Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, is one of the friendliest cities I ever visited. Unlike other European capitals, Ljubljana is small and easy to walk, with lots of attractive places to visit. Sightseeing in Ljubljana is easy as most points of interest are within walking distance from each other.
Best Places to Visit When Sightseeing Ljubljana
Strolling through Ljubljana, even after dark, makes you feel like you are in an amusement park: there is music, lights, and joyous crowds everywhere. The there are always groups of young people walking along the Canal, or gathered for drinks and food at one of the sidewalk cafés, bars or restaurants.
1. Ljubljanica River Canal
The Ljubljanica River Canal is undoubtedly the most attractive and picturesque place to visit when sightseeing Ljubljana! The river meanders through the historic center, flanked by beautiful buildings with an interesting architecture, cozy cafés and romantic restaurants. The Canal was once part of a major trade route, but today is the heart of the city’s social life.
There are people paddle boarding and lots of boats going up and down. some boats offer 45 minute narrated tours in several languages. Some very unique bridges cross the River Canal, like the famous Triple Bridge, Butcher’s Bridge, Dragon’s Bridge and the Cobbler’s Bridge.
2. Prešeren Square
If there’s an event happening in Ljubljana, chance are it will take place in Prešeren Square. This is where the city meets up to celebrate. The place where festivals, carnivals, concerts, and even protests take place.
The existence of the Prešeren Square goes back to the 17th century, when the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation was built. The area was first named St. Mary’s Square, after the church. In the 19th century the square took the name of France Prešeren, the poet who created Slovenia’s national anthem.
3. Franciscan Church of the Annunciation
You cannot fail to notice this salmon-pink landmark in Ljubljana. The Church of the Annunciation provides a beautiful backdrop for most pictures you’ll take in the old town.
The Church of the Annunciation replaced an older church that stood on this site. The current church was built in the second half of the 17th century with the exception of the façade which was built a century later.
The church was originally red, which is the symbolic color of the Franciscan monastic order. In time the color has faded to the current pink that you see today, but the locals liked it so it stayed that way every since.
The interior of the church is grandiose, with one nave, six side altars and a very large choir. The high altar was designed by the Italian sculptor Francesco Robba. Above the altar there is a beautiful painting portraying the scene of the Annunciation.
4. Ljubljana Castle
Perched on top of Castle Hill above the Old Town, the Castle of Ljubljana is hard to miss. Visiting the restored cellars and storerooms is really fun, especially if you are a history lover. There is also a chapel, a prison, a gunpowder room and a lookout tower.
We visited the castle with an audioguide and found it very useful. The guided tour takes visitors through the most significant periods of Ljubljana’s history.
Prices for visiting the castle with funicular and audioguide are:
Children: 10.50 €, Adults: 15.00 €, Family: 36.50 €.
Prices without audioguide are: Children: 9€, Adults: 13€, Family: 31€
If you are looking for a little adventure while visiting the fortress, Ljubljana Castle offers an interacting game with elements of the “escape room.” You’ll have an opportunity to solve some knightly trials and even save the famous Ljubljana dragon!
Tip: If you plan to participate in the Escape Castle adventure, you’ll need to reserve your time slot in advance.
Ticket cost is 13.00 € without funicular and 15.00 € with funicular ticket included.
The castle has two restaurants, restroom facilities, a coffee shop, a gift shop, and a museum. From up here you’ll also have some of the most beautiful vantage points in Ljubljana.
To reach Ljubljana Castle, you can either take the Urban Train or use the the property’s funicular that will take you from Krek Square to the top. If you are in a good physical shape, you can also choose to walk up there from the Ljubljana Old Town. It is however a steep and quite exhausting trek! We used the funicular on the way up and then walked down from the castle.
5. Triple Bridge
One of the biggest attractions in Ljubljana is the Triple Bridge. One end of the bridge end up in Prešeren Square while the other sits within walking distance of the medieval Ljubljana Castle and Ljubljana Cathedral.
This bridge is quite unique, featuring a three-bridge design that includes a central stone bridge and two matching side bridges. Although it’s considered one of the most romantic places in Ljubljana, the Triple Bridge has actually a very practical use: to help bicyclists and pedestrians cross the Ljubljanica River.
6. Dragon Bridge
Flanked by four dragon statues and adorned with parapet lamps, Dragon Bridge is a photographer’s dream! The Ljubljana dragon is a trademark and the symbol of the city and has its roots in an old legend. The dragon is also the mascot of various sports clubs in the capital and appears in many Slovenian tales and songs.
Erected in the early 1900s in Art Nouveau style, Dragon Bridge was the first structure in Slovenia to be paved with asphalt. The concrete bridge replaced an old wooden bridge known as the Butchers’ Bridge, which had stood on its site from 1819.
7. Tivoli Park
Covering an area of approximately five square kilometers, Tivoli Park is the largest green space in Ljubljana. The park stretches from the city center all the way to the slopes of the Rožnik Hill. Not many European cities enjoy this kind of unspoiled nature right in their center. This is a great place to visit in Ljubljana if you have time.
Tivoli Park is crossed by three grand alleys lined with chestnut trees and landscaped with ornamental flower beds and numerous statues and fountains. You can come here to relax, hike, make a picnic, swim, listen to concerts, or skate on ice in the winter. The park has also a small botanical garden.
8. Central Market
The Central Market of Ljubljana is lovely bustling place, with a vast array of fruit, vegetables, honey and other wares. It’s an interesting place to soak in the local culture and atmosphere, but if you are not a fan of markets there is not much to do here.
The market that opens very early morning and closes at 6:00 p.m. during the weekdays. However, we dropped by around 4:00 p.m. and some merchants were already packing up, so if you plan to visit it come early.
Not many of the sellers can speak good English, but hand gestures and some basic words work quite all right. Quite an interesting place to visit.
9. Ljubljana Cathedral
Also known as St. Nicolas Church, the Ljubljana Cathedral is one of the best places to visit for a bit of quiet in the middle of the city. The cathedral has two stunning bronze sculpted doors depicting the history of Christianity in Slovenia and the bishops of Ljubljana. The doors were added by Pope Paul II, when he visited the cathedral in 1996.
The interior of the cathedral is stunningly beautiful, designed in Italian Baroque with sculptures and ceiling frescoes.
10. Town Hall
Just a short stroll from the Triple Bridge, in the quaint Town Square (Mestni Trg) is the Ljubljana Town Hall. The building which dates to the late 1400’s was renovated in the current Venetian style in the mid 1700’s. Ljubljana Town Hall features four exhibition spaces that showcase projects by the Municipality of Ljubljana.
In the center of Town Square is the Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers (Robba Fountain), a beautiful Baroque monument modeled after the famous Roman fountains.
How much time to spend in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is really small and most people manage to visit it in a day. We had a couple of days in Ljubljana and that gave us enough time to visit the most attractive places at a very relaxed pace. Three or more days will give you time for excursions around Ljubljana. We took a day trip to Lake Bled and also visited Maribor.
Where to stay in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. It’s small and it’s charming but not all its neighborhoods have exciting things to offer to its visitors. If you are in town for sightseeing, my recommendation would be to stay within the main city centre, as near as possible to Ljubljana Old Town Pedestrian Zone.
We stayed at the Galeria River Hotel, right next to the River Canal. The hotel was nice, but unfortunately our room was on the 4th floor in a building with no elevator. I encourage you to check before renting a room if the building has an elevator. Many of the old buildings in Europe do not have elevator.
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