Known as ‘the city of dragons’, Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and is an elegant, neat and well-kept city. Located only 140 km from Zagreb, Ljubljana is an easy stop for those travelling to or from Croatia by car or, given the proximity of the two countries, as a day trip to take during a stay on Croatian soil. The city’s location between Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary has strongly influenced its history, and its culture has been influenced by German, Slavic and Latin influences.
Ljubljana has such ancient origins that traces of settlements dating back to 2000 BC have been found in the areas around the city. Over the centuries, it was ruled by the Venetians and then by the Romans, who built the castrum of Aemona (or Iulia Aemona) in the 1st century B.C. along the military road from Aquileia to the Danube. Due to its strategic location in the north-eastern part of Italy, the city unfortunately also suffered numerous barbarian raids.
Around the 13th century, however, Ljubljana was conquered by the Austrians and remained under their rule until the beginning of the 19th century, when it briefly came under French control and then returned to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War II, Ljubljana became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia until 25 June 1991 when Slovenia gained independence and Ljubljana became the capital.
The city centre has managed to preserve an older core, where you can find monuments from the medieval period, Baroque buildings and Art Nouveau elements, while in a more modern area you can find more recently constructed buildings and palaces.
Ljubljana has several sites of interest to discover and a visit to the city can take a full day or better still a weekend. The centre can be easily discovered on foot as it is closed to car traffic and is characterised by a lively atmosphere enlivened by the presence of typical restaurants, bars, clubs and shops. The main sites of interest can be reached on foot or with a leisurely bicycle tour. Many buildings and monuments in the historical centre were designed by the famous Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957), who created works such as the Triple Bridge, the National Library and the Central Market.
Ljubljana Castle is located on Grajska Planota hill 366 metres above sea level and was originally built in the 12th century to defend against Turkish invasions. Considered one of the symbols of the Slovenian capital, the castle was unfortunately rebuilt in the 1960s, although remnants of the older complex are still visible. Over the centuries, the Habsburgs carried out various alterations and extensions to the fortress, and in the mid-17th century the castle lost its defensive role to become first a military warehouse and then a prison.
You can reach the castle via a funicular railway that takes you right into the historical centre of the city, near the market area, or by walking along one of the beautiful paths that climb up from Vodnikov trg, Stari or Mestni trg squares. In addition to offering a wonderful panoramic view of the city, the Castle also houses the Museum of Slovenian History and the Puppet Museum. This site is also often the venue for exhibitions, cultural events and manifestations.
Prešeren Square was built where the entrance to the walled city of Ljubljana once stood. It is now the heart of the capital and is home to sights such as the Triple Bridge and the famous Church of the Annunciation. In the centre of the square is a statue dedicated to the Slovenian poet France Prešeren (1800-1849), one of the greatest exponents of European romanticism. The statue was created by architect Max Fabiani and sculptor Ivana Zajec and was unveiled in 1905.
On Prešernov Square is the Franciscan Monastery with the Church of the Annunciation, which was built around the middle of the 17th century. Following the earthquake that struck the city in 1895, the church underwent several renovations that partially changed its original appearance.
The façade is now pink in colour and houses a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary, while inside the church houses the main altar, which was created by sculptor Francesco Robba in the 18th century, and frescoes by Matevž Langus.
Developing around the course of the Ljubljanica River, Ljubljana has over the years seen the construction of many bridges that were necessary to cross from one side of the city to the other. The most famous of these is certainly the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje). Built in the Middle Ages out of wood, the bridge initially connected the countries of western Europe with those of south-eastern Europe. Over time, the wooden bridge was replaced by a stone one and, in the early 20th century, Plečnik added two side footbridges (intended for pedestrians) to the central footbridge, which were connected by stairs to the main terrace.
Plečnik created a true work of art that is now considered one of the symbols of Ljubljana and is a must-see during a visit to the city.
There are several bridges you can cross in the city centre. Among the many, don’t miss the Dragons bridge5 which is decorated with numerous statues of dragons, a being that is considered the symbol and protector of Ljubljana. According to an ancient legend, in fact, the Slovenian capital was founded by Jason the Greek hero who, after finding the famous Golden Fleece in Colchis, on his return journey killed the dragon that lived near the source of the Ljubljanica River.
Other nearby bridges include the Shoemakers' bridge6, which once stood in an area full of shoemakers’ workshops, Butchers bridge7 (also known as the Bridge of Love) and Trnovo bridge8. When crossing the bridges of Ljubljana, be sure to also take a stroll along the Ljubljanica River, which is very lively, especially in the summer season. Here you will find many cafés and bars where you can have a coffee and enjoy a few minutes of relaxation.
The Cathedral of St Nicholas (katedrala Ljubljanaera), built on the site of a former Romanesque basilica, is now a beautiful example of Baroque art. The church was named after St Nicholas, considered the protector of fishermen. The religious building underwent several renovations in the 18th century, giving it its current appearance with twin bell towers.
Designed by architect Andrea Pozzo, the cathedral is in the shape of a Latin cross, with a single nave and side chapels. Inside, the church contains white and gold stucco and frescoes by Giulio Quaglio depicting scenes from the life of St Nicholas.
The oldest area of Ljubljana is known as Mestni Trg (Civic Square) and is characterised by beautiful Baroque buildings dating back to the 16th century. It is impossible not to notice the elegant building that currently houses the City Hall, which features a beautiful clock tower. Also located here is the Fountain of the Carniolani Rivers, a Baroque work created in the 18th century by sculptor Francesco Robba, who drew inspiration from Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers.
Other buildings on the square include Haman House, which houses the Municipal Gallery, and Souvan House, whose façade has reliefs representing trade, agriculture and art.
To fully experience the ambience of Ljubljana, a stop at the city’s central market is a must. The market, also designed by the famous architect Jože Plecnik around 1940, consists of an open-air area (Vodnikov trg) and an indoor area (Pogačarjev trg).
The market stalls sell not only foodstuffs but also flowers, handicrafts and typical specialities. A visit to the central market is definitely a way to get a taste of everyday life in the city and also to discover numerous typical products.
Considered the ‘green lung of the city’, Tivoli Park is a true oasis of peace and tranquillity. Covering some 500 hectares, the park was designed in the 19th century by Jean Blanchard, although numerous subsequent extensions have altered its original appearance.
Here, it is possible to stroll along tree-lined avenues surrounded by statues and fountains, visit the botanical garden and visit the ‘fitness trail’, where numerous pieces of exercise equipment can be found. Don’t miss the picturesque Jakopič promenade, a path designed by Plečnik in 1934 to reach Tivoli Castle, which is now home to the International Centre for Graphic Art.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Ljubljana has plenty of accommodation to suit the needs of different types of tourists. From hotels to hostels, from B&Bs to flats, the Slovenian capital offers different types of accommodation at different price ranges.
If you are only staying for a few days, the advice is to find accommodation near the historical centre to be close to the main attractions. However, Ljubljana is not very large and is a very human-friendly city, so whichever area you choose for accommodation, it will be easy to get to the centre.
Ljubljana’s location makes it easily accessible from major European cities by car, train or bus. From Zagreb, however, you must take the A2/E70 to exit 32 Ljubljana-jug. It is important to bear in mind that in order to drive on Slovenia’s motorways it is mandatory to purchase a vignette to be displayed in the windscreen.
Ljubljana is also easily accessible by train as the city’s railway station is the largest in the country and has connections to major European cities such as Trieste, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Zagreb.
The city also hosts a bus station (Avtobusna postaja Ljubljana), which offers bus connections to major cities in neighbouring countries and to several Slovenian localities. The companies here are both local and international. Some easily accessible cities are: Zagreb, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Trieste, Venice, Vienna, Munich and Paris.
Ljubljana International Airport (Jože Pučnik Airport) is about 26 km from the centre and is connected to the city by bus lines or taxis. The airport offers connections with European cities as well as international locations. Other nearby airports with easy access to the city are Zagreb at 140 km, Trieste at 130 km and Klagenfurt at 85 km.
What's the weather at Ljubljana? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Ljubljana for the next few days.
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and has a very strategic location. The city is 88 km north-east of Trieste, 140 km west of Zagreb and 115 km north of Rijeka.