Reading Time: 3 minutes
Ok, so maybe it’s not really hidden. It is the capital of Slovenia after all. That said, I know many people have never been there so calling it “hidden” is still ok. And yes, it’s a gem. The city center is probably one of the most beautiful city centers in Europe.
Sure, like every other city Ljubljana has residential areas that are boring. Apartment buildings and grocery shops. We all know what they look like and let’s face it. We can see those anywhere. But Ljubljana’s old city center is just magical. It’s a relatively compact area that houses beautiful buildings, a cathedral, a castle, churches and, of course, the city’s symbol, dragons!
You’ll find dragons all over Ljubljana as the dragon is part of the city’s coat of arms. But you’ll also find them on top of the tower in the Ljubljana castle and on the Dragon bridge. Both the castle and the bridge are worth a visit so I suggest you just make sure to go and see all those dragons. Apparently the dragon symbolizes power, courage and greatness (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ljubljana) and there are several explanations of it’s origin. A lot of these can be found on wikipedia. However, you won’t find my favourite explanation there. That one was given by a local; at one point the city was under attack by invaders and the dragon protected the city. I mean, how cool is that? A city with it’s own pet dragon? I want me one of those myself so clearly I’m going to go with this story.
So what do you do in Ljubljana? If you’re like me you’re going to just stroll around town taking in the sights and sitting down to eat something and have a coffee.
You can walk up to the castle (warning, it’s a bit of a steep hike), walk along the river or take a stroll up to Tivoli, the city’s main park, while taking in the sights. You can even do all 3 in one day if you don’t stop for coffee too often. If you’re a planner, just grab any of the touristy maps they have at hotels and tourist info points. You’ll find all the sights clearly marked on those. If you’re not, don’t worry and just start wander around. The city center is not that big and you can find most sights just walking around. Especially as, like in most major cities, there are signs pointing you to all the major sights.
And you definitely don’t have to worry about going hungry or thirsty while you’re walking. The city center is full of bars, coffee shops (not the dutch kind) and restaurants. Personally I recommend popping into Zvezda for some cake and coffee (their small banana cake is just divine!). You’ll find Zvezda on one of the corners of Zvezda park (don’t expect a big park) at Congress square. The place appears to be favored by locals as well as tourists and was packed when we dropped in on a Monday afternoon. If you don’t like cake or prefer ice cream with your coffee/teas/beverage of choice then drop into Cacao. You’ll find it just a bit down the river from Triple bridge (towards Dragon bridge) in the heart of town. Now that doesn’t mean the other places around there aren’t any good. It just means that, unfortunately, I didn’t have time to try them all (but I’ll make an effort when I go back) so I’m just sharing my 2 favourites.
The same thing goes for “real” food. It doesn’t matter if you’re a burger, pasta or haute cuisine kind of person. Ljubljana’s center is covered with places to sit down and have a meal. I tried several and didn’t have a bad meal at any of them. That said, there was one place I liked better than the others, Vodnikov Hram. It’s next to the market near Dragon bridge. And although it seems experiences vary (at least according to TripAdvisor) the 2 times I went there the service was good and I loved the food. Next time I’m in town I’ll definitely be going back there. Although I really like Vodnikov Hram, if you’re looking for a great view while having dinner go to Neboticnik instead. The restaurant there is located on the 10th floor and gives you have a great view of the city and the mountains in the background.
So in short, Ljubljana… a beautiful city with friendly people and great food. Can’t ask for much more than that so if you haven’t yet, go check it out already!
And, if you have any recommendations of things to do/eat/see in Ljubljana please feel free to leave a comment below so I can try them next time I’m there!