Ljubljana, the capitol of Slovenia, is a very pedestrian-friendly city, so what better way to learn about the city than through a walking tour? Walking tours of the central city depart every morning from in front of the old town hall in the city center. The center of Ljubljana is a very pleasant city on a lot of levels. From baroque churches to art nouveau buildings, there's interesting architecture all around. The Ljubljanica River winds through the downtown, and it's lined with dozens of restaurants to choose from, and is crossed by some interesting bridges.
After assembling by the stone Rossa Fountain of Three Rivers and seeing the town hall, our tour made a stop at St. Nicholas Cathedral, the central cathedral of Ljubljana. This baroque style church was built between 1701-1706 on the same site occupied for centuries by earlier churches. The interior of this church has magnificent frescoes adorning the ceiling and other surfaces, some from the early 1700s. From the organ to the altar, nearly every inch of the church is a work of art, including its big bronze doors, commissioned in the 1990s when the Pope was coming for a visit.
The tour continued on past the colonnaded market along the river, and headed for the next major attraction, which was the funicular ride up to the castle. The ticket for the steep ride up to Ljubljana castle was included in the walking tour price and our guide ushered everyone inside for the ascent. The top end of the funicular ride dumps you out into the visible stone foundations of the castle. From there we climbed a few more steps to get to the castle proper. The castle looms over all of central Ljubljana and from below it looks really great. When we signed up for the tour, we were wondering how a 2-hour tour was going to see the city and include a visit to the castle. The answer is that there isn't really that much to see up at the castle. Rather than just being a historical artifact, most of it has been turned over to modern purposes such as a restaurant. The also show films in the open-air courtyard during the summer time. One of the remaining historical portions is the jail cells. And of course you do get grand views of the rest of the city from the ramparts.
We rode back down the funicular with our guide. As we walked along the broad Mestni Trg our guide offered us some nice perspectives on Ljubljana (and Slovenia in general) in World War II. We crossed the Cobbler's Bridge, marked by dozens of pairs of shoes, laces tied together and thrown over electric wires between the rooftops. Cobbler's bridge was a favorite place for various buskers (jugglers, singers,...) to perform since the broad pedestrian bridge could draw a nice crowd.
We walked past the main building of the University of Ljulbjana and alongside the park of Kongresni Trg (Congress Square). This park holds a replica of an ancient statue from roman times when the city was known as Emona.
After some stories about a famed Slovenian poet, France Prešeren, in the square named after him, Prešernov Trg, we crossed back over the river on the famous Triple Bridge, designed and remodeled by Slovenia's 20th century genius architect, Jože Plečnik. Plečnik's imprint is all over the city in other places also.
It was a great tour and introduction to Ljubljana, and worth the price. Even at two hours, we didn't even cover all the central city area. But Ljubljana is very compact and great for walking, and we used a map to take our own walking tour of some of the art nouveau buildings and the famous Dragon Bridge with its wonderful dragon statues at the four corners. There's a legend about the statues, that only three are really statues and the "real" dragon will reveal himself by wagging its tail when a virgin crosses the bridge.
The tour starts daily in front of the old town hall. It costs 10 euros per person, but that includes the funicular ticket. You can save 1 euro per person by buying your tickets in advance at the tourism information office nearby. They have various other tour options available, such as combining the walking tour with a river boat tour, or their little tourist "train".