Ljubljana – Europe’s greenest and most liveable city
Few cities have left such an impression on us that Ljubljana has. Ljubljana is the capital of the Adriatic country, Slovenia. It may have a mouthful of a name that nobody can pronounce, but this is a surprisingly adorable city.
Pronounced lub-lee-arna, this charismatic city is really endearing. With its large green spaces, gorgeous old world architecture and variety of quality restaurants and cafes, it oozes bucket loads of charm. The city’s old town, the commercial centre and the areas surrounding the banks of the Ljubljanica River are compact, making it a very walkable city. In the main city and along the banks of the river the traffic is restricted, which is a huge part of the charm.
Our first day spent wandering in aimless awe between the narrow streets and pastel buildings revealed a charm that had us declaring love at first sight.
From almost anywhere in the city glimpses of the mighty medieval fortress, Ljubljana Castle can be seen. To get up to the 15th century castle you can either walk or take the funicular if the walk looks too strenuous. The funicular station, located near the central market, offers a fast and comfortable ride with spectacular views. The castle has been authentically refurbished in part and completely modernised in others. The former glory and provenance of the castle has been carefully blended with modern lines in this revitalisation restoration. The mighty fortress has idyllic grounds for a leisurely stroll and offers superb views and a breathtaking panorama overlooking the city centre.
At the castle you can climb the tower, visit the Penitentiary, Museum of Puppetry, or relax at the coffee house or two restaurants. Another point of interest is the Castle Chapel of St George, one of the oldest parts of the castle. The Gothic style chapel was built originally in 1489 by order of the Emperor for citizens to take holy mass. In 1747 it was rebuilt in Baroque style and decorated with the coat of arms making it a very sacred building. Inclusion of secular content is rare and is what makes the chapel unique.
Day or night there is a wonderful atmosphere in the lively town square and at night the castle looks magical as it glows from the coloured lighting.
Apart from Ljubljana Castle must see places include Preseren and Republic Squares, Dragon and Triple Bridges, Cathedral of St Nicholas and Central Market, all within a nice easy stroll. On Preseren Square is the beautiful and historic 17th century Franciscan Monastery. Our hotel, the Grand Hotel Union, a high end, art nouveau hotel and one of the finest in Ljubljana is right next to this bright pink church and also a short stroll from the famous Triple Bridge.
Ljubljana’s architecture is a mix of Roman, Baroque, Venetian and Viennese styles. Many of the buildings show the patina of age and wear, showing crumbling plaster and strong character. The buildings that never survived the massive earthquake in 1895 were built with playful beauty in Viennese style with colourful quirks and trimmings.
This enchanting city even has its own dragon. According to the legends, the mythical dragon slayed by St George lived beneath the hill where Ljubljana Castle sits. Ljubljana’s symbol is the dragon. Seen on the flag, the dragon symbolises power, courage and greatness. Best seen on the Dragon Bridge, where four creatures take pride of place. The bridge is protected as a technical monument and folklore says when a virgin crosses the bridge the dragons will wag their tails.
Spend a day or three meandering through the cobbled streets and you’ll wander past waterside streets and find something of interest on every corner.
The city is a place for exploration and relaxation, having a rich heritage and cultural scene that can be easily enjoyed in a few days. Ljubljana has a fine dining and late night bar culture along the quiet, narrow river and offers a very affordable break.
Soak up the atmosphere and ambiance of fine dining, late night bars and clubs, outdoor central markets, city galleries and museums. However you decide to spend your time, you will find an enchanting, extremely friendly and truly affordable city.
Strolling through the back alleys, exploring the flower market or sitting by the river at night with all the buildings and statues lit up around us, this city exudes charisma and left a huge smile on our faces.
We can’t wait to re-visit Ljubljana, this city surprised us and exceeded our expectations. It’s less touristy and more budget friendly than many European cities. You’ll find a cat café , a variety of trendy, themed bars and a mecca of alternative culture with the musical and street art scenes. This green city has made a huge impression. Through environmental awareness campaigns Ljubljana has within 7 years, made a huge sustainable impact and offers green tourist attractions and beautiful parks.
Have you considered including Ljubljana on your bucket list? Does this sound like a great place to explore a different culture?
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