In 2016 Ljubljana was named the European Green Capital and it is clear to see why. Priding itself as a clean and forward-thinking city, all streets are fully pedestrianised with a cycle network. The picturesque bridges that run over the Ljubljanica River were initially for transport but have since been pedestrianised and traffic is non-existent in the centre. This offers a safe and laid-back setting for tourists to admire the architecture, or ‘people-watch’ from the quirky outdoor cafes and restaurants that line the river. Despite being a capital city, it is peaceful, relaxed and offers the warmness of a small town.
The architecture in the city has an Italian influence – intricate, stunning, and pretty in pastel. In 1895 an earthquake reduced most of the city to ruins but this gave free rein to visionaries such as Jože Plečnik to build Art Nouveau masterpieces from the rubble. Its picturesque image is constructed by different historical periods and European influences.
As for value for money, you can’t get much better. Slovenian branded ‘Union’ beer cost only €2, and a 3-course meal was priced at €12.50. Although a cheaper alternative city to Venice, Paris or Barcelona, Ljubljana is just as romantic. Love is in the name, Ljubljana sounds similar to the Slovenian word for love ‘ljubezen’. Visit the Butcher’s Bridge, where lovers place their padlocks, mirroring the Parisian Pont des Arts. Stroll the narrow streets of the old town that echo Barcelona’s bohemian gothic quarter. Enjoy the sunset at Ljubljana castle for something romantic and cultural. Constructed as a 16th century bulwark against Ottoman invasion, it’s the perfect location to enjoy stunning panoramic views. There are tours, a tourist train and a funicular railway that links the city to the steep lookout point.
Just across the river from the old-town lies Ljubljana’s area of alternative culture. This is Metelkova Mesto, one of Europe’s most successful urban squats. An abandoned army barracks from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the area was occupied by squatters and youth rebels. Nowadays the dilapidated buildings have taken on a new identity. A hub of urban culture, Metelkova showcases its creativity, edginess and rawness. The vivid graffiti, rusty sculptures and cracked mosaic tiled walls stand in complete contrast to the delicacy and charm of old-town Ljubljana’s pastel-coloured and intricate architecture. The autonomous area hosts underground music events, and at night-time the concrete area becomes the focal point of the alternative culture scene. For those familiar with the legendary Antwerp Mansion, Metelkova is this, but ten times bigger and ten times more intense.
Ljubljana is the perfect spot for a short and sweet holiday. Spend even longer to explore Slovenia’s natural wonders. The fairy-tale Lake Bled is only 57km away, approximately an hour and a half by bus.