Are you looking for sights and activities in Ljubljana?
Firstly, how much do you know about Ljubljana? I must confess that I didn’t know very much at all before our first visit. Indeed, I had no clue what the best things to do in Ljubljana would be. In fact, I even had trouble spelling it. It’s a beautiful name though, isn’t it?
In fact, Ljubljana became the capital of Slovenia in 1991. So, it’s one of the newer capitals of Europe. However, you won’t find it lacking in history. So, if you’re passing through Ljubljana on our Balkans road trip itinerary or if you’re making it the focus of a city break you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Ljubljana, you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve selected the highlights because when you’re travelling time is limited. Take the time to explore on your own though. Wander through the lovely streets and admire the architecture then take a stroll along the river and see what you find. Use my list of things to do in Ljubljana as a starting point on your own Ljubljana adventure.
Top 10 Things to do in Ljubljana
- Explore the Old Town
- Triple Bridge
- Preseren Square
- Tivoli Park
- Dragon Bridge
- Ljubljana Castle
- Shop in the Central Market
- National Museum of Contemporary History
- Tour a brewery
Explore Ljubljana Old Town
Undoubtedly, Ljubljana is a city for walking. So, take your time and absorb all the sights, sounds, the smell of this beautiful city. Start your walking tour in the old town and walk on cobblestoned streets. You’ll find Medieval buildings alongside newer construction as Ljubljana suffered an earthquake not so long ago. Ljubljana is a friendly place for tourists so enjoy this charming city.
Another top sight in Ljubljana is the Triple Bridge. See this group of three ornate bridges over the river near Preseren Square. They weren’t all built at the same time, the central one is older. It’s thought there may have been a wooden bridge on the site at some time so it’s certainly a historic crossing point. Today, it links old and new and is a popular tourist attraction in its own right.
Next to the Triple bridge is Preseren Square. There’s nothing quite like a picturesque square to attract people whether it’s tourists or locals. In fact, Preseren Square is the heart of Ljubljana. More triangular than square in actual shape it’s a lovely spot near the river and perfect for people watching, relaxing with a coffee or a spot of sightseeing. Look for the statue of France Prešeren, the poet the square is named after. The Slovenian National Anthem is based on one of his poems.
Just off the square is the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. Distinctive because of its red colour, the church was built in the 17th century and serves as the local parish church.
Continue your walk to Tivoli Park where you’ll find a fantastic green space to relax and also a place to take in the views across the city. You can spend hours wandering here. Stroll the promenade. We saw a display showcasing the nearby National Gallery while we were there. You can either ride a bike, walk or simply sit and watch people go by. Additionally, it’s a great location for a picnic lunch or just to recharge your batteries.
Ljubljana is a city with a very picturesque river area so perhaps it’s not surprising that it’s also quite famous for its bridges. No less than four fearsome dragons guard this Ljubljanian bridge. Unlike the Triple Bridge, traffic is allowed across the Dragon Bridge so tourists don’t have it all to themselves. Although the focus is inevitably on the dragons the bridge itself is pretty impressive. It is thought to be one of the earliest concrete bridges in Europe, for instance.
Ljubljana castle stands guard over the city from above and it also provides an impressive centrepiece for any photo of the city. You can actually drive right up to the castle although parking is limited. Better to take the funicular railway or tourist train if you don’t fancy the rather steep walk. Ljubljana castle is a Medieval fortress and also has some beautiful gardens to wander.
You can buy tickets to the castle with or without the funicular railway. However, if you buy them online the price is the same, 10 Euros. So well worth taking that funicular trip. You can also add an audio guide or take a themed guided tour for a small extra fee. Indeed, Ljubljana castle is actually very good value for money.
Metelkova is an alternative lifestyle community on the site of an old military barracks. Covered in graffiti it’s become a symbol which is completely different from the picturesque old town. Tourists mainly visit during the day to take photos and see a different side to Ljubljana. If you visit at night you’ll find a lively music scene with plenty of bars and even outdoor concerts in summer.
Shop in the Central Market
Whenever I’m travelling I like to check out the local markets. You’ll find the market open every day except Sundays. Here you can shop for pretty much anything you’d want to find in a market. Fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, bread, cakes. It’s all here. You can also buy local souvenirs and handicrafts. A wonderful way to spend a few hours browsing the various stalls.
National Museum of Contemporary History
Slovenia’s recent history is both troubled and fascinating. This museum is dedicated to contemporary history and inside you’ll trace Slovenia’s history from before the First World War. Find it as you walk through Tivoli Park. Although it’s quite a small museum you can expect to spend some time inside as it’s packed with artefacts, audio and visual displays.
The main exhibition is titled “Slovenians in the 20th Century” and it seeks to document the lives of ordinary Slovenians in recent history. It states that its aim is “to create awareness and trigger an emotional response in each and every visitor”. Certainly, a truly laudable aim. Visit their website to see the object of the month. I love a museum which really gives insight into the lives of ordinary people in history so this is a must-see on my list.
Tickets cost 4.50 Euros each. The museum is open Tues-Sun from 10 am to 6 pm. Go on the first Sunday of the month and admission is free.
Tour a Brewery
Finally, visit the Union Experience and discover the history of the Pivovarna Union brewery. Here, you’ll learn the secrets of modern beer production. You can also spend time in the famous Pub Union and taste a selection of Ljubljana’s most beloved beer.
Join a tour in English or Slovenian on weekdays at 12.00, 14:00, 16:00 and 18:00. Or on Saturdays at 14.00, 16.00 and 18.00. Tickets cost 14 Euros per person and includes samples and a souvenir beer glass to take home. In addition, they have a cafe which is an ideal place to take a break and have lunch.