Along the Ljubljanica and the Franciscan Church in the background (June 2018).

Along with countries such as Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, I’d also wanted to visit Slovenia while spending two weeks traveling the Balkans in May and June. I was, unfortunately, on a time crunch, since I was focusing most of my visits on Croatia, reserving the others (Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina) for day trips. That said, I was unsure whether I could even make it over to Slovenia, thinking I might as well postpone the visit for another time.

However, while looking into buses from Zagreb to Venice, I came across one on Flixbus that had a short transfer in Ljubljana. It was about a two to three-hour stopover, but all the same, I found that my best option to see a bit of the country while en route to my last destination– plus, the price difference between direct and non-direct were minuscule, so with that, I reserved my spot on the bus and looked into things to see and do in Ljubljana.

I left Zagreb in the morning, taking the tram to the main bus station where I boarded my ride at 10:00. We took off and, within 30-45 minutes, we reached the Croatian-Slovenian border. By then, I’d already experienced passport control from other Balkan countries (Croatia-Montenegro, Croatia-Bosnia & Herzegovina), so it wasn’t anything new or surprising. The only difference was that we were required to get off the bus and go into the office to be checked and stamped before we could be let on again. The process took some time, perhaps 45 minutes to an hour since there was a considerable amount of cars on the road that day.

Although we were scheduled to arrive to Ljubljana at 12:15, we ended up pulling in closer to 13:00– while the passport control did push our arrival time forward, let alone eat up into time I could’ve spent visiting, it wasn’t the worse, as I still had a good two hours to get off and take a quick walk around town before I had to catch the next leg to Italy.

As soon as we arrived at the main bus station, I hopped right off and made a beeline for the city center. Despite being the country’s capital, Ljubljana isn’t that large, so it made visiting the main sites easily within walking distance of each other. Within 15 minutes, I was already in the center and ready to explore with the limited time I had.

With a population of about 280,000 inhabitants, Ljubljana (pronounced “loo-bee-ah-na”) is the largest city in Slovenia. It cuts through the Ljubljanica River, and it serves as the political, economic, social, and cultural hub of the country. Much of its architecture is a hodgepodge of styles, with its historic center being Roman-influenced and its buildings both Venetian and Viennese, as constructed following two damaging earthquakes in the 16th and 19th centuries, respectively. The historic center is situated along the river, which gives a beautiful balance between nature and urbanization.

My first stop was at the Dragon Bridge, where the fire-breathing statues stood and guarded both sides of the structure. Legend has it that Jason, a Greek mythical hero, had killed a dragon and hence established Ljubljana, along with the Argonauts. That said, Jason remains an important figure in the capital’s history as being its mythical founder. The Dragon Bridge, all the same, remains a distinctive bridge to check out!

Dragon Bridge.

During the time of year I went, it was already starting to heat up. Although the early-summer weather beat down on Ljubljana, it also made the city exceptionally gorgeous. The Ljubljanica River was a brilliant turquoise blue, along with teeming green bushes along the canals that appeared to swallow up the waters. In spite of the growing count of tourists making their way to Ljubljana in recent years, the capital still hasn’t experienced the polluted, congested state that places like Paris or Rome have long since had. In fact, Ljubljana is quite clean and it’s reputed to be one of the cleanest cities in Europe– I wouldn’t be surprised!

I took a stroll along the Ljubljanica, where there were many restaurants and cafes dotted along the quay. It was a warm weekend when I visited, which made the streets exceptionally packed with locals and tourists enjoying the sunshine in town. I hadn’t expected to see so many people in the city, but I guess it just about goes for anywhere in Europe!

The Ljubljanica river.

After the Dragon Bridge, the next distinctive bridge along the Ljubljanica is the Triple Bridge. Evident as it’s named, there’s a group of three bridges together, which connect the modern and historic parts of the capital. Definitely something I’d never seen before, and I found it pretty neat. Close to the bridge are the brightly-rose Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and Congress Square, the latter which I took a quick tour around.

Triple Bridge.

I crossed Cobbler’s Bridge, one of the oldest ones in the city (dating back to the Middle Ages), and reached the heart of the historic center. Prešeren Square is where everything comes together: restaurants, stores, entertainment, people: it was absolutely bustling when I arrived, but lovely all the same.

On Cobbler’s Bridge (with the castle in the background).
Prešeren Square.

Aside from the historic center, Ljubljana also has its eponymous castle perched on top of a hill, and it’s considered the main landmark of the capital. I was interested in visiting, but due to limited time, I had to forgo it– regardless, it can be seen just about anywhere in the city, so it’s not as if one’s missing out on it.

With less than an hour left, I decided to make my way back to the bus station. Along the way, I stopped by Nebotičnik, a skyscraper located west of the city center among other towering, modern buildings. It offered free sights at the top, and I got a lovely, panoramic view of the historic center and castle.

View from Nebotičnik.

I ended my visit shortly afterwards, making my way back to the main bus station to wait for my next ride out. By then, the mid-afternoon sun was really beating down, so I got myself a small frozen yogurt treat at a cafe near the bus station– as Slovenia is part of the EU, it uses the euro, which was a relief after spending the previous two weeks switching between the Icelandic króna and the Croatian kuna. My bus pulled in around 15:00, and I soon left Ljubljana to continue my journey to Italy.

While my visit in Ljubljana was barely two hours long, I still saw a lot of the main sites. Granted, it was only a glimpse of the town, but it left a good impression on me, enough to want to return and see it in more depth in future travels. I’d also love to visit Lake Bled, so it gives me all the more reason to discover more of Slovenia!

Final installment of my May-June holidays to come soon. Coming up: Venice, Italy!


— Rebecca


3 thoughts on “Destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia

  1. Ljubljana seems like an exceptional place to visit and explore, Rebecca. It definitely has so much to offer which is so strange considering how small Slovenia is. It seems like a real hidden gem. Thanks for whetting my appetite!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Slovenia is still quite an underrated place to visit, despite tourism growing every year. My visit to Ljubljana barely scratched the surface of the country, so it would be great to return! Definitely encourage a trip over!


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