Located in Central Europe within easy travelling distance from cities like Vienna, Zagreb and Venice, the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana has fast become one of the hottest places to visit in all of Europe. Charmed by the city’s small size, beautiful architecture, and pedestrianised Old Town, planning a Ljubljana itinerary has never been more popular.
Though small in size, Ljubljana has a lot to offer visitors and it’s compact and laid-back nature make it accessible for visitors no matter how long they plan to spend. Rarely can you find a capital city where you can easily see all of the highlights in just one day. However, if you want to spend more than 24 hours in the Slovenian capital, it is also possible to adequately occupy yourself when spending 2 or 3 days in Ljubljana, as well.
This beautiful capital city that feels like a small town is one of the highlights of many a Balkan or Central European itinerary, so if you’re thinking of visiting Ljubljana, read on to find out how to plan your visit to Slovenia’s capital.
Is Ljubljana Worth Visiting?
Before I dive into all of the things to do in the Slovenian capital, you may still be wondering if Ljubljana is worth visiting. Because of its small size and relative sleepy nature compared with some of the other nearby capitals, it can seem like the city might be one that’s easy enough to skip over. However, Ljubljana packs a whole lot of charm within it and it has a distinctive energy that makes it unique among many other European capitals.
Ljubljana’s Old Town, for instance, has been fully pedestrianised for over a decade, making it one of the few places in Europe where you can dine al fresco on a cobbled lane without the worry of being in a tourist trap. Ljubljana is also considered to be one of the greenest cities in all of Europe, meaning that you can enjoy breathing fresh clean air into your lungs while exploring Slovenia’s most populous city.
Ljubljana also has a cafe culture to rival that of other famous cities. Nestled between Austria and Italy means that the Slovenian capital has drawn influences from both of these renowned coffee cultures and the entire city is dotted with street and riverside cafes.
All in all, even if you can only spend one day in Ljubljana, it is a city that is very much worth adding to any Central European or Balkans itinerary.
When to Visit Ljubljana
Now that you’ve come to the conclusion that Ljubljana is indeed worth visiting, it’s time to discuss when in the year you should visit the city. Ljubljana, and Slovenia in general, has a continental climate and very much experiences all four seasons so there are certainly some times of year that are better to visit than others.
If you love warm weather and don’t mind battling tourist crowds, then the high season months between June-August are going to be a good time for you to visit. During these months, you can expect temperatures to be at their highest of the year — with high temperatures averaging around 26°C (79°F). This is also when the most tourists tend to visit and the compact old town can feel quite congested. Accommodation prices in Slovenia will also be at their peak in the summer months.
Conversely, the low season months of December-February are going to be the coldest and least busy. Expect temperatures to hover around freezing and to combat with some snowy weather. This can be an appealing time if you want to experience some traditional Christmas markets, find a fun place to celebrate New Year’s Eve, or take advantage of some nearby skiing in the surrounding Slovenian mountains.
The shoulder seasons of March-May and September-November are my personal choice for visiting Ljubljana. During these months, you can expect crowds to be fewer, prices to be a bit lower than in the high season, and temperatures to be mild and pleasant. In the autumn you can expect things like the wine harvest and beautiful fall foliage and in the spring you can expect to find lovely floral blooms and a city opening its eyes after a long winter.
However, no matter when you decide to visit, Ljubljana will always be a lovely destination with a lot to offer.
Getting To and Around Ljubljana
Ljubljana is centrally located and easy to reach from a number of different nearby cities, with international frequent bus and train connections to cities like Zagreb, Vienna, and Venice (via Trieste). It is also easy to reach Ljubljana via bus or train from cities within Slovenia like Maribor, Bled, or Piran and from other Austrian cities like Graz.
Once in Ljubljana, the easiest way to get around is on foot. The majority of Ljubljana’s tourist attractions lie within the Old Town, which is completely pedestrianised, meaning that you can only walk or ride a bicycle inside it — so there are no confusing bus routes to contend with!
How Many Days in Ljubljana?
As mentioned previously, Ljubljana is a fairly compact city and you can easily see a good portion of its tourist attractions in just one day. Because the attractions are so close to each other, it can be surprising how much you can pack into just a short Ljubljana itinerary. However, while many people try to visit the city as a Ljubljana day trip from Zagreb or elsewhere and its certainly possible to do this, I would personally recommend planning to spend at least one full day and preferably two or three in Slovenia’s capital.
With one day in Ljubljana, you can hit all of the main sites and tourist attractions and maybe throw a museum into the mix. With 2 days in Ljubljana, you will have the opportunity to dig deeper into the city’s attractions and culture, visit some more museums or explore areas outside of the picturesque old town.
If you have 3 days in Ljubljana, you have the opportunity to head outside of the city and see more of Slovenia on a day trip. Whether this is to some of the country’s beautiful natural spots or to other cities, it will allow you to get a good overview of the country outside of its capital city.
Whether you have one, two, or three days to spend in Ljubljana, you are sure to find something to love about the Slovenian capital. If you only have a day to explore follow the first day in this itinerary and so on if you have two or three days to dedicate to visiting Ljubljana.
1 Day in Ljubljana Itinerary
This first day of this Ljubljana itinerary sees you exploring the main sites in the Old Town.
Begin your day at one of the most vibrant and lively places in Ljubljana — the Central Market. Running every day but Sunday, this is the preferred place amongst locals to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables and for tourists to shop for local produce and handicrafts.
The market has been in operation since the 1940s after Slovenia’s favourite architect, Jože Plečnik, designed the area for this specific purpose. The market begins operation at around 7 AM when stalls begin to be set up and closes down at around 4 PM. It is best to head there in the morning around 9-10 AM in order to see everything at its peak.
From the market, head to Prešeren Square, the central square in Ljubljana and main meeting point within the Old Town. As part of the pedestrian zone, the square lies on the north bank fo the Ljubljanica River in the foothills of the Ljubljana Castle.
Here you can also see the Prešeren monument, which was built to commemorate Slovenian poet France Prešeren, who is considered to be the national poet of the country.
Just south of the square lies the Triple Bridge, a beautiful bridge connecting both banks of the Ljubljanica River. Though some forms of the bridge have been around for centuries, the current iteration of the bridge (which only accommodates pedestrians) was designed by architect Jože Plečnik in 1929 — as was so much of Ljubljana’s modern architecture.
A bit further along the river at the beginning of the city’s pedestrian zone lies the iconic Dragon Bridge. Gilded with four massive copper dragons on either side and a further 12 on the bridge itself, this bridge is meant to celebrate the mythical founding of Ljubljana.
As legend has it, when the Greek hero Jason and the Argonauts were returning from Colchis (in present-day Kutaisi, Georgia) with the Golden Fleece, they passed through Ljubljana, battled a dragon, and founded the city. This bridge celebrates that and emphasises the pride of such a small city being included in such a rich literary tradition.
If you would rather see these (and more!) bridges and other sites from the river, there are numerous boat tours along the Ljubljanica that you can take. They all cost €10 per person and last for 30 minutes.
Another of Ljubljana’s main sites is the Ljubljana Cathedral, which is an iconic part of the city’s skyline and is officially known as the St Nicholas Church. Originally a Gothic cathedral, the building was replaced in the Baroque style in the early 18th Century.
The cathedral is most famous for its ornate bronze side door, which was designed in 1996 in honour of the papal visit from Pop John Paul II. The door depicts centuries of Slovenia’s and Ljubljana’s Catholic history and it is truly a beautiful piece of artwork.
All of these above sites and more are included in the Ljubljana Free Walking Tour, which runs daily at 11 AM with numerous more times added in the busy summer months. This is an excellent way to see all of these wonderful attractions while also getting some historical perspective from the eyes of a local.
City Museum of Ljubljana
If you want to learn more about Ljubljana’s history — spanning from before its founding to the present day — then make sure to head to the City Museum of Ljubljana. Located within easy walking distance of everywhere in the Old Town, this is a great place to learn about the Slovenian capital throughout the centuries.
Entry is €6 for adults, with discounts available for students, seniors, and families.
If you want to see Ljubljana from above, then hike up or take the funicular to the Ljubljana Castle. The castle complex houses a museum and numerous cafes and a small viewing platform where you can see the capital from above.
If you’re just interested in heading up the hill on the funicular, a return ticket costs €4 per person. If you want to visit the museum along with that, expect to pay €13 per adult and €9 for students, under 18s, and pensioners.
2 Days in Ljubljana Itinerary
After hitting all of the attractions in the Old Town on day one of this itinerary, if you have 2 days in Ljubljana, this is how you should proceed:
Begin your day in Ljubljana’s biggest green space, the lush Tivoli Park. This tranquil park has numerous pathways, tree-lined lanes, and myriad benches to sit down and relax and escape from your busy first day. It is a popular spot for active residents and where many locals flock to on warm and sunny days to take advantage of the fine weather. In the autumn, the colourful foliage lines the pathways making for an incredibly picturesque visit.
Museum of Modern Art
If you are a fan of art, then you must visit the Museum of Modern Art located right near Tivoli Park. Housing works from Slovenian artists from the 20h and 21st centuries, it beautifully showcases incredible works of art from local artists. There is also a fantastic coffee shop located in the museum if you want to good cup of coffee to pick yourself up.
Entry is €5 for adults, with half-price tickets available for students and seniors.
If you want to transport yourself to somewhere that is radically different from the Old Town of Ljubljana, but located only a stone’s throw away, then you need to head to Metelkova City. Reminiscent of places like Christiana in Copenhagen, RAW in Berlin, or Uzupis in Vilnius, Metelkova is an area that is covered in street art and filled with free-thinking individuals.
Branding itself as an “autonomous cultural centre,” Metelkova was once a military barracks that turned into a squat in the early ’90s. Today, it operates as a cultural centre where you will be able to find fun artistic things and live music. It is a great place to explore if you’re a fan of street art.
If you’re interested in the alternative culture in Ljubljana, we highly recommend that you go on the Ljubljana Graffiti Tour, which runs from spring-autumn and will explain the graffiti and arts culture in the Slovenian capital, along with other alternative sides of the city.
If you want to see some of the best views of the city, then make sure to head to the viewing platform at the Ljubljana Skyscraper. Located in the city centre just outside of the Old Town, this was the first “high rise” built in the Slovenian capital and access to its top-floor cafe and viewing platform is absolutely free of charge.
From the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Ljubljana Old Town, castle, and surrounding areas which sipping on a coffee or cocktail from the cafe.
Ljubljanica River Stroll
After enjoying the views from the Skyscraper, wander back into the Old Town and end your day with a leisurely stroll along the Ljubljanica River. Both banks are lined with numerous cafes and bars where you can pop in for a drink, coffee, or an ice cream and just enjoy the laid back nature of Slovenia’s compact capital.
3 Days in Ljubljana Itinerary
If you have 3 days in Ljubljana, then spend your final day on a trip outside of the capital. There are numerous places to visit in Slovenia within easy reach of the capital. Here are some of our suggestions:
The most popular day trip from Ljubljana is undoubtedly to the picturesque Lake Bled. As one of the most iconic spots in Slovenia, a visit to Lake Bled is a bucket-list item for most people.
There are numerous transit options available from Ljubljana to Bled and you can reach the beautiful lake and island castle in under an hour from the Slovenian capital. You can opt to rent a car yourself and drive, take the bus, or even go on an organised day tour.
Keep in mind that Bled is one of the most-visited spots in Slovenia and can get overwhelmingly busy in the peak seasons.
If you want a less touristy alternative to Lake Bled, then you cannot go wrong with visiting Lake Bohinj. Located within easy reach from Ljubljana, Lake Bohinj is a beautiful lake surrounded by stunning natural scenery.
You can get to Bohinj in under two hours either driving yourself, by public transit, or by organised tour.
If you want to combine Lake Bled & Lake Bohinj in one day, then we recommend taking this guided tour
If you would rather visit a city as a Ljubljana day trip, then you absolutely cannot go wrong with heading to Slovenia’s second city of Maribor. Located in the northern Styrian region, Maribor in the heart of Slovenian wine country and is packed with charm. It also receives a fraction of the tourism of other areas in Slovenia, making it an excellent alternative option if you want to get slightly off the beaten path.
It can be reached by car, bus or train in about an hour and there are also day tours available.
If you want to experience the beauty of the Istrian seaside on a day trip from Ljubljana, then you cannot go wrong with a visit to Piran. Located a little over 2 hours form the Slovenian capital, Piran offers a completely different pace of life than any of the other day trips mentioned here. It is also a great stop if you plan to head south and travel through Croatia’s Istria region.
Where to Eat & Drink in Ljubljana
There are lots of restaurants and cafes in Ljubljana to choose from, however, it can be hard to decide on where to eat when there are so many options available. If you’re looking for a great meal in the Slovenian capital, have a look at these top suggestions:
Druga Violina — This traditional Slovenian restaurant located in the heart of the Old Town is an excellent place to eat in Ljubljana. It is small yet incredibly popular — expect to wait for a table if you visit during peak hours! They have an extensive a la carte menu along with a great-value set lunch menu. This restaurant also employes a number of people with special needs.
Abi Falafel — If you’re looking for an affordable yet filling meal in Ljubljana, you cannot go wrong with this place. It is incredibly popular and perennially busy and it makes some of the best falafels to be found in the city. They also have great breakfast option available daily until 11:30, so it’s a fantastic place to start the day, as well!
Hood Burger — If you’re craving a burger, then this is a great place to check out! With a few locations scattered throughout the city, they have a range of delicious burgers available (with the option to put a veggie patty on all of them!) at affordable prices.
Lajbah — This brewpub is an excellent option if you want to sample Ljubljana’s craft beer scene while getting a good bite to eat. With over 20 craft beers on tap — both local and international brews — and a seasonal menu, this is a great place to go to get a feel for the hip side of Ljubljana. The beer menu also rotates with the season and you’re sure to find something to suit all tastes!
Where to Stay in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is an incredibly popular holiday destination and, therefore, there are ample accommodation options available in the city. Whether you’re a budget backpacker or a luxury traveller, you are sure to find a suitable place to rest your head in the Slovenian capital.
It is worth noting that accommodation prices can be a bit higher in Ljubljana compared to that of other cities nearby and that is because the city imposes a “tourist tax” on each visitor each night they stay in the city. The fee is €3.13 per person per night — some accommodations will incorporate this into their nightly rates while others will have you pay it separately.
If you want to know where to stay in Ljubljana but are struggling to find the best choice for you, have a look at our top suggestions:
Hostel Celica — If you’re a budget or solo traveller, then this hostel is a great choice for accommodation in Ljubljana. As one of the highest-rated hostels in the Slovenian capital, they have both dorm beds and private rooms available, good common areas in order to meet and mingle with other travellers, and its central location means that you can reach all of the highlights of Ljubljana on foot. Click here to check their availability
Adora Hotel — If you’re looking for a comfortable mid-range hotel rather than a backpacker hostel, then this is a great option for you. Centrally located within the pedestrianised Old Town, this boutique hotel has a number of clean and comfortable rooms available for all sorts of travellers. There is a 24-hour reception, a hotel bar, and a great breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to check their availability
City Hotel Ljubljana — If you’re looking for a plush place to stay in Ljubljana, then you cannot go wrong this boutique hotel. Located in the centre of the Old Town, you can reach all of the best sites of the city on foot. There are a myriad of comfortable and stylish rooms available, a restaurant and bar on-site, and a hearty buffet breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to check their availability
Airbnb— A great alternative option for accommodation in Ljubljana is Airbnb. There are numerous properties available on the platform ranging from private rooms in locals homes — like this bright room near the train station — to entire apartments — like this cosy flat in the city centre. If you’re new to Airbnb, you can click here to get up to $40 off your first stay!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Ljubljana hotels!
Planning the perfect 1, 2, or 3 days in Ljubljana itinerary isn’t a difficult task, with so much on offer in the charming, picturesque and compact Slovenian capital.
When travelling in Slovenia, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning a Ljubljana itinerary? Have you been to Slovenia’s capital? Let us know in the comments!