Last Updated on 12th April 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
Lovely Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, a tiny Balkan nation. It’s nowhere near as well known as the other capitals of Europe, like Budapest and Berlin, but anyone who visits this petite city finds it difficult to pull themselves away. In this guide, we’ll detail the perfect way to enjoy one day in Ljubljana.
Ljubljana is easy to reach thanks to the fact that it has its own international airport serving destinations in the local region, as well as further afield destinations such as Amsterdam, Istanbul, and even as far away as the Seychelles.
What is Ljubljana known for?
Ljubljana is not only the capital city of Slovenia, but is also famous for being home to one of the oldest philharmonic orchestras in the world. In ancient times, modern day Ljubljana was the site of Roman Emona. The first attestation of Ljubljana dates as far back as the 12th-century.
Is one day in Ljubljana enough?
The capital, which only has a population of about 270,000 people, boasts a slow pace of life and a friendly atmosphere – you could spend days here, just sitting by the Ljubljanica River and watching the world go by.
However, thanks to its compact nature, it’s worth noting that even if you only have one day in Ljubljana, you can quite easily see all of its best attractions, especially if you’re used to travelling at a faster pace. Here’s how to make the most of your 24 hours in the Slovenian capital!
Suggested one day in Ljubljana itinerary
Breakfast at Le Petit Café
Le Petit Café is a french-themed cafe that’s widely regarded to be one of the best in the city. Try out their delectable warm croissants and eggs on toast. A tranquil spot with a cosy vibe, they’re open from 7 AM ’til late, meaning that it’s always a good time to grab delicious food served alongside speciality coffee.
Ride the funicular to the castle
Ljubljana’s funicular is the best way to soar above the city toward the castle, which is the main landmark of the city and the one attraction you shouldn’t miss in the Slovenian capital, even if you’re only staying for a day.
The ride costs around €4.00 for a return ticket (cheaper options are available for concessions) and you’ll take in some immense views of the city as you speed to the top of the hill! Alternatively, you can opt for a steep walk to the top of the hill – this takes 15-20 minutes and is quite challenging so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
Last but not least, you can instead pay €2.20 for a one-way funicular ticket and walk the other way! However you get there, from the top, you’ll be graced with splendid views all over the city with the Kamnik Alps in the background. And once you’re here, you can visit the castle itself!
Dating back around 900 years, Ljubljana Castle is a historical complex with an even more complicated history. The original building was probably constructed in the 11th century (though no one is quite sure of its origins), when it served as a Medieval fortress that guarded the city.
It was then rebuilt in the 12th century and again in the 15th. Additional constructions were added in the 16th and 17th-centuries, which is from when most of the buildings that stand today date from.
There are a few ways that you can enjoy the history and architecture of Ljubljana Castle. Summit to the top of Outlook Tower, where you can gaze at the city and surrounding Slovenian nature. Another highlight is visiting the Slovenian history exhibition, were you can learn all about this dynamic country.
The castle also boasts a Puppet Museum and also the Escape Castle, where you’ll learn about the castle in a dynamic way, solving puzzles as you go (it’s great for kids!). Last but not least, you can walk around the outside of the castle and take in the views for free.
If you want to visit the castle (and take the funicular up there) together with a local guide, then you can book a walking tour and castle entrance and funicular trip ticket here.
Back in the city centre, head over to the Metelkova art centre to learn more about Ljubljana’s art scene. One of the most popular areas in the capital, Metelkova is an autonomous social and cultural centre that was the site of military barracks.
After the barracks were abandoned, the youth of the city fought to be allowed to keep it as a street art destination. They eventually won, and nowadays it’s adorned with thought-provoking art and is home to art galleries, pop-up bars and events venues.
If you’d like to grab some lunch nearby, check out Das ist Valter, which serves up traditional Bosnian food and is popular with locals. Another option for people who want to sample food from the region is Gujžina, which serves up traditional Slovenian food with a twist: everything on the menu is vegan!
Check out the museums
Whether it’s raining while you’re in Ljubljana, or if you just fancy spending some time learning about culture, there are a few museums that you can check out while you’re here. Despite it’s small size, there truly is a museum for everyone in Ljubljana. Some of the most popular exhibitions include:
National Gallery: The National Gallery of Slovenia boasts one of the biggest and best collections of art in the Balkans, with plenty of artwork from different eras. There are collections from the 13th-century right up to the present day.
National Museum of Slovenia: Home to the world’s oldest musical instrument and plenty of other artefacts that depict Slovenia’s past, don’t miss the National Museum of Slovenia (known as Narodni muzej Slovenije in Slovenian) if you’re into history!
Slovenian Ethnographic Museum: This museum focuses on people – both in Slovenia, Europe and worldwide.
City Museum: If you just want to visit one museum that focuses on the city of Ljubljana, this is the one to pick! Focusing on the 4,000-year history of the capital, the City Museum was established in 1935 tells stories from Roman times to the capital in World War Two.
Cycle to Špica
European cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen are usually synonymous with cycling, but many Slovenian locals get around with two wheels as well! You can actually hire bikes with the BicikeLJ for free for up to an hour (although there is a registration fee of €1.00 for a week and €3.00 for a year).
If you want to use a bicycle for longer, there are numerous bicycle hire shops throughout the city. One of the best bike rides is to cycle to Park Špica, which is on the banks of the river.
While this is commonly known as “Ljubljana’s Beach”, but nowadays, you won’t find sand here. However, its riverside views and relaxed atmosphere make it one of the best places to spend an afternoon in the city.
Dine at Monstera bistro
If you ask any Ljubljana local where you should have dinner, they’ll probably recommend Monstera. Serving gourmet dishes like ox-heart tomato with anchovies and cured trout tartare, Monstera hopes to eventually earn Slovenia’s first Michelin star.
And while it’s pricier than other eateries in the capital, compared to other fine-dining restaurants around the world, it’s quite affordable – so we recommend visiting before word gets out too much!
Where to stay in Ljubljana
Hostel Celica Art is one of the quirkiest places to stay in Ljubljana. It’s located in a former prison but is nowadays adorned with artwork, and is a popular place for backpackers. Check prices and availability here.
Central City Rooms is a quiet and modern apartment complex near the centre of town, ideal for people who want a little privacy and luxury while still being on a budget. Check prices and availability here.
Intercontinental Ljubljana is an IHG Hotel with impressive vistas over the city. Enjoy a swimming pool and spa and wellness centre on-site. Check prices and availability here.
A final note…
There’s so much to love in Ljubljana. From the centuries of history to gorgeous views from the castle to the relaxed vibe all over the city, it’s easy to spend a bit of time getting lost here. But if you only have one day, this guide should have shown you how to see the city! If you have more time, consider taking one of these popular day trips from Ljubljana, including to the world-famous Lake Bled.
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Claire Martin is a travel blogger and freelance writer who specialises in overland adventures. She’s drove around Australia, travelled from Bali to London without flying, lived in Mexico and has spent many months exploring Europe. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Claire’s Footsteps.