Ljubljana: one day in the smallest European capital city

(This article is also available in Italian) 

Ljubljana. The smallest European capital city. Romantic, colorful, very organized and clean. A city which is also described as “a cute candy-box”. In 2016 it was nominated “Europe’s Green Capital“. I must confess that I was pleasently impressed!

Visit Ljubljana in just one day

Ljubljana is small, I must be honest. To visit it calmly, you won’t need more than two days. Even one day could be enough, in my opinion. An you can easily visit it on foot! However, Ljubljana is worth a visit if you are in Slovenia or nearby.

Undoubtedly, as soon as you’ve arrived in the city, the first things you’ll feel are tidiness and cleanliness. Everything has its own place, well organized and clean. No garbage or cigarette butts in the streets. I was reading that, in Ljubljana, the recycling bins can calcultate garbage weight: every citizen has a magnetic card and the more they sort their waste, the cheaper the tax will be. Cool, isn’t it?

What can I do in Ljubljana in one day?

Taking a picture to the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and to the illuminations in Prešerenov trg

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Ljubljana’s symbol, the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, with its two bell towers and the salmon-pink façade, is the most portayed spot of the city. It is located in Prešerenov trg (Prešeren Square), dedicated to one of the most famous Romantic slovenian poets. During Christams time, the square is lighted up by beautiful illuminations and a huge Christmas tree.

Crossing the Triple Bridge

The Triple Bridge (Tromostovje, in Slovenian) connects the Medioeval city to the modern one. Althought originally it consisted just by the central bridge, some years later two lateral bridges were built due to traffic increase. The Ljubljanica river flows below it.

Discovering the local food at the Central Market

Having crossed the Triple Bridge and turning left, you’ll find the Central Market. It consists of an indoor market, overlooking on the river, and an outdoor market, characterized by unique stalls.

In the indoor market, you’ll find traditional shops and little restaurants, where you can taste local street food or traditional cusine. Then, on Fridays during Spring and Summer, the outdoor market hosts the Food Market, a cooking show, where Slovenian chefs prepare plates from aroud the world.

Taking a photo with the dragons

It is said that if you don’t take a photo with the Ljubljana’s dragons, you can’t say to have been in the Slovenian capital city. These huge and somehow frightful are placed on the Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most), near the Central Market. It was built to replace the old Butchers’ Bridge made with wood.

Taking a break along the Ljubljanica river

The riverside must be beautiful during spring and summer. Here you’ll find a lot of cafes and restaurants that must be full of people in these seasons. What has surprised me is that Slovenians take something to drinks outside even during winter, when the weather is very very very cold! Well, every cafe is equipped with heaters and fur blankets, but it’s still very cold!

Getting lost in the streets of the city center

Near the Ljubljanica River, there is the old downtown. The first floors of the Baroque buildings are now converted in delicious restaurants, traditional shops and art galleries. Here the Civic Square (Mestni Trg) is located and here you’ll find the Town Hall and the Civic Gallery. Then, from the Old Square, you’ll easely reach the Gornji Square (Gornji Trg), where the pedestrian path leading to the Ljubljana Castle starts.

Enjoying the view from the Ljubljana Castle

Honestly, I choose not to visit the Ljubljana Castle, because I preferred to enjoy the city view. I recommend to go up here on foot. It takes 5/10 minutes from Gornji Square and I think 5€ for the funicolar are a waste of money, unless you don’t have prams, strollers or kids.

Crossing the main bridges of Ljubljana

Ljubljana is famous for its many pedestrian bridges cossing here and there the river. Besides the Triple Bridge, which links the medieval center to the Prešeren square, and the world famous Dragon Bridge, near the Central Market area, there is also the Butchers’ Bridge (Merarski Most), known as the Ljubljana’s bridge of love. Here lovers symbolically lock up their love and throw the key in the river.

Then, walking along the Ljubljanica river, you’ll find the brand new Ribja Brv and the oldest Cobblers’ Bridge, providing space for cobblers’ workshops . From here you can access to the New Square (Novi Trg), where the National and University Library is located.

Discovering the “modern” downtown: Congress Square

The Congress Square (Kongersni Trg) is one of the main squares in Ljubljana. The University and the Palace of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra are here. This is also a good spot to take magnificent picture to Ljubljana Castle!

Also, in Congress Square, there is the Museum of Illusions, a fun way to spend some time among optical effects and puzzles.

Metelkova, the alternative culture center

A bit outside the medioeval city center, near the train station, there is Metelkova. It’s a small alternative cultural center, which is usually compared to the Danish Christania. Here, various artistic, cultural and creative events, as well as alternative music concerts take place. In the nearby there is also a guesthouse, which originally was a prison.

Ending the day on a cruise on Ljubljanica

I recommend trying to take part to a relaxing river cruise. Ships leave almost everywhere along the Ljubljanica and the tickets (about € 10) can be purchased directly before the departure on the docks. In winter, the boats are also heated.

I loved Ljubljana! It’s woth a visit for sure!

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