For being the capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana has a small city feel. And we loved every minute of exploring the charming, greenery-filled streets. The warm summer weather seems to bring everyone out into the streets and riverside cafes, making the city feel warm and lively. We were sold from the moment we drove in.
Old Town is located along the river which courses through town, overlooked by Ljubljana Castle perched atop the hill above. The waterfront is full of cafe and restaurant patios, contributing to the lively feel at all hours of the day. And because car traffic is restricted, the cobblestone streets are left open only to pedestrians and cyclists.
Open Kitchen Food Market
We arrived in Ljubljana on a Friday, and every Friday in the summer the city hosts an outdoor food market called Open Kitchen. Located in an outdoor plaza, rows of tents are set up where well acclaimed chefs from around the region showcase their best foods and drinks. The options are diverse, including traditional Slovenian cuisine but also international foods.
Numerous tables and benches are set up around the periphery, where friends and families gather to enjoy the feast, with music playing in the background.
Amazingly, several booths sell both craft and local beer, as well as wine and various cocktails. You can order wine and get it in a nice wine glass to wander the rest of the market, with the promise that you’ll return it later. We loved that!
To top it all off, we arrived on the first day of Ljubljana Festival, a 3-month summer festival. This meant our evening was topped off with fireworks shooting up from behind Ljubljana Castle. It felt like the perfect end to an evening, especially while we were still riding the high from Shane’s completion of residency.
Strolling for Days
Ljubljana is the perfect place for people who love strolling and sitting at waterside cafes watching the people pass by. There are not many “must do’s”, and the pleasure comes from just enjoying the culture and lively atmosphere.
The city won Europe’s Green Capital City in 2016, and it’s no surprise when you walk the green riverbanks that are full of big emerald green trees and flowers. Even the garbages are not regular bins – there are multiple containers depending what you are disposing of, and sometimes there was even a person sitting there to help you put your rubbish in the right place.
The Metelkova district is a unique area in Ljubljana with a tumultuous history. The area was an old Yugoslavian army barracks that was abandoned after Yugoslavia dissolved. There were many attempts by the city to tear it down but a group of young artists, refugees, and activists moved in. They ended up declaring the area under their independent control.
After many fights with the city, Metelkova was eventually deemed an independent zone within Ljubljana and is now protected as a national heritage site promoting tolerance. It is covered in graffiti and street art, and known to host a few late night parties. We took a little detour north of Old Town to explore the area.
Accommodation: We stayed at Urban Hotel, which had a great last minute discount when our AirBnB didn’t work out. We’d recommend it for it’s large modern rooms, great service, good location, and tasty breakfast.
Food: Our best meal in Ljubljana came from Strelec, a restaurant located atop the hill at Ljubljana Castle. The food was delicious and beautifully presented using local ingredients, with the option of multi-course tasting menus prepared by the chef. The service was exceptional. We sat late into the night with a bottle of wine watching the sun set over the city from the amazing views on top of the hill. A reservation is recommended to ensure good seating.
Sights: Stroll through the city centre and enjoy a coffee or cocktail at a waterfront restaurant. Check out the Central Market. Walk up to Ljubljana Castle for views of the city. Enjoy a wine tasting to learn all about Slovenian wine.