Written by travelswithkids on 16 Nov, 2013
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…Read More
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". Close
Written by fizzytom on 24 Sep, 2012
Ljubljana’s Ljubljanica River does not have the grandeur of the Danube, the Seine or the Thames but then most things in the Slovenian capital are in miniature. At the point where most visitors see the river it almost looks too small for boats and in…Read More
Ljubljana’s Ljubljanica River does not have the grandeur of the Danube, the Seine or the Thames but then most things in the Slovenian capital are in miniature. At the point where most visitors see the river it almost looks too small for boats and in twelve years of visiting I only ever saw one ‘party boat’ on the water in the city centre. Therefore I was delighted one Sunday this summer to see a pleasure cruise for tourists and with a couple of hours to kill before we had to leave for the airport we took our first jaunt on the Ljubljanica. The tour leaves from the steps on the northern embankment of the river known as Hribarjeva nabrezje; if you’re there on a Sunday it’s near where the flea market starts. We bought our tickets from a friendly young lady and joined the queue to embark. On our sailing the majority of places were taken up by a tour group who were all in good spirits and clearly thought it was fine to talk over the commentary because the lady giving it was their own tour guide. All of the seating on this boat is outdoor so unless you don’t mind getting wet, or you have an umbrella or waterproofs, this is an excursion for a sunny day. Ljubljana never gets really busy but this short river trip gives you a chance to relax and see the city from a new perspective. On our trip the boat went first away from the Triple Bridge and up to the place where the river forks. You pass through part of the Krakovo district though not much of it can be seen by boat and then past some of the foreign embassies. At the fork we turned and went back passing our departure point and going under the famous Triple Bridge and past the Plecnik designed market and as far as the Dragon Bridge, my favourite of the bridges over the Ljubljanica. The dragon is a motif found frequently in Ljubljana and legend has it that when a vi crosses the bridge, the dragons will turn their heads. There was a commentary during our trip but I couldn’t decide whether the guide belonged to the boat tour or to the group that was on the boat. She spoke almost adequate English with a strong accent and if she belonged to the boat then they didn’t recruit very well as I encounter many young Slovenians who could do this job brilliantly. The commentary didn’t really keep up with the scenery and while she did inject some interesting little asides about Ljubljana life, these were often at the expense of learning about some interesting building or other. Refreshments are not served on board but passengers are permitted to consume their own drinks. This is not so much a cruise as a short jaunt. The boat is small so at busy times you’re packed in fairly tightly against your neighbours. Alas during our trip few people were interested in the commentary and chatted amongst themselves so loudly that we could hardly hear the guide. This trip is a pleasant way to spend an hour though (unless you’ve so far seen nothing of the city) you’re unlikely to see anything new: it’s more a case of seeing things from an alternative perspective. We enjoyed our short trip but I can’t say it’s an essential must-do when in Ljubljana. Still, the price is not extortionate and as most attractions are within the city centre, or within walking distance, you don’t need to use buses and can save your money for a boat trip instead. (Note – trips run only during the summer months. The boat is small and, due to being accessed by way of some steps, is not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs.) Close
Written by fizzytom on 10 Sep, 2012
As a Brit, I found Slovenian Sundays hard to adapt to at first; in fact weekends in Slovenia are quite different from what I’m used to, and it’s quite useful to know what to expect should you be making a weekend trip to Ljubljana or…Read More
As a Brit, I found Slovenian Sundays hard to adapt to at first; in fact weekends in Slovenia are quite different from what I’m used to, and it’s quite useful to know what to expect should you be making a weekend trip to Ljubljana or a longer trip that includes a weekend. At lunch-time on Saturday the city centre shops close and they don’t open again until Monday morning. A German friend thought it was odd that I should mention that but in the UK our stores – be they in a town centre or an out of town mall – can open for six hours on a Sunday (local convenience stores can open longer). In Slovenia some, but not all of the out of town malls open on a Sunday while a few convenience stores open for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. Generally town centres are deserted after Saturday lunch time unless there’s an event taking place.You’ll see a few more people on the street in Ljubljana on a Saturday but most will be tourists, or else people switching buses on their way somewhere. On summer Sundays, though, Ljubljana locals come out in their droves and fill the waterside cafes in the city centre. Dog walkers, families, cyclists, young women who want to be seen – everyone comes out for a few hours to stroll through town and catch up with friends. Most people have a coffee or a soft drink and maybe some ice cream; the only people drinking are old men with a spritzer, or tourists. Some Slovenians can spend hours at a café with just the one drink and nobody seems to mind. Café Macek is one of the most popular; it’s on Cankarjeva nabrezje, the southern embankment of the Ljubljanica, not far from the TripleBridge. Look for the sign of the black cat and you’ve found it. There’s loads of seating outside and the location is great for people watching. In winter the interior is really cosy and Café Macek does the best milky coffees (bela kava) in town. On Sundays many Slovenians do something athletic, often as a family or group. Most towns have walking groups who meet every Sunday for a day’s walking with lunch somewhere; a notice-board somewhere in the town or village will list forthcoming walks and there’ll be photographs from previous trips. It’s customary when out walking in the countryside (whether that’s in the mountains or just on the edge of town – any hill will do) to say hello (‘Dober Dan’) to other walkers. Many people jump on the train with their walking poles on a Sunday morning and you’ll see them coming back all rosy cheeked if you’re near the station around 6 on a Sunday afternoon. Those who stay in town like to walk to the top of Roznik, the hill at the top of the city’s TivoliPark. For a less energetic walk you could visit the magnificent Plecnik designed cemetery north east of the centre (if you aren’t driving and don’t want to walk there you can catch a bus to the suburb of Nove Jarse or to the BTC shopping centre and walk from there. Closer to the centre, the embassy area behind Trg Republike makes for a pleasant stroll as you ogle some of the grandest houses in Ljubljana. Do check out the opening hours of attractions such as museums. In the capital the times are more obviously geared to tourists but in other towns, even quite large ones, you might be surprised to find that opening hours can leave you a bit stumped for what to do. We once jumped on a train to Murska sobota with the intention of spending a Sunday there; we knew there was a castle and we thought we spend a few hours seeing that and generally strolling round town, stopping for lunch. However, by the time we arrived late morning the castle museum was just closing up because it’s only open in the morning on Sundays. By the time we’d walked around the deserted centre, had a beer in the Irish pub and made some dry sandwiches from bread buns and Frankfurters, we were ready to head home to Maribor but there were not trains until early evening. I’m all for doing stuff spontaneously but in Slovenia it pays to do some planning, especially if you’re using public transport, which tends to shut down for a few hours in the middle of the day at weekends. It’s not much fun to arrive somewhere to find that there’s nothing to see and everything is closed and to add insult to injury there’s no train for four hours. Sundays can be good days for taking a trip to a tourist attraction in some other part of the country and Ljubljana has the advantage of being within reasonable travelling distance of several excellent options. You can ask at your hotel or at the tourist information centre about organised excursions to the Skocjan caves, or those at Postojna. Often a trip to the showcaves at Postojna includes a visit to the nearby Predjama castle, an impressive sight, built into a cave. You can visit Lake Bled independently with the service bus taking just over an hour but there are also guided tours available. Alternatively the towns of Kranj and Skofja loka to the north of the capital are well worth a visit and there’s the option to take the train or bus. Skofja loka has an interesting castle and a old town square with painted burghers’ houses, while Kranj is a handsome place with numerous interesting sights in its charming old town. Many restaurants in the most touristy parts of Ljubljana do open on Sundays but a good number don’t and some have reduced opening hours compared with weekdays. If you’ve got your heart set on somewhere in particular, check that it is open first to avoid disappointment. If your accommodation doesn’t offer breakfast you may find it tricky to get a conventional breakfast in Slovenia, even in Ljubljana, and you will need to be quite flexible in what you’ll have instead. Café Macek does offer an interpretation of an English style breakfast and several places offer ‘tost’ but for a really special breakfast, go to the Hotel Slon on Slovenska Cesta.You learn more about Slovenians from doing what they do on a Sunday than you will from any museum (which may not even be open!). Relax, order a coffee and watch the world go by along the Ljubljanica embankment Close
Written by manatwork on 06 Apr, 2011
I took an overnight train from Zurich's Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station) to Ljubljana. It was an 11-hour train ride, and it cost me CHF146. Arriving the next morning, I called the hostel to have someone picked me up at Železniška postage (Main Train Station). The…Read More
I took an overnight train from Zurich's Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station) to Ljubljana. It was an 11-hour train ride, and it cost me CHF146. Arriving the next morning, I called the hostel to have someone picked me up at Železniška postage (Main Train Station). The hostel is about 20 minutes bus ride to the Old Town Square.Squeezed between the castle hill and Ljubljanica River, the Old Town has two squares, the Mestni Trg (City Square) with the Robba fountain and the city hall behind it, and, farther on, the Gornji Trg (Upper Square). Well-preserved medieval buildings now house local designer shops, and several popular cafes and restaurants. Although they may look creepy, the perfectly safe narrow lanes can lead to charming little squares and buildings in Baroque style.This compact riverside city offers the romantic delight and hip underground vitality of Prague, without the crowds. Summer in Ljubljana can be pretty nice. I did not waste anytime since I had plan to stay for only two days, and my first point of interest was to Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Easily identifiable due to its green dome and twin towers, it is located nearby Ljubljana Central Market and the Ljubljana Town Hall. Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) which is just a stone throw away from the cathedral, consists of three separate picturesque bridges located next to one another. They do provide a majestic entrance to the Old Town. If you are not in a hurry, just sit by any cafe for tea or ice-cream, and watch the world go by. The water from Ljubljanka River does give a very nice relaxing feeling, with tour boats creating small water waves as they slowly move back and forth. Further down from the river, there's the Dragon Bridge. Completed in 1901, it is guarded by four detailed dragon statues from the city's coat-of-arms. One has to be careful around this area, as traffic can be heavy, and being a tourist you might get inattentive to your surrounding. I almost slipped and fell admiring the dragons. Between these two famous bridges, is Ljubljana Open Market. There is a flower market, fish and dried fruit on one level, bakery, dairy and meat on another level. There are also stalls selling herbs, spices, and local handicrafts such as baskets, and embroideries. Ljubljana has some pretty interesting architectures. Two buildings really stand-out - Ljubljana Town Hall and the National and University Library. The Town Hall is close to St Nicholas Cathedral. It has a combination of Baroque and Classicist style. It has a nice courtyard, and there is a small gallery showcasing its local arts and crafts. The Robba fountain originally located outside the Town Hall was renovated and moved into the National Gallery in 2006. What stands today in its previous site is just a replica. The National and University Library is designed by Jože Plečnik, a famous Slovenia architect. The central staircase which leads to a reading room, set between colonnades of dark stone, is characteristic to his design style. Surrounding the walls outside the reading room, are pictures of famous political figures and inventors. They are the ones who shaped the world as we know today. There is a souvenir shop by the entrance, and I couldn't help but got myself three printed art pieces. I took a bus to Postojna Cave the next morning. The bus station is just outside the Main Train Station. One way ticket is €6 and it is less than 2 hours trip. The cave is amazing. It is one of the top tourists sites in Slovenia. However, be prepared to pay €19 for the entrance. It is home to the blind endemic olm, the largest trogloditic amphibian in the world. Going into the caves through the tunnel is a 10-minute electric train ride from the cave railway station. Tour starts at the Conference Hall, which is large enough to host meetings and concerts. As I was planning to go to Zagreb later the next day, I took the opportunity to visit the Ljubljana Castle. Entrance to the Castle Courtyard, Chapel and Gift shop is free although you have to pay for the funicular railway ride up the hill, and there is a charge for access to the tower. The tower has magnificent views all over the city. After some time relaxing in the Courtyard with a cup of tea, I went back down and head to the Outdoor Market again. I had a tomato and mozzarella cheese salad for lunch before my departure. I noticed that the waiters were allowed to smoke while on the job. This was not going to happen in America. It was really nice to be able to see Ljubljana. It came as a surprise to me that for such a small city, there was no deficiency compared to the bigger cities in any way except for its size. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 14 Sep, 2009
However much of a linguistic cliché this might be (the word Ljubljana is very close to the word for love in many Slavic languages), Ljubljana is lovely indeed. A city on a human scale, at about 300,000 inhabitants and with the role of the country…Read More
However much of a linguistic cliché this might be (the word Ljubljana is very close to the word for love in many Slavic languages), Ljubljana is lovely indeed. A city on a human scale, at about 300,000 inhabitants and with the role of the country capital, it is large enough to offer all the advantages of city life without producing an overwhelming monster. But it's not just the handy size and civilised, educated, friendly, youthful inhabitants (the tourist information claims that 20% of the population are students) that make Ljubljana so attractive. It has funky bars and fancy restaurants, it has thriving culture with active theatre, art and music scenes. It is also, rather simply, a beautiful place to behold: a compact, largely pedestrianised old centre with distinctly Central European architecture spreads on the banks of slowly meandering, green river spanned by several bridges and dominated by the steep hill with a castle at the top. Ljubljana charms with its pretty Baroque and Art Nouveaux architecture, attractive parks and lively riverside promenades. It's a Sunday when we first venture out to explore Ljubljana, so the city is quiet. Slovenia is largely Catholic, and we can hear ringing bells and locals on the way to church among the tourists. We approach the old town via Miklosiceva Cesta, adorned with some attractive Art Nouveaux buildings, including one decorated with striking, colourful geometric patterns. Pink walls and flowing, sensuous lines of the Franciscan Church dominate the Presernov Trg (Preseren Square), named after France Preseren, Slovene 19th century national bard. His statue stands in the centre of the square, reminding me of Polish statues of romantic poets and composers. The square opens onto the Triple Bridge, an unusual construction whose name is self-explanatory, but whose existence requires explanation: why build three bridges within metres of each other? The goal was clearly aesthetic. Architect Joze Plecnik left his mark all over Ljubljana and it was his idea to add the extra bridges to the original one in 1931 to achieve this landmark feature. The Three Bridges lead to the other side of Ljubljanica river and we turn left along the riverside promenade, walking along craft stalls and bric a brac tables in the Plecnik's colonnade, adjacent to Plecnik's covered market, an imposing and a bit austere but strangely attractive structure facing the river. To our left rise the white towers and green domes of the baroque cathedral of St Nicholas whose ornate interior we glance at but not explore as a service is about to start. We walk towards the bridge guarded by imposing dragons (dragon is something of a Ljubljana mascot) but instead of crossing back to the other side we turn left towards the castle hill, attempting to locate the bottom station of the funicular. Somehow we manage to miss it altogether and end up climbing all the way up: it's steep but shaded and despite huffing and puffing even I manage to drag myself up, prompted by glimpses of city views from between the leaves and branches of the wooded hill. We arrive at the back of the castle but the walk to the gate is on level ground and we are rewarded by fantastic views of Ljubljana itself, its surrounding green hills and high peaks of the Julian Alps on the horizon. The castle is less of a consistently attractive historical structure kept as a monument and more of a public space defined by the castle ramparts, towers and dungeons. A family ticket costs less than 5 Euro and allows admission to all parts , so we happily potter around the battlements, peek into a Renaissance underground chapel decorated with colourful (and, strangely for a religious structure, secular) frescoes and venture into a modern art gallery whose rather grim and brutally expressionist content seems at odds with the gentle beauty of the city. We also climb the strange double-spiral red stairs to the top of the clock tower: more huffing and puffing and even better views. We leave the castle via the funicular: the station is in the basement of the castle and its access hall in the base of the castle incorporates chunks of natural rock the little one proceeds to climb with gusto despite all the other climbing he's done today. The funicular is very steep, more of an outdoor glass lift than a tram with cogs and gears I expected. More views before we descend to Vodnikovy Trg, normally a site of a street market which doesn't function on Sundays to sit down to well earned late lunch. We tuck into rich game dishes at the outdoor tables of Vinoteka Sokol: there are roadworks directly in front of the restaurant and the tables have been relocated to Mestni Trg, next to the pretty Renaissance Town Hall and directly in front of Ljubljana's landmark baroque Robba fountain, on which three bearded figures represent three major rivers of Slovenia. The children attempt to scale the high base and dive into the basin, so to avoid cracked bones we drag ourselves away from our beers and venture back towards the Triple Bridge. High above our heads wooden easels with drawings and paintings swing gently, suspended from wires between the buildings: art is in the air of Ljubljana.We walk along more picturesque streets to Tivoli gardens, the main large public park of Ljubljana. And underpass allows for safe crossing of a busy road and its walls are adorned with industrial-looking, rusting iron mesh. A closer look reveals patterns of tree trunks and branches created by different shades of brown and red. Is this a creative use of real rust? Or paint made to look like one? I am not sure but it works, a fusion of urban and bucolic, industrial and artistic that fits the location perfectly. The concrete supports of the underpass have circular openings which have been lined with thick, warm blocks of solid wood and must exert a strong pull as the little one immediately climbs into one to lounge while a pair of snogging teenagers occupies the other. The cultivated part of Tivoli contains an extensive playground where the children can be let loose for a while. It's still very hot, so the drinking fountain thoughtfully placed in the play park is a welcome blessing. As the day draws towards the late afternoon, more families appear: it's clear that, not only architectonically but demographically too, Slovenia belongs firmly in Central Europe. The people could easily be Austrian, Czech or Polish – there is a sprinkling of natural blonde hair and even the tanned bodies don't reach the chocolate brown that we have seen frequently in Greece, Southern Italy or, more recently, Croatia. Tivoli park contains several attractions including a stately home, a zoo, swimming pool and other sports facilities. Its further reaches stretch to nearby countryside and provide walking and cycling grounds for the locals and visitors. But the day is drawing to a close and we are tired with heat, walking and sightseeing so we schlep back with a beer-and-juice stop at an outdoor jazz cafe. We sip our drinks while the children discover and use two hammocks hanging among the trees. The stage is empty at this relatively early hour, but recorded music does the place's name justice, enveloping us in mellow sounds. The next day most of the morning is taken by planning the next stage of our journey, but in the afternoon we go for a boat rip along Ljubljanica river. It's an hour-long ride abroad smallish tour-boat and our skipper-cum-guide points out interesting features of the architecture and shares informative facts about Ljubljana waterways in fluent German and English. We go up the river first and within 15 minutes of the slow ride the urban landscape gives way to country cottages, high stone waterfront is replaced by reeds and weeping willows. Ljubljana lies on Ljubljanica river which is connected by a canal to Sava, a tributary of Danube. This connection to both the Black Sea and the grand cities of former Austrian Empire reminds me again of how much geographical, historical and cultural influences combine in this place. Food and landscape, culture and peoples range from Slavic to Germanic, Balkan to Alpine, Mediterranean to Central European. Slovenia is a true crossroads. Close
Written by fizzytom on 25 Apr, 2009
The first time I visited Ljubljana it was a freezing February and it was icy under foot. I wanted to see the castle and as the "road train" only runs in summer, there was no choice but to walk. Walking back down was more treacherous…Read More
The first time I visited Ljubljana it was a freezing February and it was icy under foot. I wanted to see the castle and as the "road train" only runs in summer, there was no choice but to walk. Walking back down was more treacherous than the ascent but we managed somehow to make it in one piece. The next time we walked but it was in fine weather. But last summer we visited again with my parents and as my father has health problems we decided to use the funicular. We had been wanting to for sometime anyway but had not visited the castle on the couple of occasions we'd been in town.The funicular was a long time coming. In 1897 the mayor of the city wrote to the Austro-Hungrian authorities suggesting that a funicular to the castle would be a good idea because visitors would be attracted to visit the castle and enjoy summer evenings in its courtyard.The funicular lower station is situated just off Ciril Metodov trg, at Krek Square. To get there from the centre, cross the Triple Bridge, turn left when the Lush Store is in front of you and keep walking. You'll see the station on your right just along here. In the height of summer there is often a queue but since the carriage holds thirty-three people and as there are two levels inside it you can still get a good view.You pay at a kiosk and at my last visit it was 1 Euro 80 one way to go UP, 1 Euro 50 one way to come DOWN and 3 Euro return (prices correct April 2009). There are also family tickets available which presents good savings while children under seven go completely free - not something you hear often.If you have ever been in a funicular, let me tell you that this is the same as any other. The views are pretty good but the main reason for using it is as a short cut to the castle. It doesn't have the charm of the old ones; this is a sleek glass cube carrying you up the hill and is completely silent. That said, it may be charmless but it's fun and kids will probably love this experience. What makes it a little different is that the upper station is built into the walls of the castle so you exit the carraige and walk straight into the cool stone chamber that leads to the courtyard which is a nice contrast between the ancient castle and the ultra-modern funicular.Operating hours:Summer season (1 May - 30 September): 9:00-23:00 -Winter season (1 October - 30 April): 10:00-21:00 The funicular is suitable for wheelchair users. Close
Written by Luggage on 23 Sep, 2000
Anyone who comes to Ljubljana thinking of it as another Eastern European backwater deserves the eye-opener they’ll get. The capital, which calls itself the 'City of Culture,' has a population of only around 300,000 --- it’s Slovenia’s largest city by far -- and may…Read More
Anyone who comes to Ljubljana thinking of it as another Eastern European backwater deserves the eye-opener they’ll get. The capital, which calls itself the 'City of Culture,' has a population of only around 300,000 --- it’s Slovenia’s largest city by far -- and may have more artistic offerings per capita than anyplace this side of Bali. (Ljubljana dominates Slovenia’s cultural scene as Vienna does in Austria, or Boston does in Massachusetts.) By one count, the city boasts four professional orchestras; 53 galleries; 22 museums; ten theaters; 11 cinemas (not counting a 12-screen multiplex on the outskirts); and well over 100 general and specialized libraries.
The old town is complemented by the sleek, modernist sprawl of the nearby Cankarjev dom cultural and convention center, Slovenia’s (and one of Europe’s) largest, with six concert halls and two galleries. Its construction between 1980 and 1982 was a bold move for a small provincial capital, especially at the time (the early post-Tito era). It’s a huge, charm-free structure, and the natural habitat of hip, chain-smoking college students along with smartly dressed, cell-phone-happy, espresso-swilling Yugoyuppies with keys to BMWs and Hondas in their pockets. But without it, Ljubljana would be a much diminished place. It’s home to the well-regarded Slovenian Philharmonic, and also hosts almost any sort of cultural event or symposium imaginable. Prices are reasonable, and the acoustics are excellent.
In the clubs, American-style garage rock, punk and hardcore and other loud-and-fast variations rule, along with techno, house, and the like. The national capital is also Slovenia's biggest college town. In the '80s, the college radio station, Radio Student, and youth-oriented alternative magazines -- in particular, Mladina and Nova Revija -- played a large political role in the movement toward Slovenia's eventual independence. Today politics have faded into the background, but student influence on the city's cultural life can't be overstated. (Aficionados of alt-culture shouldn’t miss Ljubljana’s post-nuclear-urban-wasteland Metelkova compound, the most visible vestige of the city’s hot-and-heavy ‘80s punk/alternative scene and still a center for left-of-center lifestyles and creativity.)
Hard rockers will want to check out the Orto Bar (where no tourist ever ventures), on grungy Bolgarska ulica (ulica = street), where the vibe suggests lower Manhattan (with cheaper drink prices) and the action continues well into the small hours... the Jazz Club Gajo, on Beethovnova ulica downtown, is the place for -- well, you know.
Written by SaraP on 08 Jul, 2003
As I've said, one of the best ways to spend a good, full day in Ljubljana is to wander around, admiring the architecture. The Slovenes themselves clearly recognise this as one of their main assets since the buildings are almost all pristine, with fresh…Read More
As I've said, one of the best ways to spend a good, full day in Ljubljana is to wander around, admiring the architecture. The Slovenes themselves clearly recognise this as one of their main assets since the buildings are almost all pristine, with fresh paint, little graffiti, and windowboxes full of colourful flowers displayed on the many window-sills. The many interesting plaques and curiosities such as the little dragons etched into or attached onto the walls or over doors are sure to catch the eye...
A good place to start your mooch is Preseren "Square" (more of a roundabout-cum-mini-carpark really) where you can sit on the steps of France Preseren's impressive statue and admire the dusky pink Fransiscan Church and the rest of the turn-of-the-century art nouveau buildings that surround him -- the glorious old pharmacy, the former painters' home (suitably brightly coloured - though shame about the watch-maker's sign which somewhat spoils the impression). Over the Triple Bridge, take a left and go through the open-air market to the creamy yellow cathedral with a most impressive square bell-tower. Under the arch you'll find the ornate bronze door to take you inside -- it's too dark really to appreciate the famed frescos and a little ornate and gilded for my taste so I didn't linger...plus there's a lot to see outside in the sunshine.
Retracing your steps through the market, turn left away from the bridge and down Mestni trg. On the corner is the larger than life Robba Fountain (named after the Italian sculptor rather than a hoodlum) which stands outside the Magistrat (Townhall). The Townhall is currently being renovated and beautified so parts are off limits; however the splendid clocktower stands tall and proud and you can just make out the shape of a tiny golden dragon weather-vane glinting on top.
From the Townhall, carry on along the cobbles of Mestni trg and note the romantic positioning (surely no accident?) of the Romeo cafe opposite to Julia. Eventually you'll work your way to the Ljubljanica river and the very picturesque Shoemaker Bridge (actually prettiest at night). Cross to the other side and you'll quickly find yourself in the university area (admire in particular on your left Plecnik's very fine National and University Library building (the inside of which is being tarted up as at Summer 2003 though you can still wander round outside) and on your right the University buildings itself from whose grand balconies the new republic was announced...cue dancing in Kongresni trg where independence day is still celebrated. It's worth a detour behind the library building for the Illyria column on which Napoleon's face shines out in 3D gold relief. Doubling back down Gosposka ul, you'll pass the fancy Filharmonija (Opera House) before crossing Kongresni. It's worth dropping into the grandly named Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity (dating from 1726) for the fantastic Robba altar (though don't get your hopes up as it's opening hours are erratic and it closes at will without reference to a timetable). If you're a glutton for organisation, detour through the governmental/administrative area (although the buildings won't blow you away so you might think your time b better spend enjoying a cappuccino in one of the pseudo-french student coffee-bars). The other reasons to head this far east (assuming you're not headed into the Tivoli park to stretch your legs) are the museums -- the national museum, museum of modern art and national gallery. Each of these has its charms and attractions but none of them gets a mention in an entry dedicated to the great outdoors activity of wandering.
Last but definitely not least entry on the outdoors wander itinerary, if you're up to a mooch along the Ljubljanica, it's not too far east to the dragon bridge where 4 bronze, verdigris-ed specimens stand guard at either end. As I say above, the city-folk chose him long ago as mascot and icon and the ultimate Mr. Nasty versions are here -- snarling fangs and pointed spiky claws, but delicately squatting with arrow-tipped tails curled round the podium. Shame about the graffiti but nonetheless they are magnificent -- cue photo below...
Written by SaraP on 04 Jul, 2003
The Castle (Ljubljanski grad) is visible from almost everywhere within the town which bodes well for the view from the top and means it's a must-visit. It was apparently built on a prehistoric site on top of the hill in the Middle Ages; the info…Read More
The Castle (Ljubljanski grad) is visible from almost everywhere within the town which bodes well for the view from the top and means it's a must-visit. It was apparently built on a prehistoric site on top of the hill in the Middle Ages; the info within the virtual reality museum in the tower (included in the price for climbing the tower itself) will tell you that the earliest reference to it dates from 1144 -- the Odalreich of Ljubljana -- and that records show that it was first used as a fortress, later as barracks and that the present, quintagonal, irregular layout is of later origin. In the 13th century, the castle was the defence core of the town and protected the local peasants until 1797, the year when the French, under Napoleon, first captured Ljubljana (look out for Napoleon's golden face on the Illyrian monument in the university/parliament area).
In the 1500s, the castle underwent some reconstruction works by Italian architects, Spati and Decius -- in 1544, the provincial governor took up residence and had the defences fortified. In 1686, the gunpowder tower exploded and, in 1782, the castle building ceased to be functional until transformed into a prison house which it remained until 1849. In 1905, the local government decided to use it instead as a cultural centre and accommodation, which is why the (continuing) works began (and it's not apparent when they will end). These days though, it's also used quite heavily as a civil wedding venue and a procession of different brides wandered past while I was there on a Saturday afternoon.
And, sure enough, the view does live up to expectation -- a fantastic panorama across the city. It's even worth climbing up the hill rather than taking the tourist "train", to see the vista open up as you gain height. The path up is signposted from the town-centre, and diverges about half-way into either a slow-but-steady or steep-but-quick route, so can you take your pick. Either way, there are some obvious stopping points and benches to have a breather on the 15-20 minute walk/climb. When you reach the castle, you'll see for yourself that the renovations are ongoing still, and that the only accessible parts are the tower and courtyard that you cross to access the tower. (Note: the courtyard has a fairly good lunch restaurant/coffee bar -- I'd particularly recommend the delicious iced coffee on a hot day to regain your strength before tackling the tower's spiral staircase.)
In the basement of the tower is the Chapel of St. George, apparently first mentioned in 1489 and re-done later in Baroque style. The impressive coats-of-arms of Carniolian provincial governors, on the walls and ceiling, date from 1747 (though they appear to have been touched up much more recently than that). It's pretty bare apart from the shields and escutcheons, but there are pews to sit on while you crick your neck at the ceiling.
Then it's time to climb the pentagonal tower for the view -- eagle-eyed visitors will already have noticed the marvellous dragon brazier at the entrance where the (long-gone) drawbridge and portcullis should be. A second dragon is sighted on the Ljubljana flag, flying from the tower, and the third is beneath your feet as you climb . . . take a closer look at the iron stairs and you'll see him again, aloft a crenellated turret.
The castle is open 10am until dusk and the cost for entry to the tower (including the virtual museum -- the chapel seemed to be free anyway) is about £2.50/$3.50 for adults and about £1.60/$2 for concessions.
(Note: the other great city-viewpoint in the rather ugly black Neboticnik highrise which dates from 1933 -- at the bottom, there's a sign "Kaverna" and a lift to the top-floor terrace where you can eat or drink coffee. It's not too expensive and the view is free.)
Written by Alyssa on 03 Nov, 2000
Ljubljana's Old Town is the best place
to be for sightseeing, quaintness, charm,
Old Europe ambiance, and Ljubljana's own
brand of special individuality. The
narrow, winding streets are lined with
centuries-old buildings, many of which
are now converted into sparkling
specialty shops and boutiques. You can
Ljubljana's Old Town is the best place
to be for sightseeing, quaintness, charm,
Old Europe ambiance, and Ljubljana's own
brand of special individuality. The
narrow, winding streets are lined with
centuries-old buildings, many of which
are now converted into sparkling
specialty shops and boutiques. You can
spend hours just looking at these.
There are many inviting cafes in this
section of town, some along the
Ljubljanica River, some in the oldest
streets. It's very Parisian in feel at
night with the cafes full of students
and the restaurants bustling with
activity. There are dozens of good
places to choose for dining, from the
cafes, to cozy, unpretentious trattorias,
to the more upscale restaurants. The
prices are reasonable in all of these.
There is so much to see along the river
and in the Old Town that entertainment
probably won't be uppermost on your mind,
but if it is, there are two or three
jazz clubs whose posters you will see
along the streets, and for classical
music buffs, there are programs at the
Opera House and the sparkling new
Cankarjev Dom--Ljubljana's famous
cultural and performing arts center.
For students, there are many pubs and
nightspots which were packed on a
weeknight evening in October.
Serendipitous discovery works well here. Close