Travel writer Kat Smith shares her experience of beautiful Ljubljana in Slovenia, and explains why this city should be on every traveller’s bucket list
The first step of visiting Ljubljana is being able to pronounce it (Loob-lee-ah-na… can you tell phonetics isn’t my strong suit?) I spent two days in the Slovenian capital as part of my interrail trip around Europe, and left being surprised at how little-known it is. I thought I’d share my experience of Ljubljana and urge others to visit this hidden little gem.
Admittedly, Ljubljana wasn’t a destination in itself at first. Eager to go to both Italy and Croatia, we needed a stop-off point between Florence and Split. Our only expectation was the postcard picture of brick-red roofs and a promise of how beautiful it is.
So, what did I think of Ljubljana? I feel like an appropriate start to place is its beauty, as it never seemed to run out of it.
Sightseeing and Things to Do
Our hostel was situated right next to Tivoli Park, so the 15-minute walk into the city centre was a pretty picturesque one. Despite it being on our way, I’d recommend it as a destination in itself as a picnic spot or just for a nice walk. They also hold outdoor photo exhibitions there.
The beauty of the central city is probably unrivalled by any city i’ve seen so far. There are many cafes, bars, shops and restaurants situated along the river bank, each in unique buildings. It’s almost guaranteed to make your jaw drop. We took a river tour for €5 for half an hour and it was well worth it.
Climbing up to the top of the city to the castle also supplied an abundance of Instagram-ready photo opportunities. So even though not getting the funicular (yes, I had to google ‘tram that goes up a hill’ to find that word) was a financial decision, it turned out to be a blessing for the views. If you google Ljubljana you’ll more than likely be supplied with stunning photos from this vantage point. We went up while it was raining and it still succeeded in amazing us!
Inside the castle we were able to access many parts of it without paying a penny. It was stunning and didn’t really feel like a castle… notably there was a really cool National Geographic photo exhibition.
Elsewhere in the main part of the city, for Harry Potter fans, there’s a ‘triple staircase’ that reminded us of the grand moving staircase in Hogwarts. It’s situated in one of the prettiest parts of the city and is hard to miss.
Another selling point is that the train we took went through Lake Bled, which isn’t too far from Slovenia’s capital. You could get two birds with one stone (plus probably a few more birds than that) in terms of visiting Slovenia and finding all of its beauty.
We were only there for a night so I wouldn’t say we got to experience the full extent of Ljubljana’s nightlife, but the bars along the river were lively and the people were friendly. We also got bombarded with advertisements of bar crawls which were highly commended so I guess that’s a good sign! The drinks weren’t too expensive and the Union beer we tried impressed us, even as non-beer drinkers.
Being on the budget we were on (hint: tight), finding a cheap and cheerful hostel was a priority. We found Hostel Tivoli pretty quickly and we loved our night there. It was so friendly with a free breakfast in the morning and the staff really helped with finding good places to go, although the suggestion of the horse burger stand was politely ignored. It felt really secure but also really lively and young so I’d definitely recommend it for anyone planning a stay in the city. The little kitchen also mean we were able to save a few precious pennies on food.
Speaking of food, we did try a restaurant or two while we were there. The most memorable was Roza Slon – located right by the train and bus stations, Roza Slon is a kooky Thai restaurant. Even though the food was amazing (and they have super big portions… always good) it’s worth a visit just to see the décor. The staff were friendly and the prices were really decent (just over €5 per dish). It was a perfect last meal before catching our train to the next destination.
I’d recommend Ljubljana as a cheap trip away, or as a relaxing and beautiful stop on a tour of Europe. It was an unexpected highlight of our trip and we’re grateful we took this detour away from the common interrail route!