I first visited Ljubljana just under four years ago on a day trip from Lake Bled, I say day trip but in truth I was probably only in the city for no more than five hours. I will admit that until returning to Ljubljana this month, I was under the impression that I have seen most of what the city could offer.
This is not intended to be a moment by moment account of my time in Ljubljana, but just to say that I was very wrong.
The first part of my recent trip with my friends started in Ljubljana for two nights, taking a very early flight from London Stansted and (just) arriving in time for a 11am free walking tour (www.ljubljanafreetour.com). I believe our guide was called Mariana; taking into account these are run by volunteers her knowledge and passion for Ljubljana was second to none. The walking tour also made me realise how badly I had missed out on my first visit, I had visited some of the places but did not know their history or purpose – there are a lot of bridges with more history behind them than one would imagine.
Unfortunately the water level was too high for the river boat tours to operate, but we instead covered a large part of the river by foot.
(L) Puppet Museum in Ljubljana Castle, (R) Franciscan Church
The castle has stunning views but it still did not win me over. It is worth a visit but it feels too much like a tourist attraction being a castle, rather than Ljubljana Castle being a tourist attraction, if that makes any sense. I spent more time in the castle this time round and there are some interesting exhibitions, including a puppet museum and a brief history of Slovenia.
Speaking of views, the Nebotičnik Skyscraper. My friend wanted to visit the Skyscraper and it was worth it. Not only is it free, but the views are – in my opinion – better than those from the castle and has a terrace bar at the top. I didn’t even know of its existence until my friend mentioned it, another mark to evidence just how misguided my initial opinion of Ljubljana was.
View from the Nebotičnik Skyscraper terrace bar
Okay, with a bit planning you could fit what we managed to do in two days into one day, but this would mean missing out of what I missed the first time I visited. Ljubljana has a unique character, a charm about it and this is no more evident than when eating out and visiting bars and pubs.
Speaking of which, the below would be my recommendations to anybody planning to visit Ljubljana.
Sarajevo 84′ – a small restaurant that serves Bosnian food (almost opposite the Skyscraper). The guests appeared to be people local to Ljubljana rather than tourists, although this could have been a fluke. Bosnian food appears to be meat, and the meet in Sarajevo 84′ was absolutely spot on. My favourite restaurant of my trip.
Gostilna Sokol – by contrast, Gostilna Sokol was far more touristy on a very touristy street. But that does not mean it cannot be lovely. I order goulash served inside a ‘bread bowl’, something I had never ordered before but something I would definitely recommend everybody else to order.
We visited a number of pubs on our two nights in Ljubljana, some good some okay and some I wouldn’t go back to. The better ones include Premier Pub, Patrick’s Irish Pub, Cutty Sark and England Pub (please try and look past the awful name). But if I had to pick my very favourite:-
Klub Dakati – this is a cosy little pub that I got the feeling is visited by students, or a younger crowd in general. It had an intimate atmosphere and despite only visiting twice, felt homely. It is the type of pub that I just wish existed in my hometown, or even in the surrounding area.
How long to stay in the city? Two nights is probably enough to see the city itself, but there are plenty of day trips to justify spending longer. I was wrong about this city and it should be high on the list of anybody who likes city breaks.