Planning a trip to Central Europe? Deviate from all the classic itineraries with a detour through Ljubljana, the enchanting capital of Slovenia. With its captivating blend of history, culture, and adventure, travelers will find plenty of fun things to do in Ljubljana to fill up their travel plans. From exploring centuries-old buildings along cobblestone streets in Old Town to relaxing in the greenery of Tivoli, plan your trip to Slovenia’s lovely capital with this complete guide to the city’s top tourist attraction!
What to see & do in Ljubljana
For travelers, the beautiful city of Ljubljana packs a fierce punch. Comfortably compact Ljubljana is one of the easiest European cities to navigate. And with the sheer number of sightseeing opportunities an experiences concentrated in the center, this is a huge blessing.
The coolest things to see in Ljubljana range from stunningly perfect and serene to quirky and gutsy—and about everything in between. In fact, visiting Ljubljana itself is probably one of the best reasons to visit Slovenia!
Explore Ljubljana Old Town
Few city quarters charm travelers with the same gusto as Ljubljana Old Town. With its ageless beauty, the historic center is the perfect place to launch your first 24 hours in Ljubljana.
The minute you set foot into Ljubljana’s deliciously medieval Old Town, you’re hooked. You’ll simply love strolling among the tidy streets and narrow alleyways. As you explore Old Town, sway between traditional shops, cafés, restaurants, and museums.
The most enjoyable way to experience Ljubljana’s old quarter is simply to wander without any semblance of a plan. Along the way, slip into a yummy gostilna (restaurant), go shopping in a street-side market, or run into any number of the other Ljubljana attractions listed below.
Soak up the buzz at Triple Bridge
Located just south of Prešeren Square, the unofficial main square of central Ljubljana, Triple Bridge is an impressive piece of architecture.
The roots of this handsome bridge date as far back as the mid-1800s. The three bridges have a certain Venetian feel—even if the origins don’t support the theory.
Many of Ljubljana’s most famous postcard images feature the iconic Triple Bridge.
Spend a little time here to soak in the lively atmosphere. Snap a couple of your own photos before heading over the bank to continue your Ljubljana itinerary exploring Old Town.
If you’ve got a few moments to spare while hanging out around Preseren Square, pop into the pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation to check out its impressive frescoes.
Hike up to Ljubljana Castle
To be sure, Ljubljana Castle isn’t Neuschwanstein—or even Predjama Castle, one of the absolute must-sees when exploring Slovenia. This medieval fortress, shadowing Old Town Ljubljana below, however, is well worth the trek. Head up to admire sweeping views of central Ljubljana and relax at the blissful grounds atop Castle Hill.
Ljubljana Castle’s roots are in the 15th century when the Habsburgs built it to repel Ottoman invaders. Over the centuries, Ljubljana Castle morphed into what you’ll see today. The building has served many functions over its history, including a military hospital and a jail.
Poking around the castle and the grounds is free and is a must-do for any Slovenia itinerary.
Grab a quick beer or glass of wine in the courtyard to rejuvenate yourself from your journey. End your visit by rummaging around the traditional Slovene crafts at Galerija Rustika.
The best time to traipse around Ljubljana Castle is in the evening when the grounds come alive with cultural performances and concerts under the warm lights of the castle.
From Stari trg or Central Market in Old Town, it’s a steep 10-minute uphill walk to Ljubljana Castle. Alternatively, slide up with ease on the funicular railway. It departs from Krekov trg at least every ten minutes from morning (9-10 am) until night (8-11 pm), depending on the time of year.
Hang out with the city’s mascot at Dragon Bridge
Any city with a dragon as its mascot must be pretty badass. See them roaring in action at Dragon Bridge. This eye-popping Art Nouveau bridge in Old Town features four dragon statues perched upon the balusters.
Besides the architecture of the bridge itself, the dragons are incredibly detailed, with features leaning more towards frightening than cute.
Be patient if you want to snap a picture with your new unnerving friends: Dragon Bridge is one of the most popular places to go in Ljubljana. You might need to wait your turn to get up close and personal with these dreaded beasts.
Chill out in Tivoli Park
There’s no better mini-escape within Ljubljana than sneaking into the shade of chestnut trees at Tivoli Park.
Don’t tell a New Yorker this: Tivoli Park actually trumps Central Park in size. And for a capital city as small as Ljubljana, the enormousness of this greenspace is noticeable.
Stretching all the way down to the eastern fringes of central Ljubljana, Tivoli Park is a favorite recreation spot in the city. Visiting during summer, undoubtedly the best time to travel to Slovenia, is particularly popular when hordes of Ljubljaners beeline for Tivoli Park to bask in the sunshine.
Give your step counter a workout with a trek up Rožnik Hill. Pouring into Tivoli from the northwest, Rožnik Hill is the perfect, quiet, green escape from the city.
Take a day trip to Lake Bled
While it’s not in Ljubljana proper, taking a jaunt over to stunning Lake Bled is a must for any trip to Ljubljana.
The crystalline lake, located about one hour by bus outside of the Ljubljana City Center, is one of the most popular day trips from Ljubljana. Lake Bled offers some of the most breathtaking scenes you’ll ever witness. Anywhere in the world.
With the Julien Alps as its backdrop, Lake Bled is an absolute stunner in any season.
Although you’d do well to spend more than one day in Bled, there are a ton of things to see & do in Bled on a time crunch.
For a relaxed day, simply trek around the lake, catching its ever-changing hues from every angle. With a little more energy, power up to Bled Castle, where you’ll get some of Europe’s finest lake, mountain, and forest views.
Other potential day trip ideas while visiting Ljubljana include Lake Bohinj, Vintgar Gorge, Predjama Castle, Skocjan Caves, Postojna Caves, and Piran.
Gawk at baroque frescoes at the Cathedral of St. Nicholas
Looking to see some of the most incredible architecture in Ljubljana? Pop into the impressive Cathedral of St. Nicholas, or Ljubljana Cathedral, as it’s often called.
The grounds of St. Nicholas Church date as far back as the late 13th century. Before reaching its 100th year, the original Romanic church burned and was renovated in Gothic style. This, too, wouldn’t last long, barely surpassing the century mark (108 years) before getting torched again by invaders.
The beautiful Baroque structure we see today sprouted up in the early 18th century.
Over the following century and a half, the church was perfected with additions. The interior frescoes, statues, and paintings—the church’s most compelling features—dawn from this era.
Step inside Ljubljana Cathedral to marvel at the bronze sculptured doors, incredible baroque-era ceiling frescoes, gold-leafed supports, and imposing pipe organ.
Cruise down the Ljubljanica River
What better way to see Slovenia’s capital than cruising down the Ljubljanica River? Rolling and bending through central Ljubljana, the Ljubljanica River offers a new perspective on the city after it’s already captured your heart from above.
Some of Ljubljana’s most picturesque moments lie along the banks of the Ljubljanica. The river has a storied past, concealing artifacts left over from the Romans and Celts in its depths. With that history long washed away, what awaits is the beauty of the city’s medieval core stretching up from its banks.
End off with a tasty snack or a drink at one of the many cafes and restaurants perched upon the riverbank in Old Town.
Grab some fresh produce at Central Market
Compared to the Stalinist funk of the decommissioned zeppelin hangers of Riga Central Market, Central Market Ljubljana might not appear quite as interesting for visitors. What Central Market lacks in dystopian style, though, it makes up for in selection.
If you’re into saving money by self-catering, Ljubljana Central Market is the perfect place to stock up. Delicious and fresh local vegetables, fruits, meats (cured and raw), cheeses, baked goods, and cooking oils spread around the market’s open-air and covered sections.
The Central Market is open from morning (6 am or 7 am) until the afternoon (2 pm or 4 pm) every day except Sunday.
See the city from above at the Skyscraper (Nebotičnik)
Built in 1933, the aptly-named Skyscraper (Nebotičnik) was, in its glory days, the tallest building in the former Yugoslavia and one of the tallest in Europe.
Things have changed since the Skyscraper’s first hurrah. At just thirteen stories, Nebotičnik doesn’t even come close now.
That’s not to say that it’s not worth a visit.
If you want epic views over Ljubljana’s city center, this is the place to do it. Admission to the viewing terrace is free and offers, arguably, the finest vistas over Ljubljana.
For the full experience, opt for the beautiful Art Deco spiral staircase over the elevator and treat yourself to a meal and a drink at the 12th-floor restaurant for your effort.
Get quirky in Metelkova Mesto
Ljubljana’s answer to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen or Užupis in Vilnius, Metelkova Mesto is one of those quirky and offbeat communities that are so rare in a normally austere Central Europe.
Back in 1993, youth subculture and a group of artists crashed a former military barracks with new hopes and ideas. Metelkova was born.
Underground bars, art galleries, studios, and offices dot the seven buildings comprising Metelkova. Even if your dreadlocks are still growing in, this funky and colorful corner of Ljubljana is well worth the visit.
For a taste of the raucous independent music and clubbing scene, pop down to Metelkova on a Friday or Saturday.
Just be aware, however, that the neighborhood is one of the seedier areas of Ljubljana. Keep your wits about you if visiting after dark.
Browse the National Gallery of Slovenia
If you’re into art history, don’t miss out on visiting the National Gallery of Slovenia on your trip to Ljubljana. This sizeable historical art museum features the largest collection of fine art in Slovenia. The permanent exhibition spans several centuries, dating back as far as the Middle Ages up to the 20th century.
The National Gallery is a veritable time capsule of Slovenian art history with artists like Jožef Tominc, Franc Kavčič, Ivana Kobilca, Janez Šubic, and Jurij Šubic well represented.
The gallery is also home to the original Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers by Francesco Robba, now one of Ljubljana’s most famous landmarks.
The Robba Fountain, as it’s known colloquially, was historically located in front of the Town Hall. It was moved into the gallery for safekeeping and replaced with a replica to preserve this ornate and intricate work of Slovene art history.
Witness 20th-century history in action at the National Museum of Contemporary History
I’m not crazy about museums. The thought of perusing through ancient artifacts instead of eating local grub or testing out regional beers turns my stomach. I do, however, make exceptions for museums like the National Museum of Contemporary History.
Twentieth-century history always revs me up. Perhaps growing up in an era of upheaval and placing the events in a shared temporal space inspires it; frankly, I’m not sure. Either way, if you ever wanted to learn more about contemporary Slovenian history, here’s your chance.
The National Museum of Contemporary History digs all the way back from WWI to Slovenia’s independence. Interactive and immersive exhibits tread through the many regime changes and political ideologies that Slovenia endured throughout the 1900s. Most interesting is the exhibit on Slovenia’s independence from Yugoslavia.
The exhibit walks through the declaration of independence to the little-known Ten Day War and the (mostly) peaceful resolution that escaped Slovenia’s neighbors for the better part of the decade.
Where to stay in Ljubljana for sightseeing
Thanks to the city’s compact nature, figuring out where to stay in Ljubljana isn’t usually much of a problem. The biggest issue comes with the city’s growing popularity. During high season, be sure to book your hotel well ahead of time, especially if you want to grab a room at one of these top accommodations picks…
- Bed & Breakfast Atticus: A superb choice that won’t break the bank. You’ll dig the comfortable rooms here, available both with private & shared bathroom facilities.
- City Hotel Ljubljana: A comfortable mid-range hotel that’s located just steps away from many of the top choices for what to see in Ljubljana.
- Vander Urbani Resort: A beautiful luxury design hotel in a perfect central location. The modern rooms are stunning, but the true star of this property is the rooftop terrace pool with views over the historical center.