It’s surprising that Ljubljana is still off the beaten path when it comes to the most charming places to visit in Europe. Y
ou never really hear too many people talking about visiting and whenever it gets mentioned you always get the “where’s that?”.
Well, Ljubljana is a beautiful city in Slovenia and definitely worth visiting if you ever get the chance.
The picture perfect and lush banks of the Ljubljanica River as it flows through the historic center give the city its name – Little Venice.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for stunning architecture, delicious local cuisine, or picture perfect scenery – Ljubljana has it all.
To be upfront, one day in Ljubljana simply isn’t enough time to appreciate all that the city of has to offer. A single day exploring will, on the other hand, give you a nice taste of this incredible Slovenian capital and hopefully encourage you to spend more time here in the future.
Since you’re probably here looking for a Ljubljana itinerary I’ll stop rambling on so we can just jump right into it!
In a hurry? Take a look at my post on the best things to do in Ljubljana for a quick guide on the top tourist attractions in the city.
How to Spend a Day Exploring Ljubljana
Start Off in Prešeren Square
The central point of the Old Town is Prešeren Square and this is the best place to start your one day in Ljubljana.
From here you can easily explore the Old Town and the square is a good landmark to use so that you don’t get lost when you’re wandering around.
Spend some time walking around the square and admiring the view of the Ljubljana Castle up above the Old Town.
Keep an eye out for the large monument in the center of the square. This is dedicated to Prešeren, the most famous poet in Slovenia. It’s a meeting for many of the walking tours and one of the most lively places in the city.
Dominating the square is the “Pink Church”, or the Baroque Franciscan Church. It used to be painted red, the color used by The Franciscan order, but over the years it has faded to its pink color that you see today.
If you’re interested it’s possible to head inside the church to check out the interior. There are well-preserved Baroque elements, incredible marble design-work, and an impressive hand-carved altar.
Entrance to the church is free and it makes for a great place to beat the heat and tourist crowds.
Cross Over the Triple Bridge
Right beside Prešeren Square, bringing people into the Old Town, is the Triple Bridge. This is a series of Three Bridges that cross the Ljubljanica River.
On one side of the bridge is the modern part of the city. This is where you’ll find most of the newer shops, the trendy restaurants, the shopping mall, newer hotels, and the residential area.
On the other side you’ll find the historic Old Town, the Castle, the city market, and many of the other historic attractions.
Originally there was a single bridge crossing the river. It got so busy with pedestrian traffic and a tram line running across the bridge that two additional bridges were added in 1930.
The setting is beautiful with the river, part of the Old Town, and the Pink Church all around you. Throughout the year you’ll see magicians and street performers putting on shows for tourists or market vendors setting up for Christmas and Easter.
There’s never a dull moment at the Triple Bridge. Grab a coffee to go and hang out by the bridge for a little while watching all of the commotion and soaking up the atmosphere around you.
Check Out the Central Market
On the other side of the triple Bridge along the river is Vodnikov Square.
This is the location of the Ljubljana Central Market. Here you’ll find a large, busy open-air market full of local goods from farmers and other vendors.
There are a number of different stands selling just about anything you could want for breakfast, lunch, or a quick snack. Pick up some local cheese and meat for a picnic in the park.
Keep an eye out for the vending machines selling fresh local milk. These are great to pick up if you’re spending more than just one day in Ljubljana!
Some of the favorites include local chocolate, honey, cheese, sausages, nuts, baked goods, and there are some handmade souvenirs as well.
The market is a great place to stop if you’re looking to grab something fresh, cheap, and local to eat. Don’t worry about not speaking Slovenian – many of the vendors are fluent in English so it’s unlikely you’ll run into any issues trying to buy something.
Head Up to the Ljubljana Castle
Dominating the city skyline is the impressive Ljubljana Castle.
This is a medieval castle dating back to the 15th century.
It stands more than 60-meters above the historic city center. From the top you can see you for more than 50-kilometers on a clear day.
The castle has been completely renovated and restored. There are some museums you can check out as well as a lookout tower that you can climb for an even better view of the city.
Inside one of the main castle buildings is a lovely small cafe/restaurant. Don’t hesitate to stop here to enjoy a warm drink with a beautiful view of the surrounding city and countryside.
There are two ways to get to the top of the hill to explore the castle grounds. Many people hike – it’s a short 15 minute uphill walk.
Instead of walking you’ll be much better off taking the funicular! It’s fun, reasonably priced, and you can spend more time exploring the castle.
Stand in Awe of the Dragon Bridge
Having made your way down from the castle head over to the Dragon Bridge. From the funicular this is going to be the closest bridge crossing the Ljubljanica River making it easy to find without any maps or direction.
What makes the Dragon Bridge so special are the large dragons standing guard at either end. Since the bridge is somewhat outside of the tourist area this is a relaxing area that you can explore without too many tourists wandering around.
If you have the time, explore some of the surrounding streets. Look up “Trubarjeva cesta” on Google Maps and make your way there.
This is one of the most interesting areas in the city. The small street is lined with quirky little shops and unique cafes/eateries. There are some amazing photo opportunities here as well as some decent places for coffee or a quick snack.
Enjoy Some Slovenian Sausage
Once you’re finished with the castle your next stop should be a park, although by now you might be feeling a bit hungry so it’s time to stop for a quick bite to eat.
There are loads of different restaurants and eateries in the city so it’s up to you to decide where you want to go but my recommendation is for you to check out Klobasarna.
This is a wonderful, locally owned restaurant (if you can even call it that) and it’s here where you’ll find one of the best sausages in all of Central Europe.
It might not look like much, but the food is delicious and the prices are very reasonable and after spending a few hours walking around nothing tastes better than a hot sausage with some fresh bread and a cold beer.
In case you can’t find it, keep an eye out for the sausage hanging right above the doorway to this small eatery.
Stroll Through Tivoli Park
Tivoli Park on the other side of the historic city center is a beautiful green space and the biggest park in the city.
If you’re looking for somewhere to relax or escape the tourist crowds after spending the whole day walking around this is the place for you.
Criss-crossing the park are walking trails that make it easy to explore the grounds at your own pace. Benches and wooded areas are perfect for picnics or sitting in the shade to beat the hot summer heat.
Once you make it to the park you can barely hear the sounds of the cars from the streets nearby. All of the trees with the beautiful view of the castle on the city skyline makes it easy to forget that you’re standing in the heart of a capital city.
It’s a great idea pick up some items from the Central Market and have a picnic here in the park.
Wander Around Congress Square
As it starts getting later in the day you’ll need to make your way back into the city. Keep an eye out for somewhere to eat, especially if you have a long bus ride or train trip back to where you came from.
Along the way I recommend checking out Congress Square. This square is actually bigger than Preseren Square and offers amazing views but for some reason barely any tourists bother to check it out.
In the center of the square is a large park with benches and other places to relax. The entire space is lined with brightly colored and picturesque buildings featuring a wide range of different architectural styles and design elements.
Look towards the corner of the square closest to the castle. Do you see a small Italian restaurant? This is a great little place if you’re looking for a quick bite before having to make your way back home.
Time to Head Back Home
If you went through everything in this itinerary then it’s probably getting dark.
You’re likely heading back to wherever you’re staying or making your way onwards to your next destination.
While one day in Slovenia’s beautiful capital city doesn’t give you enough time to truly experience everything that it has to offer, hopefully you leave with plans to return in the future.
With so many places to explore and things to do in Ljubljana you definitely have to visit again!
Where to Stay in Ljubljana
During my trip I spent two nights at the lovely Meščanka Apartments in the Old Town.
These apartments are located in the Old Town pedestrian zone overlooking the river. The main square is a minute away on foot and there are a number of different small shops, restaurants, and cafes right out front.
Depending on your budget there are a few different rooms to choose from.
Each of the apartments comes with air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, a modern bathroom, spacious living area, and everything you would need for a short-term stay.
There’s a parking garage 2 minutes down the street and the train station is 10 minutes away on foot.
I would definitely recommend taking a look at the Apartments and Rooms Meščanka if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Ljubljana during your trip!