Looking for the absolute best things to do in Ljubljana? Keep reading for my top recommendations!
When talking about the capital cities of Europe, Ljubljana is certainly an overlooked hidden gem that unassumingly offers an appealing city escape, an interesting history, and plenty of exciting things to see and do.
Nestled between the majestic Alps and the idyllic Ljubljanica River, Ljubljana delivers fairytale-like charm, cobblestone streets, and historic buildings, mixed with a really chill and laid-back vibe and welcoming atmosphere. Suffice it to say, we really loved Ljubljana. It felt like a small town nestled in a big city (and indeed, it is the smallest capital city in Europe!)
Quick History Note
The history of Ljubljana (and Slovenia in general) is just really fascinating. From the 1400’s up until the end of World War I, Slovenia was under Habsburg rule. The Habsburgs were the ruling family of Austria, and when their empire dissolved after World War I, Slovenia became part of the newly formed Yugoslavia.
They stayed part of communist Yugoslavia until 1991, when they declared independence and became a sovereign and democratic nation. Slovenia quickly saw economic growth and development and was the first former socialist country to join the EU.
You can see a lot of the history of Slovenia reflected in the different styles of architecture throughout the city, from baroque, to Habsburg-style, to Soviet-inspired brutalist architecture.
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18 Unforgettable Things to Do in Ljubljana
Let’s get into the best things to do in Ljubljana, from strolling through the dreamy Old Town and admiring its iconic bridges to exploring the peaceful Tivoli Park and indulging in the city’s delicious cuisine.
1. Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle is the top places to visit in the city, and sits on a prominent hill above the rest of the city. The castle is visible in many spots throughout the Old Town. Inside the castle walls, there is a large central plaza, and then many different rooms, pathways, and areas in the surrounding structure you can visit.
Highlights include a section of the castle wall that overlooks the city, an interesting museum about the history of Slovenia, the castle tower that offers 360 views over the entire city and valley, and the castle chapel.
Beyond the castle itself, the grounds around it are expansive, really lovely, and well-maintained. You can find monuments, bridges and archways, tree-lined lanes, a vineyard, a playground, plus plenty of meandering pathways. I’d recommend taking some time to walk the grounds, and at least walk down from the castle into the city.
How to Get to the Castle
You can either walk up one of several streets leading to the castle or onto the grounds, or you can ride the Castle Funicular up. The funicular is located on Krekog Trg Street and costs 16 for a castle + funicular combo ticket. The lines can be rather long, so it’s not a huge time saver, but you do get to skip the hike up.
- Entrance Fee: 12 euro (3 euro one way on the funicular)
- Hours: 9am-7pm in winter, 9am-10pm in summer
Walk Across Ljubljana’s Many Cute Bridges
The Ljubljanica River cuts through the middle of the historic district of Ljubljana, creating charming riverside walkways and scenery. Of course, with rivers come bridges, and there are quite a few unique, picturesque, and delightfully quirky bridges in Ljubljana that you should see. In particular, these four bridges are not to be missed:
2. Dragon Bridge
One of the most iconic bridges in Ljubljana, The Dragon Bridge has a big green, copper dragon on each of its 4 corners, plus griffins on lampposts in the middle of the bridge.
3. Butchers’ Bridge (Mesarski Most)
Butcher’s Bridge (Mesarski Most in Slovenian) is a wide, modern, pedestrian-only bridge, with a glass floor overlooking the water. There are several statues on the bridge, of Adam and Eve, Prometheus, and Satyrs, and the bridge railings are completely covered in locks.
You can also pick up boat tours on the Ljubljanica River here (large placards will display times for the day).
4. Cobbler’s Bridge (Sustarski Most)
Cobbler’s Bridge (Sustarski Most in Slovenian) is one of the oldest bridges in Ljubljana, although the actual structure has been replaced several times. It is named after the shoemaker shops that used to be located right around the bridge. The bridge is located on a very picturesque stretch of the river, and has beautiful Corinthian stone pillars along its sides.
5. Triple Bridge
Possibly THE most iconic spot in Ljubljana, Triple Bridge (and the pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation behind it) is the unofficial poster child for Ljubljana. And for good reason – the reflection of the bridge and the church on the water, lined with draping trees, is ridiculously charming. (This picture, above, is actually taken from Ribja Brv Bridge, just south of Triple Bridge).
As the name implies, Triple Bridge has three, slightly unparallel pathways across the river that are all adjacent to each other. The bridge has grand, stone railings, and the middle bridge has a cobblestoned lane.
6. Ljubljana Central Market
The Central Market is an open-air farmer and craft market that is spread out between two city squares, and along the two city streets that connect the squares. The main square is dedicated partly to a clothing market, and partly to a fruit, vegetable, and flower market.
The fruits and vegetables on display are, unsurprisingly, fresh, juicy, and delicious. When we visited in mid-June, we caught the end of cherry season, and heaps of dark red, ripe cherries were on display throughout the market.
Along Adamic-Lundrovo Nabrezje Street you can find a smaller crafts and artisanal goods market, and an even smaller flower market along Ciril-Metodov Trg street.
Hours: Open every day until 3-4pm
7. Franciscan Church of the Annunciation & Presernov Trg Square
We mentioned this church earlier in the Triple Bridge section, but the iconic, pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation sits prominently on Presernov Trg, right behind the Triple Bridge. Presernov Trg is a large, bustling square with sculptures, musicians who play for tips, and nearby cafes. It’s a very popular central square with a lot to see and observe.
While the outside of the Franciscan Church is a striking pink color, the interior is even more beautiful. Head inside to admire the black, pink, and white marble floor, the gorgeous, colorful frescoed ceiling, and the black and gold marble altar.
You can walk all the way behind and then through the altar area (which is unusual – usually the altar area is off-limits) and offers great close-up views of the intricate details.
- Hours: 7am-12pm, 3pm-8pm
- Entrance Fee: None
8. Ljubljana Cathedral
The St. Nicolas Cathedral, also known as just the Cathedral of Ljubljana, is a beautiful baroque building built in the early 1700’s. It has gorgeous painted frescos on the ceiling, pink marble tiles and columns, and a stunning black and gold high altar with a soaring dome above.
Entrance to the cathedral is through the distinctive side door (known as the Ljubljana Door), which has a relief of six 18th-century bishops of Ljubljana.
- Hours: 11am-6pm
- Entrance Fee: 2 euro
9. Find the Dragons
Dragons have a fascinating history in the legends of Ljubljana. Legend states that the Greek hero Jason stole the Golden Fleece from the King of the Black Sea, and then fled on his ship through the Danube, Sava, and finally up through the Ljubljanica River. They stopped in the area today known as Ljubljana, where Jason fought and defeated a “dragon” in the nearby swamps.
This legend has taken deep root in Ljubljana, where dragons are now emblematic in the city. You can find dragons everywhere – on the Dragon Bridge, of course, but we also saw them inscribed on staircases, in the flag of Ljubljana, on signage, and of course, on all sorts of tourist souvenirs.
The funniest example, by far, was a small sculpture we saw on the exterior of a church building, where the baby Jesus was triumphantly killing the dragon.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for all the dragons in Ljubljana!
10. Wander the Cute Streets of the Old Town
The Old Town of Ljubljana is small and compact, but offers up a lot of charm. To start, the Old Town area is almost entirely pedestrian-only, which gives it some big-city-meets-small-town vibes. The Ljubljanica River cuts through the middle of Old Town, and there are only 1-2 major thoroughfares on either side of the river.
Here are a few streets you’ll definitely enjoy strolling through in Ljubljana:
Ciril Metodov Trg
You can find some cafes and a lot of shops on this street. The St. Nicolas Cathedral and the Town Hall are also located on this street, as is one end of the Central Market.
Ciril Metodov Trg Street turns into Mestni Trg at the intersection with Town Hall and the Robbov Vodmjak fountain and obelisk. Mestni Trg has really charming baroque architecture.
Stari Trg is the cutest section of this street, filled with cafes and restaurants with patio seating, and bright buildings with stone accents. The streetside seating really gives this area a vibrant, alive feeling, and the street ends at a picturesque fountain.
Gornji Trg intersects Stari Trg, and is a small, short, more residential street with colorful houses.
11. Visit a Museum
Ljubljana has a well-curated selection of museums, many of them housed in beautiful buildings. A few popular museums include:
- The National Museum of Slovenia
- The City Museum of Ljubljana
- The Museum of Modern Art
- The Slovenian Museum of National History
- The National Gallery of Slovenia
I can particularly vouch for the National Gallery of Slovenia. This museum is housed in an old palace with grandiose architecture, a grand staircase, and historic wood floors. Each room showcases fine art from a different period, from the medieval period to the 20th century. Pieces are done by Balkan artists, and most artists are Slovenian.
We loved that there were so many works of art from artists that we’d never heard of or seen before. Interestingly, most of the artwork wasn’t religious in nature (which is often the norm for many of the time periods covered), but was focused on beautiful landscapes from locations around Slovenia, or were paintings of people.
Visiting the National Gallery was, surprisingly one of my favorite things to do in Ljubljana (surprising because museums usually aren’t at the top of my list!)
12. Tivoli Park
Tivoli Park is northwest of old town, but still within easy walking distance of the historical center. This large park has crisscrossing biking and walking paths, and plenty of amenities and attractions, such as a rose garden, a pond, sculptures throughout the park, and a really well-designed playground for children.
In the center of the park is the International Centre of Graphic Arts, located in the historic Tivoli Mansion and surrounded by beautiful landscaping.
13. Congress Square
Congress Square is a long, skinny plaza lined by the Philarmonic on the one end in the shadow of the Ljubljana Castle, and the regal Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity on the other.
There’s a small park filled with trees just adjacent to the square, and it’s simply a lovely square with some pretty views. In summer, there can be outdoor concerts in the square – we stopped and listened to an incredible opera being performed for the public as we were passing through.
14. Novi Trg Square
The Novi Trg Square is right on the banks of the river, with steps leading down to the canal. The canal and castle on the hill offer a beautiful backdrop to the tiered fountain, making this one of the prettiest squares in Ljubljana. Plus, there are multiple cafes and places to sit nearby to relax and enjoy the evening.
15. Stroll Along the River
The banks of the Ljublianica River was probably my favorite places in all of Ljubljana. The area just west of Triple Bridge was particularly delightful, being filled with quaint, adorable, colorful houses, and is treelined, with willows hanging down into the water. But we also found beautiful areas toward the east of old town.
There are little nooks all up and down the canal where you can step out and get a great view of the water and riverbanks. The west side of the river, just north of Cobbler’s Bridge, has a particularly great alcove with a picturesque view of the church.
You can walk and bike along the riverfront, and the sidewalks are lined with cafes and restaurants with covered outdoor seating all along the waterfront. If nothing else, you definitely need to stop for some gelato and leisurely enjoy your ice cream sitting by the waterfront. Plus, Ljubljana’s proximity to Italy means that the gelato is excellent.
While the entire waterway is very nice, the section between Triple Bridge on the north and the Novi Trg Fountain on the south is the best area, in my opinion. This area is such a vibe and really deserves all the superlatives.
16. Metelkova Neighborhood
This alternative neighborhood is on the northeastern side of the historic part of Ljubljana and is known for its street art. To be honest, while this seems to be a popular spot with other travelers (and other travel bloggers), it definitely wasn’t a top spot for us in the city.
The architecture was more modern and non-descript, and while some spots had really cool street art, there was also just a TON of graffiti. We thought that the other spots highlighted in this post were infinitely more charming and interesting to visit.
17. Ride a Bike Through the City
Biking is a popular activity in Ljubljana, and riding through the City Center or along the river can be a fun way to see the city as a tourist. There are a few, easy ways to rent bikes in Ljubljana:
Rent From the Tourism Office: Located right on the corner of the Triple Bridge, the tourist office rents bikes for 6 euro per 2 hours. You can rent between 8am-6pm (4pm is the last pick-up), and make sure you bring ID.
Rent from the Bicikelj City Bike System: Register on the Bicikelj website ahead of time (or you can do it on the spot, but it takes a few minutes), then when you’re out in the city, search Bicikelj on Google Maps to find the nearest station. You check a bike out at the terminal post, and the first hour is free (and you can cover a lot of distance in Ljubljana in an hour).
18. Take a Day Trip
Because Slovenia is so small, it’s easy to base yourself out of Ljubljana and do day trips to see many of the most beautiful spots in the country. If you’re visiting Slovenia, you simply must go into the countryside and spend some time in the incredible landscapes: mountains, alpine lakes, turquoise rivers, and waterfalls galore! Here are a few must-do daytrips from Ljubljana:
Within 1.5 hours of Ljubljana, you can discover 3 different, fascinating cave locations.
Postojna Cave is one of the largest and most beautiful cave systems in Europe. Predjama Castle is built into a cliff, with different cave elements. Skocjan Cave is a UNESCO world heritage site that has a massive cave with a river running through it.
Lake Bled is an absolutely fairytale location, and one of the most famous places in Slovenia. This gorgeous blue lake has a small island with a church in the center of it, and there are multiple things to see and do around the lake.
Nearby you can visit the Vintgar Gorge, a magical canyon with tall walls, a river running down the middle, and a boardwalk through the gorge.
Triglav National Park has some of Slovenia’s most stunning landscapes, waterfalls, and mountains, and this full-day tour takes you to some of the very best spots.
You’ll visit the Pericnik, Kozjak, and Boka Waterfalls, drive through the Vrsic Mountain pass, stop in Lake Bled and Lake Jasna, and make several other stops in scenic locations. (Definitely choose the white water rafting add-on!)
Piran is Slovenia’s beautiful coastal city on the Adriatric Sea, and is filled with Venetian architecture, an attractive harbor, waterfront walkways next to clear water, colorful buildings, and narrow winding streets.
It’s a very cute small town, with several attractions and places to visit, plus beaches to relax on.
The Ljubljana City Cardcan be a great way to save some money on Ljubljana’s attractions and experiences.
Choose from a 1, 2, or 3 day pass, and get free admission to 20 museums, the Ljubljana zoo, free bus rides around the city and to/from the airport, a walking tour of the Old Town, bike rentals, a boat ride on the Ljubljanica, a ride on the castle funicular, plus admission to a thermal spa in the city.
Where to Eat in Ljubljana
Here are a few places that we ate at and enjoyed in Ljubljana:
This restaurant in Old Town serves up a variety of traditional Slovenian dishes – we particularly enjoyed the plate full of small portions of a selection of meats and sides, that included wild boar, stag, a deer medallion in cherry sauce, a cheese roll, and a cooked pear slice.
This pizza restaurant offers regular sit-down seating, but it also has a takeaway window along Congress Square.
The takeaway pizza is extremely cheap (2.70 for a large slice) but was actually really good.
Miskova Pekarna Bakery
This bakery had really delicious sweet and savory breakfast pastries – the cherry strudel here was the best we had in Slovenia.
We also liked Pecjak Pekarna Bakery (and there were several cafes and bakeries open for breakfast right next to Pecjak).
A little restaurant with a street-side gelato stand. The gelato here was incredible, had a lot of different flavors, and you could eat right along the river.
This bar/cafe/restaurant is located at the top of one of the tallest buildings and features indoor and outdoor seating with incredible views over Ljubljana.
We appreciated that you could find a large assortment of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks here, as well as pastries, cake, and even some regular menu items.
This little dessert shop serves “Dragon Fire Bread” (aka Hungarian chimney cake) – filled with a variety of different toppings.
Ljubljana Food and Wine Tour – A Great Way to Try Out Slovenian Cuisine
This food and wine walking tour is a great way to be able to sample a lot of traditional Slovenian foods and dishes during your time in Ljubljana. You’ll walk through Old Town and the City Center, making multiple stops to try different food and wines. Food tours are one of our favorite activities to do when we travel, as you get such a local (and delicious) experience – so come hungry!
Map of What to Do in Ljubljana
FAQs About Visiting Ljubljana
How Many Days Do You Need in Ljubljana
One full day is enough to see and do the major sites in Ljubljana, explore Old Town, and enjoy some leisurely meals. If you want to do some day trips, I recommend at least another 2-4 days!
When to Visit Ljubljana
You can enjoy Ljubljana any time of year, but it truly shines in summertime, when the markets are open and full, the trees are in bloom, and it’s warm enough to sit out and enjoy all the cafes along the river.
Is Ljubljana Safe?
We felt perfectly safe everywhere that we went in Ljubljana. If you are sticking to the main areas around the City Center and Old Town, safety should not be an issue (although, of course, always practice discretion and keep your valuables secured).
Do You Need a Car in Ljubljana?
Definitely not – Ljubljana is extremely walkable, and any transit needs can well be served by public transit. If you want to do an extended tour of the country, though, renting a car and driving through the country is a great option!
Renting a car is the best way to do a road trip around the country, and if you’re planning on this, you’ll want to make your rental car reservation ASAP. Prices go up and availability goes down (often by a lot), as you get closer to your travel dates.
I recommend (and personally use) DiscoverCars.com for the best selection of vehicles.
What to Do in Ljubljana – The Wrap Up
Like many European cities, some of the best parts of visiting Ljubljajan are just strolling around and enjoying the views of the streets and the river, there are also plenty of interesting attractions and fun things to see and do in the city.