Charming, fairytale, idyllic, welcoming…all words I would use to describe the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. Ljubljana is a small, pedestrian friendly city that, while popular among visitors, does not have the overcrowded feeling of other popular European capitals (like Paris and Prague). There is also no shortage of fun things to do in Ljubljana.
From exploring Ljulbljana castle, wandering the cobblestone streets lined with cafes, to relaxing in the park. I visited in the summer months, but I can only imagine that Ljubljana is even more stunning during an Autumn in Europe when the changing colors of the trees provide a colorful backdrop to the dragon lined streets.
Did I mention Ljubljana has a thing with dragons?
While one day in Ljubljana is enough to check off the best things to do here, you can also spread out this itinerary if you have more time.
Additionally, Ljubljana makes a good base to explore Slovenia with day trips to other destinations like Bled and Piran. However, you decide to plan your Slovenia itinerary, you’re going to have an epic time in Ljubljana.
One Day in Ljubljana
Make sure you wear your walking shoes for today because you’ll be doing a lot of it! Ljubljana is a very pedestrian friendly city and it’s the best way to see it! I’ll provide you with a general overview of which direction to walk so you can see most of the highlights efficiently, however, definitely veer into the alleyways and random side streets.
Eat Breakfast at La Petit Cafe & Restaurant
Start your day off right with breakfast at La Petit Cafe & Restaurant. This French inspired gem of a restaurant is set on a charming street a short walk from the old town. You can choose to dine inside or outside adding to the French atmosphere.
They are open daily from 7:30 am – midnight, serving breakfast until 12:00 pm during the week and brunch until 5:00 pm.
Even if you sleep in you’ll have a chance to enjoy a Croque Madame and a smoothie.
Walk along River Ljubljanica
After breakfast, walk along the walking paths beside River Ljubljanica which winds through the city center. Along the way you’ll pass one of the many famous pedestrian bridges in Ljubljana, Cobbler’s Bridge. The bridge gets its name from the history of Ljubljana when shoemakers sold their shoes from this bridge.
Explore Ljubljana Cafes
Along this route, there are a number of cute cafes to pop into. I suggest checking out Cafetino for coffee lovers and Cajna Hisa for tea fanatics (like me!). Another good option is Kavarna Zvezda. Each of Ljubljana’s cafes has a slightly different vibe, but they’re all a welcome place to caffeinate before tackling the rest of your Ljubljana itinerary.
Along the way towards Preseren Square, you’ll pass by Ljubljana Cathedral. Its green domes are a part of Ljubljana’s skyline and its interior much more stunning than its exterior. I’ll admit, I didn’t enter the Cathedral as each time I passed by it happened to be closed. However, the pictures of the interior make me wish I made a bit more effort at getting in, it is free after all!
Ljubljana Central Market
Just beyond the cathedral is Central Market which is really a one-stop shop for all your produce needs. Here you can pick up a wide range of fresh veggies, fruits, and flowers. Try the cheese samples – so good! I recommend picking up some snacks from here or even gathering some produce for a homemade dinner. It’s very budget friendly!
There is also a section for clothing and stalls selling handmade, local goods. Some of the vendors speak English and, if not, hand signals and a smile always come in handy.
See the Dragon Statues at the Dragon Bridge
Dragons are a thing in Ljubljana, well, not just a thing, they’re the city’s symbol of power, courage, and wisdom. There are a number of legends as to how the dragon came to be the Slovenia’s capital city symbol. Whichever one you believe, it’s evident that the dragons are there to stay.
You can find symbols of the dragon all throughout the city, but the most popular place to find them is on the Dragon Bridge. There are four of them guarding either side of the bridge. It’s also a great place for a photo opportunity with Ljubljana Cathedral and Ljubljana Castle as a nice backdrop on a sunny day.
Have a Treat at Cacao
The ice cream at Cacao is so freaking good on a hot summer’s day. Stop by here and continue your stroll along the opposite side of the river ice cream in hand.
Walk Through Tivoli Park
As we head into the afternoon, the tourists come out to play, so head to Tivoli park, the largest park in Ljubljana, for a bit of respite from the city. On your way to the park you will pass through the town square, Preseren Square. Here you’ll find the pink church and statue of Preseren. This is the heart of the old town and serves as a gathering place.
But don’t linger here long, take your snacks and ice cream to Tivoli Park, a large green space just a short walk outside of the city center. There are a number of walking paths to explore, plenty of benches to relax in for a bit, an open-air art gallery, and even a sports complex.
Even though Ljubljana is small and not as crowded compared to other capital cities in Europe, a breath of fresh air in a park is always welcome.
Sunset at Ljubljana Grad
When you’ve gotten enough fresh air head back to town and cross Triple Bridge – an iconic bridge in the city. Supposedly there is a funicular railway that will bring you up to castle hill, I never saw it! I followed a path just behind Central Market up to the top. It took about 20 minutes and is a steady uphill climb, which I desperately needed. But if you’ve had it with walking ask around about the funicular.
Ljubljana castle is a perfect place to watch the sunset over Ljubljana and enjoy beautiful views of the city.
As an added bonus, you can see most of the castle without paying an entrance fee. There is a viewing deck you can climb up, former jail cells, and much more you can do here for free.
Enjoy a Drink Along the River
The riverfront is a very lively place. It’s lined with the best restaurants and bars. On a nice evening, have a seat at one of the tables lining the river and enjoy a drink. It’s a great spot for people watching and also to enjoy music from street performers. Another option for enjoying the river is to take a river cruise, which I did not do, but it looked like fun.
There really is no better way to end a day exploring the best things to do in Ljubljana, Slovenia than a sunset from a hilltop castle and a drink from a riverside bar.
If You Have More Time
Simply spread this itinerary out. There is a lot in this one-day itinerary. You’re likely feeling exhausted at the end of this day trying to cram it all in. Check out different cafes. Walk as far away from the city center along the river as you can.
One of my favorite streets is called Trubarjeva Cesta, which I discovered one night while I was in search of dinner. This street has plenty of unique shops and cheap eats and is just a few blocks away from the Dragon Bridge, but most people reach the bridge and turn around.
Ljubljana is a great city to get a little bit lost because it’s so small. You’re never too far from where you want to go and you just might find something really cool. Use the castle as your guide to orient you when you do get a bit off track. I really hope you enjoy this charming city and the rest of Slovenia!
How to Get to Ljubljana?
Ljubljana is a small country that is well served by buses from neighboring countries such as Hungary, Croatia, and Austria. From wherever you happen to be in Europe search for bus routes to Ljubljana. Ljubljana is also a great jump off point for many day trips around Slovenia. I recommend checking out Get By Bus and FlixBus to find the best routes to Ljubljana.
There is also an airport about 28km outside of the city. You can fly into Ljubljana airport (LJU) and then take a bus to the city or even to Bled.
Where to Stay in Ljubljana?
I stayed at Turn Hostel which is located above an English Pub. It had solid WiFi, comfortable beds, and clean showers. However, there was no kitchen which is one drawback. On one of my walks out of town along the river, I passed by Vrba Hostel. It took me about 15 minutes to get there but is on a cute tree-lined street with plenty of bars and restaurants as well.
Solo Female Travel Safety?
I never felt unsafe in Ljubljana, even walking back to my hostel well past dark. In fact, I arrived in Ljubljana at 2:00 am after spending a few days in Croatia! While I was certainly a bit unnerved by this, I did not feel unsafe.
As alway, follow your gut and these solo female travel safety tips to ensure you have nothing but a good time in Ljubljana There were plenty of people going on runs in the area. Of course, always be aware of your surroundings and if your gut is telling you something is off, then pay attention.