The Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana is a delight. Much of the centre is pedestrianised, clean and peaceful with beautiful architecture lining streets that lead to attractive squares filled with locals enjoying life.
As you explore, you’ll love the friendly, calm atmosphere and the warm smiles you’ll be met with. Hiring a bike is very easy and the provision of safe bicycle lanes means that getting around is a breeze.
Ljubljana is a city that feel youthful, progressive and clean-cut. Locals appear to be living well and are happy to share the good life with tourists, who are visiting in slowly increasing numbers.
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8 things to see & do in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is a city that’s packed with great things to see and do. It’s a perfect a short city break or as part of a longer trip to Slovenia.
Based on our own experiences, here are a number of things that we recommend you see and do during your visit to Ljubljana.
Get a Ljubljana Card
Before your start exploring Ljubljana, we highly recommend getting yourself a Ljubljana card. This great-value city card will give your free access to a number of attractions, as well as unlimited bus rides during your stay.
Before you buy one, make sure you check out the benefits in full and ensure you will make an overall saving. In our opinion, most visitors will.
You can buy your Ljubljana card in person from one of the Tourist Information Centres in the city centre, or you can buy in advance online and save 10%.
Enjoy views and drinks at the top of Nebotičnik (the Skyscraper)
Built in 1933, this neoclassical and art-deco high-rise is one of Ljubljana’s most recognisable buildings. At only thirteen storeys, it’s a push to refer to it as a skyscraper to be honest. For Ljubljana though, a city that generally doesn’t do tall buildings, it’s the closest that comes to scraping the sky.
At the top is a pleasant cafe/bar that serves reasonably priced drinks and snacks and offers wonderful views of the city. To get there, you can take an ageing lift or you can ascend ten of the floors via a spiral staircase that winds up the centre of the building. The entrance lobby and the lifts are small and dimly lit, so you’d be forgiven for wondering whether you’re in the right place. Persevere though and you’ll be rewarded.
There’s no need for a reservation, no entrance fee and no pressure to buy drinks once you’re at the top. We’d encourage you though to stick around, enjoy the views with a shot of blueberry or walnut liquor and relax.
Get a taste (and smell) of local life at the Central Market
Similarly to many cities across Europe, you can get an authentic taste of local life in Ljubljana at its market stalls. A large square adjacent to the Ljubljanica River is home to an extensive collection of traders, selling locally-sourced fruit and vegetables, meats, freshly-baked breads, biscuits, pastries, cheeses and locally-grown olives.
Running along the banks of the river is a set of two covered market halls designed by famous Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik. Inside, you’ll find more boutiques and stalls selling local handcraft and gourmet foods, as well as the DobraVaga Art Gallery.
On the basement floor of the covered market is a well-hidden fish market that, seemingly only locals know about.
Pro tips: Slovenian cherries are delicious and, provided your visit coincides with the cherry-picking season, you should pick up a punnet. Additionally, we recommend treating yourself to a packed lunch of bits you’ve sourced from the market. You’ll eat locally, save yourself some money and you’ll be supporting local businesses and farmers.
Sail/canoe/paddleboard up the Ljubljanica River
The emerald green waters of the Ljubljanica River flow calmly through the centre of the city, providing residents and visitors an easy escape from modern life (not that life in Ljubljana is particularly stressful).
There are a number of ways to get onto the water and, for most tourists, the easiest is to take a river cruise. The cruise launches from the centre of the city (address above) and sails southbound, leaving the city centre fairly quickly and into attractive, leafy suburbs. On the way, you’ll pass underneath many of Ljubljana’s finest bridges and you’ll see first-hand just how much the locals enjoy getting on the water.
Booking is not required. Simply find the sign and speak to staff to find out when the next sailing is and whether they have room for you.
In the Summer months, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) and kayaking are both great options for seeing the city.
Free with a Ljubljana card: Card holders get a free ride on the tourist boat.
Enjoy art, culture and nights out at Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Centre
In September 1993, former army barracks were squatted by around 200 individuals representing Ljubljana’s underground art, culture and intellectual scene. Since then, despite legal challenges, the area has developed into a cultural centre with the purpose of nurturing art and sub-culture and being a base for a number of organisations and groups, many of which representing minorities and the maligned. In 2005, the site was officially recognised as a site of national cultural heritage.
The site has two identities defined by the time of day. During daylight, the site is a gallery and workshop. Feel free the wander around and enjoy the murals and sculptures and see the artists as they create. During darkness, the site welcomes everyone, no matter who you are, to its multiple nightclubs and bars.
Get unique and close-up views of wildlife at Ljubljana Zoo
This small zoo on the outskirts of the city centre is one of the best zoos we’ve ever been to. While the site itself is compact, the enclosures are very large and natural, giving the animals plenty of room to roam, easy access to privacy and something close to how they might live in the real world.
We visited late in the afternoon on a weekday and enjoyed much of the zoo to ourselves, giving us unrestricted and intimate views of the animals. The most impressive enclosure is the one housing Lynx. It is enormous and was designed to allow this secretive animal to hide amidst the thick undergrowth should it wish to. Since the zoo was so quiet during our visit, the Lynx felt brave enough to show itself to us – a true privilege.
The giraffe house if also something you shouldn’t miss. A viewing platform at the giraffe’s head height and right in front of their feeding boxes allows a rare and unique insight into their beauty.
Free with a Ljubljana card: Card holders get into the zoo for free and can get there by bus for free too.
Getting to the Zoo: Bus 18/18L will take you from the city centre directly the the zoo’s entrance gate.
Take the funicular up to Ljubljana Castle
Depicted on the city’s coat of arms and visible all over the city, Ljubljana Castle is the city’s most recognisable icon and easily its most touristy attraction.
While we generally like to focus on less explored places, we’re not completely averse to visiting the tourist highlights. Perched on Castle Hill, the 15th century castle is great fun to explore and provides fantastic views of the city. As well as the castle itself, you’ll find a number of exhibitions and a Puppet Museum.
Free with a Ljubljana card: Card holders can ride the funicular for free in both directions, though will still need to pay for admission to the castle.
Enjoy local culinary delights at the Open Kitchen
Foodies will love Ljubljana’s restaurants cafes and bistros, particularly those serving traditional Slovenian dishes with a contemporary twist and Slovenian interpretations of global cuisine. With so many great eateries to choose from, it can be tricky ensuring you get a good overview of the food scene. Thankfully though, there is a way.
Open Kitchen is an open air food market, taking place on dry and sunny Fridays in the Summer months in a square adjacent to Ljubljana Cathedral. The market stalls are operated by local restauranteurs who bring with them a small selection of the dishes they serve in their establishments.
If you want to be able to sample a wide variety of dishes in one sitting, Open Kitchen is ideal.
Find out more: In ‘Open Kitchen: Ljubljana’s Fabulous Outdoor Street Food Market‘, we go into more detail about our visit to Open Kitchen.
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Plan & Book your visit to Ljubljana
In this section, we’ll go through how you can plan and book your visit to Ljubljana.
Flights to Ljubljana
Skyscanner* is a great place to start your search for the best prices on flights to Ljubljana. They compare fares from multiple airlines and travel agents all at once.Find cheap flights to Ljubljana*
Hotels in Ljubljana
To read reviews and to compare prices on the best hotels in Ljubljana, we recommend Tripadvisor*.
Home rentals in Ljubljana
We always encourage our readers to live like a local during their travels. Airbnb makes doing this super easy, providing access to thousands of fabulous homes and wealth of local knowledge.Find places to stay in Ljubljana*
Public Transport in & around Ljubljana
Activities, Tours & Excursions in Ljubljana
Find out more
Discover more in our other posts on Ljubljana.