Honestly, it was like a scene from The Amazing Race.
The train heading to Ljubljana – the train we need to be on is departing at 12:36. We, on the other hand, are about 13 minutes out, on a bus coming from a town called Velika Gorica in Croatia. Since we are on a bus so let’s say 15 minutes out including stops, which this bus of course fully… intends… to…make, each and everyone, despite the fact that time is not our friend.
10 minutes remain.
The bus slowly pulls into the bus terminal, Gordana, like a racehorse waiting behind the gates jumps out, the second the doors open and runs through the long tunnel of stores under the train tracks at Zagreb Glavni kolodvor – Zagreb Train Station. I get off the bus and walk very, very quickly with our carry-on and my backpack full of camera gear.
8 minutes remain
Gordana gets to the kiosk and there is a man in front of her. Just as the previous customer finishes Gordy asked the man politely if she can go before him as the train for Ljubljana is coming. He made a sweet gentle go ahead madame type of gesture but the ticket lady, behind the magical booth – that controls our Ljubljana destiny says in a loud aggressive voice “Relax the train is not here yet, go ahead sir”
6 minutes remain
I’m waiting at the platform (Peron 1) the train is supposed to depart from. It’s not here yet. This is good. Meanwhile, back at the kiosk, the man finishes up. Gordana rushes “Two tickets to Ljubljana” and digs into her purse for euros.
The lady, behind the magical booth, says “I can make it cheaper if I put your tickets together on one bill”
Gordy busy finding change looks up and says “What?”
This angers the lady, behind the magical booth. “No one ever listens to me, not here, not at home – I said I can make your ticket cheaper if you buy them together as one ticket for there and back.”
Gordana feeling embarrassed replied in a soft but sincere voice “Thank you”
4 minutes remain
Gordana finds me on the platform just as the train pulls in at which point I ask her if it’s too late for me to buy some water…
She gives me that look. That – Don’t you dare leave this platform…lookThis article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.
How Do You Pronounce Ljubljana
A Little History And What To Do In Ljubljana
I can’t believe we caught that train but more importantly… How the heck do you pronounce the capital city of Slovenia. I’m not going to lie – It’s not easy.
It involves us making our tongues do things that North Americans are just not meant to do.
Since Gordana is from ex-Yugoslavia I’ve been exposed to this Slavic tongue for several years and the issue for us over on this side of the pond is their lack of vowels. Words like “TRG” which means square (town or city square) immediately sends my tongue into a panic.
In the case of Ljubljana it goes like this:
- L is pronounced “LE”, like LUH – as in the way the French say “le” (le chateau)
- J is pronounced “YE”, like YUH – as in Yogurt without the “ogurt”, (rhymes with “le”)
- Then you have to add the LUH and the YUH together like one sound – “LUHYUH”.
- To make things interesting, ‘Lj” appears twice so it adds an extra level of complication forcing your tongue to twist.
What I will say is that it’s pretty common. I have two friends from Serbia named Ljuban and Ljiljana.
Getting To Ljubljana
Ljubljana is served by the airport in Brnik (Ljubljana airport) with several international and low-cost airlines operating from there. Adria Airways is a Slovenian airline that connects Ljubljana with more than 20 European cities. Other known airlines that have flights to Ljubljana are Finnair, AirFrance, Tunisair, Montenegro Airlines and Air Serbia.
Slovenia has a developed network of railways, connecting Ljubljana with Graz and Klagenfurt (Austria) to the north and Trieste (Italy) to the west. Ljubljana’s main train station, simply called “Ljubljana”, is within an easy walk to the city centre.
The website of the Ljubljana Bus station (Avtobusna postaja Ljubljana) offers timetables for all local bus connections, including the plan of the bus routes. The ticket office is open daily from about 5.00 or 5.30 till 22.30. For most of the routes, you can buy the tickets directly from the driver. Please have small denomination Euro notes and coins ready.
The Best Hotels in Ljubljana, Slovenia
The M Hotel is set in a modern building about 3 km from Dragon Bridge (We’ll talk about this bridge in a second) and 4 km from Ljubljana Cathedral.
Hotel Katrca 1905
The Hotel Katrca 1905 is located near Tivoli Park, in a quiet residential area close to the city centre. I flew my drone in this park quite a bit – it’s a beautiful park.
Tomaz’s Place – Airbnb
My Review – Tomaz was a fantastic host. Super friendly. Pleasant to talk to. Very Clean. Great advice and tips, laundry, everything you need!!! The location is perfect.
The Dragon Bridge originally named The Jubilee Bridge of Emperor Franz Josef I, is one of Ljubljana’s most popular attractions. The bridge was constructed between 1900 and 1901 and spans 110 feet across the Ljubljanica River. Dragon Bridge is one of a kind bridge and the first of its type to be built in Europe.
Maybe it’s a Game Of Thrones thing, but this is one of my absolute favourite bridges. I mean come on it looks so cool.
Ljubljana Central market
If you regularly hang out around my blog then you know I love markets and this one, here in Ljubljana is no exception. The Central Market has been a gathering and shopping center for over 80 years! It’s an open-air market filled with all sorts of vendors selling anything from miscellaneous items to tasty snacks.
Moji štruklji Slovenije – (My Dumplings Of Slovenia) (Dessert)
I should mention this post contains a few more food options than usual.
Have you ever tried Slovenian dessert?
Not to worry, it’s one of the stops on this self-guided tour I took.
On the tour, which included both points of interest and food/drink stops, I learned a great deal about the city and Slovenian food.
Moji štruklji Slovenije is one place that you should check out whether on the tour or not as it offers a variety of authentic Slovenian treats but in all honesty, they are famous for their Slovenian dumplings.
Butcher’s Bridge is a footbridge that runs across the Ljubljanica River and connects the Central Market and Petkovsek Embankment. Despite being a footbridge, Butchers’ Bridge is better known as an art installation, with unique glass panels and bizarre statues of mythological figures, such as Adam and Eve and the Greek Titan Prometheus.
It’s ahem, interesting to say the least but Butchers’ Bridge is also well known as a “love-bridge”.…because every city must have one?!?!
Ljubljana Cathedral & Cathedral Door
This Baroque-style cathedral is pretty with its gold and meticulously crafted frescoes. Ljubljana Cathedral like most in Europe was built on the grounds of an earlier church and the main edifice wasn’t constructed until the mid-1700s.
The Triple Bridge is the main bridge of three bridges that run across the Ljubljana River. This bridge connects the historic, medieval town of Ljubljana to the modern-day capital. The current standing bridge was once a wooden bridge that connected various parts of Europe.
Slovenska hiša is a place that uses the best of Slovenian traditional food and drink and modernizes it. They serve everything from Kranjska sausage to meats and cheeses from Slovenia. You don’t have to select just one, you can pick a special wooden plate and try a few different ones. Drinks are also special. There is a large selection of “Slovenafied” cocktails.
Special tip: Try the Kranjska sausage sandwich made with buckwheat bread, sauerkraut and mustard. Also, homemade lemonade is amazing.
Prešeren Square: Prešernova Muza, Julija | Statue of France Prešeren
Modelled after Slovenian national poet France Prešeren, the Statue of France Prešeren is located in the heart of Ljubljana. The statue triumphantly stands on a platform and faces the window of where his love interest, Julija Primic, once used to live.
Even I have to admit that’s cheesily romantic – I can’t believe I just said cheesily romantic.
Franciscan Church of the Annunciation
Built-in the mid-17th century, the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation was originally run by the Brothers of the Augustinian order. It was later taken over by the Brothers of the Franciscan order. Both the church and the monastery are the two most prominent buildings in Ljubljana’s central square.
Locksmith Street is a foot passage (prehodi) that was built a long, long time ago. It was a narrow passage that looked ordinary from the outside but when you go inside, it’s like another world. Centuries ago, they say criminals were punished here, in ways no one could ever imagine.
Moving forward I will always try to include places that serve traditional and cultural foods in my itineraries. I managed to do that really well here is the capital city of Slovenia but every now and then I just want something that reminds me of home.
So when it comes to traditional, standard North American burgers, no place in Ljubljana beats Hood Burger. For about 9 Euros, ($10.61), you can enjoy amazing, flavorful, and locally sourced ingredients for their gourmet burgers, awesome beer, and delicious fries/homemade coleslaw.
CENTRALNA POSTAJA (Drinks)
I heard of a great Ljubljana Pub Crawl and anyone who knows me, knows I love beer.
Centralna Postaja is one of Ljubljana’s most popular spots. Whether you drop by for a cup of coffee, lunch, or after-work drinks. The type of place where locals go to unwind and let loose after work. In the evening they have live music, revelry, drinks, and delicious bites.
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Stow (Coffee Roasters)
The only thing I love as much as beer is coffee. Stow is a specialty coffee roaster and cafe known for adding its own unique flair to the coffee scene here in Slovenia. Aside from being a trendsetting coffee house, Stow is also known for its coffee academies and its own specialty coffees.
Mestni muzej Ljubljana (Museum)
Located in the Turjak Palace, The City Museum of Ljubljana is both an architectural monument and preservation site for the multicultural heritage of Ljubljana. The museum has exhibits that date back to prehistoric settlements, as well as more contemporary works that recount how and why Ljubljana became the capital city of Slovenia.
Built between 1931 and 1932, Cobblers’ Bridge stands over what used to be a wooden bridge that connected two important medieval town squares – Mestni trg and Novi trg. Cobblers’ Bridge gets its name from its location, a site where cobblers used to set up their workshops and make handcrafted shoes.
Built in 1821 over the ruins of a medieval monastery, Congress Square was once a venue used for ceremonial purposes during the reign of the Congress of Ljubljana. After the congress disbanded, the square was transformed into a park.
When I was first here in 2017 there was a football game involving Slovenia’s national team game on a big screen with tons of people and lots of beer!
Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity (Župnijska cerkev sv. Trojice)
Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity is a parish church here in the capital city of Slovenia. It was built between 1718 and 1726 in a Baroque style.
Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions is a museum of fun and educational experience, where you can test the limits of your perception. Inside, relativity is something that you experience literally. The illusions provide a different experience of space and everything you think you know about it.
Located in the center of the city, the Ljubljana Townhall is the seat of the City Municipality. The town hall was built during the late 1400s by architect Peter Bezlaj but underwent several transformations until its last architectural change in 1963. Aside from being the seat of the City Municipality, Ljubljana’s Town Hall features four separate exhibition spaces: the Glass Atrium, the Historical Atrium, the Central and Right Atrium.
Ljubljana Castle is important to Ljubljana for a couple of reasons. Aside from being the main tourist attraction, the castle is one of the key pieces of architecture in Slovenia’s capital; the Ljubljana Castle is the largest and most frequently visited castle in the city. Visitors can enjoy all sorts of events year-round at the castle, as well as a peaceful stroll along the castle grounds.
Museum of Puppetry & Virtual Museum
The Museum of Puppetry, as part of the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre, houses the national collection of puppetry, which is being constantly updated. The Museum owns around 6000 material artifacts (set designs, drawings, posters, audio & video media, archival materials, etc.) This also includes more than 3000 puppets from the legacies of Ljubljana Puppet Theatre archive, Milan Klemenčič, Dr. Niko Kuret, Jože Pengov and other collections, all an important part of Slovenian cultural heritage.
I love puppets and even as an adult I find them hypnotizing to watch.
The Virtual Museum, located under the Lookout Tower of the Ljubljana Castle since 2001, was in January 2012 given a new image as the Virtual Castle. A technical, spatial and content renovation of the past Virtual Museum diversified the offer at the Castle, taking visitors for an interesting virtual walk along with the Castle’s history.
I don’t really remember this place as it was where I met up with my friend Zmaja, her sister and her father drinks. The spot was close to the Town Center with great craft beer and a great location to people watch.
My friend Zmaja is the owner of a ladies fashion accessory line called Fashion District
Her father was once Gordana’s mother’s elementary school student.
Vino & Ribe
The name says it all: wine and fish! It’s best described as a gourmet takeaway seafood joint with a menu that consists of sardines, picarels, calamari and other various types of fish. Fried or grilled (in a Green Egg) and served up piping hot. Wine comes in two typical Istrian varieties, Malvazija and Refošk, and flows quite liberally by the litre or half-litre. Minimal, modern, inexpensive and delicious.
St. James’s Parish Church
St. James’s Parish Church is dedicated to St. James the Greater- one of the twelve apostles and the first apostle to be martyred. The Jesuits commissioned the church’s construction, which took place between 1613 and 1615 on the grounds of what used to be a Gothic church.
Wine bar Šuklje
The Wine Bar Šuklje is located in an old bourgeois villa on the river bank and offers more than 300 different types of wine from Slovenia and all over the world. Their specialty is this so-called ‘’Vino Music Mood’’ in which guests are offered a wine that reflects their music mood. In addition to wines, their offer a selection of boutique spirits and a wide variety of cold snacks, with an emphasis on dishes from the Bela Krajina region. They also offer wine flights and blindfolded wine tasting.
Tour: Blindfolded Wine Tasting
Gelateria Romantika offers a daily fresh selection of the best creamy gelatos, refreshing sorbets, energizing juices and icy Sicilian granitas. All are hand-made out of natural ingredients and in accordance with the traditional recipes from Italian gelato masters.
Cutty Sark Pub
The perfect place to end a day of exploring Ljubljana. An off-the-grind, hidden gem only the locals go to and one of Zmaja’s favourite spots. Cutty Sark Pub, is an Irish pub, has everything. The outdoor patio is perfect for enjoying the city breeze and sights while indulging in quality drinks.
With Ljubljana, a quick train ride away from Zagreb, Gordana and I have officially added a yearly two-day trip over to this little gem of a city.
A just for good measure we’ve added a yearly day trip to Bled via bus from Ljubljana!
It’s’s just that beautiful, the type of place you sort of hoped would stay a hidden gem but people like me just can’t keep it to myself.
Oh, one more thing. my friend Zmaja’s fashion accessory line is called Fashion District and you can see some of her pieces HERE.
Most of the foodie spots in this post are through this self-guided tour/app called BiteMojo. Read more about that in my app review.