A city of hope
Ljubljana truly personifies what is meant by a beautiful city
Aerial view of Ljubljana overlooking the Julian Alps
IMAGE: LJUBLJANA TOURISM / P. Hieng
Home to over 287,000 inhabitants, Ljubljana (pronounced Leyoob-leyana) is a true gem of a city. Its rich history has seen everybody from Illyrians, Celts, Romans, Huns, Ostrogoths and Lombards settling in the city until the Slavs moved in at around the 6th Century AD. These ancestors of the modern Slovenes provided Ljubljana with much of its cultural identity. The Holy Roman Empire controlled Ljubljana for nearly a 1,000 years, and it was the latter centuries of Habsburg rule which gave modern day Ljubljana much of its architectural identity, which is very much in evidence throughout the city's magnificent buildings. With its eclectic mix of Baroque and turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau architecture, you'll never find yourself short of beautiful things to see in Ljubljana.
The centrepiece of the city is the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje), designed by renowned local architect Jože Plecnik. This is very much a meeting point for Ljubljanans who descend onto the nearby cobblestoned Preseren Square. Cafe culture is very much in evidence in Ljubljana, and if that's your thing then you're going to feel right at home.
As will anybody with an appreciation for nature. As much as three quarters of the city is covered in green areas. You can find four landscape parks in the city. The first is the central Rožnik, Tivoli and Šišenski Hill Landscape Park, which is situated near the Botanical garden (established in 1810 and one of Europe's oldest). Then you have the Zajcja Dobrava, and the 135km2 Ljubljana Marsh Landscape Park: home to the world's oldest wooden wheel (that's 5,200 years old in case you were wondering). The prehistoric pile-dwellings on the Ljubljana Marsh was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011. Along with the nearby Polhov Gradec Dolomites Landscape Park, they are considered some of the most biodiverse parks in Europe.
Ljubljana is a city of great beauty and with a network of 200km of managed cycle routes, we strongly recommend cycling as the best way to get around and take the time to appreciate the cites and the nature. The city's own bike hire scheme, Bicike (LJ), costs only €3 per year, and allows you to ride for up to one hour for free. The second hour is €1, the third €2 and any additional hours from there are €4. The best part is that the stations are located anywhere between 300 to 500 metres apart, so you can simply swap your bike over within the hour and effectively ride all day for free. Yet further proof that sustainability doesn't always have to come at a cost!
Ljubljana is a city for art. The City Museum (Mestna Galerija) and the Museum of Modern Art provide an eclectic mix of international and Slovenian contemporary art. With nearly 600 works of art, the National Gallery hosts the country's largest collection of fine art. From Baroque to Neoclassicism to Slovenian Impressionism, there is something here to suit all tastes. And if you're looking for something a little more alternative in your art, then there's always Metelkova City.
Metelkova is an autonomous region of Ljubljana based in the centre of the city. Situated on the site of former military barracks, it is one of the largest urban squats in all of Europe. For those of you who have ever been or heard of Christiana Freetown (Copenhagen's self-proclaimed autonomous region), will probably know what to expect. But unlike Christiana, Metelkova prefers to get high on artistic and cultural values instead, and has become a hub for artists and alternative hipsters alike, who flock to the area for the 1,500 plus alternative events being hosted there every year.
Museums feature too in the landscape of this beautiful historic city. The City Museum of Ljubljana keeps a whole host of historical artefacts and the permanent exhibition faces of Ljubljana presents the life and history of Slovenia's capital city. Whilst the National Museum of Slovenia brings together some of the world's most important archaeological finds, including the world's oldest musical instrument: a flute made of prehistoric animal bones by Neanderthals roaming Slovenia some 60,000 years ago.
No visit to Ljubljana would be complete without a trip to the Central Market. Consisting of both open-air and closed markets, along with a series of small shops, everything from local fruit and veg, to cheeses, fruits, seeds and nuts, homemade oils and of course the delicious Slovenian dry-cure meat products, there is something here for everyone. It's the perfect way to experience the wonderful riverside and quite literally get a real taste of Ljubljana. So much so, that they've even launched a food initiative called "Taste Ljubljana:"
Seldom will you find another European city which blends so effortlessly elements of the past with current culture to create a style all of its own.
There is an old Slovenian proverb, which translates to, "You can’t keep on with the same story, or do things in the same way, since nothing lasts forever."
When you experience the true beauty of Ljubljana and its culture, you can't help wishing if that phrase holds any truth, then whoever coined it had anywhere but Ljubljana in mind.
THE ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG COUPLE EXPLORING LJUBLJANA:
This is just a brief description of some of the things you can do in Ljubljana, but it only scratches the surface To find out more about this beautiful city, then please check out the official tourism website of Ljubljana for some more ideas about things to see and do:
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