If you’re lucky, it may take you 48 hours to learn how to pronounce ‘Ljubljana’ from sight. But instead of spending your time hopelessly attempting to pronounce Slovenian city names, let’s get on with the exploring.
Ljubljana is not the most common European city to visit, however it is becoming increasingly popular and it is easy to see why. If you have not considered going, you must. The city is beautiful and vibrant, surrounded with picturesque countryside landscapes. Being slightly alternative you are likely to meet other sociable and adventurous backpackers with whom you can explore the city.
Ljubljana is a relatively small city, so exploring by foot is convenient. Flying into Ljubljana is likely to be the most expensive part of your trip, however if you are stopping by on a tight interrail schedule, a 48 hour stop over in Ljubljana is unmissable.
Where to stay:
Hostelworld offers a large array of accommodation. The hostels with highest ratings generally range from £10 to £20 per night. There are also options to pay more to stay in private rooms or hotels around the city.
A personal recommendation is Vila Vesolova. This hostel provides free breakfast, clean, modern facilities and friendly staff.
The balkanbackpacker.com is also worth looking at to find accommodation for discounted prices if you are visiting Ljubljana as part of a backpacking route around the Balkans.
Ljubljana is one hour ahead of the UK.
Head straight over to Preseren Square. Enjoy the renowned baroque-style architecture of the city. The cobbled streets and colourful buildings were largely built throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Free walking tours start in this square – a great way to gain insight to the city, whilst getting to know your way around.
Throughout the morning, wonder around the city to see the sights. There a numerous churches and St Nicholas’ Cathedral. Four bridges – Triple Bridge (the city’s ‘postcard picture’), Cobblers Bridge, Butcher’s Bridge and Dragon Bridge – all interconnect the city over the river, and each bridge has an authentic and aesthetic style. Some say that when a virgin crosses the Dragon bridge, one of the dragon statues waves its tail – so beware. Butcher’s Bridge is ironic in title, as couples often place padlocks along this bridge as a sign of eternal love. If you have the spare change, hop on a boat ride down the river. There is also a busy market on the castle side of the river, perfect for buying souvenirs or further embracing the city’s charm.
On a free walking tour, you will likely visit Congress Square and the University of Ljubljana – famous for offering free tuition to Slovenian citizens. Be sure to visit the 15th century castle. The relaxed atmosphere and views which peak through the trees over the city make the steep uphill journey worthwhile. You can also enter the castle courtyard for free.
The relaxed atmosphere and views which peak through the trees over the city make the steep uphill journey worthwhile.
In the afternoon, take a walk over to the Metelkova city, a hidden away autonomous zone for artists and activists. It has a large array of graffiti art and bars which sell alcohol without a license. The unique atmosphere is perhaps influenced by the fact that it was an old Yugoslavian barracks, now seized by Slovenians who use the area as a creative space. Hundreds of different events are held here every year – on my visit I encountered a Slovenian poetry event…unfortunately my lack of Slovenian language left me at a disadvantage.
In the evening, cheap places to eat and drink are plentiful. Many locals recommended Druga Violina, this was super cheap and gave generous portions of its traditional Slovenian foods. Be sure to try the Ajdova Potica – a local favourite, however it has a somewhat acquired taste.
If you do not have longer to spend in Slovenia, then use the second day to journey out of the city to the mystical Lake Bled by train. The train takes a little under two hours (or 40 minutes driving) and allows you to see more breath-taking landscapes. Here you can walk the circumference of the lake or take a dip in the water. You can visit the fairy-tale looking castle on the central island by boat or paddle board. Be sure to try the Slovenian cream cake as an afternoon treat.
You can visit the fairy-tale looking castle on the central island by boat or paddle board.
In the afternoon, there are two options. Take a further 40 minute bus ride to Lake Bohinj. This lake is much less commercialised yet larger than Bled. It is a truly beautiful overlooked by tall mountains but the crystal blue water is near freezing, making for a speedy way to cool down on the hottest days. Lake Bohinj is perfect for active people wanting an afternoon of climbing or cycling among other outdoor pursuits. Alternatively, spend the afternoon walking the boardwalk of Vintgar Gorge, another stunning area of the Slovenian country with rapids and waterfalls overlaid by rainbows on sunny days.
48 hours in Ljubljana and its surrounding beautiful areas makes for a truly alternative city break or an enrichment of your interrail travels. If possible, spend longer than 48 hours here to make the most of your visit to Ljubljana and the Slovenian country.