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Top 10 Things to do in Ljubljana

After traveling through parts of Eastern Europe, which comprised of several poor countries who, due to the financial lack, cannot maintain their cities and things fall into decay, arriving to Ljubljana in Slovenia was a totally different picture. Even though we still found ourselves being in the eastern part of Europe the country had visibly enjoyed a richer economy after the communist era. Ljubljana is just one of those underrated gems in Europe and often overlooked as a travel destination. Therefore, I think this city definitely deserves an entire blog post where I will share with you the top 10 things to see and do in Ljubljana and maybe this will make you want to travel to Ljubljana, too. With a population of 293.000 inhabitants it is one of Europe’s smallest capitals, yet, even though it is only a medium-sized city, it offers everything that most other metropolis do while still preserving its small-town charm. It’s not too crowded, neither too boring. In the city center the car traffic is restricted, leaving plenty of space for the pedestrians to stroll through the streets or along the banks of the river, making it to the people-friendly city that it is.

Ljubljana Castle - the city’s key landmark and main attraction

1. Ljubljana Castle

High up on the Castle Hill above the city stands the Ljubljana Castle, the city’s key landmark and main attraction, with stunning views of the city and its surroundings. The castle has been overlooking Ljubljana for about 900 years already though not in the shape you see today. The original medieval fortress was probably constructed in the 11th and rebuilt in the 12th century. When in 1335 the Habsburg took over the area they demolished the fortress completely and built a new one in the 15th century and added the other majority of buildings during the 16th and 17th century which is what you can see today. The castle consists of a whole complex with several historical sections such as the Chapel of St. George, the Prison and the Outlook Tower. The castle can be easily reached by a short hike or more in a more leisurely manner with a tram ride or you just do both, take the tram up and an enjoyable walk downhill.

Wandering around in Ljubljana will take you to the Dragon Bridge

2. Dragon Bridge

Wandering around Ljubljana you will most likely come across images of dragons in all sorts of forms which show up all over the city since they are an emblem for Ljubljana. Especially notable here is the Dragon Bridge, built between 1900 and 1901 on which there appear four famous dragon statues that stand sentinel on each corner. Make sure to be photographed next to one so you can make sure you REALLY have been to Ljubljana. The dragon statues aside, the bridge is an extraordinary creation itself. The design is a fine balance of technical heritage and the Vienna Secession style, closely related to Art Nouveau, from the turn of the 20th century. This bridge was Ljubljana’s first reinforced concrete structure and one of the largest ones of its kind to be built in Europe at that time. It is today protected as a technical monument. It replaced an old wooden bridge called the ‘Butcher’s Bridge’ which had stood on the site since 1819 and got damaged by a severe earthquake in 1895.

In the Old Town of Ljubljana lays the main square

3. Preseren Square

In the Old Town of Ljubljana where the Triple Bridge crosses the Ljubljanica River and right in front of the Franciscan Church lays the city’s main square, the Preseren Square, also one of the city’s most important landmarks. Where there’s now this beautiful square used to be a road junction in front of the old city gates which would lead into the medieval Ljubljana. This junction was then turned into this square as the original defense walls were torn down in the middle of the 19th century. Where there’s usually a statue of a great military hero or an influential politician marking such an important location of the city it is in this case a poet, Slovenia’s national poet France Preseren after whom this square is called. This is both a popular meeting place and a site for all kinds of events during the summer. This charming, little square is surrounded by a number of interesting sights such as the Franciscan Church and the magnificent Art Nouveau façade of the Urbanc House, an extraordinary building with an equally extraordinary interior.

Ljubljana has several noteworthy bridges - like the Triple Bridge

4. Triple Bridge

With the Ljubljanica River flowing through the city thereby dividing it into two sides this calls for some bridges! Ljubljana has several noteworthy bridges, like the Triple Bridge. It connects the historical, medieval town on one side of the river bank and the modern city on the other. This is a unique structure of a bridge divided into three separate bridges forming the Triple Bridge. This bridge has stood in its place since 1842 when it replaced an old, medieval wooden bridge which connected the north-western European lands with the south-eastern and the Balkans. It initially started out with one stone bridge which was mainly dominated by vehicles. As the city grew and the traffic became more intense the two side bridges were added between 1929 and 1932 to the original stone bridge for pedestrians resulting in this unique creation. The additional bridges were designed by the world-renowned architect JozePlecnik who also arranged the general urban planning of the central part of the city and marked his footprint with several other architectural structures.

The most vibrant part of the city is the Central Market,

5. Central Market

In between the Triple Bridge and the Dragon Bridge lies one of the most vibrant parts of the city, the Central Market, which is one of the many structures designed by Ljubljana’s famous architect JozePlecnik in 1931-1939 like so many other structures are. The Central Market isn’t just a temporary market consisting of stands being pulled up and down every day; the Central Market consists also of a covered space located in a beautiful colonnade stretching between the Vodnik Square and the Pogacar Square. On both squares you will find an open-air market with stands full of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers, whereas the covered part contains traditional Slovenian products such as cheese, bread etc. But the Central Market really is more than just a place to shop, it’s a place to meet enjoy one’s good company. If you want to shop some unique and local souvenirs I always find that food (considering it can last) is a wonderful souvenir to bring home with you or for someone else as this is a piece of culture and something you can enjoy after coming home from your vacation.

the Franciscan Church is unavoidable in Ljubljana

6. Franciscan Church

With its salmon-pink façade the Franciscan Church is unavoidable when you find yourself standing on the Preseren Square. The original colour of this church was red as the symbolic colour of the Franciscan monastic order but over time faded into this bright pink colour and has stayed that way since.The church was built in the second half of the 17th century with exception from the façade which was built in the beginning of the 18th century, replacing an older church on the same side. As a result of the Ljubljana earthquake in 1895 it changed its appearance. Many of the original frescos were ruined due to the cracks in the ceiling caused by the earthquake so they had the Slovenian painter MatejSternen commissioned to paint new frescos in the church. You should definitely take a look inside to admire the beautiful ceiling and the monumental altar. This is definitely one of the places you should make sure to visit when you are in Ljubljana.

The Cathedral is an easily recognizable landmark of the city with its green dome and its twin towers

7. The Cathedral

No matter the city, no matter the country, there’s always the Cathedral! In Ljubljana it’s the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas which was built in 1706. On the site of the Cathedral stood originally a Romanesque church which earliest mentions dates all the way back to 1262. After an extensive fire in 1361 it was re-furbished in a Gothic style but burnt down again in 1469 presumably by the Turks. Finally the church you see today was built in 1706 in a Baroque style clearly visible on the church’s exterior and even more on the interior with the frescoes, statues and paintings. The main entrancebronze sculptured doors are the latest addition of the Cathedral which was installed as late as 1966 to commemorate the 1250th anniversary of Christianity in Slovenia. The Cathedral is an easily recognizable landmark of the city with its green dome and its twin towers.

Make sure to visit the Town Hall

8. Town Hall

At last but not least you should as well go and see the Town Hall in Ljubljana, also sometimes referred to as the Magistrat. Ljubljana’s Town Hall, where the Municipality of Ljubljana has its seat, was built in the late 15th century together with its signature clock tower. The Town Hall was later renovated in the 18th century receiving its present appearance and is now considered one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Ljubljana. You can enter the courtyard of the building which is built in a Gothic style and arcaded with three levels, where there used to take theatrical performances place, though if you want to see more of the Town Halls interior you need to buy guided tours.

Not far from Ljubljana you will find one of the greatest attractions in Slovenia - the Postojna Cave;

9. Postojna Cave

Not far from Ljubljana and only a bus ride away you will find one of the greatest attractions in Slovenia, the Postojna Cave; the world's most captivating cave with incredible formations that have been shaped over millions of years. The jaw-dropping cave system is two million years old and was shaped by the Pivka River which enters a subterranean tunnel. The Postojna Cave is an incredible 24 km long cave system, making it the second longest cave system in Slovenia only to be surpassed by the Migovec cave system. You will be taken underground and as a visitor though you will only be able to see 5 km out of the total 24 km which are partly explored by an underground electric train and partly on foot where you will be escorted by a guide through tunnels, halls, galleries and caverns. You will be taken through different parts of the cave and see stalactites and stalagmites in all sorts of forms and shapes. The stalactites and stalagmites are two million years old! Imagine that producing 1 mm of a stalactite takes incredible 30 years! The temperature in the cave is very low so remember to bring a warm jacket and proper shoe wear, I promise you won't regret it.

 This is one of Europe’s most dramatic castles

10. Predjama Castle

Only a few kilometers from the Postojna Cave lays the unforgettable Predjama Castle. Let me tell you, that this is one of Europe’s most dramatic castles! Owing to the fact that the castle was built into the middle of a 123 meter high cliff with a network of secret caves behind has made this fortification impregnable. The castle has existed for the last 800 years where the first parts of this four story high castle were built from 1202 and onwards though most of what you see today was built in the 16th century. Behind this castle, which by the way happens to be the largest cave castle in the world, hides a network of secret tunnels through which the knight Erasmus, lord of the castle,would set out on his plundering expeditions to steal from the rich and give to the poor. When the Austrian’s besieged this castle in 1484 Erasmus would take the secret passage to get supplies for the castle, even mocking the Austrians by showering them with fresh fruit to prove his comfortable situation. Eventually, the Austrian’s got hit on him with a cannonball while he sat on the toilet, how ironic!


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