and size of the castle. All the main buildings were rebuilt in the sixteenth and seventeenth century following the terrible earthquake of 1515. In the mid-seventeenth century, the fortress lost its function as a fortress and noble residence to become military warehouse.

After the occupation of France (1809), the castle was used as barracks and a military hospital. In 1849 the castle was abandoned until in 1868  when it was used as a prison again. Purchased by the city in 1905, the castle today is a popular tourist destination where there are concerts, cultural events, exhibitions and shows.

Where: Grajska planota
How to get there: by feet or by funicolar
When – Hours:
Castle: from 1/10 to 30/04 every day from 10 am to 9 pm ; from 1/05 to 30/09 from 9 am  to 11 pm .
Panoramic Tower: from 1/10 to 30/04 every day from 10 am  to 6 pm ; from 1/05 to 30/09 from 9 am  to 10 pm
guided tours (also in Italian) June: 10:00 am , 4:00 pm ; July and August: 10:00 am , 11:30 am , 6:00 pm , 7:00 pm ; September: 10:30 am , 12:00 pm , 4:00 pm , 6:00 pm .
Tickets: Guided tour (castle tower ++ exhibitions) including funicular: adults 10 Euro; reduced 8 Euro.

St. Nicholas Cathedral in Ljubljana

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The Cathedral of St. Nicholas is one of the finest examples of Baroque art in Slovenia. The church dedicated to the patron saint of fishermen, is located on the former site of a Romanesque church of the thirteenth century, but the current building with its twin bell towers dates back to the early eighteenth century.

St. Nicholas Cathedral in Ljubljana
St. Nicholas Cathedral in Ljubljana

The cathedral, designed by the Andrea Pozzo on the Roman church model, is a Latin cross plant. It consists of a nave, side chapels and a transept, above which rises the dome, added in 1841. The interior of the church in pink marble, white and golden stucco, was painted by Giulio Quaglio with scenes from the life of San Nicola. Of great interest are the sculptures of the four bishops of Emona Angelo Putti, the angels altar of Corpus Christi of the Venetian sculptor Francesco Robba and the benches of the  choir. In 1996, to commemorate the visit of Pope John Paul II, two extraordinary bronze doors were added. In particular, the main gate built by Demšar Tone, symbolizes 1250 years of Christianity in Slovenia.

Where: Pogačarjev trg.
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: every day from 10 am to 12 pm  and from 3 to 6 pm .
Tickets: free entrance

The Central Market in Ljubljana

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A lively atmosphere characterizes every day the Ljubljana Central Market, the main selling point of the city .

The Central Market in Ljubljana
The Central Market in Ljubljana

Designed by Jože Plecnik between 1940 and 1944, the typical market consists of the outdoor market Vodnikov trg, the covered one Pogačarjev trg, the elegant Renaissance-style porch that follows the curve of the Ljubljanica (Colonnade Plecnik), a number of interesting underground areas and a giant flower shop added later.

At Centralna Tržnica there’s almost everything: food of all types (vegetables, meats, spices, fruits, herbs, meat, fish, honey), flowers and plants, local crafts, Slovenian specialties such as Karst ham, the horse pate, homemade bread, tasty cheese, the typical cake “potica”.. You can wander around for hours for the Market without getting tired, enjoying the authentic atmosphere of a public market that reflects an old city tradition.

Where: Vodnikov trg, Pogačarjev trg
How to get there: by feet in the city center
When – Hours:
Market: Monday through Friday from 6 am  to 6 pm , Saturday from 6 am to 4 pm ; winter from 6 am to 4 pm , Sundays and holidays closed.
Covered Market (Pogačarjev trg): Monday through Friday from 7 am to 4 pm , Saturday from 7 am  to 2 pm. Market covered under the colonnades of Plečnik: Monday through Friday from 7 am to 4 pm , Saturdays from 7 am to 2 pm.

The Tivoli Park in Ljubljana

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The Tivoli Park is not far from the center of Ljubljana, and it’s the largest park in the city, great place to walk, play or meet up.

The Tivoli Park in Ljubljana
The Tivoli Park in Ljubljana

The large green area (510 hectares) was created in 1813 according to Jean Blanchard project but since then had many changes.  As well as geometric paths, boulevards and gardens with statues and fountains, the complex of the park has a pond and a small botanical garden created in 1880, an outdoor lap pool built in the thirties along with sports fields and the children’s playground, a sports hall (1965), where sports events and concerts take place. Tivoli’s main feature is, however, the evocative walk Jakopič (named after the Slovenian Impressionist painter Rihard Jakopič) redesigned by Plečnik in 1934, leading to the seventeenth-century Castello di Tivoli guarded by four sculptures of dogs, which now houses the Tivoli Gallery – International center graphic art.

Where: On the slopes of the hill Rožnik
How to get there: It is reached by using Cankarjeva cesta underpass
When – Hours: the park is open 24 hours on 24.
Tickets: free entrance

The Bridge of the Ljubljana Dragons

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Four fierce winged dragons watch the arched bridge crossing the river in Ljubljana. The Dragons bridge was one of the first reinforced concrete bridges in Europe.

The Bridge of the Ljubljana Dragons
The Bridge of the Ljubljana Dragons

Originally called the Jubilee Bridge, it was built in 1900 to honor the 40th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I (1848-1888) to replace the old wooden bridge called “Butcher”. In 1919, the opera was renamed Zmajiski Most (Bridge of Dragons) in reference to the monstrous creatures placed at the four corners of it, symbols taken from the emblem of Ljubljana. The innovative structure was designed by engineer Austrian Josef Melan, a famous designer of concrete bridges, and built by the Dalmatian architect Jurij Zaninović.

Where: north of Vodnikov trg
How to get there: by feet from the city centre

The Triple Bridge, Ljubljana

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One of the best known symbols of Ljubljana is the small Three Bridges which is the elegant door outside the Old Town.

The Triple Bridge, Ljubljana
The Triple Bridge, Ljubljana

Actually, when it was built (1842), was a common single-arched stone bridge over the Ljubljanica, known to all as Špitalski most (Bridge Hospital)

Between 1929 and 1932, due to the increased traffic, the architect Jože Plečnik added two pedestrian bridges to support the existing bridge. Plečnik who loved some elements of classicism, removed the metal railing of the central bridge and added three stone balustrades, over which he placed the streetlights.

Today, the Three Bridges, completely closed to traffic, is a pleasant walk, enlivened by artists and street musicians, connecting Prešeren, the main square and popular meeting point in Ljubljana, the historic center.

Civic Square in Ljubljana

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Mestni Trg is the Town Square, the heart of the historical center of Ljubljana. The elegant buildings made after the earthquake of 1511 embellish the square and give a strongly Baroque appearance.

Civic Square in Ljubljana
Civic Square in Ljubljana

Among the most beautiful buildings, stand out the house Haman, that hosts the Mestna galerija (City Gallery), the Lichtenberg building with the façade decorated by the sculptor Osbalt Kittel, the Rakovec and Obrez palaces Matija Persky. There’s also the Mestna hiša, or the City Hall (also called Magistrat or Rotovž), Erected in 1484, it was rebuilt and enlarged in 1717-18, and was renovated in 1963. In front of the Town Hall stands the obelisk of the fountain of Carniolan Rivers (1751), one of the most famous monuments of the Slovenian capital. The sculptor, drawing inspiration from the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona made by Bernini, wanted to represent the three Carniolan rivers: Krka, Ljubljanica and Sava through three figures that hold great vessels from which the water flows.

Things to eat in Ljubljana

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Slovenia has a rich culinary culture made of typical dishes from the region but also of Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Balkan recipes.

Things to eat in Ljubljana
Things to eat in Ljubljana

Therefore, restaurants and gostilna (taverns) in Ljubljana offer Slovenian specialties as well as also dishes of the countries that have dominated this land and left their mark even in the kitchen.

Soups, meat and game are the protagonists of the traditional cuisine that does not hide his peasant origins. A must: the soup with beans and sauerkraut (jota), polenta usually prepared with semolina (žganci), the ravioli stuffed with potatoes Idrija and bacon, served with meat sauce, the Kranjska klobasa ( Carniolan sausage), ilKraški pršut (Karst prosciutto), the divjačinska sausage (sausage of wild game). Among the “contamination” instead, the barley soup of Austrian origin (ricet), the Njoki (potato dumplings) or riota (risotto) Italian, Hungarian gola  (goulash), are the most common dishes. Excellent Slovenian wines to enjoy dishes with flavors so strong, like Teran and Cviček. As far as thee desserts: the potica is the famous sweet rolled stuffed with walnuts; the Prekmurska gibanica is made by a number of layers of dough with walnuts, poppy seeds, raisins, honey, cottage cheese and cream.

Where to sleep in Ljubljana

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Ljubljana has a great offer of hotels, hostels and apartments with low prices or under the average of the European capitals.

Where to sleep in Ljubljana
Where to sleep in Ljubljana

In the old town centre , where there are all the main attractions, prices of 3 star hotels are from 40 to 80 Euros per night. Don’t forget that Ljubljana is placed in a green area (as all over Slovenia), then just outside the city center there are cottages and B&Bs immersed in nature. Of course, this forces you to move by car or public transport.

If you are looking for a hotel in Ljubljana, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 400 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com