Under-the-radar: 3 days in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Slovenia, a country in Central Europe, has long been famed for its rich cultural life and one of a kind landscapes – snow-capped peaks, lush rolling hills, magnificent lakes and castles. Though considered as a small country, Slovenia is incredibly diverse. Its capital, Ljubljana, is the largest city in the country and is one of Europe’s greenest capitals. If you’re a first-time visitor, with only 3 days, planning the trip and narrowing down the itinerary can be a daunting task. Our 3-day suggested itinerary showcases the best of Ljubljana and what are the things you can accomplish in 3 days. You can absolutely make any changes you like, to adapt the tour to your preferences.

Things to know before traveling to Ljubljana, Slovenia:

Language – The official language of Slovenia is Slovenian. Most Slovene speak English so you can absolutely get by without speaking Slovenian language. Croatian, French, German and Italian are also spoken by some Slovene. Like in other countries, speaking at least some Slovenian phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.

Currency exchange – Slovenia uses Euros, the same currency now used by most European Union countries with the exception of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Prior to traveling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks to get the best rates. You may also transact with foreign exchange bureaus, shopping centers, travel agencies, petrol stations and hotels. It is also good to know that there are plentiful of ATMs available throughout the country so you will surely have easy access to cash.

Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Slovenia. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Observe the same precautions with your personal safety and health as you would in any other country. Although most visits are trouble free, remain vigilant because petty crimes like pick pocketing and theft do occur. For medical emergencies, dial 112; and for police services, dial 113.

Transportation – Getting around Ljubljana and the rest of Slovenia is fairly easy. The city is quite compact so visitors can easily explore its tourist attractions on foot. If you are short on time or you prefer less time walking, Ljubljana has efficient bus transport network, trains and taxis. You can also bike on your own or join one of the guided biking tours offered in the city. If you are on a luxury vacation, consider hiring a driver to take you around Ljubljana. Renting a car and driving on your own is another great option, which will give you complete control of the trip.

Accommodation – There are many types of holiday accommodation in Ljubljana, from luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfast. The most frequent question from first-time travelers is, “What’s the best area to stay in when visiting Ljubljana?” Without a doubt, the best place to stay in the city is around Ljubljana Old Town. It contains almost all of the main sights and the best places to eat. So, staying here makes a lot of sense, especially if your time is very limited.

Hotels to consider in Ljubljana:

Hotel Cubo

Hotel Nox

Adora Hotel

Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Ljubljana

Bit Center Hotel

Detailed itinerary: Under-the-radar: 3 days in Ljubljana, Slovenia 

Day 1: Ljubljana

Take an international flight to Airport Joze Pucnik. Flying directly to Slovenia is expensive because there are only few airlines flying this route. So, you can choose from a number of neighboring international airports close to Slovenia. From there, you can travel to Ljubljana by land. GoOpti, a low-cost international shuttle company, is the cheapest and easiest way to travel to Slovenia from neighboring airports of Venice, Milan, Salzburg, Vienna, as well as from Airport Joze Pucnik to Ljubljana city center. For time table and shuttle ticket information, visit GoOpti’s official website.

One of the best ways to open the door to Slovenia’s secrets is through Ljubljana’s food and drink. Join one of the food walks offered in the city which will introduce you to traditional and contemporary Ljubljana cuisine. You can also do this tour on your own and make your way to Ljubljana Central Market. Please note, the market is open on weekdays and closed on Sundays and Holidays.

Ljubljana Castle Funicular, Slovenia
Dpn’t miss the ride with Ljubljana Castle Funicular (Anze Bizjan / Shutterstock.com)

In the late afternoon, board the funicular up to Castle Tower, one of the most famous attractions of Ljubljana. This is a perfect place for sunset viewing where you can get splendid panoramic views of the city and beyond. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon so you can catch the sunset as well as see daytime and nighttime views of Ljubljana. Then, head to one of the restaurants in the Old Town to celebrate your first night in the country.

Day 2: Ljubljana

Start your second day by exploring the Ljubljana and its Dragon Bridge, one of the city’s most notable landmarks. Then, cross over Jože Plečnik’s famous Triple Bridge into the Old Town. Here, you will be able to explore the City Museum of Ljubljana and Plečnik’s National and University Library. Head to one of the many riverside restaurants for lunch.

After lunch, rent a bike from Ljubljana Bike at the Slovenian Tourist Information Center on Krekov trg, opposite to the Ljubljana Castle funicular. Then, make your way to Tivoli Park, the most famous outdoor spot in the city. Aside from its green spaces, the park also houses several cultural sights like the grand Tivoli Mansion and the Museum of Modern History. If you still have energy, be ready for a city nightlife hit at Metelkova Mesto, an abandoned barracks that is now full of bars, clubs, pubs and restaurants.

Metelkova Mesto, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Metelkova – an autonomous social centre in the centre of Ljubljana, located on the site of former military barracks (Marina J / Shutterstock.com)

Day 3: Ljubljana or Lake Bled

Taking into consideration that you most likely stayed out rather late the other night, you can start your third and last day in Ljubljana at around 10 to 11 in the morning. You can dedicate this day wandering around Mestni and Stari Trg at the base of Castle Hill, the main shopping street in Ljubljana. This is a vibrant area full of bars, restaurants and shops. You can do your souvenir shopping here as well. If you would like a mall experience instead, then head to BTC City, one of the largest shopping centers in Europe.

Another option on your last day is a day trip out of Ljubljana. You can start out early and make the most out of this day by heading to Lake Bled, the most Fairytale-esque town in Slovenia. Located 34 miles away Northwest of Ljubljana, Lake Bled can be reached by bus in 80 minutes. Wander along the path around the edge of the lake, check out the medieval Bled Castle and take a boat to Bled Island to explore the Church of the Assumption.

Lake Bled, Slovenia
Lake bled and Bled Island, home of the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary (Fesus Robert / Shutterstock.com)

This is the end of our 3-day suggested itinerary. You may extend your vacation for as long as you prefer or until you get to see all attractions that interest you. Take time to meet the locals, sample the best Slovene dishes or explore other parts of Slovenia. If the pace gets too hectic, then reorder your sightseeing priorities. Happy travel!

Have you been to Ljubljana or anywhere else in Slovenia? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.

Featured image: Architecture and tourist bikes, Ljubljana, capital city of Slovenia (xbrchx / Shutterstock.com)

City exploring, slovenia

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