12 Best Things to Do in Ljubljana: Not Another Generic List!
I love charming small cities that are full of character and friendly locals, and Ljubljana in Slovenia is one of them. From open markets, amazing local food & wine, and unique historical architecture, there is plenty to see and do in this adorable city. Read on to find out our 12 best things to do in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
In This Guide
- 01- Attend the weekly Open Kitchen
- 02- Seek out the local eats
- 03- Get fresh milk from a vending machine
- 04- Visit the famous bridges
- 05- Spend a few hours at House of Illusions
- 06- Drink the best water from one of the fountains
- 07- Check out the street art
- 08- Sample Slovenian wine at Wine Bar Suklje
- 09- Grab a coffee at this little gem
- 10- Visit Preseren Square
- 11- Stroll along Cankarjevo Nabrezje
- 12- Enjoy a day trip
- Where to stay in Ljubljana
- When to visit
- How much time to spend
- How to get to Ljubljana
- How to get around
- Final thoughts
Attend the Weekly Open Kitchen
Open Kitchen in Ljubljana
We purposely structured our itinerary to be in Ljubljana on a Friday. Why? Because that is when the Open Kitchen is held. I love food & wine festivals! This gourmet market started in 2013 and brings together all the best foodie shops across Slovenia.
Slovenia is truly becoming a top culinary destination! With over 60 vendors offering everything from traditional Slovenian food to street food to modern experiments, you will be spoiled for choice. Of course, there is plenty of craft beer and delicious local wine to pair with some of these mouth-watering dishes. Pick your dish, grab a drink, and find a spot to sit and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
We actually ate lunch AND dinner there because of all the great options. The market runs the majority of the day from March – October at Pogačarjev trg square. Please check the hours before you go since times can change. The market also only runs when the weather is agreeable. Luckily, we were there on a beautiful sunny day in May.
Here are the foodie stops you should stop by:
Pop’s Place at Open Kitchen in Ljubljana
The Original Boss Burger at Pop’s Place
One of our top choices was Pop’s Place. With a slogan that states “The Best Dammed Burger You’ll Ever Eat,” we had high expectations. I will say we have tasted many incredible burgers in our travels, and so far this burger is truly the best!
Order their signature “Original Boss” Burger. This burger is a dry-aged beef blend with onion marmalade, English Stilton cheese, and truffle aioli all served on a fresh brioche bun. I am salivating now as I write about this experience. Incredibly juicy and flavorful. We may travel back to Ljubljana just for this burger.
Movia wine list at Open Kitchen in Ljubljana
Movia Merlot and Veliko Rdece
To wash all this deliciousness down, we paired our burger with a few excellent red wine choices from Movia including the Merlot and Veliko Rdece (a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir). Movia’s charismatic winemaker, Ales Kristancic, is part of the reason why Slovenian wine is increasingly becoming more well known in the world of wine.
TRY THE PURO!
Ales’ large family-owned winery straddles both Italy and Slovenia, and it incorporates organic and biodynamic farming practices in the winemaking. He is known for his sparkling wine called Puro, which is made from Chardonnay and Ribolla and Puro Rose, which is made from Pinot Noir. Puro was not offered at the Open Kitchen but next time we are in Ljubljana I hope to try it at Ales’ wine bar, Vinoteka Movia.
A unique feature of his sparkling winemaking is he does not remove the sediment (dead yeast particles) before bottling. These dead yeast cells release fatty acids, which give the wine a creamier, richer flavor. The wine continues to mature in the bottle until you are ready to open it.
Now opening the bottle is the fun part. Look up “Movia Puro Opening” on YouTube, and you will find a lot of videos on the dramatic uncorking of this unique wine.
Roasted pork and vegetables at Super Hrust
Another great food choice we tried was from Super Hrust. They are known for their delicious roasted pork and lamb served with fresh vegetables.
Belgian waffle with gelato
For dessert, we can highly recommend Gelateria Romantika. Scarfing down a Belgian waffle with gelato, chocolate shavings, and peanuts was worth every calorie!
When I looked at the list of vendors for the Open Kitchen, I was excited to see JB Restaurant listed as one of them. Chef Janez Bratovz is considered one of the pioneers of Slovenian modern fine dining. When we went, we could not find them, but I would love to dine at JB Restaurant in the future.
Seek Out the Local Eats
Carniolan sausage with mustard, horseradish, and a fresh roll
This special sausage is one of the most well-known traditional Slovenian foods. The recipe dates back to the 19th century, and only 11 certified manufacturers make them today according to that original recipe. The recipe includes high-quality pork, hard bacon, garlic, pepper, salt, and pig’s intestine.
We checked out Klobasarna. You will not miss it. There is a huge sausage hanging off the building marking the entrance. The only thing on the menu is the Carniolan sausage. I love finding places that serve only one dish because it is known for being the best. This Slovenian “fast food” is served with a fresh Kaiser roll, mustard, and horseradish.
ZLIKROFI (STUFFED DUMPLINGS)
Zlikrofi with lamb ragout at Penzion Berc
Idrijski zlikrofi is the national dish of Slovenia! Idrija is the mining town this local delicacy originates from.
These little dough pockets consist of two thin layers of pasta that are pressed together and stuffed inside with potatoes, onions, crackling pork fat or minced lard and smoked bacon, and spices. Bakalca is a common sauce served with this pasta, which is made with lamb and vegetables or mutton or rabbit.
The weekly Open Kitchen serves this unique dish, but we actually had it while staying at Penzion Berc in Lake Bled. Delicious!
Wan to know more about what delicious local foods to try? Check out my foodie guide below.
Get Fresh Milk from a Vending Machine
Mlekomat vending machine in Ljubljana
We have been to Japan, which is known for its unique items you can purchase from a vending machine. Need a shirt? No problem. What about a shot of sake before boarding a train? Japan has you covered. However, I have never seen raw milk as a vending machine item until I went to Ljubljana!
Slovenia has been offering “farm to table” food way before this concept became popular among foodies. One prime example is the ability to buy raw milk from a vending machine straight from the farmer. Individual farmers actually own each vending machine.
Let me introduce you to the Mlekomat. These 24-hour vending machines are dotted around Ljubljana, and a few are located in the surrounding areas of the capital city. The milk is changed every 24 hours, and the dispenser is disinfected with a UV light. The temperature is constantly being checked by the vending machine’s software and will not dispense milk if it rises past a certain temperature.
You can bring your own jar, or you can purchase one at the machine, which we did. After selecting the quantity we wanted, we inserted the coins and pressed the start button. Out comes fresh non-homogenized, non-pasteurized milk ready to take home!
Because the milk is non-homogenized (the fat molecules are not separated but are allowed to rise to the top into a creamy layer), the taste of the milk was richer and sweeter. It tasted quite good, and no, I did not get sick. However, I would advise purchasing a sweet snack to pair with it.
Visit the Famous Bridges
When most people think of Ljubljana, they think of the quintessential statues of the four dragons guarding the bridge. The Dragon Bridge is considered a classic example of Art Nouveau architecture and is the first reinforced concrete structure in Ljubljana.
COBBLER'S (SHOEMAKER'S) BRIDGE
The bridge was named for the space it used to provide for the cobbler’s workshops. It has different-sized pillars aligning the bridge, giving its unique appearance.
Padlocks on Butcher’s Bridge
Aka the Love Bridge. You will see multiple padlocks of all shapes and colors aligning the steel wires on this bridge, where lovers symbolically secure their padlock and throw away the key into the river below.
Franciscan Church and Triple Bridge at night (photo taken from the Fishmarket Bridge)
Why do you need 3 bridges right beside each other?
When the central bridge was constructed in 1842, it was not wide enough to accommodate both cars and pedestrians. Two more bridges were completed in 1932 that flank the central bridge to allow for pedestrian traffic. All three bridges became pedestrian-only in 2007.
The Triple Bridge is absolutely gorgeous when all lit up at night. Walk one bridge down from the Triple Bridge, and you will reach the Fishmarket Bridge (Ribja Brv). This bridge is minimal in design with transparent sides. This is a great spot to take pictures of the Triple Bridge and the beautiful pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation both day and night.
Most people are familiar with Antoni Gaudi as the famous Catalan architect of La Sagrada Familia and many other famous structures around Barcelona. Have you heard though of Joze Plecnik? He is basically like the Gaudi of Ljubljana.
He was the well-known Slovene architect responsible for many of Ljubljana’s beautiful structures including the Triple Bridge, Cobbler’s Bridge, and the Central Market.
Spend a Few Hours at the House of Illusions
This is not only for kids but for adults too! We loved going through all the 40+ exhibits at the House of Illusions. These exhibits will trick your brain and senses. I am not a museum-kind of person, but I really enjoyed this place.
I highly suggest spending a few hours here. They are open daily from 9 am – 9 pm. The cost is 8 euros.
Here were some of our favorite exhibits:
Round 1 of Face Mashup
Round 2 of Face Mashup
One of my favorite exhibits! Ready to see what you would look like if you swap parts of your face with your best friend or partner? We had fun playing around in this exhibit.
HEAD ON A PLATE
Head on a plate exhibit
Hungry? This is a playful exhibit to look like you are what’s for dinner.
UPSIDE DOWN ROOM
Upside Down Room … you can feel like spiderman
Defy gravity! Snap a photo, and it looks like you are walking/standing/sitting/crawling on the ceiling.
Drink the Best Water from One of the Fountains
The water in Slovenia is of high quality. You can drink directly from the water fountains found throughout Ljubljana during the warmer months (usually from April – October). You can find the nearest water fountain by downloading the app Tap Water Ljubljana.
One of our favorite water fountains in Ljubljana is shaped like a kangaroo and is found in front of the Puppet Theatre.
Kangaroo water fountain
Our other favorite water fountain is found on a narrow alley called Locksmith Street. Along this cobblestone street is a long stretch of 700+ bronze expressive little faces staring at you. When you look closely, you can see some faces are happy, some are sad, and some are angry.
All of these little faces culminate at the end in the form of a hand perched on top of a stone slab. When you turn the fountain on, water pours out of one of the fingers. Quite an interesting art installation!
Look closely. Those are not stones but little faces!
Definitely a unique water fountain!
Check Out the Street Art
Republic of Rog Street Art
The most popular area to check out the street art is around the buildings off of Metelkova Street called Metelkova Mesto. Originally a military headquarters, it is now home to a diverse group of artists, students, and activists who offer art exhibitions, cultural events, underground music, and performances. It is officially a national cultural heritage site.
By day, you can view street art and visit the art galleries. By night, you can go to the bars and clubs for a more lively atmosphere. Metelkova’s goal is to unite people with different backgrounds through art and music.
We did not visit Metelkova Mesto, but we did check out The Republic of Rog, which is an abandoned factory that used to make bicycles until 1991. Artists, students, and activists decided to occupy the space and now hold cultural events.
The complex contains art galleries, a social center, concert venues, and skate parks. You can view the street art both inside the grounds and along the long wall running along the property. It appears the city is planning to renovate the area despite protests from the squatters. Time will tell. For now, the street art is celebrated. Ljubljana even held its first International Street Art Festival in 2019.
Sample Slovenian Wine at Wine Bar Suklje
Wine Bar Suklje
Boasting over 300 different Slovenian and international wines, Wine Bar Suklje is a lively place to relax, unwind, and sample some local wine. They rotate their wine lists monthly, so you have the opportunity to always try something new.
If you do not have the time to check out wine country in Slovenia (which I highly recommend you do!), this is a great way to be introduced to local Slovenian wine.
We ordered a few wine flights to experience several different types of Slovenian wine, which was a fun experience. Wine varietals to try are Rebula, Zelen, Cvicek, Radgona sparkling wine, and a special Slovenian wine called Teran.
The staff are very knowledgeable in guiding you in your choices. Great service, excellent wine, and good vibes.
Grab a Coffee at This Little Gem
Crno Zrno coffee shop
Put Crno Zrno on your list! This small tastefully decorated space in Ljubljana’s old town center offers some of the best coffee in Slovenia. With beautiful blue-tiled floors and arched ceilings, this pocket-sized shop immediately draws you inside.
Crno Zrno translates to Black Bean. Columbian ex-pat owner, Alex Niño Ruiz, sources his beans directly from the farmers in Columbia. You must try a cold brew served in a wine glass. Absolutely delicious!
Cold brew coffee at Crno Zrno
Coffee served in a wine glass at Crno Zrno
Visit Preseren Square
Although you cannot see it directly in this photo, Preseren Square sits right in front of the pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation
Preseren Square was named after Slovenia’s well-known poet, France Preseren. This beautiful cobblestone-paved square includes well-known landmarks such as the pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and the Triple Bridge. It is usually fairly busy as both tourists and locals alike enjoy using it as a place to take in the views, socialize, and watch the talented street performers and musicians.
I loved walking around at night when everything lights up. Ljubljana is an incredibly romantic city. It reminds me a little of Venice with its beautifully crafted bridges and winding canals.
We stayed a mere 1 minute walk away from Preseren Square at the charming Grand Hotel Union. The location was incredible and very accessible to all the highlights of the city.
Stroll Along Cankarjevo Nabrezje
Cankarjevo Nabrežje is a long promenade that hugs the river and is dotted with many cafes, shops, and dining establishments. On a nice day, it’s great for a leisurely stroll and people-watching.
Another beautiful street is Gornji trg. This cobblestoned street is located in one of the quieter corners of the old town. This is where the specialty coffee shop (Crno Zrno) we loved is located.
Enjoy a Day Trip from Ljubljana
There are several activities you can enjoy as a day trip if you use Ljubljana as your base. Personally, I recommend renting a car and driving in a counterclockwise circle around Slovenia to explore the gorgeous countryside. However, if you are short on time, here are a few highlights you can see that are within an hour’s drive of the capital city.
Lake Bled in Slovenia
There is a reason this magical place is on everyone’s must-see list. This beautiful alpine lake is set in the most idyllic setting. If you enjoy hiking, you can hike up to a lovely view that overlooks Lake Bled. In the summer, you can actually swim in the water.
You can also check out the nearby Vintgar Gorge, which has a series of wooden walkways and bridges crisscrossing the turquoise waters of the river below. If interested in finding out what other activities are not to be missed, check out my article on Lake Bled below.
Predjama Castle holds the distinction of the world’s largest cave castle. It is even listed in the Guinness World Records. This castle is four stories tall and built directly into a rocky cliff face.
It is pretty dramatic in appearance and unlike any castle I have ever seen. Definitely worth a stop. If you do not want to purchase a ticket to enter, you can at least drive up to it and snap a few great photos.
SLOVENIAN WINE COUNTRY
Slovenian wine country
Personally, I would recommend staying for several days in Slovenia wine country. It is absolutely stunning and often described as Little Tuscany. Check out my full guide on where to stay, dine, and sipe wine.
If you are short on time though, you can take a full-day wine tour from Ljubljana to Vipava Valley to enjoy some tastings and meet the winemakers.
Alternatively, book a wine tour with Winestronaut if you are already staying in wine country. Our very friendly guide named Jani really made our wine tour a lot of fun.
Where to Stay in Ljubljana
GRAND HOTEL UNION
We stayed at this beautiful historic hotel, which was located right in the heart of the city next to Preseren Square. Grand Hotel Union was constructed in 1905 and is full of Art Noveau character. It offers plenty of amenities such as a gym, indoor pool, and spa. The staff goes out of their way to make sure you feel that Slovenian hospitality.
Grand Hotel Union bedroom
Grand Hotel Union room with balcony
The only other hotel we considered when trying to make our choice on accommodations was Hotel Cubo. It is a boutique hotel with a cool, modern, sexy vibe and is also located in the heart of the city. Another solid choice if you are trying to decide where to stay.
When to Visit Ljubljana
My husband and I love to visit a city during the shoulder seasons! You get cheaper prices and fewer crowds!
Apri/May and September/October are the ideal months. June/July/August are the peak summer months. June has the most rainfall compared to the other months. April/May has a little less average rainfall compared to September-October. We went in May and had great weather. There were some crowds but nothing overwhelming.
How Much Time to Spend in Ljubljana
For a leisure exploration of the city, I would advise 2 nights/3 days.
We only stayed 1 night, which was doable but felt a little rushed. If we had stayed 2 nights I would have included a few more activities like biking in Tivoli Park. I also would have loved dining at either Strelec, JB Restaurant, or Atelji. Atelji just received 1 Michelin star! Slovenia is finally getting recognized for its amazing culinary scene.
How to Get to Ljubljana
Ljubljana is actually very close to Venice, Italy, and Zagreb, Croatia. We started in Zagreb, Croatia to visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park (which is jaw-dropping beautiful by the way!) and then took a 2 hr. 20 min. train ride to Ljubljana to pick up a rental car and start our road trip around Slovenia.
Our train ticket cost from Zagreb to Ljubljana in first class was $45 USD a person. We had our own train cabin to ourselves, which was very clean and comfortable. And we didn’t have to get off the train to go through customs and immigration when passing from Croatia to Slovenia. They come to you! Seamless!
First-class train cabin from Zagreb to Ljubljana
Alternatively, you can fly into Ljubljana Joze Pucnik Airport. From the United States, most will fly into Ljubljana via Poland, France, London-Heathrow, Brussels, Zurich, or Frankfurt/Munich.
How to Get Around Ljubljana
Walk! You do not need a car when you are in the city.
We did a road trip throughout Slovenia, so we did end up renting a car through Atet, a local Slovenian company. They were incredibly professional and had wonderful service! I can highly recommend them. Forget the big names like Hertz or Budget and go local. Read the awesome reviews to see for yourself.
In my opinion, Ljubljana is a completely underrated city. It offers stunning architecture, local flavorful food, and amazing wine. I would highly advise making this amazing city as the finale to an amazing road trip around Slovenia. We cannot wait to go back!
Questions about our best things to do in in Ljubljana?
Let me know in the comments below!