Ljubljana is charming! One of the most fun European capitals you can visit, Ljubljana also makes the perfect base from which to explore the rest of Slovenia. Read on to discover the best things to do in Ljubljana, Slovenia!
Located in the heart of Slovenia, on the Ljubljanica River, Ljubljana is a compact city, with an eminently walkable historic center.
It takes a little practice before the name of the city rolls smoothly off your tongue, but the city itself grabs you by the heart from the minute you arrive.
Ljubljana is lively, and it’s lovely. Be prepared to fall irrevocably in love with the Slovenian capital!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Things to Do in Ljubljana
Getting to Ljubljana
Getting Around in Ljubljana
Where to Stay in Ljubljana
Where to Eat in Ljubljana
The Best Time to Visit Ljubljana
The Best Things to Do in Ljubljana
Whether you’re a history buff or an architecture aficionado, you’ll find a lot to admire and appreciate in Ljubljana. With a hilltop castle for gorgeous views and several parks and green spaces to enjoy, Ljubljana also has plenty to keep outdoor enthusiasts busy!
And if you just like to wander or sit by the river, gelato in hand, well, Ljubljana has you covered as well. You don’t really have to check things off a list to have a wonderful time here. It’s the vibe of the city that is so charming!
Spending some time in Ljubljana is definitely one of the top things to do in Slovenia. From architectural marvels to historic bridges, and fun museums to charming churches, here are the best things to do in Ljubljana, Slovenia!
#1 Take in the views from Ljubljana Castle
Sitting majestically on a hilltop overlooking the city, Ljubljana Castle deserves a top spot in your itinerary for the city. Built in the 12th century, the castle features the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architectural styles.
Many parts of the castle have since been rebuilt or expanded. The St. George’s Chapel, from the 15th century, is one of the oldest parts of the castle that still survives.
You can walk up to the top in about 10-15 minutes, or you can take the funicular. The castle is a stop on the Ljubljana tourist train tour as well. We took the funicular up and loved the views on the ride up the hill.
At the top, take in the panoramas from the viewing tower. You can see pretty much the entire city spread out below you: the tops of the stalls in the market, the spires of the Franciscan Church, and the tall buildings of the modern city beyond.
Visit the castle chapel and the penitentiary. See the movie that describes the castle’s history. Walk through the complex (an audio guide is available). Pop into the souvenir shop.
Visit the official castle website for hours and entrance fees.
#2 Visit Ljubljana’s “pink church”
The prettiest photos of Ljubljana I saw online before our visit featured this gorgeous pink church. So of course it was one of the first places in the city we visited.
The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation occupies a spot on Prešeren Square. Its beautiful pink facade looks great from up close, but even better if you view it from a little ways away.
Built in the middle of the 17th century, the church was originally painted red on the outside. With time, the color faded to an attractive pink, and it’s been kept that way since!
The inside of the church is beautiful as well, with frescoes on the ceiling and the walls. The Baroque altar was designed by Francesco Robba, an Italian sculptor.
The current frescoes were painted in the 20th century, after an earthquake in 1895 damaged the original frescoes.
#3 Admire the Ljubljana Cathedral
The Ljubljana Cathedral is also called the St. Nicholas Cathedral. The church was built in the early 18th century, but the green dome was not put in until 1841.
The Cathedral is located very near the Town Hall, in the Cyril and Methodius Square. Its dome and towers look lovely from across the river!
The entrances to the Cathedral have recently-sculpted bronze doors. The main door is decorated with a relief depicting Slovene history. The side door is decorated with portraits of Ljubljana bishops from the 20th century. Although the doors are new, they blend in!
The Baroque interior of the Cathedral is gorgeous. Frescoes decorate the ceiling and walls. They were painted by Giulio Quaglio in the early 18th century.
#4 Walk through the Town Hall
Ljubljana’s Town Hall is a handsome building, with a Venetian inspired facade and a lovely clock tower. It was originally built Gothic in the late 15th century, but has undergone many changes since.
You can walk around in the public spaces just inside, and visit even more areas as part of a tour. There’s a beautiful old well in the center of the courtyard.
In the foyer, you can see a coat of arms from the original building, featuring the dragon, Ljubljana’s symbol.
Admire the statue of Hercules with a lion. It used to be part of an outdoor fountain before it was moved here.
Also in the Town Hall is Robba’s Narcissus Fountain statue, the Greek God looking at his reflection in the water.
Outside, in the Town Square, stop to view the Baroque Robba Fountain. Reminiscent of Bernini’s famous Four Rivers statue in Rome, Robba’s statue features the three rivers of Carniola.
The fountain in the square is a replica: the original now resides in the National Gallery.
#5 Enjoy people watching in Prešeren Square
Ljubljana’s main square is a throbbing hub of activity, most of the day (and night!). The site of soap box speeches, festivals, and music performances, it’s a great place for people watching!
The square was rebuilt extensively after the earthquake of 1895. Four major streets flow into the square, and it is lined with beautiful buildings, including the Franciscan Church.
Sadly, there was a lot of construction activity when we visited, so we did not see the square at its best. But the buildings around the square looked stunning!
In the square, you’ll see the bronze statue of France Prešeren, with a muse hovering over him. Prešeren was the national poet of Slovenia. There’s also a bronze model of Ljubljana in the square.
#6 Walk on the famous Triple Bridge
Ljubljana has lots of bridges, and none is more famous than Triple Bridge. Located just adjacent to Prešeren Square, the Triple Bridge is one of the busiest spots in the city.
There’s actually been a bridge in the middle spot since the 13th century. In 1842, the wooden bridge was replaced by a stone bridge, and was named Franz’s Bridge.
By the early 1900s, the single bridge became a traffic bottleneck. In 1929, Jože Plečnik, a famous Slovenian architect who is responsible for designing many structures in Ljubljana, designed the pedestrian bridges on either side of the original bridge, to form the Triple Bridge.
The new bridge opened in 1932, and today is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ljubljana. Walking the Triple Bridge is a must-do when you’re in the city.
#7 Photograph the dragons at the Dragon Bridge
The dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana. It’s on the city’s coat of arms and its flag, and on the four corners of the Dragon Bridge over the Ljubljanica River. The bridge was opened to traffic in 1901, and features 16 smaller dragon statues as well.
The story goes that the dragon lived in the marshes around the Ljubljanica river. Jason of the Argonauts happened to set up camp in the area on his way back to Greece whilst waiting for the weather to clear.
When the dragon made its presence known, killing one of Jason’s soldiers and breathing fire on to the camp, Jason set out to find its lair. Eventually he was able to overcome and kill the dragon.
Although Jason eventually returned to Greece, he and his men are credited with laying the foundation for what is now Ljubljana.
The Dragon Bridge is for motorized traffic, and it’s quite busy during the day. But it’s definitely worth the 5-minute walk from Prešeren Square, to get some photos and view the bridge.
#8 Browse the Ljubljana Central Market
Ljubljana’s Central Market is actually made up of three parts: an open market in the Vodnik Square and the Pogačar Square, covered stalls between the two squares, and a series of stores that stretches from the Triple Bridge to the Dragon Bridge, along the riverfront.
The market building that runs along the river was designed by Jože Plečnik. The two-story building has a colonnade on the street side and large windows overlooking the river at the back.
The open market features fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh flowers and plants, and cured meats and other dried foods. Plečnik’s Market features a variety of stores, including arts and crafts, and cafes.
Browsing the market and watching locals shop is fun! The market is open everyday, generally until 4 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends.
If you’re in Ljubljana on a good weather Friday between mid-March and October, don’t miss the Open Kitchen in the Pogačar Square: Slovenian chefs gather here to prepare dishes from all over the world, and it’s an amazing experience!
#9 Admire more of Plečnik’s architecture
If you enjoy architecture, you’ll read and hear a lot about Jože Plečnik in Ljubljana. Apart from designing the Triple Bridge and the Central Market, Plečnik has many other works scattered about the city.
Slovenia’s most well-known architect, Plečnik created masterpieces not just in his hometown, but also in Vienna and Prague. But from 1920, until his death in 1957, Plečnik devoted himself to Ljubljana.
His Žale cemetery is truly a must-see. From the impressive gate to the chapels that feature building methods and symbols from different cultures and religions, the cemetery design is both thoughtful and inclusive.
Plečnik’s renovation of Križanke is also considered a masterpiece. Formerly a monastery, it was converted into an outdoor concert venue. The complex is beautiful, and a must-visit in Ljubljana.
The Cobbler’s Bridge is another bridge designed by Plečnik. The bridge acts as a venue for performances, and its design, with the many pillars, adds to the ambiance.
The National and University Library is considered one of his most important works, and his house in Ljubljana can be viewed as well.
Taking a guided walking tour is a great way to learn more about Plečnik’s work in Ljubljana.
#10 Cruise the Ljubljanica River
The river is a huge part of Ljubljana’s beauty, and getting out on to the water is a great way to enjoy the sights long the banks from another perspective. Covered tourist boats run all year, as long as the water levels are not too high.
For the best of both worlds, consider a walking tour plus river cruise. The walking tour we did in Ljubljana was extremely informative and since my husband and I were the only ones in that particular time slot, we had a private tour!
You can also take canoes out on the river, or go stand-up paddleboarding.
#11 Sample the scrumptious gelato
Before we visited, I had read that the gelato in Ljubljana is as good as the gelato in Italy, and so of course we had to put that statement to the test when we were in the city!
Cacao is located along the river bank, steps from Prešeren Square. There’s outdoor seating by the water, and they have lots of flavors. We loved their dark chocolate gelato, and the pistachio was nice as well.
You’ll find Gelateria Romantika on Dvorni trg, a 4-minute walk from Prešeren Square. If you love gelato, make sure you visit! They offer some unusual flavor combinations along with the usual suspects, and the quality is impeccable.
#12 Wander the streets of Ljubljana
Wandering the pretty streets in the historical center is absolutely one of the most pleasurable things to do in Ljubljana. We spent some time just going where our eyes led us, and came upon some delightful sights.
You’ll see the scenic river and the gorgeous architecture along its banks even on a short walk from Prešeren Square. But if you explore more, you’ll come upon pretty squares, quiet alleys, and lovely fountains.
#13 Admire the bridges of Ljubljana
Ljubljana’s bridges deserve a dedicated tour, they are so pretty, and historic as well. Did you know that there are at least one dozen bridges spanning the river?
If you start at the Triple Bridge, you can work your way down as far as you wish to go, weaving from one side of the river to the other. Stop to admire the beautiful scenery along the banks and from the bridges!
One of my favorite bridges in Ljubljana is the Butchers’ Bridge. It’s a simple construction with steel wires, a deviation from Plečnik’s 1930s vision for the bridge, and only opened in 2010.
The padlocks on the wires hung by couples in love are cute, aren’t they? They make for lovely photos, for sure! Also along the bridge, you’ll see several sculptures by Jakov Brdar.
The Cobbler’s Bridge is beautiful as well, with its sides punctuated by tall columns. It replaced a covered bridge, which used to house cobblers’ shops, hence the name.
#14 Check out the art at Metelkova mesto
Metelkova is a 15-minute walk from Prešeren Square but a must-visit if you love street art. The site used to be a military barracks during the Yugoslavian era. It became a squat in 1993 and is now an autonomous cultural center.
One of Ljubljana’s popular tourist attractions, Metelkova offers amazing displays of street art. The district also hosts cultural events such as concerts and art shows. There are lots of shops, restaurants, and bars in the area.
#15 Enjoy the views from the Skyscraper
Simply called Nebotičnik (Skyscraper), the 13-story building was the first high-rise built in Slovenia. Modeled after US skyscrapers, the building featured air-conditioning and fast elevators, novelties in Slovenia in the 1930s when it was built.
The Nebotičnik Cafe is located at the top of the building, and offers panoramic views of the city. The views from the Skyscraper are not as good as those from the castle, so if you only want to do one, then pick the castle.
#16 Take a green break
Ljubljana contains a wealth of green spaces, and was declared a European Green Capital in 2016. There are little parks in the historical center, where you can see folks relaxing under trees on nice weather days.
Tivoli Park, the city’s largest park, is just a 10-minute walk from Prešeren Square. Bordering it are two hills, with lots of hiking trails.
A little further out you’ll find the Botanical Gardens of Ljubljana. Established all the way back in 1810, the garden contains several thousand plant species, some native to Slovenia and some from other parts of Europe and beyond.
#17 Admire other architecture
Although Plečnik’s works are definitely the star in Ljubljana, you’ll find plenty more to admire in the historic center. Right next to our hotel, we came upon the Vurnik House, with the colors of the Slovenian flag on its exquisite facade.
Around Prešeren Square, you’ll see many more Art Nouveau buildings. And you’ll see beautiful buildings along the river bank. Even just the regular houses along the river look so picturesque!
A little further out, you can admire more beautiful architecture, such as the Slovenian Philharmonic Hall or the National Art Gallery. Wherever you walk in Ljubljana, you’ll come across gawkworthy architecture!
#18 Visit a Museum
Ljubljana has lots of museums if you love history and culture and art. Or you happen to have some rain when you visit. The National Gallery holds a fabulous collection of art, all the way from the middle ages to the present.
The House of Illusions is a quirky museum, especially for kids (and the young at heart). The National Museum of Contemporary History is fascinating if you wish to learn more about the 20th century history of Slovenia.
#19 Day Trip to Lake Bled
Ljubljana is located in the heart of Slovenia and makes a wonderful base from which to do day trips. There are lots of great day trips from Ljubljana to check out, but the most popular is undoubtedly the day trip to Lake Bled.
Lake Bled is magical. And it’s not too far away, so it’s perfect for a day trip. You can walk around the lake and admire the spectacular blue color.
Then ride in a traditional Pletna boat to Bled Island, where you can ring the wishing bell at the Church of the Assumption. Legend has it that if you ring the bell three times and make a wish, it will come true!
Visit Bled Castle for great panoramas over the lake. And don’t forget to taste the delicious Bled cake!
If you prefer a guided tour, consider this full-day tour that will take you not just to Lake Bled, but to beautiful Lake Bohinj as well.
#20 Visit enchanting Škofja Loka
If you’re looking for another lovely day trip from Ljubljana, Škofja Loka will captivate you with its beauty and charm. The beautifully preserved medieval town is just a short drive from the city.
Take a photo of the Capuchin Bridge at the entrance to the town. It looks like it belongs in a fairy tale! Wander through the town center, to admire the pretty facades.
Climb up the hill to the castle, to take in the magnificent views from the top. Visit the castle museum if you love history. Back in the town, spend some time in the main square.
If you are up for another hike, climb over the Devil’s Footbridge and up to Puštal, for beautiful views of the Škofja Loka castle and town.
Getting into Ljubljana
You can, of course, drive into Ljubljana if you are doing a road trip in the region. But Ljubljana is also easily accessed via public transport, and, if you plan to rent a car, it’s often easier and less expensive to pick up and drop off a rental car in the same country.
Ljubljana Airport is located about 12 miles outside the city. A number of airlines operate in Ljubljana, connecting the Slovenian capital to many European cities and beyond. Take a bus or a taxi from the airport into the city center, or book a private transfer, if you do not plan on renting a car.
You can travel to Ljubljana by train from many parts of Europe. Rail lines link Ljubljana with with Graz and Klagenfurt in Austria, Trieste in Italy, Budapest in Hungary, Zagreb in Croatia, and Belgrade in Serbia.
Ljubljana is connected by bus services with many neighboring countries, including Croatia, Austria, Montenegro, and Serbia. Check the official web site for timetables.
Getting around in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a compact capital city. You can walk everywhere in the historical center. Most of the major sights are within a 15-minute walk of Prešeren Square.
But there’s also a bus service you can use within the city. City buses run until about 10.30 p.m., other than a few night services. You can buy a bus card at newsstands or tourist information centers. Taxis are available as well.
Where to stay in Ljubljana
We stayed at the uHotel, the business version of the Grand Union. The location, just off Prešeren Square, is super convenient, and our room was spacious and very comfortable. They serve a gigantic spread for breakfast. If I had to gripe, I would say that the furnishings look a tad bit dated.
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here
If you are looking for a small boutique hotel with lots of ambiance and rave reviews, consider Hotel Cubo! I have the hotel bookmarked for our next visit to Ljubljana. It is located in the city center, walking distance to most major sights. Rooms are furnished in a contemporary style, with designer linens and bath accessories.
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here
Where to eat in Ljubljana
We had dinner at Julija, located on a lovely street in the Old Town. Choose outdoor seating if it’s available when you visit! The restaurant’s menu is Mediterranean, with many pasta options for vegetarians. I had Istrian pasta with mushrooms, which was delicious.
My husband loved his meat-and-potatoes dish. We also ordered a side of štruklji. They were stuffed with soft cheese and flavored subtly with nutmeg. Superb!
Right next door to Julija is Valva’sor, where we had dinner on another night. Our meal here was fabulous as well, although sadly I do not have photos. I had Istrian pasta again, but with truffles, and my husband had sea bass with truffles.
If you are a foodie, consider a food tour in Ljubljana. We had one tasting on our walking tour, and it was delicious. We will definitely try a full food tour the next time we visit!
The best time to visit Ljubljana
Spring (mid-April to May) and late summer to early fall (September to mid-October) are wonderful times to visit Ljubljana. You will not deal with the crowds of summertime, which is peak season, and you will likely pay less for accommodation in these shoulder months.
Daytime temperatures during these times are likely to be between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, but pack layers, in the event it gets cool. Also pack rain gear. While we had sunshine during our time in Ljubljana, we did run into some rain at Lake Bled.
How long should you spend in Ljubljana?
Ljubljana is small enough that you can take in most of the major sights in one active day. But I suggest spending at least two days in the city, because just having time to wander or relax by the river is a big part of the joy of being in Ljubljana.
One day in Ljubljana sample itinerary
With one day in Ljubljana, start by walking around Prešeren Square and the river, taking in the many bridges and the Central Market. Pop into the Franciscan Church. Then take the funicular up to Ljubljana Castle, where you can take photos of the city from the viewing tower, and do some exploring at the top.
After you’re back down in the city center, have lunch and then visit a museum, or Metelkova, or Tivoli Park. Later in the afternoon, do a walking tour that will take you to the Ljubljana Cathedral and major architectural sights. Cruise the river if the weather is nice.
2 Days in Ljubljana itinerary
If you have two days in Ljubljana, follow the itinerary above on your first day in the city. On day two, do a food tour! Definitely spend some time in Tivoli Park if you didn’t on the first day, or visit the Botanical Gardens. Spend some time wandering the side streets to admire the gorgeous architecture and savor the laid-back vibe of the city.
With more time
Ljubljana also makes a great base for doing day trips to other parts of Slovenia. So if you love to have a nice base from which to take in the countryside, then you should add in a few extra nights in the city!
So there you have it: my suggestions for the best things to do in Ljubljana! Have you visited the lovely Slovenian capital? I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you have! Comment below to respond.
If you haven’t yet visited, start planning a trip! Ljubljana is truly a lovely city to visit, and Slovenia a breathtaking destination to add to your itinerary for Europe.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR SLOVENIA TRIP
Lake Bled: 10 Fun Things to Do in Lake Bled
Postojna Cave: How to Do a Fun Day Trip to Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle
Lake Bohinj: What to Do at Lake Bohinj in the Summer
Vintgar Gorge: A Complete Guide to Visiting Vintgar Gorge
Vrsic Pass: An Epic Day Trip from Ljubljana to the Vrsic Pass
Piran: 10 Best Things to Do in Piran!
Slovenia: 25 Best Things to Do in Slovenia
Day Trips: 20 Exciting Day Trips from Ljubljana You Must Do
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