Ljubljana is the perfect place to use as your base while exploring Slovenia. In just one hour and 30 minutes (or less) you can drive to the seaside, the Alps, see castles, or vineyards of Slovenia, but today I am sharing all of my tips for how to spend one day in Ljubljana!
There are many reasons to visit Slovenia and especially Ljubljana. There is a calmness and slowness to this city that not many European capitals can claim. It is the perfect size; walkable, bike-able, and sustainable.
Here is my overly comprehensive guide to all of the main tourist spots in Ljubljana. Once you make your way through these you can check out some of my other articles to explore Ljubljana and Slovenia in more depth.
Planning a trip to Slovenia? These articles might help.
- Slovenia Itinerary Planner
- 20 Beautiful Day Trips from Ljubljana
- Traditional Slovenian Food Guide (Includes a restaurant decoder!)
This article contains some affiliate links and is at no additional cost to you, they help maintain Wandering Helene so I can continue to bring you valuable content.
Tips before you arrive in Slovenia
Everyone always asks, “How the hell do I pronounce Ljubljana?” and the most common response by locals is “lyoo-BLYAH-nah” but also simply “lublana” without the J’s will work. You will even get bonus points from locals as they pronounce it this way. As you are sitting there saying these out loud to yourself, they sound very similar. You get the point!
Language? Slovenian (or Slovene) but you might be happy to know that a lot of Slovenians speak some English, especially in Ljubljana. If you would like to learn a few phrases or words before visiting check out my article packed full of resources to help you learn Slovene.
Tipping? While it is not expected it is often appreciated. Usually, when taking a taxi round up, when dining out I will leave 10% or round up depending on the restaurant. Credit and Debit cards are taken almost everywhere (in Ljubljana), and ATM machines (Bankomat) are found all over the city.
Electrical Outlets? Slovenia uses the same 230 V, 50 Hz system as many EU countries with the standard two-pin plug and socket. If you are coming from the US check your devices if they are single voltage or dual. Avoiding bringing hair dryers or straighteners abroad as even with a converter and adaptor they can be damaged. If it is a single voltage (110V) then you 100% cannot use them in Europe without a converter and adapter. Believe me, it ends badly…a lesson learned after I fried a very expensive hairdryer.
How to get to Ljubljana
If you are flying to Ljubljana you will land at the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, which like most airports, isn’t in the center. It is in Brnik which is about a 25-30 minute drive.
The cheapest option is by bus which runs from the city center to the airport and back throughout the day. It leaves the airport at the top of the hour. Look for bus number 28, the journey takes about 50 minutes, but the tickets are less than €5. Here is the timetable to help plan your trip.
Book Taxi offers transfers for €28. If a taxi quotes more than €35 for the city center then just simply move on to the next. *Be especially mindful of this as a friend recently was scammed and charged €70!*
Alternatively, if you want a cheaper option, but not a bus, there are various shuttle companies that run from the airport to the city center but it is advised to book in advance.
I always recommend GoOpti for airport transfers, especially from Venice airport (which is often the cheapest way to travel to Slovenia). They are incredibly reliable and efficient with various pricing depending on your wallet and patience.
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One Day in Ljubljana Self-Guided Tour
Ljubljana Castle | Ljubljanski Grad
This iconic 12th-century castle sits on a hill overlooking Ljubljana. You truly cannot miss it when visiting the city. The Ljubljana Castle has a little bit of everything from permanent and temporary exhibits, guided and private tours, an escape game (available in English), audioguides, six stations with costumed characters, viewing towers, penitentiary, events for children, souvenir shop and cafe, and two restaurants.
For up to date info on hours and pricing head over to the Ljubljana Castle website.
How to get to the Ljubljana Castle
While there is a parking lot at the top of the hill, as usual, parking is limited so only use this if it is an absolute must.
The Ljubljana Castle is serviced by a Funicular station (marked below) which is €2.50 single or €4 with a return and runs every 10 minutes. My best advice is that if it is a hot day, this might feel like a good option, but you will feel like you are being cooked inside a box (haha) so go another route.
You can see (on the photo below) one of the walking paths starts just near where the station is but be mindful it can be steep for the less active and can take about 15-20 minutes depending on your pace.
Prešeren Square | Prešernov trg
Possibly the most photographed area of Ljubljana is Prešeren Square. It is named after France Prešeren, a Slovenian poet from the 1800s. His statue can be found here.
From here you are standing near or within view of a lot of the “must-see” sights of Ljubljana.
Follow the list below as a small self-guided walking tour.
Franciscan Church of the Annunciation | Frančiškanska cerkev
The square is absolutely dominated by this peach (they claim it is red but it is definitely more of an orangish peach at this point) colored church. It is incredibly photographic and no photo of Prešeren Square is complete without either it or from the opposite view the Ljubljana Castle.
Triple Bridge | Tromostovje
A very famous site in Ljubljana is the Triple Bridge, a group of three (foot) bridges that cross the Ljubljanica River. The middle bridge was completed in 1842 and the two exterior bridges were made as footbridges to manage traffic at that time. Now all three of them are for pedestrian and bicycle use only. The current models were designed by the revered Slovene architect Jože Plečnik. He is also responsible for his work on the Slovene National and University Library building, Ljubljanica river embankments, the open market, parks, cemeteries, and more architectural designs around Ljubljana.
Ljubljanica River | Ljubljanica
If you are in Prešeren Square then you can definitely see the Ljubljanica River and cross it via the Triple Bridge. There are also cafes along the embankment perfect for a summer day, boat tours that go up and down the river through the city, and you can even do a paddle-board tour!
Town Square | Mestni Trg
Once you cross the Ljubljanica River over the Triple Bridge and keep going straight towards the castle you will find yourself in Town Square with the Robba Fountain (Robbov vodnjak) in the middle. This is actually a replica of this fountain. The original can be found in the National Gallery. From here you can see the Ljubljana Cathedral and Town Hall.
This stretch of pedestrian-only street is called Mesti trg and if you walk south it becomes Stari trg and is full of small boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. One of my favorite coffee shop in Ljubljana, Cafetino, can be found here.
Also along this street in either direction, you can find a lot of shops that sell Slovenian made products. Perfect for unique souvenirs to take home.
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If you head north, towards the cathedral you will find lots of restaurants and a few shops. Continue walking past the cathedral to where the street begins to allow cars you will see the Central Market on the left.
Central Market | Osrednja ljubljanska tržnica
Central Market is a collection of markets depending on the time of the year. There is an outdoor market where local farmers sell their fruits, vegetables, and cured meats. Sometimes you can find some other stands selling their non-food goods. Next to this market is a two-floored indoor market, designed by Jože Plečnik. You can find different restaurants, shops, a fish market, and art gallery here.
Also in this area, you can find more market stands under a colonnade. This is the perfect spot to find some Slovenian-made souvenirs from honey and lace to painted Slovenian beehive panels. To read more about the operating hours of these markets check out this page.
If you are visiting Ljubljana from March 24th (2019) every Friday you can find Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen) which is a very popular street food market. It runs from 10 am until 9 pm. It is the perfect place to try a range of Slovene dishes as well as lots of cuisines from around the world. I highly recommend you go if you have the chance. It can be very crowded when the weather is nice so plan accordingly because seating is limited.
Butcher’s Bridge | Mesarski most
The locks on Post des Arts in Paris were removed but on the Butcher’s Bridge, this custom is still alive and well. In spite of its very unromantic name and disturbing statues, it is a “romantic” place for couples to fasten their love locks.
The statues at first glance are quite disturbing, and they really truly are. One of them is Adam and Eve being banished from the garden of Eden, another of a disemboweled Prometheus in punishment for teaching man about fire, and Satyr being startled by a serpent.
At this point you are back on the side of the Ljubljanica of Prešeren Square. From here you can walk along the riverbank viewing cafes, restaurants and shops. I recommend taking a right after the bridge and continue until the next one.
Dragon Bridge | Zmajski most
The Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana is loved by many. With large dragons fixed upon the columns much like gargoyles. For the bridge fanatics out there, it is often regarded as one of the most beautifully done in the Vienna Secession style and was the first concrete bridge in Slovenia.
Choose your own path…
From here you have two options. I used my amazing graphic artist and screenshot skills to illustrate them for you. The first one you can follow the pink arrows and go back towards where you began, but this time you will take a parallel street called Trubarjeva Cesta. This path will take you towards Congress Square and the museums near Tivoli Park. Details are below the image.
If you take the blue arrows also along Trubarjeva Cesta this will take you towards the Metelkova and the Museum Quarter of Metelkova. Information about this route comes further down the article. I added the walking times as it is very easy to view a map and think something isn’t far but it adds up quickly.
Trubarjeva is one of my favorite streets to walk along. They recently redid the entire road with handlaid bricks and is perfect for window shopping, browsing local goods, and some delicious food options from around the world
- Mladinska knjiga – has a great selection of books about Slovenia in English and sourviners
- FLAT – has beautiful design pieces for home and every day life
- Vinoteka Štorija – sells Slovenian wine
- Namaste – delicious and cheap Indian food with generous portions
- Abi Falafel – a lunchtime favorite with the best falafel wrap in town
- Skuhna – offers authentic food from Africa, Asia, and South America prepared by international chefs
- Že V Redu Primož – sells craft beers from all over the world. I definitely suggest trying some Slovenian ones.
Continue all the way until you hit a large square with trees. Now you are at Congress Square
Congress Square | Kongresni Trg
Ljubljana was once the site of a Roman city named Emona. You can see part of the remaining walls in Congress Square near a statue of Emona. The square took many forms throughout history and was the location for several significant events in Slovenian history. Now it is the home of a green area called Zvezda Park (Star Park). The highlight of Congress Square is all of the beautiful buildings surrounding it and a stunning view of the Ljubljana Castle.
Walking away from the castle down Šubičeva Ulica you will soon arrive at the Natural History Museum and National Museum of Slovenia
Natural History Museum of Slovenia | Prirodoslovni muzej Slovenije
The Natural History Museum contains various natural history exhibitions such as geological and paleontological collection, minerals, conches, insects, birds, botanicals, and more. A highlight you shouldn’t miss is an almost complete 20,000-year-old mammoth skeleton. This exhibit will not take you more than an hour and is best paired with the National Museum of Slovenia (below).
Cost: 3€ adults / €2.50 children, students, seniors
Hours: Daily from 10:00-18:00, Thursdays from 10:00-20:00
National Museum of Slovenia | Narodni muzej Slovenije
The National Museum of Slovenia is housed in the same building as the Natural History Museum and is the oldest and largest museum in Slovenia. The exhibits are focused on early history with Egyptian, Roman, and Slovenian artifacts. The most impressive being the oldest Paleolithic flute known to date in the world, made by Neanderthals from 60,000 years ago.
Cost: €6 adults / €4 children, students, seniors
Combined Ticket w/Natural History €8.50/€6
Combined Ticket w/Metelkova branch €8.50/€6
Hours: Daily from 10:00-18:00 (Thursdays until 20:00)
National Gallery | Narodna galerija
An incredibly impressive museum that covers over 1000 different artists and works from the 1200s to the present day. You can view much of the collection online on the museum’s website. A special highlight you shouldn’t miss is the Zoran A. Mušič collection, a Slovenian Modernist painter.
Cost: €7 permanent collection / €5 temporary exhibitions / €10 combined ticket
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 18:00, Thursday 10:00-20:00
Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana | Moderna galerija Ljubljana
The collections in this museum focus on 20th-century modernism and contemporary works and its counterpart museum is the Museum of Contemporary Art near Metelkova. In the Museum of Modern Art you can find paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography, and other forms of artist mediums.
Cost: €5 / €7.50 for a combined ticket
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00-18:00
Tivoli Park and Ljubljana Zoo | Park Tivoli in Živalski vrt Ljubljana
Tivoli Park is the largest park in Ljubljana. You can probably spend an entire day here if you wanted to. There you can find Tivoli Castle (a mansion with a misleading name), the Cekin Mansion, a pond, playground, and a rose garden. The park is connected to a larger green space with hiking trails.
On the southern part, atop of Rožnik Hill, you will find the Ljubljana Zoo. Don’t let the map mislead you, it is about a 35-minute walk (3km) from the parking lot at Tivoli. Because of the unique location of Ljubljana, a cross-section of various landscapes and climates, the zoo houses 119 species.
If you took the route towards Metelkova there are three museums which you can find in this area. The Museum of Contemporary Art, the counterpart to the Museum of Modern Art, the Ethnographic Museum, and the National Museum of Slovenia-Metelkova which is the counterpart to the National Museum of Slovenia.
Commonly known as just Metelkova, it is an alternative art and music space located in Ljubljana and a very popular stop for tourists. It is located in what was once the site for the military headquarters of the Army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and then for the Yugoslav National Army before being squatted by artists in 1993. It is now run independently by artists and creatives.
It is worth a visit during the day and also at night. During the day you can walk around viewing different art installations, art performances, and exhibitions. At night it transforms into several different night clubs and concert spaces. Check here for the latest events.
What to eat in Ljubljana
I would be doing a great disservice if I didn’t include some food recommendations. Check out my Instagram as I frequently post about different places to eat around Slovenia.
Le Petit Cafe | Trg francoske revolucije 4 | Possibly my favorite breakfast and brunch spot in Ljubljana. If you have the chance to go during a warm day, sit outside, and do like the Europeans – take your time! The waitstaff is always very polite and attentive and everything I’ve eaten here is delicious.
Ek Bistro | Petkovškovo nabrežje 65 | Also a very photogenic and delicious spot to get your breakfast fix. A local favorite and located right in the center.
Slovenska Hiša | Cankarjevo nabrežje 13 | With two locations, I recommend the one along the river. The perfect place to try a lot of Slovenian dishes. I love their meat and cheese platter, perfect for a midday snack between meals situation.
Güjžina | Mestni trg 19 | A restaurant that offers Prekmurska dishes, the far eastern region of Slovenia. It is definitely more on the fancy date-night fashion, but the food is really well done and the perfect way to try another region of Slovenia that you might not have a chance to visit.
Pop’s Place | Cankarjevo nabrežje 3 | If amazing burgers and craft beer is your thing, I highly recommend you check out Pop’s Place. One of the best burgers around and endless choices for Slovenian craft beer that you might have to come back a few times.
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Sisters Kurtoš | Breg 4 | A relatively new place in Ljubljana but the only place where you can get the infamous chimney cake (kürtőskalács) and what is even better is that you can get ice cream in it!
Gelataria Romantika | Dvorni trg 1 | Something off the beaten path, here you can find unique flavors of gelato such as Salmon, Earl Gray, and vegan options. They also offer granita, Belgian waffles, coffee, and more.
Lolita | Cankarjevo nabrežje 1 | A local favorite and rightfully so. It is a very cute cafe that offers tasty stunning cakes with the perfect location.
Cafetino | Stari trg 5 | This was my first favorite coffee place in Ljubljana. I just love the vibe, location, and they have probably the most expansive coffee selection of anyone else.
Črno Zrno | Gornji trg 17 | A new favorite and a must-try. First, they have cold brew which is not that commonplace in Ljubljana. Second, the shop is super small and adorable. Finally, their coffee is just really really good.
Stow | Gosposka ulica 15 | This is a tricky one hidden inside of City Museum of Ljubljana, when you enter you will see a sign to go straight through the doors, across the room straight ahead and down the stairs. I think this is a beautiful place – incredibly inspiring, and it helps that they are very serious about making amazing coffee.
Tozd | Gallusovo nabrežje 27 | It would be a disservice not to share this local favorite. Perfectly located next to the river but also just enough away from the crowds this is the perfect place to meet a friend for a coffee or a beer. They also do a very strong cold brew which will get you ready for a day of sightseeing.
On the Go
Burek Olimpija | Slovenska cesta 58 | There isn’t anything more local than this place. If you travel to Slovenia and you have never had a burek, you must, I repeat, you must try burek. At Burek Olimpjia you can get one of the best in all of Ljubljana. My personal favorite is the meat burek (mesni burek).
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Food Tours and Tastings in Ljubljana
Ljubljanayum offers a food tour, a wine tour, and even a craft beer tour around Ljubljana. On their tours, you get a bit of history and more food than you can possibly eat. Read about a food tour I did with them in March!
Dobrote Dolenjske offers tastings of wine and products from the Dolenjska region of Slovenia. I tested out their degustation just for you and the results are very positive.
How To Get Around Ljubljana
When traveling in a new city, especially in a new country or continent I usually suggest not to drive. Ljubljana is no exception. Parking can be expensive, traffic can be hectic, and navigating the city is a challenge even for me and I live here. If you do have a car there are several parking garages or lots you can use to park for the day. I’ll just drop my two recommendations below:
Kongresni Trg – while it is one of the more expensive places to park, the location is the most ideal right in the center of Ljubljana. Up to 3 hours it cost €1.20/hour and over 3 hours €2.40/hour.
Tivoli – at first glance of a map this might seem far, but it is not. It is a quick 5-minute walk and the cost is much more generous as the first two hours are just €0.60 and €0.60/hour after that – and maxes out at €4.80 a day. So if you are spending the day in Ljubljana this is the far more economical choice.
Similar to many European cities, Ljubljana has a bike share program called Bicikelj. To use the bikes, which have docking stations all around the city, you must register online first. You will need to provide your name, date of birth, zip code, create a 4 digit code, and use either a credit card or direct debit.
I ran through the process myself and noticed the screen where you place your credit card information is not in English (Note: Americans this doesn’t mean you need an actual credit card a debit card is also okay)
I did a one-year registration and when you get to the payment page you will see this. While this might seem common sense, for those who are nervous paying online especially in another language I translated the form.
Ime imetnika kartice = Name of the cardholder
Številka kartice = Card Number
Datum poteka veljavnosti kartice (mm/IIII) – Card expiration date (mm/yyyy)
Koda za preverjanje kartice = Security Code (3 digit code on the back)
Then click “Da, potrujuem plačilo” (Yes, I am making a payment)
Then another page will pop up saying something like “Vaše naročilo je bilo sprejeto” which means that your order has been accepted, don’t click anything it will redirect you back to the Bicikelj page.
You will then receive an email, which again is not in English, but it is explaining to save this email because it confirms your order and contains your subscription code (Koda za avtorizacijo) which you need, along with your 4 digit pin.
To actually use the bikes, find a docking station, use key 4 to select language. Then press key 1 to enter your subscription code from the email, and enter your PIN that you created. Confirm the bike you will take and release it from the dock by pushing the button on the top of the dock. Easy! Don’t forget to return the bike within 24 hours or you will be charged €350.
If this feels overwhelming Visit Ljubljana has a video to walk you through the process.
Urban Tourist Train
The urban tourist train is not exactly a train but it looks like one and drives around Ljubljana through all of the major sites. It starts around Town Hall and loops around the city. You can see the route on their website.
There is an audio guide available in 9 different languages. In the winter the cars are closed and heated and in the summer it is open.
Tickets can be purchased from the driver at the entry station, from the Tourist Information Center, or online. Adult tickets are €8.00. The entire ride lasts about one hour and 15 minutes to one hour and a half.
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Save time and money with the Ljubljana Card
A lot of major cities around Europe offer their city cards that allow tourists to visit some sights at a discounted rate. Some places are worth it, and some places not so much, but it also depends on the individual and how much you will use it.
The Ljubljana Card packs in so much that I can confidently say that it is worth it. For starters, you get access to all of the museums in Ljubljana, including ones not discussed in this article, the Ljubljana Castle, and the zoo. You also receive a free guided tour, unlimited travel on city buses (included to and from the airport), 24/7 access to Ljubljana wifi, Ljubljana bikes, the funicular to the castle, a boat tour, and even a tour at the local brewery, Union.
I didn’t even list every single thing because you get so much. Buying your card online will provide you with a small discount. There are 24-hour, 48-hour, and 72-hour cards available with discounted prices for children aged 6-14. If you are coming for a weekend and especially with a family you will save a lot of time and hassle with one of these cards. Especially because you won’t have to be pulling out your wallet all of the time or getting international fees on your debit card.
Day trips from Ljubljana
There are practically endless options for day trips from Ljubljana. You can spend one day in the Alps, another through a vineyard, and end your trip at the seaside.
Some articles to help your planning:
- 20 Beautiful Day Trips From Ljubljana
- Ljubljana to Lake Bled Day Trip
- 3 Castles You Can Easily Drive to From Ljubljana
- Piran: The Perfect Day Trip to the Slovenian Coast
If you are planning on heading to the Alps I highly suggest checking out these articles.
- Two Days in Triglav National Park
- An Alpine Day Trip from Lake Jasna to Mangart
- An Alpine Escape to Velika Planina
One Day in Ljubljana Map
If you enjoyed this article and want to visit these places while traveling to Ljubljana I saved all of the locations on a Google Map that you can save to your account and access easily during your travels.
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Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. If you are someone traveling to Ljubljana or Slovenia and would like some consulting with your travel planning, I do offer these services.