Before I go any further, I’d like to confess that prior to my visit I knew a very little about Slovenia. Other than vaguely being aware of it as ‘a part of Eastern Europe’, I knew nothing more about this teeny-tiny country. And to my guilt, my heart was always more drawn to the neighboring countries of Italy, Austria and Croatia — as is often the case with a majority of tourists travelling through Europe. Perhaps that’s why, while crafting the itinerary, I gave Ljubljana (the only town in Slovenia where I stayed) no more than four days, out of which I even planned a day out and visited Lake Bled and Postojna Cave.
But as I left Budapest, in Hungary, and inched my way towards Slovenia, I realised that we are only moving towards west, and to a place that looked far more organized and reformed, than what I’d initially thought, or have been experiencing for the past few weeks. I realised that Slovenia is actually not very Eastern European — neither by its geographic location, nor by its appearance. And speaking of Ljubljana, the capital town of Slovenia, it held the beauty and surrealism unlike earthly.
There is no doubt that Ljubljana is one of the smallest capital cities you will find in Europe, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. Ljubljana, after all, means “Beloved” in a literal translation, and it doesn’t take long to understand that well, and fall under its charm.
A Paradise For Nature Lovers
Slovenia is a paradise for nature lovers, and no less so in Ljubljana, its capital city, than in the rest of the country. With less than 300,000 inhabitants and more green spaces in the city than there are houses, Ljubljana promises a healthy stay for its visitors. Speaking of some mind-blowing figures… around 46% of the city’s total area is covered by native forests – with over 70% of the land claimed by green spaces.
The drinking water in Slovenia is among the purest in Europe and even the world, and tourists can use the fresh water fountains throughout the city to fill up their own personal re-usable water bottles. There are electric powered karts called kavalirs that offer free transport around the old town, that is otherwise closed to traffic. The city’s bike sharing system, which boasts a network of 220km (136mi) of managed bike routes, is also one of the best in the entire continent.
Perhaps I’ll sum up by stating… Ljubljana is currently The European Green Capital, as declared in 2016.
An Old World European Charm
The old town of Ljubljana is an atmospheric web of cobbled streets and colorful buildings topped with terracotta tiled roofs. A few churches spire in the center, with a castle perched on a hilltop looking down on you. And flowing through the middle is the emerald green River Ljubljanica, with its 17 criss-crossed bridges, including Plečnik’s Triple Bridge and one dedicated to the symbol of the city – the dragon.
The entire old town of Ljubljana is moreover a no-traffic zone, which further adds to its own town charm and takes you back in time, much easily.
Perhaps The Most Surreal Riverside
One thing I totally adore most of the popular European cities I’d recently visited, including Basel, Budapest, Zurich, and Prague, among others, was their beautiful riverside. Each city defines its charm by defining how beautiful their riverside can be. And they all excelled in it, almost equally.
But when it comes to the riverside in Ljubljana, even sipping on a cup of coffee or a pint of lager, becomes far more pleasurable, for the city has one of the most surreal riversides I’ve seen in my life.
Lined with beautiful, old buildings in pastel colours and overlooked by the castle, Ljubljana’s riverside promises a romantic time. A vibrant outdoor eating and drinking culture around the river furthermore adds to the charm.
A Small Town Vibe
From the day I arrived at the train station in Ljubljana to my hostel and back, and during the entire time in between, there was never a time I felt taking a public transport to go somewhere. Walk from the hostel to the city center — 5 minutes. Walk from one corner of the city to the other — 15! And that’s sums up life, as well as travelling in Ljubljana — which is simple and old town-ish, but in a beautiful way.
Right across the street, from the place where I was staying (at Hostel Vila Veselova), was the Japanese embassy, and few blocks away, American and British. Almost everyday, I’d walk up the castle with a beer in one hand, and come back after midnight and the town would seem just as safer as an ideal town should. And life in Ljubljana pulses in that spirit. Only a bit of morning and afternoon chaos against silent intervals around.
No wonder, the town enchants with its balance, proudly stomping in rhythm and temperament of European capitals.
Where Am I Heading NEXT After Slovenia? Rome! And In Rome I’ll Be Workaway-ing!
Have you been to Ljubljana? How was your experience?
Further Reading On Ljubljana: