We spent four nights in Ljubljana using some of our time to look at Ljubljana, plus using Ljubljana as a base to visit Bled, Skofja Loka and Kranj. This was our second visit to Ljubljana. We first came here in the eighties when it was still part of Yugoslavia. That was a short visit. At the time I was a student in Scotland and my husband was working in Istanbul. We travelled by train from Istanbul to Thessaloniki in Northern Greece; stayed overnight in a hotel in Thessaloniki. Then we took a train from Thessaloniki to Belgrade. We spent the day looking at Belgrade. Then we travelled overnight to Ljubljana, so when we arrived in Ljubljana we were very tired after two nights of sleeping on trains. I know we visited Preseren Square on our first visit as I have photos of the church there. I also remember climbing up to the fortress. My other memory is of visiting an art gallery with some very disturbing, gruesome and violent pictures in it, which actually upset me for most of the day. My impression and lasting memory of Ljubljana from our first visit was that it was like a run down version of Salzburg. That is certainly no longer the case. Ljubljana old town has been beautifully restored and is now in great condition. We returned for our third visit in July 2015. We stayed two nights. This was a very relaxed visit. We decided not to travel anywhere else and we set no itinerary for things to see. Instead we enjoyed our lovely hotel, swimming pool and wandered at leisure around the old town, fortress and park. Ljubljana consists of a fortress on a hilltop. Nearby is the Ljubljanica River. On the fortress side of the river there is a long thin old town consisting of many long open squares lined with cafes and restaurants. In this part of town you will find the town hall, the cathedral, several churches and the marketplace. The river is crossed by several bridges including the dragon bridge, butchers’ bridge, triple bridge and the shoemakers’ bridge. On the non-fortress side of the river you can visit Preseren Square with its monument, church, department store and colourful buildings. There is also Kongresni Square with its university, church and Roman remains. Republike Square was being restored during our visit. This has communist style architecture and monuments plus the parliament building. French Revolution Square has a monument to Napoleon and some attractive old buildings.
Central Hotel Peaceful, Pleasant Hotel.
We stayed in this hotel for four nights. The hotel is easy to walk to from the train or bus station. Exit the station, go right, cross road and walk down Miklosiceva Street. The street the hotel is on is famous for Secessionist Architecture and has some lovely buildings. It is also very close to the historical centre of Ljubljana so the hotel's location is excellent. Check-in was friendly and pleasant. Our room was clean, comfortable and pleasant. It was also very quiet at night and we slept really well. The room had a fridge, a room safe, tea/coffee making facilities and free wifi which worked very well. The hotel does not have a swimming-pool but it has an arrangement with the nearby Grand Union Hotel that guests can use the indoor pool there for free. We did and it was lovely. I would strongly recommend this. Breakfast was good in this hotel. There was a selection of hot food, cereal, bread, cheese, cold meat, cake, coffees, teas, juices. We ate inside each day but had a fruit juice on the balcony prior to leaving to test the weather. The only odd thing about breakfast was the choice of music playing while we ate. It was rich in swear words and sexual references and certainly surprised me for a hotel breakfast room. Address: Miklosiceva 9, Ljubljana 1000.
Hotel Centre: Friendly Hotel.
We stayed here for one night in July 2014. The staff of this hotel were very pleasant and friendly. Water bottles are placed near the entrance and you can help yourself as you go in or out. Our room was small, but very clean. It did not have air-con, but we were provided with a fan. We were also provided with tea and coffee making facilities. The location of the hotel is excellent. It is close to the train and bus station and the historical centre. There are restaurants and supermarkets nearby. We left early to catch a train to Zagreb so did not eat breakfast here. Free wifi is provided and it works well. Check out works well. You have to pay in cash here. Credit cards are not accepted. Address: Slovenska 51, Ljubljana 1000.
Things to Do.
Ljubljana Fortress - Ljublanski Grad.
Ljubljana Fortress stands on top of a hill and you can see it from many parts of the city. It is possible to walk to the fortress or get there by funicular. We walked. It is not a difficult walk even though you are going uphill and it is well signposted. You can go in the courtyard of the fortress without payment. If you pay you can go inside the buildings and seem to be shown round by actors playing the roles of characters from the past. We just looked at the free parts. The fortress has been restored and actually looks modern rather than like an old building; much of the courtyard is a restaurant and shops. There was a viewing platform overlooking modern Ljubljana. You can see views over the old town as you walk up to the fortress or from the outside of the fortress. The fortress dates from the tenth century, but most of the existing buildings date from sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The fortress was originally built to defend the Austro-Hungarian Empire against Ottoman invasion and peasant revolt. Throughout its eventful history the fortress has been used as an arsenal, a military hospital and a prison. The funicular to the castle was built in 2006. Outside the castle there is a monument by the sculptor Stojan Batič; dedicated to the Slovene peasant revolts . This sculpture was made in 1974. Ljubljana Castle Revisited. Later we re-visited Ljubljana Castle for a third time. This time we went up by funicular. The castle was looking a lot better than last year. Especially the area behind it which was still in the process of being renovated last year. I was much more impressed with the castle on this visit than on previous ones.
From the free viewing platform inside the castle you get a view over Ljubljana new town. On the walk up to the fortress and from the area behind the fortress you get views over the old town. Directions: Tourist Train from Prešeren Square or Walk up from Ciril Metodov Trg. Address: Castle Hill.
The old town on the fortress side of the river contains the market. Some of this is in Vodnikov Trg and some of it is in the colonnade that runs along the river. There were also flower stalls next to the cathedral. When we visited on a Friday the area between the colonnade and the cathedral had an open kitchen event. This was very popular with lots of people buying cooked food from here.
The Cathedral of St Nicholas.
The Cathedral of St Nicholas is next to Ljubljana's central market. It is a beautiful building. It has very impressive doors with 3-d depictions of religious scenes on them. These were added to the cathedral in 1996 when the pope visited it. The current cathedral has a baroque interior with wonderful paintings. This cathedral dates from the early eighteenth century and occupies the site of an earlier gothic church. I thought the cathedral was very beautiful and peaceful and well worth a visit.
The Town Hall.
The town hall is near the cathedral. Outside it there is a lovely fountain of the three rivers. We had a look at the free exhibition in the town hall which was OK but had no English information. The town hall was built in 1484 and was later extended in the early eighteenth century by Gregor Macek. Address: Mestni Trg.
Old Town - Stari Grad.
As you wander the old town, take your time and look at the details. It could be a carving of a face on the wall, intricate metal work on a railing, a statue, a fountain. The beauty of Ljubljana is in the detail. When we travelled to Bled we heard the man sitting behind us tell two young English visitors not to bother looking at Ljubljana and head straight to the cave area as there was nothing to see in the city. Personally, I could not disagree more. The old town may be small, but it was beautiful. The squares and streets of the old town are filled with cafes and restaurants.
The Bridges of Ljubljana.
Dragon Bridge marks one end of Ljubljana old town.There are four fearsome looking dragons one on each corner of the bridge. Butchers’ Bridge is near the market and presumably was once the meat selling area. It is lined with statues and like so many bridges nowadays covered with lovers’ padlocks. Triple Bridge is a three part bridge leading from Preseren Square to the old town. Shoemakers Bridge is a bridge lined with columns. It was being dug up when we visited. At one end there were some hanging shoes for decoration. Presumably in the past you had shoes made or repaired here.
Preseren Square has a statue of France Preseren, Slovenia’s most famous poet overshadowed by the poetic muse. In a corner of the square his lover gazes across at him. Preseren Square is surrounded by beautiful buildings such as the salmon pink Franciscan Church, which is lovely and peaceful inside. This church dates from the seventeenth century. There is also the oldest department store in Ljubljanaa beautiful art nouveau building with a statue of the god Mercury on its roof and a lovely ornate staircase inside. There are also several beautiful ornate and colourful buildings such as Hauptmann House. This house was built in 1873 and then later renovated in 1904 in the Secessionist style by the architect Ciril Metod Koch.
Miklosiceva Cesta runs from Preseren Square to the street where you can find Ljubljana’s train and bus stations. It is a lovely street with art nouveau architecture.
Kongresni Trg is a lovely square with some university buildings, a church and some Roman remains. The church here is the early Baroque Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity. There is a gold statue of an ancient Roman man here. It is based on a real statue found in the excavation of the remains of Emona.
Republike Trg was being restored when we visited. The parliament is here and there are some stark Soviet style buildings plus some typical communist style sculptures. Republic Square used to be known as Revolution Square. This is the largest of all Ljubljana's squares. It was designed in the late 20th century by Edvard Ravnikar. Slovenia declared its independence in this square on the 26th of June 1991.
French Revolution Square.
French Revolution Square has a column commemorating Napoleon and some lovely museums. It was quite pleasant just to wander around this area.
Enjoying the old town at leisure.
I am terrible for running us around lots of sights when we visit a place. So much so that I must admit I love going back to places we have already been and doing them again at leisure. If I have seen them fairly thoroughly on an earlier visit I can view them again in a much more relaxed and enjoyable way. For example revisiting Ljubljana this summer we walked along the river on the new town side and it gave us great views of the old town. On our rushed visit we missed this.
This bridge was being renovated when we visited in 2014, so was a bit of a mess. Now all those renovations are finished and the bridge is looking attractive. There are good views up and down the river from here too.
We visited the market much earlier on this visit so there were more stalls open. The market is quite colourful and is set in a beautiful location being next to the river, the bridges and the cathedral. This area is worth a look. Plus there are places to eat and drink here.
This square was all dug up and bits of it were fenced off when we visited last year. The renovation is now all complete. This is a very bleak Soviet style square. I actually quite like that kind of architecture in moderation of course. It is too depressing to be everywhere.
Tivoli Park was an expansive and beautiful green park area. It is the largest park in Ljubljana. It had wonderful rose gardens with more than 160 different types of roses, a castle with lots of statues outside it, fountains and a lovely pond area complete with jumping fish sculpture. Near the pond and rose gardens is an open air library in the summer months. In winter it moves into a nearby greenhouse, Near the entrance to the park is the very pretty Serbian Orthodox Church and a museum of modern art.
Tivoli Mansion is a beautiful building with lots of sculptures. It was originally built in the seventeenth century.by the Jesuits. Later it was renovated by Marshal Joseph Radetzky in the middle of the 19th century, The Austrian sculptor Anton Dominik Fernkorn made four cast iron dog statues that stand in front of the castle. When he later committed suicide, a rumour started that it was because he forgot to give these dogs tongues. There was also a fountain with a little boy and a dancing couple statue in front of the mansion.
This area was once home to the military barracks of the Yugoslav National Army and a prison. When Slovenia became independent, students moved in and squatted here. It is now a kind of arty, free spirited squat area with a hostel you can stay in. It is worth coming here to view the graffiti and artwork.
Serbian Orthodox Church.
There is a beautiful Serbian Orthodox Church near the entrance to Tivoli Park. Lastyear I struggled to take a good photo of it. This year I found the perfect spot. As you approach the entrance to the park you walk down to a sort of underpass. Walk past the church and from the other side of the main road climb up some steps on your right and you will have the perfect view.
On our last visit we went to this park and explored the area to the left of Tivoli Mansions (if you were standing facing it) so this time we explored the area off to the right. I was able to use my powerful zoom to get a good shot of the fortress and skyscraper from here.
I think the old centre of Ljubljana is really very picturesque and it is possible to take good views over it from various locations such as our hotel, the fortress, across the river from certain vantage points. These are some views I liked.
I rather like statues or at least I did until Skopje overwhelmed me with them and one of the fun things to do with them is to have your picture taken with them. Or if, like me you are not photogenic, shove your more photogenic husband next to them and snap away.
Llubljana At Night.
Ljubljana is truly beautiful as the sun goes down and the lights start to fade. Many buildings and squares are beautifully lit up at night. My camera is not great for night time shots, but I got a few pictures I liked. It is slightly better as the light is fading rather than when it is totally dark.
Outside the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation on Preseren Square some kind of sprinkler device had been set up to make it rain down water there. The area had jokey wet weather warning signs and was a good place to cool off. Very popular with children.
Views along the river.
The river in Ljubljana separates the old and new towns. It is crossed by many beautiful bridges. Make sure you stroll along both sides of the river if you like taking photos as you get very different views of things from each side.
Vodnikov Hram: Pleasant Evening.
Ljubljana is filled with great restaurants. I did not write restaurant reviews last year and so had forgotten the names of places we ate. This year I will get my reviews done. Vodnikov Hram is at the foot of the funicular that goes up to the castle. It is close to the statue of Vodnikov, next to the market. We had a very good meal here. Lovely cold beer. Peter had a wiener schnitzel. I had a ljubljana schnitzel which turned out to be a cordon blue. Both were very tasty. We ordered fries and rosti they call it roast potatoes as sides. One would have been enough. We could not finish both. I recommend the rosti. They were delicious. Service was pleasant, though the restaurant was busy and we had to wait a while for our main courses.
We sat outside. There was a step next to our table which nearly everyone tripped on in the dark, including me and despite the fact I had watched everyone else do it. We were given some kind of free schnapps at the end of our meal which tasted nice. I would eat here again.
Fany and Mary: Very Friendly Restaurant.
This restaurant is between Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge on the new town side of the river. There are lots of restaurants here. We were attracted to this place by its sense of humour. It had signs up saying things like "Come on in and meet your future ex-wife", "Unattended children will be given tequila and a free kitten", "We have wifi so you don't need to talk". We saw this place in the day and decided to return in the evening. It was very busy, but they squeezed us in. I ordered a large pizza. The waiter asked if we were sharing. I said we were having one each and asked if that would be too much food. Anyway we ordered it. It was too much food but we took some away for next day so no problem. There was very little difference in price between big and small pizzas. Service here was very pleasant and friendly. The food was good and the beer was good. This restaurant secializes in pizzas and burgers.
Bus to and from Ljubljana Airport.
We took a bus from Munich to Ljubljana then flew from Ljubljana to Podgorica on Serbian Air. The airport site is very vague about public transport to the airport, so we queued up at Ljubljana Bus Station and inquired if there was a bus to the airport. There was. We bought our tickets one day in advance. This was not actually necessary. The bus departed from stance 28 at Ljubljana Bus Station.
We have been to Ljubljana three times now. On our first visit we arrived by train from Belgrade, on our second by train from Maribor, on our third by bus from Munich. We left on the first visit by train to Austria, on our second by train to Zagreb and on our third by air to Podgorica. Ljubljana Airport is about an hour away from Ljubljana by airport bus. It is quite a small airport. We flew out of it by Air Serbia.
From Munich to Ljubljana by bus.
On our third visit to Ljubljana we travelled by bus from Munich. This was good value and it was comfortable and fairly enjoyable. The route obviously went through Austria. The scenery was lovely. The bus had a toilet. We had one rest stop on route. The free wifi on the bus did not work. The journey took about five hours. We got off in Ljubljana but our bus continued on to Zagreb.
Funicular To The Castle.
Last two visits we walked up to the castle, but this time just to try something new we took the funicular. The price depends on what you want to do. You can go one way, up and back or get a ticket including castle entrance. We just went up. The bottom of the funicular is near the market. The short ride up is quite good fun with good views.