Hard to spell, easy to enjoy: here is an insight into the best bits of Ljubljana in Slovenia, from local architectural highlights to avante-garde art galleries.
Ljubljana Castle: Ljubljana’s landmark castle offers the best views in town, with the whole city unfurling below, and a spectacular mountainous natural amphitheatre starring in the background. Groups can learn all about the castle and the city’s history here, through the exhibits and on private guided group tours. The best way to get up is on the modern funicular, which also offers impressive views. There are a couple of acclaimed independent restaurants up at the castle too, open for lunch and dinner.
Museum magic: Ljubljana is a vibrantly cultural city that offers a range of museums and galleries. Highlights include the lavishly old world National Gallery, the avant-garde Modern Art Gallery next door and the City Museum, which opens up the history of the city including its days as Roman Ljubljana (Emona) and its flirtation with French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
Pictured: The National Gallery, one of many museums and galleries in the city.
Plecnik architecture: Local architect Joze Plecnik was to Ljubljana what Haussmann was to Paris. He pretty much singlehandedly reinvented the city following a devastating earthquake in 1895 with a new riverfront, canals, buildings and an impressive cemetery (Zale). His finest work, though, is the National University Library, whose dramatic bronze doors are typical of his style.
Where to stay
The Grand Union: With the premier address in town, this hotel is the choice of visiting presidents and royalty. It’s housed in a glorious art nouveau building in the city centre.
The Vander Urbani Resort: This stylish member of Design Hotels sports Italian designer furniture and a rooftop swimming pool that offers views of the surrounding old town.
The Adora Hotel: The new apartment here is a budget conscious option that works well in conjunction with its hotel rooms, in an ideal location on the fringes of the old town.
Best for groups
Hop on a boat and cruise along the willow strewn banks of the city’s river. You will allegedly be sailing in the wake of Jason and the Argonauts who sailed up the Ljubljanica River, slaying a dragon and founding the city as they went.
Pictured: Groups can take a cruise along the city’s river for an alternative perspective.
For a bird’s eye view of the city and its spectacular mountain setting, as well as the chance to enjoy the best view possible of picture postcard Lake Bled, take a small group on a hot air balloon ride.
Slovenes love getting active in the great outdoors. Groups can enjoy the countryside on a guided canoe or kayak adventure on the local rivers with Skok Sport. They can organise bike hire too to get groups back to the start point.
Food and drink
The locals joke that there is no word in their language for organic as everything is. Processed food is often dismissed as ‘chicken feed’. Fresh, local produce really comes to the fore everywhere, from simple cafés with daily specials, to the city’s impressive array of fine dining temples.
For an insight into the country’s obsession with local produce head to the Central Market, held in the city centre in the shadow of Plecnik’s landmark arcades every day bar Sunday. Groups can enjoy delights from around the country, as well as fresh vegetables from city allotments.
Local specialities include strukli (a savoury strudel-style dish) and seafood dishes from the Adriatic coastline. The country also offers first rate cheese and cold meats. Slovenian wines are superb too, though often not recognised internationally as they are rarely exported.
Live like a local
The locals escape the crowds of the city centre by slipping down into the sleepier suburb of Trnovo. This is where the local cognoscenti relax by the Gradascica Canal in the swathe of chilled bars, cafés and restaurants.
There is a Plecnik designed church to check out, as well as riverside strolls to enjoy by the banks of the Ljubljanica.
Pictured: A view across the rooftops of Ljubljana.
Journey Time: 1.5 hours London-Ljubljana.
Best time to go: Early autumn and late spring are the best times to visit without the snows of winter and the crowds of summer.
For further information visit www.ljubljana.si/en.