If you’re looking for things to do in Ljubljana, you’re in the right place!
But hold up! Have you ever visited a country and known nothing about it besides seeing a photo of it on Instagram? Okay, this might be me being a weirdo, but this happened to me before going to Slovenia. For some reason, I hadn’t heard much about it at all before going, which was one reason why it was so appealing to me.
Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised by the country and it quickly became one of my favorite places I’ve visited!
One of the coolest parts of the country is without a doubt the capital city of Ljubljana. Below, I’m going to fill you in on the best things to do in Ljubljana, but first wanted to give you some quick facts about the city.
- How do you pronounce it? Yeah, I was wondering that too. For the record, it’s pronounced (Loo-blyah-na). 🙂
- How many people live here? Only 300k in their capital city, which makes it very manageable.
- What’s it like in a few words? A small city feel, very walkable and extremely clean. Locals are extremely friendly and everyone is very conscious about eating farm fresh food, recycling, and taking care of the environment.
Now that you have a bit of background on this amazing city, here are the 15 best things to do in Ljubljana.
Best Things to do in Ljubljana Slovenia:
1.Chase dragons at the Dragon Bridge
You’ll see this bridge on your way to the main market of the city. It really can’t be missed and the green dragons are a site to be seen. Dragons are the symbol of Ljubljana so you will see them all over the place!
2. Get into the cafe culture on the river walk
The cafe culture was one of the most charming parts of the city for me, and quite possibly one of the best things to do in Ljubljana. I was there in October and even when the weather was chilly, people were outside drinking their coffee with fur blankets wrapped around them and heat lamps on. I just LOVED it. If you’re a coffee lover or just like to be outside, this city is for you. A Slovenian guy I met in Slovakia told me that their outdoor seating and patios are always twice or 3x the size of the actual inside of the restaurant. That goes to show you how special this outdoor ‘by the river’ coffee culture is. Please make sure to walk along the river to check out a coffee shop for yourself!
3. Enjoy the views atop the Ljubljana Castle
You can either walk up to the castle or take the funicular railway up. I opted to walk and it was rather steep, but not too long. The views from the top were stunning! When you get to the castle, don’t expect a medieval castle with furniture set up on display, this castle is more of a place for local wineries and shops to set up and display their products. You can see a few museums inside the castle, but in my opinion, the views are what’s mainly worth going up. Head on up with a castle sightseeing tour (walking tour included) and get a customized, private tour of the city, funicular and castle entrance included!
4. Eat fresh produce at the central open air market
The market in Ljubljana is located next to the river and is open almost every day except Sundays. If you can, try and go to see locals buy their daily produce and other goodies. Slovenian’s pride themselves on fresh, healthy food straight from the farm. They even have a fresh milk station in the center of the city where farmers bring their milk in the morning each day for locals to grab during the day. This is so cool because it’s straight from the source!
Consider a Ljubljana Food Tour to get great commentary and tons of food facts while stuffing your face.
5. Try pastries at the indoor market
This market is located right next to the outdoor market, but serves up dry goods like grains, breads, pastries and dried meats. Walk through here to try samples of Ljubljana delicacies.
6. Walk around Preseren Square
Preseren Square is the center of Ljubljana and one of the best ways to begin a walking tour or biking tour around the city. You’ll have views of the triple bridge and really incredible architecture from here. Plus, all the shopping streets are just off this square. A few themed walking tours: Bohemian Walking Tour, Lights and Delights Walking Tour, and Bites and Sights Walking Tour (food included!)
7. Visit the famous Triple Bridge in the center of town
The triple bridge is pretty unique as it connects the historical, medieval town on one side, and the modern city of Ljubljana, on the other. You can walk across it from Preseren square.
8. Experience the art and craziness in the Metelkova district
This area of the city was one of my favorites, and a definite must when deciding which things to do in Ljubljana. It houses the culturally diverse, artsy and punky people of the city. It’s a wild place and the artwork and parties here are something to be seen. I recommend walking through here during the day time to see it without many people and then visiting again at night to see it’s wild side!
9. Stay at an old Yugoslavian prison
Say what?! This was one of the coolest things I did in Ljubljana. I stayed at Hostel Celica inside the Metelkova district and couldn’t believe how crazy I felt staying there. It’s an old Yugoslavian prison that has been fully transformed into a hostel. You even stay in a converted jail cell….mine still had the bars on it! See my full post about my experience here.
If you’re not up for staying in a prison behind bars, consider these alternatives:
10. Visit one of Ljubljana’s many museums
Ljubljana is full of museums! Some of the more popular museums are the Museum of Illusions as well as the Museum of Puppetry. Puppetry has been a large part of Slovenian history throughout the years and they have over 3,000 puppets in their archives. If you’re not interested in puppets, then another great option is the National Museum of Contemporary History.
11. Get active and rent a bike or do a walking tour of the city
I did a paid walking tour of the city through the Tourism office of Ljubljana, but you can also do the free walking tour. I’ve heard great reviews, plus who doesn’t love free? Or sign up for this walking tour with included boat ride for only a few bucks. It’s also very easy to rent a bike and ride around the city. A lot of streets in Ljubljana are closed off to cars so it’s extremely walkable and easy to get around!
12. Add a love lock to Butcher’s Bridge
There are sooo many bridges in Ljubljana, but this one is the famous one with love locks all over it, which is ironic because it’s called the Butcher’s Bridge. On the bridge, you’ll also see sculptures of skulls and frogs and other random bones. Not exactly romantic, but if you’re feeling lovey dovey and want to put a lock on a bridge, here’s your place in Slovenia.
13. Party at one of their many festivals
Because Ljubljana is such a small capital city, most of the festival and concerts they have aren’t super crowded — and they have a ton! Open Kitchen is a must-attend if you’re there in summertime. When I was there, they had a Burger and Brew Fest and it was SO amazing. They set it up in the main square where the market happens and I got to try a ton of Slovenian microbrews and fresh burgers. Yum!
14. Check out St. Nicholas Cathedral
This Cathedral is super easy to find and has a gorgeous front door. I think the outside was even cooler than the inside because of this door of popes!
15. Take a day trip to Lake Bled or one of the many caves in the area
There are so many places surrounding Ljubljana that you can go for the day! I recommend going to Lake Bled or Lake Bohinj if you have time. There are also a lot of caves surrounding the area that are great adventures for day trips!
Other great day trips to consider if you’ve got more time (highly recommended!)
- Half Day Trip to Lake Bled from Ljubljana
- Lake Bled and Postojna Cave Day Trip –> EDITOR’S NOTE: I went to the caves in the summer and they were really cool!
- Full Day Trip to Venice (yes, you can really visit Italy from Slovenia!)
- Adriatic Coast Day Trip to Piran and Portoroz
- From Ljubljana: Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge
- Soca River Day Trip from Ljubljana
If you visit Ljubljana, I promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s full of charm, great people and is super easy to get around! Just make sure to drink lots of coffee at the cafes and enjoy the wonderful fresh farm food for me!
Have you been to this little slice of life in Europe that most people cannot pronounce nor heard of just yet?! If yes, what was your favorite thing to do in Ljubljana?!
Thanks to my friend Katie of The Traveling Spud, (who recently left San Francisco to go exploring for a year!!!), for sharing the best things to do in Ljubljana. I visited last year during my summer abroad in Europe in 2016, but haven’t gotten a chance to write about it just yet! #toomuchtocatchupon, #toolittletime #thanksfrand! Maybe I’ll get around to sharing my photos, someday! 😛