The Europe Mini-Tour: Ljubljana

In the summer of 2017, I planned a Mini-Tour of Europe with my boyfriend at the time. We decided to do 4 European cities over 2 and a half weeks, mainly travelling by bus between these centres. This mini-series of blog posts focusses on the four cities we visited, and my personal recommendations and highlights! I’ll delve a little bit into travel options along the way too.

Incase you missed it, our first stop on the trip was Prague, and you can read all about that here. We then hopped on a FlixBus from Prague to Vienna; you can read all about Vienna here. From Vienna, we again hopped on a FlixBus from the wonderful Austrian capital to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

If you want to know all about FlixBus, and my experience with the company, you can read about what I thought here.

Rather than staying in an Airbnb, like other stops so far, in Ljubljana they seemed to be lacking, so we opted for a hostel instead. We got a private room in Hostel Sleeping Beauty. As the hostel itself admits, it’s not the most modern or flashy hostel, it is small, old and family run. But the rooms are cosy, in good working order and have all the amenities you need. Our double room was on the bottom floor, and had a shared bathroom just next door which was clean and had good hot water. The room was quite large, with good space but no windows due to its location on the bottom floor. Overall, the hostel was well priced, and given the lack of cheap accommodation options in Ljubljana’s centre, I was very content with our choice.

Day One –

We arrived in Ljubljana in the late morning and after dumping our stuff as our hostel, decided to go for a walk to get a feel for our new destination. We walked through the town square, and all the little alleys with shops, cafes and restaurants, and took in this new city.

Ljubljana streets.

After a lot of walking, we stopped at a cafe on the river, the Ljubljanica, to have cake. The cafe was called Cacao, and had a really nice atmosphere to stop for a pause after a lot of walking.

We spent the rest of the day exploring and planning, as we were planning a day trip (as will be mentioned later), so wanted to assess all our options for this.

For dinner we headed to a restaurant called Gostilna Pri Kolauratu, which we just found on a whim, and happens to be the oldest restaurant in Ljubljana’s town centre. They serve traditional Slovenian food and wine, and the inside of the restaurant is in an old style, making it feel very authentic. We opted for the very good set menu, with traditional food, and we were not disappointed. The staff were all friendly and helpful too, and I would definitely visit again.

Day Two –

On the start of our second day, we had breakfast at Skuhna: a very interesting restaurant in the heart of Ljubljana. Skuhna is interesting not only because the food is great, but also because of their ethos. They offer homemade dishes from Africa, Asia and South America, prepared by migrants and based on their heritage. The food is great and reasonably priced, so this restaurant is definitely worth a visit any time of day!

Having had such great luck with walking tours in Prague, we decided to do the same to see the best of Ljubljana. Ljubljana is quite different from Prague, a lot smaller, and less to see quite frankly, be we still had a really enjoyable walk around the city with a very knowledgable guide, and learnt lots/saw lots we never would have known/seen without going on the walking tour. Again, it was just something you could book online and pay however much you wanted, so a real bargain of an outing!

One of the many dragon statues in Ljubljana. Dragon symbols have existed in Ljubljana since the ancient times, due to the legend that Jason, a Greek mythological hero, founded Ljubljana and defeated a dragon that lived on the banks of the river. You certainly won’t miss this symbol dotted everywhere, even in the architecture, when you visit.

For lunch, we visited Ljubljana’s Central Market. This open air market is situated between two squares and along the river, making it an idyllic spot for a market. More that just a shopping area, this market was used as a place for locals to meet for years. During the summer months, there is also an open air food market, called ‘Open Kitchen‘. Slovenian restaurant chefs prepare dishes from all over the world. This is not a spot to be missed, and the variety of food on offer is incredible and delicious… You will see in the rest of this post that we really could not stop going back for more! Our lunch was from Super Hrust, as pictured below, featuring delicious pork, potatoes and vegetables, but there were loads of different options available!

After lunch we headed to one of the key landmarks of Ljubljana: Ljubljana Castle. The castle is set on a hill about downtown Ljubljana, providing wonderful views of the whole city. You can either walk up to the castle, or get the funicular railway, which is what we opted for! The castle and funicular are both reasonably priced, and are worth it for the views over the city, as well as the history within the castle itself. The funicular is also a fun journey, and nice change to usual modes of transport.

Views over Ljubljana from the castle.

We then headed back to Central Market to grab some cake, as they had plenty of gluten/dairy free providers, therefore creating a haven for me! One of note was the Barbarella stall, which had vegan and gluten-free cheesecake which I really couldn’t resist!

Then we headed off to Tivoli Park. This is the largest park in Ljubljana, stretching right into the centre. The park stretches over 5-square kilometres, and has numerous statues, fountains and flowerbeds, making it a really enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing place to visit. If you’re looking for some nature and green expanse whilst in Ljubljana, this is where you want to go.

That evening we had dinner at Klobsarna, a tiny restaurant in the centre of the town. The restaurant is almost literally the size of a cardboard box, but is famous for its locally made sausage, and if you like sausage and soup it is perfect, especially on a cold day, but if you’re not a fan of either, it’s not the place for you, as the menu options are very limited. I opted for sausage soup and bread, and really it was delicious!

Day Three –

Our last day in Slovenia, and a part I had really been looking forward to on our trip. I had a lot of friends who had been interailing or similar during their gap years, and when they spoke about Slovenia, they always raved about Lake Bled, a lake 55-km from the capital city. Photos of it had always seems amazing and we decided, as it was so close, we definitely wanted to visit. So, we looked through a lot of options of day trips, and ended up finding one online called ‘Alpine Fairy Tale Tour‘. It was a full day, with pick up and drop off from/at your accommodation, and hit Lake Bled, along with many other interesting attractions as you’ll see on the itinerary below.

So after pick up from our hostel, we headed to Skofia Loca, a medieval town. This was a very beautiful town, with lots of history that was told to us by our guide, and we had a lovely time exploring the city for an hour or so. We stopped to eat a meat Burek (a traditional European pastry), and headed back onto the bus for our next stop.

Skofia Loca (medieval town)
Skofia Loca (medieval town).

Next we headed to what we thought was our main attraction: Lake Bled. Lake Bled truly is beautiful, a calm flat lake with an island in the middle featuring a church. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best weather on this day, but still the view was amazing. We got a Pletna boat ride to island. These are traditional boats which are pictured below. When we arrived on the island we got to walk up the many steps (there are exactly 99) to the church, where people who wanted to could make a wish and ring the bell. We opted to sit in one of the cafe’s and have cake whilst taking in the beautiful views, and then we had a nice walk around the island.

Bled Island/church
Traditional Pletna boats.

Next we headed to a restaurant next to Lake Bohinj, another nearby lake which was to be out next stop. We had lunch that was included with the tour, and was really nothing great and definitely a part of the otherwise amazing trip that we could have gone without.

Then we headed to the actual Lake Bohinj. This is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia, and is part of the Triglav National park. In my opinion, Bohinj is severely underrated compared to Lake Bled, and I much preffered this destination. The lake water was crystal clear and beautiful, and the mountains and flora/fauna that surrounded it really were beautiful. If I had to choose between visiting Lake Bled, which is full of tourists and quite small, and visiting Bohinj, I would definitely pick the latter. It is a popular spot for day trippers and Slovenian holiday makers, who use the lake to do water sports, and there’s plenty of camping and other accommodation around. We walked around the lake and took in its beauty for a while before heading on.

Lake Bohinj
Me at Lake Bohinj

The next stop on the day trip was Bled Castle. Bled Castle overlooks Lake Bled, and is built high into a hill, meaning it has wonderful views. The castle is a historical museum now, built within the original medieval castle, and provided a great opportunity for historical learning, as well as some great landscapes and photography opportunities. We really enjoyed the museum and the views and definitely got to know more about Slovenia and Bled’s history!

The last stop of our day tour was the Vintgar Gorge Walk, located in Triglav National Park. This was one of my other favourite parts of the tour, letting us walk at our own pace through the natural gorge that made me truly feel part of nature, which I hadn’t felt a lot this trip as we had mostly been in built up cities. The gorge has been calved out by the river Radovna, and there are 1.6kms of boardwalks crossing the gorge. There is a small charge for access to the walk, but it was really worth it to view the spectacle, and the walk is easy enough for most abilities. There were not too many people around when we went, which I think was definitely an asset to our experience.

Vintgar Gorge Walk

Then, it was time to return back to Ljubljana. We were dropped back, and felt. very tired after a long day of activities, so we headed out for a bit of dinner and planned an early night ahead of our onwards journey the next day. We decided to have dinner at Street Food Valentin, an amazing fish restaurant with very reasonable prices. The fish was delicious, and there was lots of choice and I would definitely eat here again.

We headed to bed, reading to wake up early for our connecting trip the next morning to Budapest in Hungary, our final stop on the mini-tour of Europe!

Ljubljana was a really interesting place for me, and I can definitely see myself heading back to Slovenia in the future, however I would probably opt for Lake Bohinj, or somewhere with more surrounding nature in Slovenia, as I found it so beautiful. I could definitely spend some more time in Ljubljana, but I felt less like I had missed out on things unlike Prague or Vienna, where the time was so short I didn’t get to do it all.

I hope this post has given you some advice or ideas about things you would like to do in Slovenia, and that visiting is definitely a great idea!

Look out for the the next last post in this series, all about Hungary’s capital city: Budapest, coming soon.

If you have any questions or want more information about my experience of Ljubljana, or anything else, you can always contact me here! Hope you enjoyed reading and look out for new posts coming soon, or head over to my Instagram for more travel related content.

Love, Amy @thisgingertravels x

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