Ljubljana is a mesmerising modern and medieval mix, where vibrant, contemporary neighbourhoods have sprung up to encapsulate the city’s historic heart. With roots dating back past the Roman era, this city has preserved its heritage through the ages and proudly displays its treasures for all to see. After days of cycling through mountain paths and quiet villages, it was a pleasant change as the winding road give rise to tall city blocks and hotel skyscrapers and it was with mouths agape that we arrived at the end of our tour in Slovenia’s capital city.
Ljubljana says welcome without uttering a word, and as we rode to the centre we found ourselves begin to relax with that familiar buzz of being an anonymous visitor to an unfamiliar city. The majority of hotels are located in the urban outskirts of the centre, so prepare to travel in to the main sightseeing areas with a short walk, bus or taxi ride. Large parks and patterned squares are spread throughout the city centre with Park Tivoli being the largest. It is here that residents really blend with tourists to enjoy the “no rush” outside space and after dropping off our bikes, we joined them on our walk to the Old Town, the social hub of the city.
Statues and tall townhouse shops line the cobbled streets found on the path to the Old Town. Stand in main Prešeren Square and drink in the surroundings, for in every direction there is something to see. Ljubljana castle sits high on its perch ahead and the River Ljubljanica threads its vein through the city. The famous bridges provide crossways over the river with visitors finding ample opportunity to view the surroundings from both sides or taking to the river on one of the many boat tours available. After a day of wandering it seems natural to join those enjoying a leisurely drink and cake at one of the riverside cafes. Here is a place where you can sit and just be, even on the main streets, and a perfect place to relax after some long cycling days.
I will remember Ljubljana as the City of Dragons, they are the guardians of the city after all. Nowhere is this better displayed than on the Art Nouveau architecture of the Dragon bridge. Legend has it that a dragon was slain by Jason (of the Argonauts), ensuring the Ljubljana land was safe for settlers to live on. Whilst the four proud protectors stand still most of the time, it is said that one will give a twitch of its tail should a virgin walk over the bridge. Read more of the story of Jason and the Dragon from a plaque located on the bridge side.
A short way up from Dragon bridge and not on everyone’s map perhaps is a different kind of artistic attraction. If you are interested in seeing an alternative Ljubljana, make a point of visiting Metelkova. This is the home of street artists, where a small courtyard has been turned into an outdoor exhibition space. It is quirky and colourful, yes the artists are a little unusual but it is a free space for visitors to walk around. They want to show off their skills, so be brave and go take a look. For fans of the work at Metelkova, more can be found at the warehouse known as Rog close by.
Descending through mountains paths reminiscent of those from Heidi’s song, the city was certainly a change for the senses. We loved the historic centre where you can easily wander all day long, but the best part of the day for us was spent sat at one of the cafe tables that sprawl out into the main street with cappuccinos and cake. We spent hours talking, people watching and soaking up the city vibe in the hazy sunshine. Quite simply, it was bliss.
Overall the hospitality in Slovenia is wonderful and something that really stood out from our visit. With borders to Austria and Italy, Croatia and Hungary, the wave of incoming tourists is fairly consistent but the Slovenian people take this in their stride. They are proud of their beautiful country. As was often commented, ‘we are a small country, but a mighty one’ and I would absolutely agree. With a population of almost 2.1 million, this is the perfect country for r&r with breaks between the main towns to refresh and explore the natural surroundings, and explore you shall. Whether you are on a mountain trail, taking a castle tour, kayaking on a lake, skiing the slopes or wandering winding streets listening to the sounds of bird and church bells, you will begin to feel that lift. In the old days visitors would travel to ‘take the waters’ to replenish them, I recommend trying some Slovene air instead. So breathe deep, relax and enjoy it, and then go get some cake. With all that sightseeing, you will definitely have earn’t it.
Tips – Getting in and out of Slovenia is the most expensive part. If you can spare a day, it is possible to save a lot of cash by flying in to an airport further afield and transferring in and means you get to see more of the country you have travelled to see. We flew into Venice and took a three hour transfer in to Bled, saving about £480 between the two of us on Ljubljana flights plus we got a day in Italy at the end! Win!
Ljubljana is well connected and travellers will find they can navigate their way to other Slovenian areas as well as Italy and Austria with relative ease. Shared shuttles are available as well as trains and buses so consider your options.
Hotels tend to be located in the outskirts of the city centre, check with the reception desk as most offer shuttles or can order taxis for you to the airport or to the edge of Old Town.
Never, NEVER leave your bike on show in Ljubljana – this is not from a bad experience but every single person we spoke to on our journey through Slovenia told us this, so lock it up and out of sight.
Your feet are the best mode of transportation and the best way to see Ljubljana.
Find out more about Slovenia cycling holidays at Whereabouts Holidays: https://whereaboutsholidays.com/cycling-holidays/cycling-holidays-slovenia