Although not officially a country until 1991, Slovenia has strived to create a strong economy after previously being part of Yugoslavia and then more recently joining the European Union in 2004.
The capital Ljubljana can only be described as being a very small mix of Vienna and Venice, thankfully without the hordes of tourists. I wouldn’t describe it as off-the-beaten track, although it certainly hasn’t been fully discovered by mass tourism.
The beating heart is the Ljubljanica river that flows directly through the heart of Ljubljana where you take a romantic river cruise or simply walk along and enjoy the wonderful Old Town.
Where is Slovenia?
Slovenia finds itself at an important crossroads point in Europe, although a relatively small country it bridges the gap between what was known as the West and the East back in the Yugoslavia days.
Although the country doesn’t have any well-known UNESCO World Heritage sites, the country is teeming with natural beauty and is completely surrounded beautiful snow-capped mountains. On this trip I sadly didn’t have time to visit anything outside of the capital, but probably the most famous tourist site is Bled, a church on an island in the middle of a beautiful lake. There’s also various caves to explore and of course if you love cycling then you’ll be hugely rewarded by the scenery.
My top five things to do in Ljubljana
Go on a free city tour
Like in many other European cities you’ll find free walking tours, these are a wonderful way for an enthusiastic local to show you their city. Although yes it’s “free” you are recommended to leave a tip as an appreciation for their time and knowledge. Trust me, you’ll discover many wonderful facts that you won’t learn from any guide books.
Explore the castle from the highest point
Depending on your exercise levels whilst on holiday you can either take the funicular for €4 return or walk there for free, it doesn’t take very long and is well sign posted. If you have a clear day you’ll discover just how small Ljubljana is, also you’ll discover that the city is surrounded by wonderful lush green forests.
Wander aimlessly through the wonderful local produce at the Central market
I was told that on Saturdays everyone visits the local markets, all the produce is fresh and it was a wonderful sight to see so many vegetables and fruit available. If you sweet talk some of the sellers they may even let you try some pickled cabbage or sauerkraut. Slovenian food isn’t well-known, due to its location it takes influence from it’s Italian, Austrian and other Balkan neighbours. They simply take the best bits and make things their own.
Hire a bike and cycle through the city
I was amazed how many bikes there were in Ljubljana, it’s not quite at Amsterdam level but will certainly rival them in several years. As a very clean and green city it’s no surprise that they’ve been awarded the European Green Capital award in 2016. You can easily hire a bike from one of the many racks around the city.
Enjoy the hundreds of cafes or wine bars
Slovenian wine isn’t well-known due to the small quantities they produce, it’s not expensive but the quality is pretty good and well worth trying when you visit. Coffee is a necessity in a Slovenian household, they cannot do without it so it’s no big surprise that there are hundreds of coffee shops and eateries around Ljubljana, make sure you try at least one of them, even just for the cake.
If these haven’t tempted you to visit then maybe some of my photos will do the trick.
Why visit Ljubljana?
I’ve been to a lot of countries in Europe, Slovenia has to be one of the most friendly and easy to get around that I’ve seen. I didn’t come across one person that didn’t speak English, they even understood my crazy mixed up Northern accent too which was a bonus!
Although not as cheap as it previously was before they joined the Euro you can still enjoy a visit to Slovenia for an affordable long weekend.
Ljubljana is a very small city, you can easily walk around on foot which makes a change from most European cities.
Make it part of a Balkan tour
After starting my Balkan trip in Slovenia I was able to catch a direct train from Ljubljana to Zagreb for only €16, which takes just over two hours. Coming from the UK that is cheap for a train journey! You can also visit other neighbouring countries including Italy and Austria that are easily accessible via bus.
I hadn’t previously thought about visiting Slovenia, but it’s a great starting point for a Balkans tour with cheap flights from the UK with Easyjet and Adria Airways (the national Slovenian airline). I highly recommend a trip although I’d do it soon before the hordes of tourists discover the magical part of Central Europe.
Visit Ljubljana for yourself
I highly recommend a visit, to book your stay go to Booking.com and search for Ljubljana.
If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.