Ljubljana is a city of contrasts. Beautiful old buildings, covered in graffiti, with the upmarket restaurants inside. Dilapidated buildings housing the trendiest cafes. The old versus the new, the grunge versus the chic. There are so many things to do in Ljubljana, so make sure you have a good few days to explore.
We strolled into town and navigated our way along the Ljubljanica river, which runs through the heart of the city. Open-air restaurants, bars and cafes line the river on both sides. The pedestrianized streets were alive with people and all manner of buskers from the traditional accordion players to melodious jazz players.
Things To Do in Ljubljana
The Ljubljana Castle stands perched on the hill looking over the city. There is a funicular to take you to the top, but we decided to ride our bikes! I’m not quite sure why we chose this route as the road was incredibly steep. I made it to within 20m of the top and just couldn’t anymore so had to get off and push! The view over the city was spectacular, so it was worth all the effort.
Wander the City Streets
The city centre is pedestrian only, so you can aimlessly wander the cobbled streets and admire the architecture with ease. We rode our bikes down little alleyways, meandered in and out of shops, listened to the buskers playing amazing jazz and stopping at funky cafes to sample the local craft beer.
The Triple Bridge stands in the heart of Ljubliana and connects the Old Town with the newer part of town. It is actually comprised of three separate bridges. The middle bridge was built in 1842, but with an increase in traffic, two additional side-bridges were added for pedestrians by the architect Jože Plecnik in 1930.
The Butchers Bridge certainly had some rather dark sculptures – piranhas with vicious looking teeth and lifesized bodies that looked like they were writhing in agony – and it has taken up the love-lock challenge with locks of all shapes and sizes festooned along its width.
The Dragon Bridge is named for its ornate dragon statues – 2 big statues on either side and 16 smaller dragons spanning its width. You can’t say you’ve been to Ljubliana if you don’t have a photo of these mystical beasts. Constructed between 1900 and 1901, it was Ljubljana’s first reinforced concrete structure and one of the largest bridges of its kind to be built in Europe.
Indulge in the Coffee Culture
There is a huge coffee culture here with cakes and pastries to tempt even the smallest sweet tooth. The cafes range from uber-trendy to fabulously quirky and are all busy and bustling.
Metelkova Street Art
There is a whole area dedicated to the “street art” called Metelkova. Developed from a squat in a former army barracks, Metelkova is touted to tourists as an autonomous cultural center with a vibey nightlife, but to be honest, we felt like intruders, being closely watched by groups of drugged up youths. The art was very cool though, so we ignored the stares, took some photos, but did leave as quickly as we had arrived.
We bought fresh fruit at the Central Market and tasted our first Borek, which is phyllo pastry pies made with either spinach, cheese, meat or potato. Really yum! Our other favourite is now Cepvavcici – little mincemeat kebabs – which are served with Ajvar -a relish made of red peppers. Don’t miss out on the cheese, meat and bakery market just off the square. It’s not so easy to find, but if you are looking through the market, towards the castle, the entrance is on the right. A little door with stairs leading down.
Take a Boat Cruise
No trip to Ljubliana is complete without a slow cruise down the Ljubljanica River. The one hour cruise will afford you a different view of the city, passing under all of the famous bridges and many of the historic buildings. The boat is heated in winter and you can buy refreshments on board.
€10.00 for adults
€5.00 for children aged between 4 and 12
Free for children below the age of 4 years
Hang Out in Presernov Square
Presernov Square is a hub of activity at any time of the day. Sit on the steps of the Preseren Monument and listen to the organist in his Lederhosen playing a lamenting tune, watch a clown blow balloons for the kids or just relax and watch life walking on by. The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation dominates the skyline
Free Walking Tour of the Ljubliana
The city offers a free daily walking tour starting at 11 am in Presernov Square. Let the local tour guides regale you with stories about the city while explaining everything from local history and architecture to quirky trivia and culture. The tours run every day, rain or shine and no bookings are required. Just arrive in the square a few minutes before 11am and the guide will be easy to spot.
We didn’t wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but we sure arrived in the wrong side of town in Ljubljana! I’d searched for overnight camper stops as close to the city center as possible and as far as location went, we couldn’t have done better. Just a 3-minute bike ride to the very center of town. The downside… we were parked in a seriously dodgy parking area next to a dirty and dilapidated warehouse which housed the only toilet for all the campers to use. Yes, there was a security guard and we got hooked up to electricity for the very overpriced cost of 25€, but if there hadn’t been other campervans there, I would have hightailed it outta there as soon as we arrived!
GPS: 46.0578, 14.52009
We then found excellent parking to the South-West of the city. There was electric hookup, water and grey water disposal. There was a toilet at the petrol station across the way.
Number 6 bus will take you to town in 10 minutes. There are toilets at a nearby petrol station if needed.
Monday to Friday the cost is € 1.20 or pay €2 for an oyster card that allows you to use the parking and the buses into town. It is free on weekends.
GPS: 46.0371, 14.46519