10 things you didn’t know about Ljubljana

The term ‘hidden gem’ gets thrown around a lot when talking about Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. It’s partly because we all like to think we have a secret place that few people know about but it’s mainly because, well, barely anyone knows about it.

I fell head over heals in love with Slovenia and it’s unsurprising that tourism here grew by 65% in 2012 so I’d visit now before it loses that hidden gem status!

Despite the growth in tourism, most people don’t know much about this little country. Slovenia often gets confused with Slovakia and most people seem unsure about where it actually is.

So today I wanted to share a few things about Ljubljana that you might not have known, starting with the basics…

How do you say Ljubljana?

The Slovenian language is a toughy for us English speakers and you find many tourists mumbling incoherent sounds with an awkward, quizzical expression.

Ljubljana is pronounced lub-lee-yana.

You can hear the posh Google lady say it properly .

Travel tip: Another good word to know is ‘na zdravje’ which means ‘cheers’ or ‘to your health’. Listen to the Google lady say it and you’ll notice it sounds a lot like ‘nice driveway’.  I thought this was a great way to remember it! Thanks to Iva from for teaching me that one.

Fountain in Ljubljana

Ljubljana 4

Ljubljana 5

Where is Ljubljana?

Where is Ljubljana

Ljubljana is in the center of Slovenia. There are four main roads in Slovenia that form a cross across the country and Ljubljana is where they meet in the middle.

Slovenia is a small country bordered by Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Italy. It has a tiny but beautiful bit of coastline along the Adriatic Sea.

The position of Slovenia couldn’t be more perfect as you’ve got the seaside, Alpine peaks, rolling hills and sparkling rivers and lakes. The locals joke that in May you could spend the morning skiing on the snowy peaks and then spend the afternoon swimming in the sea.

What are the people like in Ljubljana?

Slovenia is home to just 2 million people and 275,000 thousand of them live in Ljubljana. They are known as Slovenes and they’re incredibly friendly and welcoming with a great sense of humour.

Cool beard Slovenia

What does Ljubljana look like?

One word: Beautiful.

These photos will give you a much better idea than my words ever could.

Ljubljana 6

Outdoor library in Ljubljana

Boats on River in Ljubljana

Ljubljana 3

What’s with the dragon?

The Ljubljana dragon is the symbol of the city and you’ll find dragons on Dragon Bridge and on the coat of arms in the castle. It represents power, courage and greatness.

There are a few explanations as to why the dragon is the symbol. The most common story is that Jason, a Greek mythological hero, slayed the dragon and made it into the history books due to his bravery.

Dragon in Ljubljana

What do you do in Ljubljana?

I asked all the locals I met what’s their favourite thing to do in Ljubljana. The majority of them answered by saying they like to sit by the river with their friends and enjoy a drink in the sunshine. You only need to look at the river to see that pretty much everyone does this and it’s a gorgeous, bustling and chilled out area. It’s not crowded or chaotic but just busy enough to have a great atmosphere.

Musicians are playing while people stroll past with little dogs or weave along the pavement on bicycles. Basically, it’s a city for strolling, chilling, eating, drinking, getting lost down winding lanes and admiring the wonky, quaint and grand architecture.

Boutique stores, cafes, bars and restaurants line the narrow streets. The center of Ljubljana is pedestrianized so the roads are filled with tables and umberellas where people spend long, lazy days sampling the delicious cuisine.

There are loads of cultural events in the city (check out ) so there’s always something going on.

First time visitors will want to visit the castle, the Cathedral of St Nicholas, the roman walls, the Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge, Tivoli Park and the Central Market. There are 12 and they’re mostly close to each other so you could have a whole museum day or weekend and still have more to see.

My favourite area in Ljubljana is Metelkova Mesto. This was originally a squat area and has developed into a cool art district that comes to life at night.

Metelkova Mesto Slovenia

Metelkova Mesto Ljubljana

You can also use Ljubljana as a base and visit the rest of Slovenia from there. The country is so small and Ljubljana is central so this is a great option. Take a look at two of my day trips:

Visiting the Karst and Coast of Slovenia

Lake Bled and an Alpine Fairytale tour

Taste Ljubljana event

Taste Ljubljana foodie festival

What’s the food like in Ljubljana?

I travelled to Ljubljana during food festival so a lot of my activities revolved around foodie delights. And oh my, were they good!

The city is going through a foodie revolution and a new trend for local, organic, quality products in emerging. There are so many amazing restaurants (I’ll be writing about them soon) as well as great street food and food markets.

That’s to Slovenia’s geographical position the cuisine has always been varied with plenty of fresh fish from the Adriatic Sea, meat, vegetables and lots of fruit. Slovenia borrows a little bit of everything from the surrounding countries so you can pretty much find any food you’re searching for. They do eat horse in Slovenia (which I tried and actually rather enjoyed) and typical meals include freshly baked bread, cured meats and cheese.

Food in Slovenia

Food in Ljubljana

Who travels to Ljubljana?

Ljubljana and Slovenia as a whole attracts adventurous travellers who love the outdoors. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, kayaking, rafting, cycling, skiing (yes, really!) and climbing so active holidays are really popular.

Visitors mainly come from Italy, Austria, Germany, Croatia and France and there’s an increasing number from the UK and USA. Virtually everyone under 40 speaks English so it’s an easy place for English speakers to visit.

Ljubljana 2

Political art in Ljubljana

3 bridges Ljubljana

Preseren Ljubljana

Is it really that good?

think so and they named Ljubljana the second best place in Europe to visit in 2014.

Ljubljana also became the European Green Capital of the world for 2016.

 

 

 

 

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64 Comments

  1. June 30, 2014 / 7:47 am

    Oh that does sound wonderful. Looking forward to hearing more about it!, especially the cuisine 🙂

    • June 30, 2014 / 11:02 pm

      The cuisine was amazing! It’s worth travelling to Slovenia just for the food.

  2. June 30, 2014 / 10:26 am

    Perfect timing! I arrive on Wednesday and can’t wait. Hope the weather stays as sunny too 😀

    • June 30, 2014 / 11:02 pm

      You’re going to have an amazing time and I’m pretty sure you’ll have perfect weather too. It was mostly hot during the day with big storms at night while I was there.

  3. June 30, 2014 / 11:29 am

    Really lovely photos and great language tips! I’m thinking of stopping off en route to Hungary so really useful

    • June 30, 2014 / 11:01 pm

      I’ve had my eye on Hungary for a while too. I’d definitely be interested in seeing your blog if you go!

  4. June 30, 2014 / 12:43 pm

    I followed your trip live and really liked the look of it! Looking forward to other articles – this was a good intro!

    • June 30, 2014 / 11:01 pm

      It’s gorgeous. The perfect place for a weekend away.

  5. June 30, 2014 / 1:47 pm

    Pretty accurate but get away from Ljubljana too, great day trip to Vipava wine area lunch at Majerija. Or go gentle kayak on the Kirka with lunch included at Carpe Diem.

    • June 30, 2014 / 11:00 pm

      Sounds like they’re going to be on my list for my next trip!

      • špela
        August 2, 2016 / 10:18 pm

        Hello,a slovenian here :). A lot off focus is on ljubljana and the west. Next time try east,maybe visit velenje,maribor and also ptuj.you wont regret it .

  6. June 30, 2014 / 3:44 pm

    Lovely photos! I keep hearing great things about Slovenia and I definitely want to visit.

    • June 30, 2014 / 10:59 pm

      It’s well worth a visit. Ljubljana could be the perfect weekend break while slovenia is a great week-long destination.

  7. June 30, 2014 / 6:00 pm

    Ljubljana looks like a typical European city. Love your pictures. Yes, it is definitely a city worth drooling over.

  8. June 30, 2014 / 9:04 pm

    Those photos are amazing! Spending the morning skiing and spending the afternoon swimming? I am so there.

  9. June 30, 2014 / 10:03 pm

    Well I’m sold! I’ve never heard of this city and it looks like somewhere I would love to visit… Mind you the monster looking guy hanging from the beams… I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley 🙂

    • June 30, 2014 / 10:47 pm

      He’s surprisingly friendly at night 😉 This area turns into a huge party street at night. So much fun.

  10. June 30, 2014 / 11:17 pm

    Cool! I’d never heard of this city before you wrote this, I love learning about lesser known yet beautiful cities! Thanks for growing my never ending travel list 🙂

    • July 1, 2014 / 8:47 am

      No problem Hannah. I love finding out about new places too.

  11. June 30, 2014 / 11:18 pm

    Ljubljana seems like quite a unique place to visit. I’ve been wanting to go to Slovenia for quite some time. Looks like you found a gem.

    • July 1, 2014 / 8:46 am

      If you get the chance to visit Mary Anne I definitely would. I can’t recommend it enough!

  12. July 1, 2014 / 12:56 am

    Ha. ‘A little European gem’ is what I called Ljubljana after a visit in March. Loved it there too and would love to see it in the summer months.

  13. July 1, 2014 / 1:04 am

    Hi Monica,

    I am sooooo glad I stumbled on your blog! I’m moving to Ljubljana (yes, I’m one lucky girl!). I’ll be there for a year, during which I’ll also have the chance to do some extensive traveling throughout Europe. Your posts on Slovenia have gotten me even more excited about going!

    • July 1, 2014 / 8:45 am

      You lucky thing! One year in Ljubljana will be incredible. I’ll be following a long to see how you get on 🙂

    • Jure
      July 18, 2014 / 3:40 pm

      Welcome to Slovenia 🙂 I really hope you will enjoy here. 🙂 Our country is really beautiful…but living here isn’t :/ I’m going away from this corrupted country ASAP!!

  14. Eric Dolliver
    July 1, 2014 / 2:05 am

    I’ve visited Slovenia and Ljubljana 3 times since 2009. It’s all you’ve said and more. So much in such a small geographical area. I’m heading back for 5 weeks in Sept. & Oct. Your pics have me pumped.

    • July 1, 2014 / 8:42 am

      5 weeks! You lucky thing. I’d love to spend 5 weeks in Slovenia.

  15. Davor
    July 1, 2014 / 8:27 am

    Just a small correction to the text:

    “My favourite area in Ljubljana is Metelkova Mesto. This was originally a squat area and has developed into a cool art district that comes to life at night.”

    Actually, Metelkova Mesto was originally a military base. The district then evolved into what is now after a group of cultural activists prevented the demolition of the buildings. Of course there were squatters there as well, but that is actually beyond the point of the site.

    Otherwise a really nice article. Ljubljana is definitely worth visiting. Especially in summer. There is also a great hostel in the Metelkova Mesto area – called Celica, where you get to sleep in former cells of a military prison. An unique experience by itself for sure.

    • July 1, 2014 / 8:40 am

      Thanks Davor.
      And I heard about Celica but didn’t get chance to visit. It sounds really cool so maybe next time.

  16. Lana
    July 1, 2014 / 2:38 pm

    As a native I’d just like to remind everyone who’s visiting Ljubljana on a Friday (as you mentioned the Foodie Festival), that Friday is Open Kitchen day! It takes place from 8AM to 8PM on Pogacar Square /Poga?arjev trg and we all LOVE IT. It’s a day when all the famous Slovenian restaurants, food vendors and bakers put up a stand and sell tasty stuff to promote their kitchens.

    They have a Facebook Page, if anyone wants to check it out, it’s called Odprta Kuhna in Slovene slang:

    • Gina Martin
      July 6, 2014 / 10:59 pm

      Interesting Facebook pages. The food looks wonderful and your pictures are so colorful. Visiting Ljubljana and relatives in September. Grew up on Slovenian dishes. This Carson City, Nevada girl is looking forward to a great trip.

  17. July 1, 2014 / 2:59 pm

    This post and your photos make me miss Ljubljana a lot. We went there last year and absolutely loved it like the rest of the beautiful Slovenia. I think Ljubljana is a very artistic city and we found plenty of trendy alternative places that also offered delicious vegetarian food (which for us is always a ). I’d love to return one day 🙂

  18. July 1, 2014 / 11:33 pm

    Never been to Ljubljana but only heard great things about it! Would love to go sometine soon, looks so beautiful!

  19. July 2, 2014 / 7:42 pm

    Love Ljubljana. I’ve been there only once before, but I remember it being absolutely beautiful. Would love to go back.

  20. July 3, 2014 / 10:12 pm

    SO many people have told me Ljubljana is the place to be. It looks too good to be true!

    • July 7, 2014 / 3:31 pm

      It definitely is Angie. A lot of people are comparing it to ‘the new Berlin’.

  21. July 5, 2014 / 1:24 pm

    Wouldn’t be possible to describe our town better!
    Thank you, Monica! <3

    • July 7, 2014 / 3:22 pm

      No problem Zora, it’s a really beautiful town!

  22. July 7, 2014 / 2:06 am

    looks so great. love this post. love the dudes curled up beard!

  23. July 7, 2014 / 2:29 am

    Great post on a place I know very little about! My interest is totally sparked…Ljubljana looks so cute and beautiful! Besides, I’m always a fan of places where the best thing to do is stroll around outside while eating and drinking away. 🙂

  24. Naomi
    July 8, 2014 / 8:29 am

    I travelled to Slovenia at the start of this year for a skiing holiday and spent some time in Ljubljana. I can honesty say that even though it was winter and freezing this place is soo magical! It really is beautiful it’s like the hidden gem of Europe. I would encourage people to visit Ljubljana and lake bled!!!

  25. Tom
    July 9, 2014 / 7:00 pm

    I am from Slovenia and i love how you presented our lovely country and i really do suggest everyone to visit us some day because it is worth it 🙂

  26. rene
    July 10, 2014 / 3:32 am

    I am Slovenian, I cant believe how you people created such a false picture about us. We are closed people, warmth is the last thing we treasure, we are rude people, only nice to strangers, because they are not like any other boring Slovenian. It is nice only in summer, during other times, our country is grey, cold etc…. And food???? Omg, I cant belive you like our food. I never go to restaurant around Slovenia, the food is horrid, All you can eat are pizzas or chinese food, or local horrid Slovenian sausages…. just my opinion

    • July 10, 2014 / 10:45 am

      Oh dear, someone has been eating in the wrong places.

    • July 12, 2014 / 5:38 am

      Beauty is in the eyes of the observer. Slovenia and its people are gorgeous!

    • Tomaž
      July 15, 2016 / 8:56 pm

      That’s a lie. I am a native Slovenian speaker too, all I can say that Slovenia is a nice country with nice and delicious food. Unfortunately, living here is not that cool, since we have bad politicians.

  27. July 18, 2014 / 10:48 am

    No native in ljubljana ever pronounces it lub-lee-yana. It’s loob-lah-nah.

  28. Chuck
    July 18, 2014 / 3:26 pm

    no no no no no….
    you people have it all wrong it is pronounced LYOO-BLYAH-NAH

    marvelous article by the way 🙂

  29. July 19, 2014 / 9:35 pm

    Hi. Thanks for the warm reply after visiting our Capital. There are always much more to see, but you have select proper words. Hvala lepa!

    Just small correction. Habitants of Slovenia are Slovenians… not Slovene’s.
    Come back soon!

  30. Rachel
    April 25, 2016 / 9:35 am

    Where did you go for the meat and cheese platters pictured?

  31. June 23, 2017 / 11:18 am

    Great post! I live in Ljubljana and it really is beautiful! I wouldn’t move for anything in the world! It’s nice that you mentioned the food, we’re quite proud of our local cuisine 🙂 Maybe one thing you also could have mentioned is the wine. Not many people know this but Slovenia produces some of the worlds best wine. Do try it if you happen to visit us again. My company organizes wine tastings in Ljubljana (). You’re more than welcome to stop by, the tasting is on us! :))

    • June 26, 2017 / 8:36 am

      I did actually do some wine tasting while I was in Ljubljana. It was great fun. We had some really delicious wines and some interesting ones. Orange wine was a bit of a trend while I was in Slovenia.

  32. Tamara
    July 27, 2017 / 11:04 am

    Thanks for great post! Very nice that you mentioned hospitality of Slovenians. Every year Ljubljana offers more and more. A lot of people don’t know that Ljubljana is also a City of Vine and Wine. Not many people know this but Slovenia produces some of the best wine in the world! Our local wines are something you must try. My company organizes wine tastings in Ljubljana (). You’re welcome to visit us if you come here again, the tasting is on us! 🙂

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