As we walk down memory lane, let’s dedicate a moment or two to Slovenia – and we’re starting with the capital, Ljubljana. We visited this tiny country in southern central Europe in August 2013. At the time we were living in Slovakia (yes, two different countries!) and we wanted to spend our summer holidays somewhere exotic but affordable. Before talking more extensively about the first part of our trip, we give you five very good reasons to visit Slovenia.
5 Reasons to Visit Slovenia
- There are mountains and there are beaches. There is great diversity for such a small country and one can see a lot in only a few days.
- The historical heritage is amazing. Still, Slovenia a very modern and comfortable country.
- Due to the relatively small size of the country and good connections, it’s easy to travel around. And you can go abroad for a day trip! (Italy and Croatia are both close)
- Great for activities of all sorts – walking, hiking, biking, you name it.
- Great food and delicious wines. All small in quantity, the Slovenian wines are known for their quality. The celts started making wine in the region already in 400 years B.C.
Slovenia: Our Itinerary
We had a total of seven days in Slovenia, including the hours spent on the train. We caught the train from Bratislava to Vienna, where we changed for another train headed south. The journey down from Austria certainly deserves to be mentioned – imagine lush green forest, and steep hills.
Due to the amount of time, we decided to focus on two main destinations: the capital city Ljubljana and the seaside resort Piran in the Slovene Riviera. Yes, you read correctly. Slovenia actually has a coastline. Squeezed between Italy and Croatia, it is approximately 47 kilometers long. We spent two nights in Ljubljana before staying three nights in Piran. On the way back we had one more night in the capital.
Apart from train, we also traveled by bus and bike.
Our first destination in Slovenia was the capital city, Ljubljana. The train neatly dropped us off at the central train station and from there it was not a long walk to the city center. Situated at a trade route between the Adriatic Sea and the Danube, the area has been inhabited for a long time. During antiquity there was a Roman town called Emona. A river named Ljubljanica flows through the city.
History is present in the streets and buildings of Ljubljana. The oldest architecture has been preserved since Roman times, but most of the historic center was drawn in medieval times. As the city has suffered from some earthquakes, it was rebuilt in different styles. After the quake in 1511, Venetian baroque serves as an inspiration. In 1895, on the other hand, the Vienna Secession style was more of the trend. Compared with other central European cities (east of the wall) or the other capitals of former Yugoslavia, Ljubljana definitely has another feel to it. It’s greener, it’s calmer and it feels more Mediterranean. The capital of Slovenia is also more tourist friendly. People are more open and helpful than in for instance Slovakia.
Ljubljana is a town that calls for walking. The local transportation system is actually quite good and accessible, but if you feel like challenging the hills – please do!
Very much like most major towns in the area, there is a castle in Ljubljana. It was originally a medieval fortress, dating back to the 11th century. The castle has been rebuilt many times and it has served different functions throughout history. Nowadays it’s principally a tourist attraction and a cultural venue. The castle is located near the city center but a visit (if you choose to go by foot) takes a good few hours. And it’s definitely worth it! Even if you’re not interested in attending any guided tours on the site, the view is spectacular. There is also a funicular for those who don’t want to walk!
During your walks around Ljubljana you can count on seeing churches, bridges, and squares. The main square is called Preseren Square (named after the poet France Preseren) and it’s a good place to start your walks. From here it is not far to the Old Town and the Market. Here you will also get the chance to admire of the impressive bridges, the Triple Bridge, dating back to 1842. Another spectacular bridge – and a trademark for the city – is the Dragon Bridge. The dragon is the symbol for Ljubljana and this particular bridge is guarded by four green dragons. According to the legend, the dragons wave their tails, when a virgin crosses the bridge.
As is the case with many other cities, Ljubljana also offers more modern sights and experiences. Neboticnik is a skyscraper built in 1933. At one time, it was the highest building in Europe. We recommend any visitor to wander outside the Old Town. You might be interested in visiting Zale – the cemetary which is also an architectural masterpiece – or the Tivoli Park, the largest park in Ljubljana.
Leaving the city center might also be a good idea if you are looking for cheap(er) restaurants or affordable four-star hotels. We spent our first nights in a hostel in downtown Ljubljana and even though the price was good, the quality was not so much to talk about. On the other hand, the second time we stayed at a hotel in BTC City (the business and entertainment district of Ljubljana) and it was much better. The distance to the city center was walkable and the breakfast was to die for!
As far as the restaurants were concerned, the food was good (similar to Italian, a lot of seafood) but the prices were actually quite high.
To be continued...
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