Falling in love with Ljubljana
There are few cities which render me gob-smacked quickly. In fact, there are only a few I can count which had me fall hopelessly in love at first glimpse: Madrid, Berlin and Split. And, now Ljubljana is also on the I’m-crazy-about-you list. This gorgeous, whimsical capital surrounded by the Alps to one side and the Karst region to the other, is only one of the many gems tucked into the tiny country of Slovenia.

Promise.

For starters, being in Ljubljana makes me feel like I could believe in fairy tales again, complete with the gorgeous and clear river running through the town to the castle topping the hill in the city center. I can just close my eyes and imagine snow flakes fluttering to the ground, donning an Elsa-inspired shimmery dress.

It’s that magical of a city.

Normally, I would just write about the reasons you should fall in love with Ljubljana. Today, I’m going to show you (and tell you!).

Why Ljubljana needs to be on your itinerary

Aside from the obvious (hello, less touristy European capital) and in-your-face (read: gorgeous), Ljubljana is one of those places that is quietly becoming the little darling of Central Europe. As I have traveled through the years, more and more people whisper the Slovenian capital’s name. I assume they whisper because really, they don’t want to give away the secret: an affordable city packed with culture in a country offering an array of options for most travel interests. And, honestly, I can’t blame them for wanting to keep Ljubljana a secret. When I mention the name, some people stare at me blankly, unsure if I have even uttered a real word.

Well, thankfully, Ljubljana is real. And, it is absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous.

So, why should you head to Ljubljana?

The cool history of the castle on the hill

Ljubljana castle

The Ljubljana castle

Ljulbjana CastleLjubljanski grad, is only 80 meters above the city on the aptly named Castle Hill, Grajski grič, but hike up to the top (or take the funicular if the steep trek up isn’t your cup of tea) and that 80 meters goes a long way, treating people to a spectacular view of the capital, as well as the surrounding Alps and beyond.

The view from the castle of Ljubljana

Not too shabby for a 10-minute trek up, eh?

This medieval castle first came to be in the 1200s, serving as a fortification to defend against the Ottoman invasion and peasant revolt, an arsenal, a military hospital and even a prison until World War I.

The Ljubljana Castle from the city

Looking up to Castle Hill

However, once it fell out of use, it lost favor with those in town. When, in 1905, the city decided to make it a place for the poor to settle. This was the norm until the 1960s, when it was time for the castle to undergo the necessary renovations.

The fernicular to Ljubljana castle

The funicular was added during the 35-year renovation to the castle

Today, the historic fortress is mainly a tourist attraction.

To get there, either follow one of the routes which entail about a 10-minute trek up Castle Hill, or take the funicular.

hike up to Ljubljana castle

The steep walk up to the castle in Ljubljana

Hike to Ljubljana Castle

The not-as-steep hike down

The gorgeously preserved St. Nicholas’ Cathedral

It is so easy to get churched out while exploring Europe and its history, which often melds religion. I try to skip churches as often as possible because hey, you’ve seen one church, you’ve seen ’em all, right?

Wrong.

Ladies and gentlemen, the gorgeous St. Nicholas’ Cathedral, Stolnica svetega Nikolaja:

St Nicholas Cathedral in Ljubljana

Originally a gothic church, today’s Cathedral is a baroque version dating back to the 1800s. Today, visitors can still see some of the history preserved. Some of the Baroque decor, like the frescoes painted by Giulio Quaglio, remain, as well as other items like the altar angels, the dome frescos and the statues of the four bishops under the dome beam.

photo 4

The easy to spot cathedral is identifiable thanks to twin green domes and its location in the city center  on the Cyril and Methofius Square and near the Town Hall and Central Market.

The other church, you know, the pink one

photo 1

OK, so calling the it the “Pink Church” isn’t the way to go, but this historic church is one of those landmarks associated with the capital of Slovenia. Located in Prešeren Square, it is actually called the Franciscan Church of the AnnunciationFrančiškanska cerkev, and was built between 1646 and 1660.

photo 3

Architecture transcending time

On a walk through Ljubljana’s city center, it is hard to ignore the varied architecture which treats visitors to windows of the past, thanks to the magnificent and well-preserved buildings. Buildings, bridges (Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge included) and more can be attributed to the famous architect Jože Plečnik, who left his touch on the young city.

Križanke Summer Theatre

The Križanke Summer Theatre, designed by Jože Plečnik

The heart of the city is largely Baroque-style and Vienna Secession … easy to simply fall in love with. Spend a day wandering the layers of the city center to discover hidden gems that have withstood earthquakes and the general test of time.

Architecture in Ljubljana

photo 2

Numerous bridges connect the old city to the new, many which have come to life at the hands of famous designers. Popular ones (and easily recognizable) include Butcher’s Bridge with love locks dangling along its bars, Dragon Bridge and its namesake sculptures perched on it, and Triple Bridge featuring three bridges elevated about Ljubljanica River.

photo 5

The River

Sure, plenty of cities have rivers cutting through them, but they don’t have the Ljubljanica River. This gorgeous green-blue body of water, isn’t just a body of water; history flows through, too. The Ljubljanica has delivered relics from as far back as the Stone Age, including a spearhead.

Today, visitors to Ljubljana can hop aboard a boat tour and cruise down the sparkling waters.

photo 3

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Stay tuned. Part Two is coming up with even more inspirational images to entice you to come visit Ljubljana.

 Editor’s Note: I was a guest of Visit Ljubljana for a portion of my week in Slovenia, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

This post is part of  the D Travels Europe (and Israel) series. Stay up-to-date on all of my adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,TroverG+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.

45 comments

  1. Ljubljana Castle is not 375meters above the city, but 375m above the sea level. Ljubljana being 295m above the sea level, which makes the Castle 80m above the city…

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  2. Great post Diana – it looks like such a beautiful city. It’s one of the eastern European countries I haven’t been to but it’s now definitely on the list. 🙂

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  3. We came through Slovenia on our way back from our vacation in Croatia and Bosnia this September. I was bowled over by the street art on the route into the centre of town. The Art Nouveau buildings (and bridge) were equally impressive. But most of all I loved staying on a farm to the East of Kamnik where we spent hours chatting with our hosts about organic farming and Slovenia as well as getting our hiking boots on and just wandering in the hills and mountains.
    As he said in the film: “I’ll be back!”.

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  4. Ah, I would totally call it “the pink church” 😉 What a beautiful beautiful city! I feel so grateful that Ljubljana is close enough to the UK that if I wanted to visit (errrrrr which I do now) it wouldn’t take me too long to get there 🙂 Beautiful photos Diana 🙂

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  5. I am french and came in Ljubljana for the first time 10 years ago… I fell in love, came back… and back… again and again, several times a year… and finally left France and moved there a few years ago. I don’t regret at all, this city is just fantastic, feeling also like in a small village in some part of the city. For exemple, my neighbourhood located 10 mn from the city center, is surrounded by fields, a forest and a pretty little lake. You shouldn’t forget to mention how charming, nice and respectful the slovene people are towards eachothers, and their city… Thanks for this great article, and of course it’s a must to do in Europe. Lep Pozdrav !

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    1. I would LOVE to live in Ljubljana. Sadly, as an American, it is rather hard to get a visa to most countries in Europe besides the 90 days we get when we stamp into Schengen. You’re lucky! And, you are right. The people are SO wonderful!!

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      1. Hahaha ! Yes, coffee, presents and learning to know eachothers first is so 2013 😉 Well, if you really want to live in Slovenia, there is always a way, don’t be afraid by this visa and administrative things, it’s just a detail. There are lots of american expats who could help you in case of you really wish to move here.

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  6. Hello
    I visited Ljubljana for the first time in June 2014 … and also put this city on the list of three that I choose to live for some time, or even long.
    Just want to make a note regarding the photos: I think the city, the architecture, the colors etc are balanced in such a way in this city, there is no need to use the effects they present.
    I think … not improved, worsened!
    Ljubljana does not need special effects to photos. She is much prettier natural.
    See you soon … SLOVENIA! (From Portugal)

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    1. Hi Antonio, Sorry you don’t like the photos. Often during the times I was out, the lighting was quite bad. But, you are right, the city does not need any editing to make it beautiful!

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    1. Thank you, Jost! Next time I am in town (and there will be a next time sooner than later), I will be sure to reach out to you and check out Spotted by Locals! Thank you for sharing.

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  7. I came back frkm a trip to Germany and Italy, had been so loca trying to make it to Ljublijana but chose to dedicate more days rather than visiting for three days only. Your article is so well done and your pictures stunning! Thank you so very much!

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  8. It looks so peaceful! I would love to visit a city like this and explore the beautiful architecture. And I have to ask the question everybody is thinking…how the heck do you pronounce this!?

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  9. Hi Diana,
    so very happy you like our capital! And you are right, Ljubljana is beautiful indeed, not only for tourists, but for the locals as well! Hope we will be able to greet you here soon again! Safe travels!

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