Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city, is the perfect destination for a European weekend break. The leafy city is a pleasure to explore, with most of its key sights clustered in a compact pedestrianised centre. It’s even possible to see the main sights in a single day, so you'll still have time to also make an excursion to one of Slovenia’s nearby gems, such as Lake Bled or Postojna Cave. Here's our guide to spending two great days in Ljubljana.
Morning: castle views and market treats
Begin your visit by taking the glass-sided funicular from Krekov square up to Ljubljana Castle, which has a commanding position atop the city’s central hill. Climb the 19th-century watchtower for expansive views over the city’s rooftops and explore the various historical exhibitions, before descending back to the city, either on the funicular or via the Študentovska ulica walking path.
At the bottom, cross the road and you’ll find yourself in the large Vodnikov square that hosts Ljubljana’s open-air Central Market, where farmers sell their fruit and vegetables. Bread, meat, cheese, honey, oil and other produce are sold in the adjacent Covered Market, and the Fish Market is right by the riverside in the pretty Plečnik Colonnade, designed by Jože Plečnik, Slovenia’s most famous modern architect. Pick up something to eat for lunch as you explore.
Afternoon: Old Town and riverside wander
After lunch, explore the Old Town, which hugs the base of Castle Hill. The atmospheric main street is actually a series of three contiguous squares. At the first, Mestni Trg, the street widens to accommodate Ljubljana’s Town Hall and Robba Fountain, a large obelisk decorated with three water-pouring titans. At Stari Trg, the heart of the Old Town, the street narrows again and is lined with 19th-century wooden shopfronts. At the start of Gornji Trg the street widens again for Hercules Fountain and curves around to the left.
Follow Stiška ulica down to the Ljubljanica river, then take the riverside path back towards the centre, passing Cobblers’ Bridge on the way (cross over if you fancy – there are paths on both banks). You will eventually come to Triple Bridge, one of Plečnik’s masterpieces. The three-part colonnaded bridge forms a grand approach to Prešernov Trg, Ljubljana’s most beautiful public space. The square is dominated by the picturesque salmon-pink 17th-century Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, flanked by elegant early-20th-century secessionist buildings. In the centre of the square, the Prešeren Monument depicts France Prešeren, Slovenia’s greatest poet.
Evening: local dishes and alternative culture
Recharge for the evening by stopping off for a drink at one of the many cafes and bars that line the banks of the Ljubljanica river. An excellent option is Slovenska Hiša, which offers a strong selection of Slovenian wines, beers, spirits, cocktails, teas, juices, cheeses, charcuterie and other delicacies. Next it’s on to atmospheric Druga Violina in the Old Town to try some excellent and well-priced local dishes, such as ajdova kaša z jurčki (buckwheat groats with ceps).
If you want a big night out and a chance to experience the alternative side of Ljubljana’s culture, you should head to Metelkova Mesto later in the evening (around 11pm or midnight). About 15 minutes’ walk north of the city centre, it’s a former military barracks that was taken over by squatters in the 1990s and now hosts a dozen bars, clubs and live-music venues. The vibe here is strongly countercultural, and if you prefer something more genteel then it’s better to stay in the city centre.
Morning: museums and galleries galore
Today you’ll explore Center, the more modern part of Ljubljana west of the Ljubljanica river. It’s home to most of the city’s excellent museums and galleries, many of which cluster in a small museum district near Trg Republike. For treasures that illuminate the history of Slovenia from prehistoric times to the present day, visit the National Museum of Slovenia. The nearby Museum of Modern Art houses the finest modern and contemporary Slovenian artworks, and the National Gallery of Slovenia has older Slovenian masterpieces.
Afternoon: a jaunt in Tivoli Park
Next, head west along Cankarjeva cesta, through an underpass and into Tivoli Park, the city’s leafy playground. You can explore the 510-hectare park on foot or by bike. If you choose to cycle, you can hire a bike from the Bicike(lj) bike sharing station on Cankarjeva cesta. You’ll need to create an account on the website in advance, then enter your PIN at the terminal.
Either bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the park, or stop off for an ultra-local horse burger at Hot Horse. There are plenty of lawns to picnic on, as well as ornamental flowerbeds, a large pond and huge expanse of hilly forest to explore.
Evening: dinner and a show
In the evening, get tickets for a performance at the Križanke, an open-air theatre in an 18th-century monastery, or one of the two large auditoriums at Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana’s premier cultural venue. Finish your weekend with some Slovenian dishes made from locally sourced seasonal ingredients at Špajza, or grab a craft beer and burger at casual Pop's Place.