Ljubljana is a vibrant capital city with rich history and culture. The architecture is astonishing, and Ljubljana’s cobblestone streets are made for long walks. The city and its surroundings offer many ways to spend the time when visiting the capital of Slovenia.
Ljubljana is Slovenia’s capital and largest city. It’s known for its university population and green spaces, including expansive Tivoli Park. The curving Ljubljanica River, lined in outdoor cafes, divides the city’s old town from its commercial hub. Ljubljana has many museums, including the National Museum of Slovenia, displaying historic exhibitions, and the Museum of Modern Art, home to 20th-century Slovene paintings and sculptures.
How to get to Ljubljana
Ljubljana is set in the center of the country—a common saying claims that “all roads lead into (and out of) Ljubljana.” It means that the city is well-connected to many neighboring countries and their capital cities.
It’s easy to combine Ljubljana with trips to Zagreb, Croatia; Vienna, Austria; and Venice, Italy. With major highways, bus lines, and train routes, traveling around this region is fairly straightforward.
Slovenia has a developed network of railways, connecting Ljubljana with Graz and Klagenfurt (Austria) to the North, Trieste (Italy) to the West, Budapest (Hungary) on the East and Zagreb and Belgrade to the South. Ljubljana’s main train station, simply called “Ljubljana”, is within an easy walk to the city centre. Slovenian Railways are also included in the European Interrail network. Book your train ticket at the official website here.
Several airlines also supply flights for the Ljubljana Airport, thus connecting the capital with many European cities. Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is located 26 kilometres to Ljubljana (20 minutes by road).
The followings are the options of transfers from airport to city center:
Shuttle transfers: GoOpti, Nomago, MNJ Shuttle, Markun Shuttle, ZUP prevozi.
Taxi: Taxi services are available in front of the airport building.
Rent-a-car: consult the list of rent-a-car service providers at the airport.
Regular bus route: A regular bus route connects the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport and the Ljubljana Central Bus Station (bus stop no. 28). Check here for timetable.
Ljubljana can also be reached by car from the following international airports:
Brnik (Slovenia) to Ljubljana: 30 km (30 min)
Treviso (Italy) to Ljubljana: 230 km (2 h 45 min by car)
Vienna (Austria) to Ljubljana: 380 km (4 h by car)
Trieste (Italy) to Ljubljana: 100 km (1,5 h)
Venice (Italy) to Ljubljana: 245 km (3 h by car)
Belgrade (Serbia) to Ljubljana: 520 km (5 h)
Budapest (Hungary) to Ljubljana: 465 km (5 h by car)
Bologna (Italy) to Ljubljana: 380 km (4 h by car)
Zagreb (Croatia) to Ljubljana: 140 km (2 h by car)
Graz (Austria) to Ljubljana: 200 km (2 h 20 min)
Milan (Italy) to Ljubljana: 500 km (5,5 h by car)
München (Germany) to Ljubljana: 410 km (4 h 20 min by car)
Top Things to do in Ljubljana
Your itinerary in Ljubljana starts with the Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most). It is a fairytale-like bridge that crosses the Ljubljanica River to the Old Town of Ljubljana. Stroll across the bridge, appreciate its craftsmanship and admire its decorative statues. The bridge opened to the public in 1901 and was originally known as the Jubilee Bridge of Emperor Franz Joseph I. It replaced an old wooden bridge and is one of Europe’s earliest examples of a reinforced concrete bridge.
Stand in the center of the bridge and enjoy views in both directions along the peacefully flowing river. Perched atop pillars at both ends of the bridge are the sculptures of menacing-looking dragons, for which the bridge takes its present-day name.
The dragon is part of the city’s coat of arms and symbolizes bravery and strength. One legend states that the history of the dragon comes from the time when the Greek god Jason, along with his band of Argonauts, slayed a dragon while traveling between Ljubljana and Vrhnika. Look for additional dragon figurines that decorate the bridge’s streetlamps.
From here follow a path from Vodnik Square that leads up a hillside to Ljubljana Castle.
Take the funicular and visit Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle, standing on a hill above the city for about 900 years, is Ljubljana’s main attraction with numerous internationally recognized sustainability certifications. The castle’s Outlook Tower and ramparts offer some of the most beautiful views of the city, while the castle houses a museum exhibition on Slovenian history, a puppet museum, and a number of historical rooms such as the Chapel of St George, the Prison, and a video presentation room called Virtual Castle.
Ljubljana Castle, which can quickly be reached by funicular railway, also provides space for art exhibitions, houses a café (Grajska kavarna), a nightclub (Jazz Club Ljublanski grad), a wine bar (Grajska vinoteka Strelec), (and two restaurants (Strelec and Gostilna na Gradu), and serves as a venue for cultural events, family entertainment, dance evenings, and open-air film screenings held under the title of Film under the Stars in the summer.
Some highlights inside the castle:
- Outlook Tower: Ljubljana Castle’s Outlook Tower offers the most beautiful views of Ljubljana and its surrounding areas. It stands on a site originally occupied by the Pipers’ Tower, which was pulled down in 1813 following the French occupation, and later by a fire lookout tower, home of the city’s fire watchman.
- The exhibition Slovenian History: The exhibition, divided into six sections, covers the entire known history of Slovenia. It takes you back about 200,000 years in history, to the earliest traces of human presence in the area of present-day Slovenia.
- Puppet Museum: Slovenia is a country with a rich tradition of puppeteering. This permanent museum exhibition set up by the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre introduces you to the history of puppeteering in Slovenia and the creativity of contemporary Slovenian puppeteers.
- Escape Castle: The Escape Castle is a fun adventure where you can learn about the history of the city through five tests, have fun, and maybe finally save the dragon, the one that can be found on the Dragon Bridge, in the town coat of arms and the flag.
The Castle and funicular opening hour:
Jan to April and Oct to Dec: 09.00 – 19.00
May to Sept: 09.00 – 22.00
Castle ticket including return funicular fare:
€16 per person for adults
€11.20 per person for children and young people aged 7-18, students, senior citizens, and groups of more than 15 people
€38.40 for families of up to two adults and at least one child aged 7-18
Stand on the Triple Bridge to enjoy river views, admire historic landmarks and do people watching
Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) is an intriguing pedestrian bridge that spans the Ljubljanica River. It’s a historic crossroads between Prešeren Square, Ljubljana’s central square and the city’s picturesque Old Town. You can enjoy panoramic views of notable monuments from Triple Bridge. It is an idyllic place to stop and experience the enchanting atmosphere of Ljubljana’s spiritual heart.
The central bridge dates to 1842 and replaced a 13th-century wooden bridge, which served as an entrance to the Old Town. An inscription on the bridge’s arch commemorates the Archduke Franz Karl Joseph of Austria. Flanking the central carriageway are two footbridges, built between 1929 and 1932 by Jože Plečnik to ease the flow of pedestrians.
Walk across each of the three bridges to appreciate their architectural features. Among these are balustrades and artistic street lamps. Sit on one of the benches lining the central bridge, gaze over Prešeren Square and spot the turrets of Ljubljana Castle. Enjoy uninterrupted views along the peaceful Ljubljanica River from the side bridges. A set of graceful staircases lead down from the bridges to riverside terraces and pathways.
Admire the bridges of Ljubljana
Ljubljana’s bridges deserve a dedicated tour, they are so pretty, and historic as well. There are at least one dozen bridges spanning the river and 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 and you can see padlocks were hung by couples in love. 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.
Prešeren Square marks the heart of Ljubljana’s city center. It’s an attractive cobblestone square beautified by historical landmarks and views of Castle Hill. Prešeren Square is a great place to admire a range of architectural styles and enjoy people-watching opportunities. Attend concerts, markets and political rallies here.
The square began as a crossroads at one of the main gates to the city’s Old Town.
One of the only surviving buildings from the original square is the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. Stand back and admire the façade, decorated with capitals, pilasters, onion-shaped spires and a statue of Madonna and Child. Step inside to see an altar designed by Francesco Robba and the glass-fronted crypt of St. Deodatus.
There are other notable landmarks such as the Viennese Secession-style Hauptmann House and the art nouveau Urban House, which housed Ljubljana’s first department store.
Browse Ljubljana’s 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 can be fun! The market opens everyday 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!
Cruise the 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. You can also take canoes out on the river, or go stand-up paddleboarding.
Wander the street of Lubljana
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.
Ljubljana 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.
Day Trip to Lake Bled
If you have one more day in Ljubljana, take a day trip to Lake Bled. As Ljubljana is located in the heart of Slovenia, it makes a wonderful base from which to do day trips.
You can walk around the lake and admire the spectacular blue color. Take the ride with a traditional Pletna boat to Bled Island and when you get there 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.
Ljubljana is such a charming city and whether you’re into history or an architecture aficionado, you’ll find a lot to admire and appreciate in Ljubljana with its hilltop castle, bridges, river view and building architecture. When your feet is tired, sit by the river with gelato in hand and enjoy the view. I hope our article comes useful. Enjoy your holiday!