With so many fun and exciting things to do in Ljubljana it’s definitely worth planning a trip to this beautiful Slovenian capital.
The city itself is small and you can explore everything in a few days. This makes it the perfect spot to start exploring the country from.
Those of you looking for a day trip can venture over to Lake Bled for a taste of some of the vast natural beauty here Slovenia.
Otherwise, pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes and bring your appetite when you’re ready to check out Ljubljana!
In this post I want to talk about all of the main tourist attractions in Ljubljana as well as some hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Scroll to the bottom if you’re looking for somewhere to stay and some more helpful tips for visiting.
Let’s jump right into it!
The Best Things to Do in Ljubljana
Walk Along the Ljuljanica River
Meandering through the heart of the city is the Ljubljanica River.
There is a peaceful pedestrian walkway on both sides of the river. This path offers amazing views of the buildings and architecture along the river and of the castle standing high above the city skyline.
In the past the river divided the medieval part of the city center with the rest of the city. It didn’t used to be easy to travel back and forth. Today there are interesting things to see and do on both sides!
Along the river are a number of small shops, restaurants and cafés. These are perfect if you’re looking to stop and relax or grab a quick drink or bite to eat.
If you’re interested, there are river tours during the summer. These give a better perspective of the bridges, architecture and buildings that tower over the water.
Getting too warm during the summer? Pick up some snacks at the Central Market, dangle your feet over the edge, and relax by the water while enjoying the breeze and watching the boats go by.
The Triple Bridge
Connecting the modern city with the historic Old Town is the Triple Bridge. It’s accessible from Prešeren Square and it’s the most well-known bridge in all of Slovenia.
The central bridge has stood in place since 1842. The other two bridges were added between 1929 and 1932 resulting in what you see today.
In the past the central bridge was used by trams and cars with the two other bridges used by pedestrians only. These days there’s only pedestrians allowed on the bridge so you can truly appreciate its beauty and design.
From the side bridges there are stairways leading down to walkways along the river.
During the summer these paths are great to explore and make for a unique vantage point for photographs.
There are a number of other bridges in Ljubljana that you can check out. Keep scrolling down the list to read more about the other famous bridge – the Dragon Bridge!
The best place to start exploring the Old Town from is Prešeren Square. This is the central square in Ljubljana and it’s always busy with locals and tourists alike.
From here you can easily access many of the other tourist attractions in town. Familiarize yourself with the area to avoid getting lost when you’re wandering around.
The first thing you’ll notice in the square is the picturesque architecture everywhere you look. The highlight of the space is the pink church, otherwise known as the Franciscan Church.
At night the church is lit up so you’re going to want to visit more than once during the day for the best viewing opportunities.
Throughout the year and number of festivals, concerts, markets, and other life events are held here in the square. Protests typically start here and the walking tours in Ljubljana meet here as well.
The large statue in the center of a square is France Prešeren, an influential Slovenian poet who the square was named after.
There’s no doubting that you’ll be walking through Prešeren Square more than once during your trip. Take the time to appreciate the space and how beautiful all of the surroundings are!
The Dragon Bridge
Steps away from the Ljubljana Castle at the edge of the Old Town is the Dragon Bridge
This bridge was built in 1901 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Austro-Hungarian rule.
The Dragon Bridge is a beautiful symbol of the architectural style, beauty, and history of the city itself.
It’s hard not to be impressed large dragon monuments guarding the entrance to either side of the bridge. There are a handful of smaller dragon monuments on the light posts so keep your eyes out for those.
The dragon is a symbol of Ljubljana and it can be found on its coat of arms.
Surprisingly, the bridge is a prime example of a reinforced concrete bridge designed in a Vienna Secession style.
When it opened it was one of the largest arch bridges in Europe. It currently spans 34-meters across the Ljubljanica River.
Be careful when you’re taking photos on the bridge. There is a lot of vehicle traffic so watch your step!
The Ljubljana Castle
The Ljubljana Castle is another one of the symbols of the city.
The castle dominates the city skyline andstands almost 200-feet, or 60 meters, above the lower city on a small hill.
From the top, which you can reach on foot or by a speedy funicular, you’ll be able to enjoy one of the best views in Ljubljana. On a clear day you can even see the Alps off in the distance.
The castle was built during the 15th century on top of a previous fortress that once stood in the same location. It was designed to defend the city against a potential Turkish invasion.
It wasn’t used much for its original purpose. By the 17th and 18th centuries it was being used as a hospital and armory. After the city was invaded by the French it was turned into a jail and remained that way until the end of World War 2.
Afterwards, the castle fell into disrepair. After more than 20 years of just sitting there renovations and restoration began and the castle was developed into a popular tourist attraction.
Entrance to the castle grounds is free and at the top you can find a café and restaurant. There are also art exhibitions, a viewing tower, gift shop and a few small museums.
Guided tours are available for a fee.
At the northern end of the city, about a 15-minute walk from Preseren Square, is Tivoli Park.
This park is a sprawling green space that’s covered in trees, gardens, fountains, playgrounds, ponds and some facilities for sports and outdoor recreation.
There’s even a building where you can enjoy a warm coffee drink or spend some time relaxing away from the busier crowds of the city center. It’s the largest park in the city and one of the more interesting things about it is the Tivoli Castle.
This is a small palace, or mansion, built at the end of the promenade that leads through the park from where it meets the city. It was originally built sometime during the 17th century above the ruins of an older castle that was built in the same spot during the Renaissance era.
This is where you can find a lovely café and there’s a beautiful fountain out front as well. Another one of the more interesting features of the park is the enormous Tivoli Pond.
This pond actually takes on more of a square shape and you can often see locals nearby fishing, although I’m not sure how many fish could be in it. It’s quite picturesque and it’s a nice area of natural beauty or you can relax and collect your thoughts.
When I visited the park I did not see too many tourists around and instead there were a lot of locals enjoying the unusually warm December weather sitting on benches, walking their dogs or just getting some exercise.
The Cathedral of St.Nicholas
One of the most impressive religious structures in the city is the Cathedral of St. Nicholas.
This cathedral was built in dedication to the patron saint of fisherman and boatmen, Saint Nicholas, and although it was built sometime during the early 18th century it was most recently renovated in 1996 when the Pope came to visit.
It’s a very large cathedral and you can easily see it from many of the vantage points across the city and especially when you are up at the castle.
The outside is impressive but it’s the interior that you’re going to want to check out. On the inside is a collection of incredible frescoes that are some of the most well-painted and unique in the region. Be sure to check out two enormous bronze doors that lead into the cathedral.
These were added when the Pope made his visit to Ljubljana and on them you can see a carving that covers more than 1250 years of the history of Christianity.
Another cool place to check out in the city is Congress Square.
It was built during the 1820s on the site of some older medieval ruins where a monastery once stood in place and originally its main purpose was for ceremonies and other events organized by the Ljubljana Congress.
The square is pretty big, lined with a few important buildings like the University of Ljubljana, the Ursuline Church, the Slovenian Philharmonic building and there’s a small park in the square as well. One of my favorite things about it is that it offers an incredible and unobstructed view of the castle.
During special dates, events and during the Christmas market the castle is lit up in different colors and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to catch a short light show on the castle walls.
Go On a Walking Tour
One of the best ways to explore any city, especially if you’re only visiting for one or two days, is to go on a walking tour.
Many cities offer free walking tours and in Ljubljana there is one that leaves every day at 11am. The Ljubljana Free Tour is the one that I would recommend and the tour itself takes between 2 and 2.5 hours and covers most of the most popular landmarks and other places to check out in the city.
On this tour you’ll be able to learn more about Ljubljana and the history behind some of its most famous buildings and areas.
Go On a Food Tour
If walking around and looking at buildings really isn’t your thing then why not go on a food tour instead?
Food tours are another great way to learn more about the culture of the city you’re visiting and the same is true in Ljubljana where you can take advantage of some world-class delicious food.
If you’re interested the company that I’d recommend is Ljubljananjam.
Apart from just a basic food tour you’ll also be able to take advantage of a craft beer, fine wine and coffee tour as well. Each tour will teach you more about the specific food or drinks impact on the city and why each item is important to Slovenian culture.
Apart from learning more about Ljubljana you’ll also be able to taste some delicious foods, drink some unique craft beers, sip some fine wines and try variety of different coffees depending on which tour you go with.
Personally, I love going on food tours because you get to see the side of a city that you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to if you were just walking around on your own.
For the company I mentioned, Ljubljananjam, the tours range in price from €35 and up and you can expect to spend a few hours on the tour itself.
The Central Market
One of my favorite places to check out in Ljubljana is the Central Market.
During the summer this place is thriving, but all year round you can visit this open-air market and browse around for something to eat or buy.
There is typically a wide range of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and plenty of milk available along with herbs, souvenirs and on assortment of arts and crafts that have been locally made. The market typically runs all week but it’s closed on Sundays so keep that in mind depending on what date you’re visiting.
The market is fun to visit especially if you want to try out some local fruit or vegetables or if you want to take advantage of a cheap bite to eat for lunch. There are some hot foods available along with some seafood options and you’re really able to find just about anything to meet your preferences.
The market is a quite recent addition to the city, only having been added during the 1930s, and before that there was an old monastery in the same location but it was destroyed during the 1895 earthquake.
The leftover space resulted in the perfect design and open area for a market so one was added there to satisfy the locals and to help people living in the countryside to make a little bit more money selling their products.