With cobbled streets and bridges guarded by dragons, Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, is a charming place for a city break.
When my travel companion suggested we visit this European city, I must admit that I didn’t know where it was.
We both eagerly researched the best things to do in Ljubljana on a 3-night break and discovered a fairytale castle, medieval streets, a local market, riverside cafes and, of course, dragons! Armed with this information, we booked our flights and headed for a weekend away to this delightful Eastern European city.
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A 3-Night Stay in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a pedestrian city and is perfect for a weekend break. The old town is small enough to wander around in one day, and trips to Lake Bled and Predjama Castle can easily be reached from the city centre.
Pre-book a private airport transfer to take the hassle out of getting to your hotel.
The Dragons of Ljubljana
You may be wondering about the link Ljubljana has with dragons. They are the mythical protectors of Ljubljana and sit on each side of the Dragon Bridge. You will see them displayed on Ljubljana’s coat of arms, symbolising power, courage and wisdom.
Walk around the Historic City Centre
Our hotel was in the modern part of Ljubljana, and so to enter the old medieval side, we had to cross Preseren Square and the Triple Bridge. The great mixture of art nouveau and baroque architecture is mainly down to Joze Plecnik.
He is one of the most important pioneers of modern architecture in the world, also shaping the cities of Prague and Vienna. His design influence on the bridges, buildings and facades in Ljubljana is unmissable, making Ljubljana one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe.
Eat Authentic Slovenian Food
Our city break in Ljubljana started on a Friday, giving us the chance to check out the Friday Open Kitchen food market. Experience the delights of freshly cooked traditional food prepared by Slovenian chefs, all served from stalls.
The market is a great way to experience local fare and is open on Fridays from March to October. Choose your dish, grab some cutlery, sit on the steps and tuck into some authentic food. Try the Prekmurska Gibanica, a pastry similar to strudel, which was delicious.
Why not book a Ljubljana Food or Wine Tour during your stay?
Hike up to Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle is the main attraction of the city. Standing above the town for 900 years, the castle can be reached by foot or, for the less energetic, the funicular railway. We chose to take the scenic hike up to the top, which was quite challenging, and we kept hoping a friendly passer-by would offer us a piggyback ride to the top, but no such luck.
The view over the orange and red-roofed houses from the tower was worth our effort, and as we watched other visitors exit the funicular, we felt a real sense of resentment, sorry, I mean achievement!
Ljubljana Castle houses an exhibition on Slovenian history, a puppet museum and several medieval rooms that you can view. Still, our favourite was the restaurant where we sipped on a glass of chilled white wine before our slightly easier descent back down the hill.
Old Town Ljubljana
Back on terra firma, we checked out what was in the Old Town. We followed the lattice of cobbled streets that took us to the famous Dragon Bridge. The bridge is a tourist hotspot, and you can’t leave Ljubljana without taking at least one photograph of the dragons.
Legend tells that Jason the Greek (of the golden fleece fame) founded Llubljana after fighting and conquering a dragon that had its home in a nearby Slovenian lake. Afterwards, the dragon became the city’s emblem. Whatever the true story, the dragons, are a crowd-pleaser.
There are also plenty of cultural monuments to visit in the old town. On a Ljubljana walking tour, you will hear about the history and traditions of many of them. A boat trip along the Ljubljanica river is another way to see the beautiful buildings that sit along its embankment.
Discover Strange Local Delights
As we wandered along the streets realised that Ljubljana was one of the places in Slovenia you shouldn’t miss.
We saw things that fascinated us, things we had never encountered before and things that were just downright bizarre, including a machine that dispensed milk into bottles and a sign for human fish beer.
Travel gives you the opportunity for new encounters, which was undoubtedly the case here.
It is a great idea to book an organised tour from Ljubljana to Lake Bled, one of Slovenia’s most beautiful landmarks. Sit back and enjoy your tour of this stunning setting before continuing to the unique Predjama Castle, built into the rock face and Postojna Caves with its baby dragons!
You can read more here about A day trip to Lake Bled, Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves
Ljubljana is so close to these tourist spots that you just can’t come all the way here and miss them. Lake Bled re-kindles childhood fairytales with its hilltop castle and medieval church seated in the middle of a glistening glacial lake. It is in a romantic and surreal location and certainly highlights the beauty of Slovenia.
Predjama Castle has a secret to tell, and the story will unfold once you are within its walls. Constructed into the side of a mountain and fortified to keep invaders at bay, this castle oozes with history and is worth exploring. I booked online to join a Lake Bled tour, Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave which took the hassle away from getting there by ourselves.
Postojna Caves will lead you underground, searching for stalagmites and the “dragons” that live in these caves.
Visit the Sunday Morning Flea Market
Held every Sunday morning along the riverside near Cobbler’s Bridge, a flea market comes to town selling antique goods and bric-a-brac from furniture to WW2 artefacts. Personally, this isn’t something I would typically enjoy, but as we were miles from home, I was pretty interested to see what would be for sale.
We wandered along the banks of the river, quite mesmerised by what was on display, so much WW2 memorabilia, including military war guns, that we hoped were de-commissioned, bullets, Gestapo lapel badges and the like. It gave us an insight into a past life in this area of the world.
We both preferred the calming vibe of the vintage jewellery, clothing and instrument stalls but found it a quirky place to visit on a Sunday morning.
Stay Overnight in a Prison (or visit for the day)
So right now, all sorts of thoughts are running through your mind. What did they do? Have they gone insane? Who would want to do this on a city break?
My travelling companion and I like to search out the strange, odd and sometimes just macabre things when we travel. We are fascinated by graveyards, epitaphs, weird art and anything out of the normal, but Clare also has a hankering for prisons. On the other hand, I had not bargained for a trip to such an establishment while in Ljubljana!
Celica Hostel is in the rather run-down, bohemian area of Ljubljana called Metelkova Mesto. This former area housed an artist squatters colony but is now a cultural and social centre spotlighting street art, music and creativity. Metelkova was reminiscent of Christiania in Copenhagen: an autonomous, alternative community.
Celica had previously held political prisoners but has been re-established as an art hostel, and you can pay to stay the night in a cell. It’s not as bad as it sounds, as the building is full of art and has a great vibe, and I found the quirkiness of the place quite endearing.
Whether or not you plan to stay a night here, it is fascinating to visit. There is an exhibition explaining the 100 years that prisoners were locked up here. If you are fearless, you can go into the solitary confinement cell to experience first-hand how it would have been. We did go in because we are tough old girls, but we found it extraordinarily eerie and very thought-provoking.
My honest opinion of Ljubljana, Slovenia
What month did I travel? September
How was the weather? It was a mix of scattered showers and sunshine.
Would I recommend the hotel? Yes. Slon Hotel was comfortable and a 5-minute walk to the historic city centre.
Would I recommend three days in Ljubljana? The flight is just 2 hours from the UK, making it one of Europe’s best countries to visit for a weekend. I think it is fair to say that Ljubljana packs a punch for a small European capital. I loved the architecture, cafes and the Slovenian countryside.