Before I go any further, I’d like to confess that prior to my visit to Slovenia I knew a very little about this country, but my first impression of Slovenia changed it all.
Other than vaguely being aware of it as ‘a part of Eastern Europe’, I knew nothing more about Slovenia. 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 were only moving towards west, and to a place that looked far more organized and reformed, than what I’d initially thought, or had been experiencing for the past few weeks. I realised that Slovenia was 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 unlike many other towns in the world.
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 wel 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 found throughout the city to quench the thirst. There are moreover frequent 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 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 old town charm, taking you back in time, effortlessly easily.
Perhaps The Most Surreal Riverside
One thing I totally adore most of the popular European cities I’d personally 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, overlooked by the castle, Ljubljana’s riverside promises a romantic time — a vibrant outdoor eating and drinking culture moreover adds to the charm.
A Small Town Vibe
From the day I arrived at the train station in Ljubljana and during the time I stayed in the town, there was never a time I felt a need of taking the 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 in Ljubljana — 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 every day, I’d walk up to 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 rush against silent intervals throughout the day.
No wonder, the town enchants with its balance, proudly stomping in rhythm and temperament of European capitals.
Where Did I Stay In Ljubljana
I stayed in Vila Veselova Hostel, which is a traditional villa designed over 100 years ago by the architect Ciril Metod Koch. Located right next to the heart of the city, the hostel, with its architecture and hospitality, represented the soul of Ljubljana — modern and traditional, at the same time.
Further Reading On Ljubljana:
- Metelkova District: Exploring Art In The Streets Of Ljubljana
- Day Trip From Ljubljana: To Lake Bled & Postojna Cave