Ljubljana is Slovenia’s tiny but appealing capital that packs a ton of excitement into its historic streets.
You’ll likely begin your Slovenia trip in the country’s capital so don’t miss out on finding the best things to do in Ljubljana that don’t just include the traditional Ljubljana sightseeing.
This green city has a vibrant culture that is kept alive even by the youth of the numerous students that come to study in the city and is a charming European city that is not only picturesque but also a culinary capital.
Top Things to do in Ljubljana
Discover the top things to do in Ljubljana, the must-see Ljubljana attractions and more. It’s time to get planning!
As I always suggest with every major city in Europe, joining a free walking tour is one of the best ways to get a handle on your direction in the city, meet new people and learn a bit of history and fun facts about the destination.
Ljubljana has a classic free walking tour as well as an old town and castle tour. By free, I mean that you get to show up, get a couple of hours tour and then leave a tip. €10 is typically suggested.
Ljubljana’s Old Town is the heart and centre of this historic city and is an area you’ll surely spend most of your time in. While the Old Town is small, it’s incredibly charming, even for Europe’s standards.
Take the time to roam through the medieval streets, take in the beautiful facades of colourful buildings and don’t forget your camera for Ljubljana offers itself as an ideal town for photography.
Some of the top spots to visit in the Old Town that shouldn’t be missed include Prešernov trg Square (you’ll know you’re there when you see the big pink church), the central market, Mestni trg square, Dragon Bridge and Petkovšek Embankment for dining along the river.
The castle is obviously a Ljubljana must-see that sits overlooking the capital, where it has stood for over 900 years. The castle is renovated though and provides visitors not just a pretty castle to wander through but also a number of exhibits that detail Slovenia’s history, art exhibitions, restaurants and even a nightclub.
Of all the places to visit in Ljubljana, climbing to the top of the Outlook Tower will provide you with the best view of the entire city.
Entrance, at time of writing, is €10 but is also included when you purchase a Ljubljana card which includes entrance to other city attractions, tours, internet access, public transit and more.
See the official Ljubljana Castle website for more details on exhibits.
There are a number of ways for how to get to the Ljubljana Castle, but the most scenic and fun is most certainly the funicular railway (and also the easiest!). You have the option of walking up on a number of paths, driving or taking a bus but the funicular provides an affordable option that has the best views.
Tickets for the Ljubljana funicular are €4 one-way but are included in castle tickets or the Ljubljana card which saves you the most money.
As you continue to read you’ll learn that Ljubljana has a number of bridges, a few of which are worth visiting. One such bridge (or three to be exact) is the Triple Bridge that leads to Prešernov trg Square in the Old Town.
The centre bridge was originally built in 1842 to replace a bridge that connected north and southwestern Europe for strategic purposes. Later, in 1929, construction began to add the two side bridges for pedestrians to use. Now the Triple Bridge stands as an architectural gem and is a great place to get pictures of the pink Franciscan Church.
The Ljubljanica River is soaked in history and home to many of the capital’s landmarks. The river itself was a major supply and trade route dating back to Roman times but today it’s where locals and tourists alike bask in the sun while enjoying a drink or dining.
One of the most relaxing ways to explore Ljubljana is by river cruise where you can kick back and watch the landmarks pass you as you float by.
For those who want a bit of adventure in the city try stand-up paddleboarding on the river or take a kayaking tour.
One of Ljubljana’s most iconic attractions is the Dragon Bridge, which, you guessed it, has dragons on it. It’s said that if you don’t take a picture with the Dragon Bridge that you haven’t visited Ljubljana, but luckily visiting the Dragon Bridge is one of the free things to do in Ljubljana!
What may seem like a simple bridge with angry-looking dragons on it is actually a bridge with significance. Originally the dragons were supposed to be winged lions when the bridge was designed for Emperor Franz Joseph I.
It also has technical heritage and it’s a piece of Art Nouveau architecture which was at its peak when the bridge was built in 1900.
The largest park in Slovenia, Tivoli Park, is the greenest of places to see in Ljubljana. The park stretches five square kilometres (that’s bigger than Central Park) from the edge of the Old Town.
Enjoy an afternoon strolling along a number of large chestnut tree-lined paths that will weave you through flower beds, statues and fountains for a mini-break from city strolling.
Don’t miss Jakopič Promenade, an outdoor venue that hosts exhibitions for large-format photographs that is open year-round.
Cathedral of St. Nicholas
If you’ve seen churches in Europe before I doubt the Cathedral of St. Nicholas will blow you away but it’s certainly not something to pass by either. Of all of the Ljubljana tourist attractions, the church door is quite notable.
Despite not being added to the church until the 20th century, it’s unique because it tells the history of Slovenia on a single door.
It was commissioned to mark the 1250th anniversary of Christianity in Slovenia and is worth visiting while on a tour of the Old Town so that you can have a guide point out the intricate details and their meanings.
In the heart of the Old Town, the Central Market is among the best things to do in Ljubljana, and not just for foodies.
Open daily for locals to shop for their ingredients, tourists frequently visit as well, strolling through the open-air and covered market in Vodnikov trg and Pogačarnev trg squares.
The best time to visit is when the Open Kitchen is cooking up dishes. You can try plates from around the globe as Slovenian chefs cook up a storm. Open Kitchen happens every Friday from mid-March until the end of October.
Whether you like street art or not (maybe you prefer to call it graffiti), street art in this city is one of the coolest things to see in Ljubljana.
The talent required for some of the pieces is incredible and the colour certainly helps to bring a bit of extra ompf to Slovenia’s capital. You can spot the most street art at Metelkova mesto, where a basketball court is completely covered in a range of art from spray paint to stickers.
If street art and the meaning behind some of the pieces is your thing then it’s definitely worth joining a street art tour to learn more about the colourful paintings that are constantly changing.
Sleep in a prison
You read that right, you can spend the night in a prison with the option to leave when you want! Hostel Celcia has been transformed from a prison into a lively hostel that has been awarded the number one hippiest hostel by Lonely Planet.
When booking make sure you book one of the old prison cells that are now redecorated but still have bars on the doors and windows.
And for those who wish to stay but without feeling like you’re in a prison cell, modern dorms are also available with tours to the part of the building that holds the cells.
While the highest viewpoint in the city is the castle’s tower, Neboticnik offers a different viewpoint that includes the castle itself. Neboticnik is Ljubljana’s skyscraper that is equipped with a cafe on the top floor of the 70-metre building so you can take in the views of the city, castle and beyond in peace.
Local wine and beer
Not often known, Slovenia is home to over 28,000 wineries and the world’s oldest grapevine. Slovenia has been making wine even before the now wino destinations such as France, Spain and Germany started growing grapes.
You just never heard about Slovenian wine because even though 80 million litres are made a year, it’s drunk mostly domestically! So it’s an optimal time while in Ljublijana to take part in wine tasting.
And if wine isn’t your thing, don’t worry, there are opportunities to try the local beer too!
Take a break from finding where to dine and instead enjoy a night of traditional folk dancing, food and drinks. Get served a three-course meal as performers dressed in costume entertain you while you sip on local wine and try customary dishes.
House of Illusions
I know, this is definitely not something typically done in Ljubljana, but for those who are travelling long term and want some fun things to do in Ljubljana that doesn’t involve all the history and facts, the House of Illusions is a go-to.
Dance through the disco room, attempt to walk through the vortex tunnel straight and laugh at the illusions that confuse you throughout.
One of the best ways to learn about a country and its culture is through food. On a food tour you’ll have a local bring you to authentic Slovenian restaurants where you’ll get to try the traditional cuisine (and wine), be guided through the Central Market, and learn about the creation of the country’s most famous dishes.
Green Adventure Discovery Game
Easily the best way to discover Ljubljana on your own is by playing the Green Adventure Discovery Game. It’s a game played completely on your phone that will lead you around town, reveal stories, bring you to hidden gems and to unconventional spots in the city.
The fun part? You only get to find these spots once you solve the riddles provided through the game.
Day Trips from Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a great place to base yourself and much of the country is accessible from the city, giving you the option to witness Slovenia’s beautiful countryside.
Ljubljana to Lake Bled
I would always recommend leaving yourself enough time to visit Lake Bled for a few days but if that’s not possible a day trip will suffice as the beauty of Lake Bled (which I consider one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been) is not to be missed.
Ljubljana to Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj is a lesser visited part of Slovenia compared to Lake Bled but offers even more beauty, towering mountains and nature in Triglav National Park. Both areas I highly recommend visiting!
Ljubljana to Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle
Postojna Cave is a true marvel where you can witness centuries of rock formations first-hand while riding on the first underground train. Plus, you’ll get to see baby dragons!
The second stop is Predjama Castle is also done because the location is so close and this storybook castle that’s nestled into the rock wall is a sight to behold.
Ljubljana to Maribor and Ptuj
For those who wish to explore Slovenia’s wine region, a trip to the Northeast will take you to Slovenia’s oldest town, Ptuj, and then to Maribor where you can wander through the vineyards.
Now that you know what to see in Ljubljana, make sure you have accommodation booked (it’s best to do it early) so you can actually explore this fabulous city!
Read my detailed Ljubljana accommodation guide to find the best places from budget to luxury, hostels to hotels.
Best Ljubljana Hostel: Hostel Celica
This prison turned hostel is the top hostel in Ljubljana, in all of Slovenia and is in a great location within walking distance of the Old Town, train and bus station.
Best Ljubljana Hotel (Budget): Bed & Breakfast Atticus
A central stay in Ljubljana with a garden and views of the castle.
Best Ljubljana Hotel (Mid-Range): City Hotel Ljubljana
Just 200 metres from Prešeren Square, this Ljubljana hotel offers a spectacular location, buffet breakfast and a summer terrace with views of the castle.
Best Ljubljana Hotel (Luxury): Grand Hotel Union
Stay in a historic setting in an Art Nouveau building just steps away from Prešern Square.
Enjoy your time in Ljubljana!