Planning a trip to Ljubljana and unsure about what to do? This three-night itinerary shows you all the best things to do in Slovenia’s capital city.
Still flying under the radar of many travellers, Ljubljana is a Baltic city full of Bohemian charm. Bridges guarded by Ljubljana’s famous dragons, a fairytale castle, medieval streets, local bric-a-brac markets and cute riverside cafes make this the perfect destination for a European city break.
Winner of the European union’s green capital in 2016, it is home to the arts with many theatres, museums and galleries. Ljubljana also has one of the oldest philharmonic orchestras in the world.
One of the best things to do in Ljubljana on a 3-night break is to explore the cobbled streets to discover the city’s hidden secrets. Stop in the local cafes for traditional food and watch the world go by at one of the riverside bars.
Further afield, take a day trip to Lake Bled or Predjama Castle, both easily reached from Ljubljana and beautiful places to visit in their own right.
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Helpful Information about Ljubljana
Getting from the airport
For a smooth transfer to the city centre, pre-book your ride with Welcome Airport Pickups.
Where to stay in Ljubljana
I chose to stay in The Sion Hotel on the modern side of Ljubljana, which was only a stone’s throw away from its medieval centre. It offered comfortable rooms, a good breakfast buffet and a charming bar to enjoy a drink after sightseeing in Ljubljana.
Best time to visit Ljubljana
Winter is cold, and snow falls into March, so the best time to visit Ljubljana is mid-spring or autumn. Summer sees many festivals and events, so it is busy with locals and tourists. It can also get quite warm, so not ideal for walking around all day.
I visited in September, and it was a mixture of scattered showers and sunshine. Very much like the UK’s temperamental weather!
Walk around the Historic City Centre
Ljubljana is a walkable city, and its delightful architecture is a large part of its charm. It combines art nouveau and baroque design and is mainly down to one man, architect Joze Plecnik.
He is one of the most important pioneers of modern architecture in the world, also shaping the cities of Prague and Vienna. In Ljubljana, Unesco has recognised his legacy, and parts of the city have been placed on the world heritage list.
His design influence on Ljubljana’s bridges, buildings and facades is unmissable, making the city one of the most beautiful in Eastern Europe.
Crossing Preseren Square, named after the 19th-century Slovene poet, we saw the pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. It is one of the most photographed buildings in Ljubljana.
We continued to the Triple Bridge (three bridges that meet in one spot), which took us into the old part of the city.
Eat Authentic Slovenian Food
Our city break in Ljubljana started on a Friday, allowing us to check out the Friday Open Kitchen Food Market at Pogačarjev Trg Square. Here you can experience the delights of freshly cooked traditional food from Slovenian chefs, all served from stalls.
The market is a great way to experience local fare. It is open on Fridays from March to October from 10 am – 10 pm (or until the stalls sell out!).
Choose your dish, grab some cutlery, sit on the steps and tuck into authentic food. Try the Prekmurska Gibanica, a pastry similar to strudel, which I thought was delicious.
We enjoyed the Friday market and tried a few local dishes. Afterwards, we headed to one of the riverside bars for a coffee.
Explore Ljubljana with fun activities that will help you to immerse yourself in the city
Hike up to Ljubljana Castle
The 13th-century Ljubljana Castle is the main attraction of the city. Standing high above the town, 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 Slovene history, a puppet museum and several medieval rooms that you can view.
Still, our favourite was the restaurant, where we sipped a chilled white wine before our slightly easier descent back down the hill.
You can book online if you would prefer to join a guided tour of Ljubljana Castle, including the funicular ride.
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.
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.
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 Ljubljana 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 45-minute cruise along the Ljubljanica river on the city’s tourist boat is another way to see the beautiful buildings along its embankment. Tickets can be bought from the Ljubljana tourist office.
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 allows you to encounter new encounters, which was undoubtedly the case here.
There was also a stall selling candles in jars to buy and take into Ljubljana cathedral. As someone who always lights a candle to remember loved ones that have passed, I found this a beautiful idea.
From November 2023, travel to Europe from previous non-EU visa-exempt countries (that includes the UK) requires an ETIAS visa waiver.
Exploring Lake Bled, Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves
As Lake Bled is one of Slovenia’s most beautiful landmarks, an organised Lake Bled tour, Predjama Castle, and Postojna Cave tour from Ljubljana is a must.
Ljubljana is so close to these tourist spots that you just can’t come here and miss them. Lake Bled rekindles childhood fairytales with its hilltop castle and medieval church in the middle of a glistening glacial lake.
It is in a romantic and surreal location and certainly highlights the beauty of Slovenia.
You can read more here about A day trip to Lake Bled, Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves.
Predjama Castle is another fascinating place to visit and has a secret to tell; 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.
You can get from Ljubljana to Bled by bus if you prefer travelling independently and only want to see the lake. A guided tour is easier if you also want to see Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves.
When you have finished at Predjama Castle, you will be taken to Postojna Caves, where you will hop aboard a small train which leads you underground. Here you will see stalactites, stalagmites and the “white dragons” that live in these caves. If you wonder what they are, I won’t spoil the surprise; you must see for yourself!
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.
This isn’t something I would typically enjoy, but as we were miles from home, I was interested to see what would be for sale.
We wandered along the river bank, mesmerised by what was on display.
So much was 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.
We also noticed how much modern art was scattered around the city, a real contrast to the old Bohemian structures that give the old city its identity.
Stop for a cocktail in a museum
Ljubljana has many museums, including the National Slovenian Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.
On our way to Metelkova, we stopped at Cafe Moderna at the Museum of Modern Art and enjoyed a few drinks in their garden area. It’s a popular spot for tourists and students.
Stay Overnight in a Prison (or visit for the day)
As someone who gravitates towards graveyards, epitaphs, bone churches, weird art and anything out of the normal, I had to check out this once-political prison!
Celica Hostel is in Ljubljana’s rather run-down, bohemian area 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 reminded me of Christiania in Copenhagen: an autonomous, alternative community I had visited a few years earlier.
Celica had previously held political prisoners but has been re-established as an art hostel, where you can now 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.
You can visit the former prison whether or not you plan to stay a night here. There is an exhibition explaining the 100 years when prisoners were locked up here.
If fearless, you can go into the solitary confinement cell to experience first-hand how it would have been. We went in and found it extraordinarily eerie and thought-provoking.
It reminded me of a similar experience I had at the Port Arthur Historical penal settlement in Tasmania, Australia. Being shut in a dark cell is quite frightening for the faint-hearted.
Not to be confused with the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, this is Ljubljana’s city park. It is just on the outskirts of town and is a nice place for a stroll.
Before heading home after three nights in Ljubljana, try to experience the charming Tivoli Park and watch the families and couples enjoying this beautiful green space during their free time.
My honest opinion of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Is Ljubljana worth visiting for three days? Absolutely! The flight is just 2 hours from the UK, making it one of Europe’s best countries to visit for a weekend.
It is fair to say that Ljubljana packs a punch for a small European capital. I loved the architecture, cafes and the Slovenian countryside. It is a compact, walkable city with something cool to discover around every turn. It’s got a great vibe and, as a university city, also caters for younger visitors with its bars and clubs.
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