Knowing Slovenia is beautiful but with no idea where to head first, it made sense to visit the capital city to meet people and gather information. Ljubljana is not what I would expect from a capital city; it’s small, quiet, surrounded by beautiful scenery and a generally relaxed place. So what did I learn?
- Sundays don’t exist. I arrived Saturday night, ate and got drunk. Waking up quite late on Sunday left me with absolutely zero food options. Every shop, every restaurant, every fast food chain – they were all closed. After walking around for about three hours in the heat, I stumbled upon a petrol station around the outskirts and stocked up on crisps, peanuts and chocolate. It’s crazy how much of a ghost town this capital city becomes on a Sunday, so prepare yourself with food supplies and get a big meal in you nice and early.
- Cheap accommodation in Ljubljana is a myth. The absolute cheapest hostels were setting me back around £14 per night and were extremely average. After skipping between a few, I came to the conclusion that there’s no horrible accommodation, but booking something wonderful was going to be a real budget-breaker.
- Ljubljana is beautiful. The cobbled streets, hillside surroundings and central river make Ljubljana a wonderful place to explore. It’s also not as busy as your average European city, so you can stroll at your own pace without having to worry about vehicles and people clattering into you.
- Visit Ljubljana Castle. You can’t miss it; walking around the city you can clearly see a hill with a castle sat on top. There’s plenty of paid tours but just grab a bottle of water and walk up there, it doesn’t take long. It’s also not overly interesting but it’s something to do and not something you usually see in a city.
- Hit the river bars. Another thing you can’t miss, but in a lot of cities this is something of a “treat” for backpackers. City centre bars overlooking a river are often costly and overcrowded, but not in Ljubljana! I could recommend a few, but they’re all incredibly similar in both prices and experience. Just walk along the river at night and see which one you’re feeling.
- Ljubljana is boring. So you’ve seen the city, climbed the castle and had a few drinks? You’re done. Ljubljana doesn’t have a great deal to offer, it’s just a pleasant place. You should probably venture elsewhere now…
- Visit Lake Bled. Walk to Ljubljana train station and hop on the train to Lake Bled. It’s cheap and doesn’t take long, but it’s incredible. The lake is big and beautiful, with a great walking trail around it and an almost fairytale-feeling castle on a tiny island in the middle of the lake. You’re not meant to just jump in and go for a swim, but I did because that’s surely what everyone wants to do when they see a big, blue, beautiful lake? There’s also plenty of bars and restaurants surrounding the lake. You can also stay in a hostel beside Lake Bled, but time was a limiting factor for me, unfortunately.
- Walking sucks. You’ve walked around a lot and the mix of cobbled streets and broken pavements have probably taken it out of your feet, right? Well tough. Despite being small, Ljubljana crams all the shops into the centre and each “thing to see” around the edges with quite a distance between them. If you’ve opted for a budget hostel, you’re probably located an hour’s walk from all of this as well. You’ve got more walking to do!
- It’s a place for parents. Due to it being so relaxed, pricey and pretty, I could imagine it being the perfect long weekend for parents (and maybe the dogs). When you’re tired and weary from walking everywhere and buying cheap food as a backpacker, there’s nobody you’re more jealous of than people sat in a nice restaurant with multiple large plates of delicious food and a tall, cold pint of not-the-cheapest-beer. Parents would have a wonderful time relaxing in Ljubljana.
- Avoid the elevator club. Trying to find buzzing nightlife in Ljubljana is an endless quest. Eventually a guy knew a guy and we ended up skipping the incredibly long queue and taking an elevator up to a rooftop nightclub. Granted this place had the big dancefloor, multiple bars, current music and a decent amount of people… but it sucked. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but it was one of those clubs where nobody feels friendly or like they’re having fun. It just felt so fake. Unfortunately, this was still the best nightlife Ljubljana had to offer (apparently).
- The football firm is friendly. Chelsea were playing neighbouring Maribor (another really nice town) and both teams had their firms in Ljubljana on the night I was in the elevator club. As soon as I told them I hate Chelsea, they were very friendly. I returned their kindness because they were all tiny and I hate seen the Chelsea fans walking around the city earlier… these Slovenians were going to get their faces ripped off. Aleksander was a 5’8 “thug” with bones sticking out and begging passers-by for food, whilst big bald Kev and the lads had been strutting down by the river at a good 6’2 and 250lbs.
It’s hard to write a conclusion for Ljubljana that isn’t just me repeating what I’ve said above. It’s a city for parents and Lake Bled is beautiful. Don’t stay too long, possibly visit Maribor during your adventures… admire Slovenia and move on I guess? It’s a nice change of pace if you can conveniently slide it into your Eastern Europe adventures, for sure.