Compact, pretty and with plenty to keep you amused for 48 hours. Ljubljana is a fantastic city break or Euro stopover.
It doesn’t have the wow factor of Paris, the must see sights of Venice or Rome or the reputation for partying like Prague – but Ljubljana holds its own as an attractive city break for those looking for something else. What is that something else? A beautiful city with good food, plenty of culture and a local vibe which is still not swamped with tourists. Visitors coming for longer than 48 hours will find the country is small and the transport infrastructure good enough to get out of town and explore.
Where To Stay
Ljubljana isn’t a big city so if you’re in town for 48 hours you’ll probably find a central based hotel or hostel for a very affordable price. AirBnB options are from around £30 a night or hotels with breakfast for around the same price. I stayed in a hostel about ten minutes walk from town, the Hostel Vrba which was comfortable, well equipped and well located. The hostel manager was also very friendly, setting the tone for Slovenian people in general.
The castle dominates the skyline in Ljubljana and is visible from all over town. At the foot of the castle is the old town which is lined with boutique shops and restaurants. The Ljubljanica river runs gently through the city and is crossed at regular intervals by bridges, the postcard image is of the Triple Bridge which crosses from the old town to the Plaza Prěsernov, the centre of town. From here you’ll find pubs, clubs, restaurants and familiar high street shops.
Slovenian food is an interesting mix of east and west. You’ll find Italian, Austrian and Slavic influences in much of the food. Breakfast is a fairly standard Euro affair of bread, cheeses, meats and jams served with coffee. I headed to Centralna Postaja just a few moments from the central square at Trubajeva Cesta 23. The cafe does a buffet breakfast for €3.50 (drink not included) which is plenty to set you up for a day of sightseeing. By night, the venue is a popular cocktail bar with funky tunes and cool locals.
There are several points to scale the hill up to the castle which are all well signposted. There is a funicular up the hill, but the walk isn’t particularly straining and is well worth it for the gentle trail walk. Unless you’ve been hobbled in some way or another, find a path and wander up.
The views from the top are great, taking in the whole of the city, and it’s obviously a popular spot for locals to go jogging or walk the dog.
The castle has several museums and is €10 to enter for adults. The ticket price includes the funicular railway and entry to the museums which are part of the castle complex.
The old town sits at the base of the hill and is a pleasant place to wander. The main draw is the daily market which is found in the square next to the main Cathedral. Besides the fresh fruit and veg there are also local Slovenian products such as food and drink and of course souvenirs.
There is also a covered market where you can grab pastries like borek (flaky pastry stuffed with spinach and cheese) or cakes and local sausage and meats.
The triple bridge is the closest thing Ljubljana has to an iconic and recognisable landmark. Crossing from the old town to the newer part of town you’ll be faced with the bright pink Franciscan church and the square with the statue of poet Franc Preseren.
The Metelkova art centre is an old army base which is now a super cool hangout for artists, musicians or just cool people supping flat white coffees. As it is a residential area and workshop for the creative types, you can turn up and check out the artistry and if the shops are open you can even grab some pieces of art. You’ll also occasionally be able to join workshops for anything from sculpture to dance. Or, if you’re more passive just grab a coffee and watch the action.
There are also several clubs in the area including Jalla Jalla, which often hosts big name DJ’s and a up and coming bands. Definitely an area to check out if you’re into the alternative scene.
Right in the centre of town, the tallest building is the Nebotičnik, aka the Skyscraper. Head to the top floor for a sundowner cocktail with a view and some nibbles. It’s not the cheapest drinks in town but that’s more than made up for by the great views. Entry is free and the clientele is definitely on the more high end side.
Eat & Drink
As the sun sets and your thoughts turn to food you’ll probably find yourself wandering the riverside. The old town side of the river offers several traditional Slovenian places alongside hip burger and ramen joints.
One of the best restaurants in town is Druga Violina (Second Violin, Stari trg 21), which is actually something of a bargain in the area. You can grab a main dish for around €5-8 although it is often pretty busy, so getting in early is a good idea. A noble enterprise, the owner employs people with special needs such as those with autism or cerebral palsy as staff. The menu is different each day and is normally a traditional focused menu with a meat and a vegetarian option.
If Druga Violina is full, around the corner is Julija or Marley & Me, both also great spots for (more full priced) traditional fare. Stari trg, the main drag through the old town runs parallel to the river and is lined with quality restaurants, wine bars and pubs.
For a few drinks and some dancing, the riverside offers several good bars (follow the crowds) or head to one of the popular pubs like The Cutty Sark or Holiday’s Pub.
If you really are only in Slovenia for two days then you’ll probably want to head to Lake Bled or the caves at Škocjan for a day trip. However, if you’re on course for a full city break then the second 48 hours in Ljubljana will be a bit more sedate than the first day.
Tivoli Park & MGLC
This beautiful park is the biggest in the city and is home to a very good museum, the MGLC. The museum is home to some great modern art exhibitions and only €5 entry for adults. The park and museum are perfect for lazy strolling on pleasant days or even to while away a few hours if the weather isn’t too good.
As a bonus, if you’re an adventurous meat eater, head to Hot Horse. This stand on the edge of the park (at Celovška cesta 25) does a super simple horse meat burger and sides for around €5.
On the city side of the park are three of the city’s biggest museums.
The National Gallery offers a permanent exhibition of classical art from the region. €7 is the standard entry and there is an extra charge of €5 for the temporary exhibits.
The National Museum is home to historical local artefacts and natural history of Slovenia.
The MG is another modern art museum which features the best of Slovenian and international talent, with installations, workshops and more.
They love an escape game in Ljubljana. You’ll spot signs for ‘escape games’ pretty much everywhere, there’s even one in the castle. For the uninitiated, this is when you are sealed in a room and given an hour to escape, usually as a team following a set of rules. If you’ve not done one before then Ljubljana offers lots of opportunity to do so. You’ll pay around €60 for an hour and although I didn’t do one myself, they are certainly popular.
Wine or Beer Tour
Another thing they have lots of in Slovenia, is great wine. They don’t export much seeing as much of it is consumed domestically, so this is a great opportunity to experience the local tipple. Around town you’ll spot wine bars, many of them offering tastings. You can also sign up for a tour of the best wine spots in town, normally for around €40 for the day.
If beer is more your thing then you’re in luck. Ljubljana has a vibrant craft beer scene and there are craft beer shops and bars all over town. The Pivoteka Za Popent in the Old Town (just down from Druga Violina) is a great spot to sample some of the local brews.
If you’ve got a few days spare then a trip to Lake Bled is a must visit. This fairytale spot is a popular tourist draw for good reason, if you don’t have a car then public transport is regular or take a tour. Lake Bohinj, slightly further down the road is a more sedate hideaway and location of adventure sports centres for kayakers and…
48 hours is plenty of time to do Ljubljana justice, but exploring this beautiful country is worth doing if you can. Check flights on our handy flight widget below and head to Ljubljana for a great city break.