Looking for the best things to do in Ljubljana? My Ljubljana itinerary and travel guide shows you how to spend a perfect 1, 2 or 3 days in Slovenia’s capital.
Ever since I visited Slovenia, I’ve taken to calling it ‘the starlet of the Balkans’.
With alpine landscapes to rival Switzerland’s, an Adriatic coastline that stands up to Croatia and city squares to challenge Italy, Slovenia is every bit as beautiful as its neighbours but with a spirit all of its own. Adding to its charms, Slovenia lacks the crowds (and the high price tags) of some other countries in the region.
Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, is one of my favourite cities in Europe. It’s so compact, charming and ‘authentic’, it doesn’t really feel like a capital city at all.
Whether you’re looking for an alternative European city break or you’re planning a cross-country itinerary, a few day in Ljubljana is a must.
Here is my guide to spending 2 days in Ljubljana or more – including top things to do, restaurant recommendations, and suggested day trips from the city.
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Top 10 things to do in Ljubljana
Activities and tours mentioned in this Ljubljana itinerary.
1. Explore the Old Town on foot or by bicycle
2. Cross the iconic Dragon Bridge
3. Ride the funicular up to Ljubljana Castle for a view
4. Browse the produce at the Central Market
5. Learn the stories behind the facades on an architecture tour
6. Discover Ljubljana’s creative side on an artisan crafts walk
7. See how many flavours of Štruklji you can eat
8. Taste local vino on a Slovenian wine tasting
9. Learn about Yugoslavia at the National Museum of Contemporary History
10. Photograph the street art at Metalkova and ROG Factory
Where to stay in Ljubljana
There is no shortage of cute guesthouses and pretty boutique hotels in Ljubljana. The city is so small, you can’t really go wrong in terms of location.
For this 2 day itinerary, I recommend basing yourself as close to Presernov Square as possible to make it easier to get around on foot.
When booking your Ljubljana accommodation, note that there is a tourist tax of €2.50 per person per night, which may or may not be included in the booking price.
Budget: All the design features of a boutique hotel on a backpacker’s budget. Kva Hostel offers mixed dorms and private doubles, all bright, airy, and beautifully furnished. The location just 600m from the centre of town is unbeatable for this price point. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.
Mid-range: Clean and minimal Cha Cha Rooms is just 500m from central Ljubljana, making it an ideal choice for short stays. Views of the Dragon Bridge are a real bonus. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.
Boutique: With a cosy wine bar for winter and rooftop pool for summer, Vander Urbani Resort is the perfect choice for any time of year. The design is impeccable – as is the location, just 200m from the main square. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.
Luxury: For a treat, the 5-star InterContinental Ljubljana has elegant rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and views over Tivoli Park. The location is a bit further from the centre, but the on-site restaurant is very highly regarded (hello, late-night room service). Check rates and availability on Booking.com.
Airbnb: If you want self-contained accommodation with a kitchen and washer, Airbnb is a fantastic way to go. This gorgeous light-filled apartment is located in the city centre close to some of Ljubljana’s best cafes. If you’re new to Airbnb, sign up with this link to receive $55 AUD credit towards your first booking.
Planning your Ljubljana trip
When is the best time to visit Ljubljana?
Thanks to its relatively mild climate, Ljubljana is truly a year-round destination. The high season falls in late spring/summer (around May to August), which is when a lot of food and wine festivals and cultural events are held around town.
The holiday season is a big deal in predominantly Catholic Slovenia, and Ljubljana is renowned for its Christmas Markets and extravagant light displays. This makes December a great time to go.
We visited Ljubljana in February. Although the trees were a bit bare and the weather a little chilly, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and it was still completely enchanting.
Because of the rich cuisine and multitude of cosy wine bars and cafes, I actually think Ljubljana is a great choice for a winter city break. We found that prices on accommodation were significantly lower at this time of year, and it was much quieter overall.
How to get from Ljubljana airport to city
We arrived in Ljubljana by train from Bratislava via Vienna. If you’re coming from elsewhere in Europe, you’ll probably be arriving at Jože Pučnik Airport, which is 26km (roughly 25 minutes’ drive by car) from the city centre.
Public bus 28 takes 45 minutes to travel from the airport to the city. Tickets cost €4 and can be purchased directly from the driver when you board. On weekdays, the bus runs once every hour between 5am and 8pm. On weekends, there are limited buses (7 services total) every hour on the hour between 7am and 8pm.
If your flight arrives outside of these times or if you just prefer a hassle-free transfer, consider booking a private car and driver from Ljubljana airport to the city instead. It’s a lot more convenient and still well-priced. I recommend organising a transfer rather than hailing a taxi – especially if it’s your first time in Ljubljana.
How to move around Ljubljana
Ljubljana is extremely compact and pedestrian-friendly. Most locals seem to get around the city on foot or by bicycle – so I recommend you do the same.
This 2 day itinerary for Ljubljana focuses on the Old Town and city centre. You can reach all the places mentioned here by walking.
If you need to travel further afield or it’s too hot or cold to walk, Ljubljana has an excellent city bus system. If you plan on using the bus regularly, I recommend picking up an Urbana card to cover your fares. Buses are linked up with Google Maps so you can use the app to check routes and times.
Is Ljubljana expensive?
Compared to other cities in Central Europe, Ljubljana is extremely affordable. We visited Slovenia as part of an itinerary around the Balkans and found it a touch more expensive than other capitals in the region (for example Zagreb and Sarajevo).
The official currency in Slovenia is the Euro. To give you an idea of how much to budget for Ljubljana, here are our average daily costs per person.
- Transport: €2 for an Urbana card + €1.30 per trip (up to 90 minutes)
- Meal at a mid-range restaurant: €6–18
- Bottle of local wine: €6
- Latte in a nice cafe: €1.50
- Museum/castle admission: €6–13
The perfect 2 days in Ljubljana itinerary
Ljubljana itinerary overview
- Day 1: Classic Ljubljana
- Brunch at Moji Štruklji
- Central Market
- Explore Ljubljana Old Town
- Ljubljana Castle and Funicular
- Dinner at Luda
- Slovenian wine (or beer) tasting
- Day 2: Alternative Ljubljana
- Metelkova & ROG Factory
- National Museum of Contemporary History
- Lunch at Gostilnica 5-6kg
- Moustache Tour
- Dinner at Hood Burger
Ljubljana itinerary map
Day 1: Ljubljana Old Town & Castle
Your first day in Slovenia’s capital should be focused on the Old Town and Ljubljanski grad or Ljubljana Castle.
Brunch at Moji Štruklji
One of the best things about visiting Ljubljana is getting to try Slovenian cuisine. Before I visited, I had no idea this little country had so many delicious treats – or so much incredible local produce – to its name.
Štruklji is probably my favourite dish I ate in Slovenia. The recipe is very basic – it’s essentially a dough stuffed with either a sweet or savory filling then rolled and baked or steamed – but the result is absolutely delicious. I especially liked the chocolate-orange version (pictured above right). Served warm and oozing with chocolate sauce, it goes down incredibly well on a winter’s morning!
I highly recommend trying this dish on your first day in Ljubljana. Our Airbnb host recommended Moji Štruklji (My Dumplings of Slovenia) and we ended up eating there several times during our one-week stay. The cafe is conveniently located right on the Central Market and opens at 8.30am (closed Sundays). If you can’t do sweets first thing, they also serve savory versions of Štruklji.
We came back again to try the Žganci (buckwheat with cubes of fried lard on top – absolutely divine!) served with sausages, and the Jota (bean and sauerkraut stew). They have some excellent deals at lunchtime, so I highly recommend this place for a midday meal as well.
Wander the Central Market
After breakfast, step outside and take a wander around Ljubljana Central Market (Osrednja ljubljanska Tržnica). The produce and flower market is open every day from 7am until the early afternoon, but is busiest and most vibrant on the weekends.
Most of the stalls are located outside under rows of white-and-green-striped awnings. Offerings range from fresh fruit and veg to artisan pizza cooked fresh on-site and specialty produce, including Slovenian honey, tea, wine, and other treats.
The underground part of the market is also worth visiting. Here, you’ll see women in white aprons slicing up humongous wheels of cheese (you’ll surely get a sample if you want one!).
Look out for people filling up glass bottles with raw milk (mlekomati). I was told that outside of Romania and the Piata Obor market in Bucharest, Slovenia is one of the only places in the EU where unpasteurized milk can be sold this way.
Don’t miss the flower vendors – most are located around the corner from the main market area.
Explore Ljubljana Old Town
Jože Plečnik, Slovenia’s most prolific architect, looked to Ancient Athens for inspiration when he drew up the plans for Ljubljana’s historic core. It really pays to dedicate a whole morning and part of the afternoon to exploring this area – it really is one of the prettiest Old Towns in Europe. Hours can easily be spent wandering the riverbank and crisscrossing the various stone bridges.
You can either do a self-guided walking tour, making sure to visit the key sites mentioned below – or for a more in-depth experience, you can join a guided tour.
We did a walking tour and really enjoyed the experience. If you only have 2 days in Ljubljana, I highly recommend going for a guided option.
Recommended Ljubljana Old Town tours
– Walking tour with a local. This 2.5-hour walk starts at 11am and finishes with a funicular ride up to the castle. Guides focus on explaining local life in Ljubljana, so you get a unique and in-depth perspective. Check prices and availability here.
– Private walking tour. For even greater flexibility (including your choice of start time and duration from 2-6 hours), this private itinerary organised by Lokafy starts by exploring the neighbourhood around your accommodation before visiting all the Old Town favourites. Check prices and availability here.
– Architecture tour. Design buffs will love this dedicated architecture tour, which includes a focused look at the city’s built environment through the eyes of master planner, Jože Plečnik. This itinerary also covers a couple of hidden gems, including the Grand Reading Room at the University Library. Check prices and availability here.
– Ljubljana by bicycle. If you’d rather explore Ljubljana on two wheels, this 3-hour guided bike cruise will give you a different perspective on the Old Town and surrounding local districts. Check prices and availability here.
Must-sees in Ljubljana Old Town
Most capitals put a military hero or political leader on the pedestal. But not Ljubljana. Here, it’s a romantic poet and national treasure France Prešeren whose statue has pride of place.
Presernov Square (Prešeren trg) is dedicated to the literary legend. Many of the city’s most iconic buildings face onto the Square, making this the best place to start your wanderings.
See the wreath in the photo above? Our visit to Ljubljana coincided with Prešeren Day, an important cultural celebration and national holiday when the poet is honoured with live poetry readings in the square and floral tributes.
Ljubljana’s most iconic church and its adjoining monastery, Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, dates back to the 1600s. With a pink facade and tarnished copper turrets, it couldn’t be prettier.
Inside, the church features an ornate main alter and detailed wall frescoes.
Ljubljana is filled with historic bridges. The oldest, the Triple Bridge, stretches out in front of the church, just off the square. As the name suggests, it’s made up of three separate walking bridges merged together – one central bridge and two side bridges. This design is the work of Jože Plečnik, Slovenia’s most prolific architect and a character you’ll come across over and over again as you wander around Ljubljana.
The stone Triple Bridge is beautiful, but it’s also culturally significant. The central part of the bridge was erected in 1842 to replace a medieval wooden bridge – at the time, this was the main trade thoroughfare that connected north-western Europe with south-eastern Europe and the Balkans.
If the Triple Bridge is Ljubljana’s oldest and most historically important, the Dragon Bridge is the most iconic. Finished in 1901 and dedicated to the jubliee of Emperor Franz Joseph I, the bridge was the first reinforced concrete structure build in Ljubljana.
As the story goes, the bridgeheads were supposed to be adorned with winged lions. Whatever happened, it ended up being four magnificent dragons that keep watch over the crossing, talons gripping the stone blocks and jaws poised for a fierce roar. Dragons are a popular motif in Ljubljana and elude to the city’s mythical origin story.
Other bridges to check out in Ljubljana include the Cobblers’ Bridge (also known as the Shoemaker’s Bridge) and the love lock-adorned Butcher’s Bridge – both designed by Plečnik.
It’s not hard to see why Vurnik House (Vurnikova hiša) is my favourite building in Ljubljana. It’s not technically inside the Old Town, but it’s only a short walk away – just 250m from the Triple Bridge.
Designed as a headquarters for the Cooperative Business Bank, it was built in 1921 by local architect, Ivan Vurnik. The geometric patterns on the facade painted in red, white and blue (the colours of the Slovenian flag) were actually the brainchild of Helena Vurnik, the architect’s wife.
Inside, the building features more frescoes and a decorative glass ceiling. You can tour the interior on this architecture tour of Ljubljana.
The area around Vurnik House is renowned for its Art Nouveau buildings, so I highly recommend taking your time to wander Miklošičeva ulica with your head turned skywards!
On the opposite side of the river south of Presernov Square, Ljubljana’s Town Square (Mestni trg) is the city’s main plaza. The Baroque architecture here is closer to other squares in Europe, and it will probably remind you a bit of Vienna or Budapest.
Ljubljana’s grand Town Hall and the Robba Fountain are the main monuments. Part of the square is lined with open-air cafes – it’s a lovely place to break for a lunch.
Just off the square, you’ll find Ljubljana Cathedral (officially called St. Nicholas’s Church). Built in the early 1700s on the site of a 13th-century Romanic church, the Baroque cathedral is adorned with gorgeous frescoes. But the most interesting feature is its heavy bronze doors.
The front portal, known as the Slovene Door, is engraved with a detailed and fascinating relief that depicts significant chapters of Slovene history. It was created in 1996 to mark the 1250th anniversary of Christianity in the country.
As you stand outside admiring the doors, watch out for worshippers coming and going – this is an active church, after all.
From the square, head south via the Cobbler’s Bridge to visit Levstikov trg and the Academy of Music building. You can see Ljubljana Castle towering above the lemon-coloured facade.
Ljubljana Castle and Funicular
Ljubljana’s 15th-century castle is one of the best maintained in the region. At €13 per adult (€9 for kids), it’s not cheap – but I personally think it’s worth it. Remember the ticket price includes a return trip on the funicular and entrance to the three castle museums and viewing tower.
Like other fortifications in the region, Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljanski grad) has a long and convoluted history. It was built in the 15th century as a defense against Ottoman invasions but later used as a war hospital, a prison, and a quarantine station.
A walk around the castle grounds elucidates all this history through English information panels and interactive displays. There are a few indoor exhibitions and a viewing deck where you can get the best outlook over the city.
Dinner at Luda
This Slow Food restaurant on Poljanski nasip Street specialises in ‘Slovenian soul food’ with an innovative twist. Run by two young chefs, the menu is very paired back (in fact, there are only 7 things to choose from) and changes every two weeks depending on what’s in season. Local produce is king at Luda, and everything is extremely fresh. The price is a little higher than other eateries in the city, but it’s more than worth it for a unique dining experience.
Dinner is served from 6pm Tuesday to Saturday. Online bookings are strongly recommended.
Slovenian wine (or beer) tasting
Slovenia is fast gaining an international reputation for its premium wines. Like in Georgia and Armenia, viticulture in Slovenia predates France and Spain by thousands of years. In other words, Slovenian wine makers know what they’re doing.
There are a multitude of sweet bars in Ljubljana where you can try local bottles. Specialty wines to look out for include Zelen, Teran and Black Velvet. If you’re serious about vino, I suggest signing up for a wine experience. This 2-hour wine tasting is held in a 300-year-old cellar and includes no fewer than 7 labels plus food to accompany.
If ale is more to your taste, you’ll be pleased to know that Slovenia has a good selection of craft beers. Try 6 of the best (with snacks to match) on this 2-hour beer tasting tour.
And if the bar scene is more your style, the official Ljubljana Pub Crawl will introduce you to several of the city’s best nightlife hot spots – and plenty of other travellers.
Day 2: Alternative Ljubljana
With the must-sees (and must-eats) under your belt, dedicate your second day in Ljubljana to some of the city’s top offbeat attractions.
Marvel at Metelkova Mesto
Set inside a former army barracks, Metelkova Mesto is a vibrant cultural centre dedicated to street art and creative events.
The complex’s history dates back to the 1990s when a group of 200 artists and intellectuals occupied the old Austro-Hungarian army barracks in a protest to stop the city pulling it down. They saved the building and ended up staying, transforming the barracks into a canvas for their various creative projects.
Paintings, sculptures and mixed-medium works layer the outside walls and courtyards. Even if there’s no events on, you’re welcome to wander the area and photograph the different installations.
Photograph the street art at Rog Factory
Not unlike Metelkova, Rog Factory started out as a tannery and bicycle factory before being abandoned after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Students and aritsts coopted the sapce in 2006, turning it into a headquarters for art, sports and activism. Galleries, concert halls and clandestine clubbing venues popped up, alongside a community kitchen and bicycle repair shop (a nod to the building’s history).
Ten years later, the city made moves to take the space back and turn it into a formalised contemporary art centre. Its occupants resisted, and currently there’s a stand-off over the building’s future.
Learn about Yugoslavia at the National Museum of Contemporary History
If you only have time for one museum in Ljubljana, make it the National Museum of Contemporary History. I consider this an alternative activity because it looks at a chapter of Slovene history you won’t find many clues to in the Old Town – that is, the interwar period and Slovenia’s journey from Yugoslav Republic to independent state.
If it’s your first time visiting a former Yugoslav Republic, you’ll find this museum both fascinating and slightly disturbing. I really enjoyed the exhibits and found it pretty balanced in terms of political bias. Even though the subject matter is heavy, there are lots of objects and interesting artefacts (such as retro posters and the severed head of the equestrian who once stood in front of Ljubljana’s Town Hall) to make it more interesting.
Entrance costs €3.50 for adults, and the museum is open from 10am until 6pm every day except Mondays. If you have time, take a walk around the adjacent Tivoli Park, Ljubljana’s largest green space.
Lunch at Gostilnica 5-6kg
Gornji trg is one of the most beautiful streets in Ljubljana – not least of all because it’s home to some of the city’s best eateries. Gostilnica 5-6kg, another stellar recommendation from our Airbnb host, serves up extraordinary thin-crust wood-fired pizzas, homemade gnocchi and fresh salads. Suckling pig and Iberian pork cutlet are also a specialty.
‘Moustache Tour’ or Traditional Crafts tour
If you’re looking for a fun way to spend your final hours in Ljubljana, a ‘Moustache Tour’ organised by the official city tourism board will show you the city’s quirky side. Alternatively, a Traditional Crafts Discovery Tour with Urban Adventures is a great way to learn about the city’s artistic side.
The first tour aims to show guests the city from a different lens, namely that of three moustached men: Architect Jože Plečnik, writer Ivan Cankar and painter Rihard Jakopič. Over the course of 3.5 hours travelling around by bicycle, you’ll discover several of Ljubljana’s lesser-visited cultural attractions, including a retro barbershop, the National Gallery, and the International Centre of Graphic Arts atelier.
The Crafts Discovery Tour focuses on traditional and time-honoured artisan practices central to Slovene culture, including shoe-making, porcelain and beekeeping. You’ll get a chance to meet craftspeople and tour their ateliers – a truly unique experience.
Dinner at Hood Burger
If you’re ready for a break from Slovenian food, there are plenty of international eateries to choose from on popular Nazorjeva Street. Mexican, Japanese, and even Bosnian cuisine are all represented.
My pick of the bunch is Hood Burger, a diner-style joint that makes exclusive use of pasture-fed Slovene beef and locally grown produce to fashion delicious burgers. The ‘Hood Classic’ on a potato bread roll is my favourite.
Walk some of those delicious calories off with an evening stroll along nearby Slovenska Cesta, Ljubljana’s main pedestrian street.
More time in Ljubljana?
If you have more than 2 days in Ljubljana, I recommend incorporating a day trip into your itinerary. Slovenia is very easy to get around by bus, and you’ll find side trips for every interest and travel style within easy reach of the capital.
Recommended day trips from Ljubljana
The most recognisable lake in the Balkans and an absolute highlight of Slovenia, Lake Bled really deserves one or two nights, especially if you want to go hiking. But if you have limited time, you can easily visit on a day trip from Ljubljana.
Travelling independently, you can reach the lake in under 1.5 hours by bus from Ljubljana. On a guided tour, you can also visit Vintgar Gorge along the way. This 7-hour itinerary includes hotel pick up and makes the whole experience a breeze.
Check out my guide for detailed instructions on how to travel from Ljubljana to Lake Bled.
Skofja Loka is an easy day or half-day trip from Ljubljana if you want to experience a slice of the Carniloan countryside. This little town has everything – a beautiful stone bridge, a fortress and outstanding castle museum, a scenic old street, and a wonderful Slovenian restaurant housed inside a historic mill.
Check out my detailed guide to visiting Skofja Loka on a day trip from Ljubljana.
Postojna Cave & Predjama Castle
One of the most popular day trips from Ljubljana is to Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle. You might recognise the latter as the famous ‘castle in the cliff’. I especially recommend this 6.5-hour day trip for families.
Maribor & Ptuj
Slovenia’s second-largest city, Maribor, and it’s oldest town, Ptuj, can be combined for a cultural and historical day trip from Ljubljana. At 9.5 hours including travel time, this is one of the longer day trips, but it does pack a lot in.
Lipica & Piran
Slovenia’s Adriatic coastline and the charming town of Piran are on the opposite side of the country, but still less than 2 hours from Ljubljana by car. This full-day trip has ample time in Piran to climb the city walls and wander the alleyways. On the way back, you’ll visit Lipica and a former Habsburg-era stud farm.
Slovenia travel essentials
Here are some helpful websites and resources you can use to organise your trip to Slovenia.
– Find affordable flights to Slovenia on Kiwi.com, a booking site that mixes and matches airlines to find the best route (there’s a money back guarantee if you miss a connection).
– Use iVisa to check if you need a tourist visa for Slovenia and apply for an expedited visa online.
– Find the best hotel deals in Slovenia on Booking.com, or find a unique Airbnb. If it’s your first time on Airbnb, sign up here to receive a 55 AUD credit towards your first booking.
– Use Discover Cars to find the best price on a rental car in Slovenia.
– Find the best city tours and day excursions in Slovenia.
– Pick up a copy of the latest Lonely Planet guidebook for Slovenia.