I should never have ended up in Ljubljana. When you look at a map and see how to get to the Greek Islands from Madrid, the best way is a cheap flight across the Mediterranean Sea. But for some reason, I thought that the best way would be to go almost the entire way by land. I decided that after a night bus to Barcelona, a short flight to Treviso would be the only non-land or ocean transport that I’d take. From there it was cars, trains, buses and ferries and that meant I’d be passing through Slovenia. And it turned out that it was completely worth it.
Often ignored by many travellers in the area, Ljubljana is a small city full of happy, kind locals which has retained its village feel. The old town is charming and feels like a mix of Munich and Florence, with a splash of street art thrown in for good measure. It’s small enough to walk around and easy to bike about too. And in the middle of summer it didn’t feel overwhelmed with tourists, when many other European capitals do.
Almost everywhere you walk you’ll see the castle looking down on you. But make sure you take a walk up the hill to the castle and check out the views. I always try to get up to the highest point in any place I visit and here the walk up the hill was well worth it.
If you’ve walked all that way (or driven, yes there is an easier option here too) check out the castle itself, it’s a really beautiful mix of old and new that is different to any other European castle I’ve visited.
The village vibe grows on Friday afternoon at the food market, where locals hang out and chat with big smiles while you indulge your tastebuds with homemade meals. I tried the Slovenian style goulash, with a Slovenian beer of course.
If you’re really after the village vibe, why not hang out in the park reading books… in what seems to be a pop-up library.
Or if you want to see a slightly different side of Ljubljana, head to the Metelkova, an ex-army barracks now occupied by squatting artists which is covered in street art. And if you like socialising, it’s an interesting place to have a drink and see a slice of Slovenian life in the evening.
And if you need something else to do, why not make a game of trying to spot as many dragons as you can all over the city? They’re everywhere from the coat of arms, to bridges and the castle. If Ljubljana can be included on your travel route, I’d highly recommend it.