What to do if you have two days in Ljubljana

Ljubljana will surprise you. From its quality of life (which granted the city the title of European Green Capital in 2016) to the amazing restaurants and the friendliness of its inhabitants, it all seems like a master plan to make you fall in love. Plus, it’s compact enough to be enjoyed over a weekend.

Why Ljubljana is so awesome

  1. Cars have been banned from the city center. Golf carts are made available for people with limited mobility: just give them a call and they come pick you up!
  2. There are free water fountains all over the city. The water comes straight from the Alps. It’s so good it doesn’t even need prior treatment.
  3. Unlike other European capitals, you don’t need to pay to pee. There are free public toilets everywhere, and they’re pretty clean.
  4. Can’t wait to post those pictures on Instagram? No worries. Ljubljana offers free Wi-Fi, up to 60 minutes a day.
  5. 63% of Ljubljana’s waste is separated and 74% of houses are heated by district heating and natural gas distribution.

We visited Slovenia for a week in June, 2017, and you can watch our entire trip on YouTube. Two of those days were dedicated to Ljubljana. Here’s how we spent our time:

Ljubljana central market

This colorful market was right next to our Airbnb apartment. It has fruits, vegetables, flowers, clothes and dry-cured meat products, as one would expect in Eastern Europe 😉 Slovenians are crazy about horse meat and bear meat, so we took the opportunity to try a bear sausage. It’s a strong taste, but yummy nevertheless!

There’s also a covered part, designed by the omnipresent architect Jože Plečnik during the Second World War (quite impressive, by the way, that he managed to get funds for such a massive project during those times). Most stalls there focus on meat and locals highly recommend the horse meat burger.

Also visit: Open Kitchen Food Market

Every Friday between mid-March and October, Ljubljana’s central market becomes a space where the city’s best restaurants and chefs showcase their food for a much friendlier price. Yes, in Ljubljana even budget travelers can enjoy top cuisine. Unfortunately, we weren’t there on a Friday, so we missed it. However, we did go to two of Ljubljana’s most traditional restaurants to compensate.

Gostilna Šestica

Šestica is the oldest restaurant in Ljubljana, running since 1776. It serves traditional Slovenian dishes accompanied by local wine or Union Beer. We ordered a lamb stew and a goulash with polenta, and both were to die for! The bill was surprisingly small for such a long-established place, and portions were generous.

Even though their main dishes are filling, don’t give up on dessert: Šestica is the first restaurant in Ljubljana to receive a license to serve Prekmurska Gibanica, a delicious layered cake with walnuts, cottage cheese and poppy seeds.

JB Restavracija

Led by chef Janez Bratovž (hence the name), this restaurant has been featured on St Pellegrino’s list of 100 best restaurants in the world. The menu is comprised of seasonal specialties, and sometimes there are even daily changes depending on what the chef finds at the local market.

Everything we had there was amazing, but the fillet of white fish with sea sauce and fermented cauliflower stole my heart.

This is not a cheap restaurant, of course, but since Ljubljana’s cost of living is low in comparison with Western Europe, we were almost shocked by its price: we had a starter, main dish, desert and drinks for just 65€ per person. Where would you ever find this level of dining for such a price in the Netherlands?

Cantina Mexicana

Sometimes all you want is simple, affordable food. Nothing wrong about that! This  Mexican joint was right next to our hotel and we loved it! Great value for money.

National Museum of Contemporary History

By now, you must be thinking that all we did in Ljubljana was eat. Well, that wouldn’t be far from the truth, as the Slovenian capital is a foodie paradise, but we did do other stuff as well, I swear.

One of the highlights of our trip was the Museum of Contemporary History, which tells the country’s History between the First World War and the fight for independence in 1991. Slovenia has had its fair share of sad times under foreign rule, but it’s all fine now — despite the recent blow from the financial crisis. The main thing keeping the national sentiment alive was their language, and it’s pretty cool to see how locals are proud of it.

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Laker Craft boat cruise

There are many cruise boats in Ljubljana, allowing you to see all of the city’s bridges.  All boats look like sardine cans, except for this one, made of wood by hand. The ride lasts around 45 minutes and costs 8€. One cruise every hour.

Ljubljana free walking tour

I love taking free tours on my first day in a European city, especially if I don’t have much time in it — and I swear I’m not just saying this because I work for a free tour company myself 😉 It’s a nice way to get an overview of the city’s history and main sights. We went on the one from this company and our guide was pretty good.

The view from Ljubljana’s castle

Ljubljana castle

I must confess that my loneliness is killing me nooooow I was a bit disappointed by the view from Ljubljana’s castle. It’s said to have a spectacular view, but it’s only so-so if you just stay in the courtyard and don’t visit any of the castle’s museums.

The cathedral (church of St. Nicholas)

The church you see now is from 1706, but there’s been a church on this spot at least since 1262. The first one was burned down in a great fire and the second version was burned down on purpose — presumably, by the Turks. While the dome fresco is quite impressive, our favorite part of this church was the entrance door: sculpted by Tone Demšar in 1996, it depicts the History of Slovenia. More on that on the video above.

Vigò Ice cream

Right next to the cathedral, you’ll find the best ice cream in the city. Each flavor is a combination of nice ingredients. The ice cream that receives the shop’s name has Mascarpone cheese, chocolate, hazelnuts and Nutella.

Pod Skalco Pub

A pub where you can sit on swings or climb up the walls. What’s not to like? This is quite a local spot, as it’s a bit of a walk from most tourist attractions. We went there around 3:00 PM, so it was empty (I swear we’re no alcoholics, the weather was just way too warm!) but in the evening it comes alive with all the students from the University of Ljubljana, which is right around the corner.

Best map of Ljubljana

I love Use-It’s maps and was quite happy to see that they operate in Ljubljana! We also downloaded an app called “Slovenia map” which allows you to locate yourself everywhere in the country, even offline. A nice alternative to Google Maps.

Practical tips and info

Have some tips of Ljubljana yourself? Drop them in the comments down below! And if you’re the Pinterest type, here’s your pic to pin!