Ljubljana is the cutest European city that you’ve never heard of (and cannot pronounce). Situated right in the middle of Slovenia, Ljubljana (which is pronounced lyoo-BLYAH-nah) means love in Slovenian, and there is a lot to love about this city. Beautiful colorful buildings on either side of a winding river crossed by unique bridges, winding cobblestone streets, and an ice cream stand every few feet make this a place no one could resist. Plus it is small enough that it can easily be covered in a few days, making it a perfect weekend trip.
Although we usually favor traveling by train, we decided to drive to Ljubljana since none of the trains are very direct. It is an easy and absolutely beautiful 4 hour drive from Vienna. We even took a quick stop at Lake Bled on the way home, and we will definitely be planning a trip there during the summer months!
Gostilna Na Gradu | Time your visit to Ljubljana castle so that you are there during lunch time, and sit down at this great little restaurant right in the courtyard of the castle to try some classic Slovenian dishes prepared with the finest organic and locally grown ingredients. If it is warm, sit outside to soak in the grandeur of the castle and enjoy some great people watching.
Špajza | Featured in the book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, this restaurant is a very popular spot, and reservations are a must. The lobby of the restaurant is filled with unique vintage finds, and the food is delicious.
Julija | As you are walking through Old Town, there is no shortage of cute little cafes and restaurants. Luckily, my good friend recommended Julija, known for Italian/Slovenian food, and it has become our favorite place in Ljubljana. There is no kid’s menu, but our server gave us a bunch of ideas for meals that the chef could make for our kids, such as roasted chicken with potatoes, pasta or sandwiches. The fact that they are willing to specially make something to ensure the kids are happy wins all kinds of points in my book.
Hotel Cubo | A hip, modern little boutique hotel just on the edge of old town, with a great breakfast and a free mini bar! The rooms are beautifully decorated, clean and modern, and we even had an amazing view of the castle from our window. We have stayed in a few other places in Ljubljana, and were really disappointed because they just cannot compare with Hotel Cubo.
Hostel Celica | If you are a little more adventurous or are planning on spending a lot of time at Metelkova Mesto, this prior jail turned hostel would be awesome. Each cell has been completely renovated by local artists to be a comfortable and completely unique room.
SEE & DO
Metelkova Mesto | Located at the site of the former Yogoslav military barracks, this is now a collection of buildings that house live music venues, art galleries, bars, artists studios and offices for various cultural organizations. Things don’t really get going here until after 11pm, so needless to say we visited during the “off hours” in the morning. This is definitely a site to see!
Ljubljana Castle | Up on a wooded hill above Old Town lies Ljubljana Castle, which dates back to the 1500’s (although this location has been occupied since at least 1200BC). Over the last 500 years, this castle has served as both a royal residence and a prison and barracks, and is now a cultural center. The tower offers and impressive 360° view of Ljubljana and the surrounding countryside.
The Ljubljanica River & Bridges | The Ljubljanica River winds right through the middle of Old Town, and is a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists alike. Crossing the river are various bridges, including Cobbler’s Bridge, the Triple Bridge, the Butcher’s Bridge (or Lover’s Bridge) where countless couples have placed padlocks, and Dragon Bridge, with 4 large and 16 small statues of dragons, the symbol of Ljubljana. All along the river are cafes, restaurants, ice cream stands, shops and bars, giving you ample opportunity to enjoy the river and all its beauty. You could easily spend an afternoon just hanging out by the river.
Smile Concept Store | If you are looking for unique little gifts, this is the place to go. It is colorful and happy and really lives up to it’s name, as it makes you smile just being in there. I could have spent at least an hour just looking at everything.
Gud Shop | A mix of Scandinavian and Slovenian designers are featured in this beautifully curated shop, and many of the items are handmade. I can never walk out the door empty handed.
Piranske Soline | My absolute favorite shop! Half of the store is dedicated to edible products, and the other to body products, all made from salt produced in the salt pans just south of Piran, Slovenia.
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