Exploring Ljubljana: A Hidden Gem of Europe's Medieval Delights
Welcome to Ljubljana: A Hidden Gem of Europe! Step into a city where time slows down and vibrant vibes enchant you. From the calm airport to the medieval treasures and lively medieval town, Ljubljana is a blend of history, culture, and relaxation. Join us on an adventure through hidden streets and captivating sights in this European gem.
We arrived in Ljubljana after a quick layover in Dubai, and our flight from Dubai to Ljubljana was short and enjoyable. Ljubljana immediately made a positive impression on us. The airport was calm and organized, making it easy to navigate. We located the bus stand for traveling to the city, and buses were scheduled hourly throughout the day. Our Airbnb booking at The cave turned out to be a fantastic choice due to its strategic location. It was just a 5-minute walk from the Bus and Railway stations, which happened to be next to each other, and only a 10-minute walk from the historic center of Ljubljana.
After checking in and having a quick chat with our amazing host, we planned our exploration of the city and embarked on a tour of the central hub. The vibes in Ljubljana were refreshingly different from those of a typical European city. People here seemed more relaxed, embracing the art of spending time in good company rather than solely focusing on exploring architecture. Ljubljana is a relatively small city, and like most European cities, its heart lies in the old town or medieval town. The focal point of the old town is the magnificent Ljubljana Castle. By orienting yourself around the castle, it becomes easy to navigate and appreciate the city.
Since there were numerous things to do in Slovenia and the surrounding areas of Ljubljana, we decided to spend our day exploring the city hub instead of venturing into the outskirts. We prefer planning our routes in advance to ensure we make the most of our time and feel in control of our trip. However, if you're a fan of wandering, you can simply drop anywhere and explore whatever catches your eye.
The old town is centered around the castle, and no buses operate within its narrow streets. You can request to be dropped near the Dragon Bridge, which serves as a convenient starting point. Alternatively, if your accommodation is on the opposite side of the castle, near the Embassy of Croatia, you can easily explore the castle and enjoy the city from there.
We usually prepare our route and try to cover as much as possible. However, if at any point we feel unsatisfied with our exploration, we often consult a map from the tourist center to find nearby attractions to discover.
Here are the highlights we discovered in Ljubljana:
Ljubljana Boat Tour: A fantastic way to start the day is by taking a 45-minute to 1-hour cruise to explore the medieval town. Several boat operators offer similar prices, so you can choose any of them unless you're seeking luxury services. Note that boat rides do not operate late in the evening or at night, so be sure to check the operational timings with the operators. If you're not keen on a cruise, some agents offer kayaking options or can direct you to places where you can take a refreshing dip. There's even a volleyball court along the river, though we didn't have a chance to witness any games. Nonetheless, the vibrant atmosphere suggests it's an exhilarating experience to play or simply watch others play on the court.
Ljubljana Castle: Undoubtedly the main attraction of the town, the castle sits majestically atop a hill. You can reach it by hiking (a 30-40 minute hike), taking the Funicular (a fancy word for an escalator lift, which requires a fee), or even renting bicycles and cycling to the castle entrance. Once inside the castle, you'll be greeted by a spacious courtyard that played a significant role in its history as a convention center. The castle has been meticulously curated and divided into different sections. You'll find museums dedicated to Slovenian history and prominent figures from the past. We particularly enjoyed visiting the puppet museum, where the rich and fascinating history of puppetry came to life. PS: If you purchase the Ljubljana Urbana card, boat rides and the Funicular are complimentary.
Dragon Bridge: Despite its size, this small bridge holds great historical significance as the former entrance to the city and castle. Adorned with four dragons on each corner, the bridge stretches for about 100-200 meters. Ljubljana boasts several architecturally beautiful bridges that span the Ljubljanica River. Another notable bridge worth mentioning is the Triple Bridge, which is conveniently located near the Dragon Bridge.
Franciscan Church of the Annunciation: This grand church, situated at the foot of the castle, stands as one of the most recognizable buildings in the city center. It serves as a popular gathering spot, where children delight in water shows and people leisurely stroll, enjoying themselves. The interior of the church is equally captivating.
Ljubljana Cathedral: Another nearby church that manages to hide in plain sight, the entrance to the Ljubljana Cathedral proved elusive to us initially. We convinced ourselves it must be closed until we noticed people coming out from one of the gates, revealing the entrance. The church's gallery stood out as a remarkable feature. Although we may have struggled to piece together the gallery stops coherently, it's definitely worth spending some time here.
Exploring the Medieval Town: The medieval town and its surroundings offer a myriad of delightful spots to explore on foot. Restaurants abound in this region, and with their outdoor seating and open areas, it feels as if the city has come to a standstill, allowing everyone to relish each other's company, savor great food, and simply enjoy the moment. Moments like these are what make visiting Europe so special—being able to live in the present and embrace doing nothing.
These are the main attractions in Ljubljana, but there are plenty of other options available depending on your preferences, such as various museums, operas and the zoo. Ideally, a relaxed two-day visit or a swift one-and-a-half-day itinerary would be suitable for exploring the city.
If you want to read more about planning and logistics arrangement for this trip, do check out our blog: Surprise to Splendor
Next on Travel mi Amor - We move to "The" cave and "The" castle. Stay Tuned
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