Ljubljana, like many cities in the former Eastern Bloc, has enjoyed a renaissance since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the eastward expansion of the EU. At first, tourism was based almost entirely on the low prices on offer but the city’s place in the market has matured recently and while it is still relatively cheap, its other assets have come into their own.
The first thing visitors should do upon arrival in Ljubljana is take a tour of the Old Town district and see the Triple Bridge, to get a feel for the city and sample how life has been lived here for many centuries. The tangle of criss-crossing streets, striking churches and modern designer boutiques is a curious mish-mash of the past and present and immensely enjoyable. There are street cafes and restaurants for refreshments where tired visitors can sit and watch others go wandering past. The Triple Bridge (three bridges built next to each other in the centre of town) have marked a central meeting point since they were built and feature on most picture postcards from the city.
From the bridges it’s possible to catch a tourist train up to Ljubljana Castle. For those whom the phrase ‘tourist train’ sends shivers of terror running up your spine then you can catch the funicular railway or walk up to the castle, but be aware that the hill is steep and very tiring on a hot day. The castle itself provides a great view over the city and beyond but for the very best vistas you have to pay and climb the tower. But it’s not extortionate and so certainly worth it on a clear day.
Visitors seeking a taste of the art and culture of Slovenia should visit the National Gallery, which contains interesting exhibits presented in an accessible way. Slovenian art may not be well known to most of the world but that does not detract from its unique nature and individual character. Younger visitors may not be thrilled by this museum but their parents should try and find some time to take even a brief look.
The other museum that I would recommend is the Museum of Contemporary History since it’s great for giving visitors a sense of momentous changes that occurred, mainly in the twentieth century, to allow Ljubljana to become the picturesque tourist town that it is now. It is especially poignant because the displays about the break-up of Yugoslavia bring home just how recently the turmoil was occurring. The museum is located in the enjoyable Tivoli Park and has a tank parked outside that will surely excite the interest of younger visitors.
Located at the southern end of the Tivoli Park, a trip to the acclaimed zoo should be planned by all families visiting Ljubljana. The zoo has refreshingly low prices compared with similar establishments in other cities and contains a broad, although far from comprehensive, selection of animals in a beautiful setting. The elephant feeding times are especially popular.
Top 5 hotels in Ljubljana
- Hotel Stil – double room from €60/USD 82.6
- Hotel Lev – double room from €79/USD 108.7
- Austria Trend Hotel – double room from €70/ USD 96.4
- Slon Best Western Premier Hotel - double room from €71/USD 97.7
- Antiq Hotel – double room from €70/ USD 96.4
Photo of Ljubljana’s Triple Bridge by night by Iversovnic.