Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia and the often mispronounced city (correctly pronounced "Lyoob-lyah-nah") is a city small enough to really see and explore on foot but large enough for it to keep all who visit occupied and interested during a weekend break, or as good introduction for longer breaks in Slovenia.
There are plenty of quaint and picturesque squares within Ljubljana and you'll find there are buildings from all eras, from Roman to Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau facades, I'd say you're really spoilt for choice here!
As with many European cities that have a river running through them, Ljubljana is no different with a lot of the sights surrounding the river Ljubljanica and also provide many photo ops with colourful and pretty houses lining the river. I can imagine during the summer the scores of locals and visitors alike lining the sides of the river enjoying the sunshine!
Having arrived in Ljubljana close to midday (sigh, Wizz Air delays!) we were pretty ravenous and were so satisfied by this tasty burger at Pop's Place followed by the apparent best ice cream in Ljubljana at Cacao!
Any google of the city will bring up a plethora of pictures of the Triple Bridge, created by Joze Plecnik who also was the creator behind a lot of the other architecture of the city and you can even do a walking tour of the influence he had over Ljubljana if that's what you're interested in!
Tip: For an up and close personal view of the city, go up the glass lift on the outside of Nama shopping centre located on Slovenska Cesta and go up to the bar & restaurant. The views here won't go as far & wide as you'll get on top of the castle, but this way gets you a view of the Castle too!
Ljubljana was named the Green Capital of 2016, and so fittingly there were as a Water exhibition in the City Museum of Ljubljana which we checked out while there. This exhibition has now ended however there is a permanent exhibition about the history of the city which is worth finding out - I always find knowing some small facts about the places we visit always make it that much more of tangible memory!
If you're around Ljubljana during the summer (between April & September) there are boat tours that run throughout the day which allow you to see the city from a different perspective. Unfortunately we were a bit short on time due to our earlier flight delay, but there's always next time right?
The Visit Ljubljana Tourist Card also allows you to take the funicular up to Ljubljanski grad (Ljubljana Castle) which also includes admission into the Castle As the castle is sat high above the city there are amazing views all around and be sure to go up to the Outlook Tower where you can captures views like this! If you're feeling up for it, instead of riding up the funicular you can talk a brisk walk up to the castle and feel like the you're being rewarded for all your hard work!
Be sure to wander out to Metelkova, around a 10 minute walk from the heart of the old town. It was a former Yuugoslavian army barracks and now offers the most interesting night life of Ljubljana, with clubs, bars and galleries all within. We dare say we were probably there a little bit too early before the night life and liveliness really kicked in, but for the lack of people the cool graffiti and creative street art definitely made up for it!
Who else likes posing in front of colourful graffiti walls?!
The Ljubljana Dragon is a symbol of the city as legend has it the founder of the city, a Greek mythological hero defeated the dragon whose dwelling place was within the Ljubljana marshes.
We enjoyed a spot of people watching in Prešernov trg before making our way towards the National Museum of Slovenia and learnt about the wildlife of Slovenia as well as listening to a record playing of a 55,000 year old Neanderthal flute which was kindly pointed out to us by one of the staffers at the museum! If you're looking for the Museum of Natural History it's actually located in the same building but in a different wing.
That evening we had a very cosy & tasty Slovenian meal at Julija - if you love truffle in dishes you'll definitely enjoy the truffle mash served with the veal fillet!
Slovenia is a country well known for their natural beauty in the form of lakes (watch this space for our post on Lake Bled next!), rivers, caves and outdoor activities so the next day we drove about an hour down south to visit the UNESCO heritage listed Škocjan caves.
The caves are about 6km in total length and was the whole system was created from the river Reka that flows through the caves. No photos are allowed in the cave (assuming this is to protect it, but it is definitely recommended to visit & get there early for the 10am tour (alternatively there's a 1pm tour for those who like to sleep in!). During the tour you'll pass through a huge unexpected canyon within the caves which was super impressive!
After the guided tour of the caves we decided to see what else the area had to offer and walked along the Škocjan Education Trail, which if you're patient enough (I'll say now not all of us were..!) you can read through all the signs detailing the flora and fauna of the region. The walk will take less than an hour (or more depending on how many photo stops along the way occur!) but is very gentle and scenic.
Our last stop of the day was Predjama Castle! I had seen so many photos of this castle prior to planning our trip to Slovenia and I was very excited to see it in the flesh. This castle built within the cave is found an extra hour drive away from the Skocjan and apparently has been entered into the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest cave castle.
NB: We were kindly provided the Ljubljana card by Visit Ljubljana to use during our time there. Opinions are still all ours!