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Top Things to Do in Ljubljana

Ljubljana is one of Europe’s best kept secrets, tucked into the central part of Slovenia, surrounded by the dramatic peaks of the Julian Alps with the Ljubljanica River flowing through the city. The political, economic, and cultural centre, it’s a hip, progressive city often named among the greenest in Europe with many lovely parks and gardens, pedestrianized zones, and an extensive network of bike lanes. In this fairytale-like place, Slavic, Mediterranean, and Germanic worlds come together yet it has its own charming and unique character. These top things to do in Ljubljana on your Slovenia vacation are sure to make for an unforgettable experience.

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Pumpkin oil is cherished in Slovenia and will be offered in many restaurants as an appetiser with bread. If you want to purchase some for yourself, head to the Central Market in Ljubljana where you will be able to buy a variety of authentic pumpkin oils.

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Visit Ljubljana Castle

Set atop Castle Hill overlooking the pedestrian-friendly streets, Italian-influenced architecture, and river, Ljubljana Castle was originally built as a medieval fortress in the 11th century. The structure you see today was a 15th-century reconstruction with many of the buildings in the complex dating to the 16th and 17th centuries. While it can be reached on foot, take the one-minute funicular for a fun way to begin your visit. Once there, the Outlook Tower and ramparts offer beautiful views overlooking the city. There’s also a museum focused on Slovenia’s history, a puppet museum, multiple eateries, a wine bar, and a nightclub. Several historical rooms can be explored – the adventurous can enter the dungeon for a look at the castle’s darker side of history.

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Explore Ljubljana Old Town

Ljubljana’s Old Town is clustered around Castle Hill along the right bank of the Ljubljanica River. It dates back to around 2000 BC when the area marshes were inhabited by residents living in pile dwellings although the oldest preserved architecture is from the Roman era. The buildings you see today mostly date to the early 16th century. In 1511, an earthquake devastated the city, which was subsequently rebuilt in Venetian-influenced Baroque style. The Vienna Secession buildings were constructed after the 1511 earthquake. Top tourist attractions include the castle, Town Hall, Ljubljana Cathedral, Preseren Square, Triple Bridge, and the river canal. Bustling with activity year-round, the Old Town is a lively meeting point with great people-watching, and numerous bars, cafes, and restaurants.

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Embark on a Ljubljanica River Cruise

The tourist season in the Slovene Riviera is generally from May through September, with mid-June through early September, basically summer, the peak time to visit. This is the warmest period of the year with temperatures that can soar into the upper 80s and occasionally higher. While it’s the busiest time to visit, you’re unlikely to find the big crowds that other Mediterranean countries tend to get. It will be ideal for swimming and all types of watersports with the sea in the mid-70s Fahrenheit. For a more tranquil visit with fewer visitors and water warm enough for swimming, visit in late May/early June or the second half of September/early October. The water is usually comfortable through much of October.

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Wander Through Tivoli Park

At two square miles, Tivoli Park is Ljubljana’s largest and most beautiful park, stretching all the way into the city center providing a tranquil oasis from the hustle and bustle. Its eastern end is just a few blocks west of Ljubljana Cathedral and the Triple Bridge, making it easy to reach on foot or two wheels. The park hosts a botanical garden, a fish pond, tree-lined walking paths, and a wide range of other amenities from an open-air gallery to sports courts and an outdoor pool. The Ljubljana Zoo sits in the southwestern part of the park and there are several eateries for grabbing a coffee, light bites, or an ice cream. Or bring a picnic to enjoy on the lush lawns.

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Sip Slovenian Wine on a Wine Tour

Slovenia produces some outstanding wines, many of which are organic. You can always sample them yourself while in Ljubljana, but a tour is a fun and tasty way to savor them while learning about their history. Some will bring you to a wine bar to taste multiple varieties right in the city, but there are also options for visiting area wineries. You might head into the Vipava Valley, renowned for its beauty and its winemaking, nestled among the picturesque Karst landscapes. They typically include sightseeing and visits to the home estates where you’ll have the chance to chat with the organic winemakers themselves, tour the vineyards and cellars, and taste around a half-dozen of the finest wines alongside various Slovenian delicacies.

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Discover Ljubljana’s Iconic Bridges

Ljubljana is a city of bridges that reveal its rich history and character. Many of the bridges link the Old Town with the newer part of the city along the Ljubljanica River, including the Butcher’s Bridge that connects the Central Market to the Petkovsek Embankment. Built on the spot where butchers used to be, it features some interesting yet rather terrifying statues that depict forms of creatures from Greek mythology. It’s also a “love” bridge with many couples attaching locks to the railing. The Dragon Bridge is one of the city’s most famous with imposing dragon statues at both ends. The Triple Bridge is a group of three bridges crossing the Ljubljanica River, one of which is pedestrian-only, connecting to Preseren Square.

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Sample Local Food at the Central Market

Lively markets like Ljubljana’s Central Market can provide an authentic taste of daily local life and cuisine, including rich gastronomic traditions. Playing a key role in the city’s social and cultural life, the market isn’t just a place to shop but it’s a place to interact with locals socially while enjoying a cultural exchange and culinary exploration. Set along the Ljubljanica River, it’s known for its open-air section where you can also browse the local crafts, and perhaps take one or two home for a gift or souvenir. A wide variety of flowers and fresh produce are available too. It’s a great place to pick up ingredients for a tasty picnic at the park or any of the city’s green spaces.

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Visit the National Gallery of Slovenia

Last but not least of the top things to do in Ljubljana on your Slovenia vacation, the National Gallery of Slovenia displays the country’s largest collection of fine art from the High Middle Ages to the 20th century. Set in a magnificent 19th-century Neo-Renaissance palace with an elegant 21st-century glass facade, its permanent exhibition features nearly 600 works by Slovenian and European artists, including pieces by one of Europe’s leading modern painters, Zoran Mušič. There are works by Baroque artists Gregorio Lazzarini in Giulio Quagli, paintings by the popular Slovenian artist Ivana Kobilca, and the famous masterpieces of Slovenian Impressionism, including works by Ivan Grohar, Rihard Jakopič, and Matija Jama. There’s also a gallery shop with a reading corner and a cafe.

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