Ljubljana (pronounced more or less like ‘jubeljana’) is the capital of Slovenia. Usually, when you think of a capital city, you think a big city with a lot of people, but with Ljubljana that is not the case. Ljubljana is small, charming and the city centre is very walkable. It is a lively student city with a lot of history, impressive architecture, and loads of greenery. So much greenery in fact, that it won the Green Capital of Europe award in 2016.
There is plenty to do and see in Ljubljana to keep you entertained, and if you have more time to spend in Slovenia you should also consider a trip to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Lake Bled, or the charming old Roman coastal town Piran. If you only have one day, then this is how to spend one day in Ljubljana.
One Day In Ljubljana – A Perfect Itinerary
Morning – Walk around the old town
A good day starts with a good breakfast right? That’s what works for us at least, so start your day by going to Slovenska Hiša for a good breakfast. They’re located in the city centre right next to the Ljubljanica River, and only serve scrambled eggs for breakfast, but boy do they do that well! Add a cup of good coffee and you’re ready to take on the day.
Now that you’re already in the city centre, the best thing to do is to take a walk through town and go sightseeing. Start by walking over Triple Bridge to the main city square called Prešeren Square. The square is easily recognizable by the Franciscan church with its pink facade and the big statue of France Prešeren, Slovenia’s greatest poet.
From the square, head south and take a look at the uniquely designed university library. Close to the library you’ll find Križanke, a beautiful old monastery that is now often used for live music events. From Križanke, cross the river again via Cobbler’s Bridge. This wide bridge with its pillars on top that support nothing but air, was where cobblers (someone who fixes shoes) did their work in medieval times.
Walk over Stari street which is lined with 19th-century wooden boutique shops to the Town Square. Take a look at the impressive Town Hall and the Robba Fountain, and then hop into the Ljubljana Cathedral. Don’t get put off by the somewhat creepy door of the cathedral, because the inside is truly magnificent. In front of the cathedral, a beautiful marble gallery probably already caught your eye. This gallery was built to give butchers and fish vendors their own space, so the often unpleasant smells in their shops wouldn’t affect the market where they used to be located.
Walk past this gallery and cross the Butcher’s Bridge. This bridge is adorned with hundreds of padlocks. It is said that if you and your loved one attach a padlock with your names to this bridge, your love will last a lifetime. After crossing the Butcher’s Bridge, turn right and cross back over the river again over the Dragon Bridge. According to local legend, the dragons’ statues on this bridge will wag their tails whenever a virgin crosses the bridge.
Turn right after crossing the Dragon Bridge and you’re standing on the central market. Here you can buy traditional Slovene food and drinks, like Refosk and Teran wine, olive oil, truffles and truffle oil, Slovene sea salt from Piran, and all sorts of trinkets and crafted goods.
Afternoon – Three options for a cool afternoon in Ljubljana
By now you’ve walked quite a bit and have probably worked up an appetite, so time for lunch! We suggest going for two traditional Slovene dishes; Kranjska klobasa and Struklji. Kranjska klobasa are delicious smoked sausages often served in a thick stew. Struklji is similar to dumplings and is often served as a side with the Kranjska klobasa or as a dessert, depending on if you have them with a savoury or sweet filling. Moji štruklji at the Plečnik Market does both really well, and if you have followed our suggestions of what to see in the morning, you’re already standing practically in front of it.
If you only have one day, you obviously can’t do everything so you’ll have to make a choice for your afternoon activities. We’ve listed three options below that all show a different but equally exciting part of the city and its history.
Plečnik house & Park Špica
If you’re intrigued by what you saw this morning, then meet the visionary architect behind most of what you’ve seen; Jože Plečnik. Well, you can’t actually meet him because he died in 1957, but you can visit his old house that is now a museum. A guided tour of his home gives you an insight into his private life and the peculiar lifestyle he had. The house, the furniture, and the working spaces including his drawings have been kept in their original state so everything you’re shown is authentic, apart from a few items that were broken and replicated in recent years. Everything in his house shows the dedication he had for his work. His furniture was made for function, not for comfort. His bed, for example, was just a bit too small so that he wasn’t tempted to stay in bed longer than needed, and could go straight to work in the morning.
After visiting Plečnik house, walk about 15 minutes to Park Špica. This quiet park located on the point where the Ljubjlanica river splits into two arms is excellent for a relaxing break. Grab a drink from the bar in the park, and chill on the steps while looking out over the water for a bit.
Modern Art Gallery or National Gallery & Park Tivoli
As a second option for the afternoon, walk from your lunch spot towards the big city park; Park Tivoli. On your way, cross the Congress Square where something is always happening, and then turn into Cankarjeva Cesta. Here you’ll see the opera house, a funky mix between an old and a modern building, and two art galleries at the end of the street.
On your left stands the Modern Art Gallery, with Slovene artworks from the 20th and 21st century, including photography, videography and digital art. If you’re more into traditional art, then look to your right where the National Gallery stands. This beautiful building houses a massive collection of Slovene artworks from the 13th century onwards, but the building alone is already worth a visit with its grand staircases and white halls.
After visiting one of these two musea, walk through the passage under the main road to get to Park Tivoli. The Jakopič Promenade cuts the front of the park in two and leads to the prominently visible Tivoli Mansion that houses a collection of modern graphic art. The promenade itself is also a cultural monument, and different exhibitions are displayed on boards on both sides year-round. If you’re up for a little walk, then go left from the promenade to the big pond, or go straight and walk through the woods to the top of the Rožnik hill.
Metelkova & MSUM or SEM
A 15-minute walk to the north-east of the city centre gets you to the Metelkova district. This area used to be the Slovene headquarters of the Yugoslav Army, but when Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991 it was given to the Network of Metelkova. This network, consisting of youth and alternative organizations, turned it into the autonomous social and cultural centre it is today and that is known for its street art and alternative party scene.
Literally every available square centimetre is covered with some sort of street art, and there are artistic contraptions hanging from rooftops and in between buildings. The coolest thing there, probably the old army prison that has been turned into a hostel.
In the Metelkova district, there are also two musea; the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Slovene Ethnographic Museum (SEM). In the Museum of Contemporary Art, you’ll find ever-changing exhibitions of current day art, from graffiti paintings to photography to experimental art contraptions, and everything in between. SEM is Slovenia’s cultural museum. It showcases the history of the Slovene people, and its relation to other cultures in time. It gives a fascinating insight into the rich and turbulent history that shaped the culture of Slovenia. SEM also has a nice café with a big open garden.
Evening – Visit Ljubljana Castle
You’ve probably already seen the Ljubljana Castle on top of the hill in the city centre, and a visit to Ljubljana isn’t complete without a visit to the castle. The castle is one of the best places to spend your evening in Ljubljana. Start by going up to the castle, either on foot or by taking the funicular train up. The funicular train takes you from the central market where you were this morning, straight up into the castle.
Once you’re in the castle, take some time to explore its chambers, walk the ramparts and climb its towers. There is a lot to see and experience, and there are always multiple exhibitions in the castle that tell you about its rich history. When you’ve strolled around a bit it is time for dinner, and fortunately, the castle is a great place for that too. There is a restaurant in the courtyard, and if you’re up for something special, there is a fancy restaurant on the top floor of the castle tower.
After dinner, walk out of the castle, but don’t make your way down the hill yet. Instead follow the outside of the wall to the western end, where you’ll find a wine bar with a spectacular view over the city. We can’t think of a better way to end your day in Ljubljana than by overlooking the city by night while enjoying a nice glass of wine.
Plan your Ljubljana trip
How to get to Ljubljana
By plane: Ljubljana has an international airport that connects to many of the bigger European cities. Both budget airlines like Transavia and EasyJet as well as premium airlines like KLM, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines offer flights to Slovenia’s capital. The airport is located about half an hour from the city centre and you can hop on a shuttle bus that takes you straight to Ljubljana for €4,10.
Car: Slovenia is a very small country, but the road infrastructure is rather good so you can easily reach anything in the country by car. Ljubljana is located in the center of the country, and all the highways in Slovenia lead from the bordering countries (Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy) straight to Ljubljana.
Train: Going to Ljubljana by train is the least viable option. There is a railway network, and international trains do run to Ljubljana, but since the road infrastructure is so good and Slovenia’s population is so small, trains don’t get full enough to justify running for more than a few times a day.
Best time to visit Ljubljana
The best time to visit Ljubljana greatly depends on your preferences. Ljubljana is spectacularly beautiful in winter and the Christmas markets and holiday spirit in this city are incredible, but it can get quite cold and rainy this time of the year. In the middle of the summer, temperatures often rise above 30°C and the city can get a bit crowded. We recommend planning your trip to Ljubljana in April and May or September and October. In these months the temperatures are perfect for sightseeing, the city isn’t full of tourists and hotel prices are a lot lower than in peak season or holiday season.
Where to stay in Ljubljana
Hostel Celica Art – This is one of the most unique places you’ll ever get the chance to sleep in. This building located in the Metelkova district used to be a prison but is now turned into a hostel. The prison cells have been kept intact, with barred doors and windows and all, and are offered as private rooms to sleep in. Artists have turned each cell into a unique piece of art, and there are always art exhibitions showcasing local artists and weekly live events from local performers in the hostel.
Galleria River – Situated in the centre of town and overlooking the Ljubljanica River, this place is housed in a beautiful 18th-century landmark. The rooms are modern, spacious and equipped with everything you need. You might think that staying in a place that looks as royal as this comes with a royal price, but a stay here actually fits into a pretty tight budget.
The Fuzzy Log – Ever spent the night in a pod-style accommodation? Here is your chance! This completely energy self-sufficient eco-hotel is located a few minutes’ walk from Ljubljana’s town centre. They offer pods, both single and double, and private rooms. The rooms are modern and minimalistically designed, but all very comfortable.
Author Bio: Tom and Zi are the creatives behind Craving Adventure. They met while solo travelling through SEA and fell in love. Once that trip was over they both had to go back home – to the opposite sides of the world, but they couldn’t stand the distance so they found a way to make it work. They quit their jobs, packed up their bags, sold what didn’t fit into said bags and hit the road to travel full time. Through their blog, they aim to bring you all the insights on a life of travel, exploration and adventure.