Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia, a relatively new country claiming its independence only in 1991 during the Yugoslav war. Previously all, or part of the country has been occupied by Yugoslavia, Italy and also the Austro-Hungarian empire, so the country you see today shows influences from all of these. It is also one of the smallest capital cities in Europe with a population of just 280,000 and was voted Europe’s greenest capital city in 2015. For a while now, after seeing pictures of this beautiful city, I have been longing to visit Ljubljana. One day earlier this year I stumbled across some extremely cheap flights, so I thought why not, and went ahead and booked my Ljubljana city break.
Getting to Ljubljana
Direct flights to Ljubljana are restricted to a once a day service from Luton Airport on WizzAir, and EasyJet also offer flights from Stansted a few times a week. I booked the Saturday flight out and the Sunday flight back with WizzAir from Luton, so that it would fit into a weekend. As the flight left at 7:30am I stayed the night at an airport hotel so it wasn’t such an early start on the Saturday. The flights cost a mere £18pp return, plus a few pounds extra to reserve a seat. I paid £6pp per flight for the leg room seats as I like to have that little bit of extra room.
Ljubljana airport is approximately 30 minutes from central Ljubljana, so transfers or a taxi will be needed. I booked transfers directly with WizzAir for €18pp which was a shared minibus from the airport, with door to door service to the hotel.
Somewhere to stay on your Ljubljana City Break
I had accrued a free night to use with hotels.com, so I decided to use this and booked a suite in the Vander Urbani Resort, in the heart of Ljubljana. Vander Urbani Resort is located on the side of the Ljubljanica river, in the pedestrianised area of the old town. The transfer actually dropped me off and collected me about 5 minutes away at the end of the pedestrianised area.
Vander Urbani Resort is a member of the Design Hotels group. The Hotel has 36 beautifully decorated bedrooms, arranged over 4 floors. They also have a pool on the roof terrace, which is open during summer months. They also have a champagne bar aptly called Bubbles, and also a formal restaurant where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. There was a very generous breakfast buffet which was included in the room rate, and you could also order hot options free of charge as well. I started with a plate of cold meats and cheese, followed by a freshly made ham and cheese omelette.
The room was very tastefully decorated, with very modern furniture and bathroom suite. The bathroom was separated from the bedroom by glass partitioning, with a glass door at either end, one near the toilet and the other near the bath. The bathroom was divided into two areas by the shower cubicle. The bedroom was also divided by a mirrored unit into two areas, the bedroom area and a seating area. The mirrored unit incorporated a second wardrobe, shelves, minibar and safe.
Things to See and Do on your Ljubljana City Break
The centre of Ljubljana is quite small and can be accessed easily on foot. It’s worth spending some time upon arrival exploring the old town, which is mostly on the castle side of the river, and also the newer town which lies on the opposite side. There are many bridges spanning the river, but look out for the Dragon Bridge which has dragons on each corner. The dragon is the emblem of Ljubljana. Local legend states that the founder of Ljubljana was Jason, and the dragon became the city’s emblem because he and his Argonauts killed the dragon.
One of the things on the top of my to do list while on my Ljubljana city break was to visit Ljubljana Grad (Ljubljana Castle). You can either take the funicular railway for €4pp return, or you can walk if you prefer. There is plenty to see and do for free in the castle, however for €7.50pp you can see much more of the castle. The fee for the castle includes entry to the tower, the Slovenian history museum, the puppet museum and also a video on the history of Ljubljana Castle. There is also a small theatre, café, shop and restaurant located in the castle. A visit to the castle comes very highly recommended for a real insight into the history of the castle, and also the history of Ljubljana and Slovenia. Allow 2-3 hours to fully explore everything the castle has to offer, including the stunning panoramic views from the tower.
Located along the bank of the river Ljubljanica is a bustling fruit, veg and flower market. There was also a smaller market just around the corner full of arts and crafts, locally made produce, live music and food stalls. I’m not sure how often this part of the market is held, or whether it was a special event, but it was definitely worth a visit to explore the range of stalls, as well as sample some local food.
Before my visit to Slovenia I was not aware of the large presence the country has in the wine industry. Slovenia makes on average 25 million litres of wine a year and you will find many bars in the city offering wine in 10cl glasses so you can sit down, relax and try as many of them as you can manage. I was recommended to try Dvorni Bar, but unfortunately when I visited after dinner there was not a free table in the whole bar so I decided to look for somewhere else. Across the river, just a stone’s throw from the hotel was a bar called Divine. Divine had plenty of tables available, so I picked one outside under a heater, and tried a few Slovenian wines. I tried a variety of reds and most of them have a hint of pepper, something I have found on trips to neighbouring Croatia. I must say I do very much like this subtle taste to the wine.
If you would prefer a cocktail, I found a small bar called Solist, on the opposite bank of the river offering great cocktails. I stopped in here for a nightcap before heading back to the hotel.
Places to Eat on a Ljubljana City Break
During the day, rather than a sit down lunch I decided to try some local street food while exploring the markets. While I was visiting the market I noticed a very popular stall selling a range of different sausages, hot dogs and burgers, so I decided to try a local hot dog. Interestingly the sausage was served with a slice of fresh bread instead of a roll, and also with a sauce made from red peppers, all in all quite delicious. Later in the afternoon whilst I was sampling some local wines I did enjoy a small plate of bresaola and local cheeses.
Although I never usually choose to eat at the hotel on a short trip, as I like to try out local places, the restaurant menu at the hotel looked absolutely stunning. Specialising in traditional Slovenian dishes with a modern twist. So shortly after my arrival I called downstairs to reserve a table only to learn that due to an event that evening they were fully booked. What a shame! So, I reverted to my usual plan and went off to find somewhere to have dinner.
After wandering around central Ljubljana for a while I came across a restaurant called Sokol. From the outside it looked very traditional, and so did the menu so I thought I would give it a go. For starters I had a traditional platter which included 2 different types of ham, cured venison, venison sausage, venison pate, chicken and fig pate, Slovenian lard, cheese, bread and olives. I tried everything on the platter and loved it all, especially the Slovenian lard and cured venison. For my main course I decided on venison medallions with sour cherry sauce and cabbage, a very traditional dish which definitely didn’t disappoint.
For My Next Ljubljana City Break…
Well, a one night Ljubljana city break is definitely not long enough – what was I thinking when I booked for just one night? So a return trip is definitely on the cards, hopefully as soon as possible. On my return trip I would like to visit the Tivoli park and national Slovenian museum, as well as the war museum. Another must on my next trip will be a day trip to Lake Bled which is about an hour north of Ljubljana, and looks like a setting for a fairy tale.