Ljubljana is a criminally underrated city. The Slovenian capital beautifully blends the new with the old and gets the balance just right.
Even the name Ljubljana (pronounced Loo-blee-ana – it took lots of work to get that right) sounds beautiful.
I suppose it’s down to status that Ljubljana is unfairly ignored; Slovenia doesn’t carry the same clout as neighbouring Italy or Austria when it comes to making travel plans.
However, Ljubljana is clean and welcoming. It’s also a paradox, being spacious yet compact. The main crux of the centre of the city is the extensive Old Town, with its historic buildings, eccentric places to eat, and meandering alleyways.
It may be slightly expensive for a former Yugoslavian territory, but Ljubljana just oozes charisma and warmth. Which is quite something really since it rained for 90% of the time I visited.
This is a medieval city that still thrives. The castle that presides over the city keeps a watchful eye from a tall hill (inspo for Ed Sheeran?), and it’s definitely part of Ljubljana’s charm that this is the tallest structure in the city.
Getting to the castle by foot from the Old Town means wandering down several alleyways, each one ascending upwards with even more impressive views of the city at every turn.
But this is also a city that has embraced modernity with open arms. Whilst the buildings are old, the vibe is young and electric. Colourful street art decorates the walls, and Metelkova, a former army barracks reconstituted as an autonomous social centre, is home to a wealth of trendy bars and galleries.
Dragons are a symbol of the Slovenian capital. According to a local folk story, the land surrounding Ljubljana was once the stalking-ground of a fearsome dragon until Jason of the Argonauts came to slay him.
Now, the dragon (four of them actually) that is so synonymous with the city can be found on the Dragon Bridge right in the centre of Ljubljana – there just has to be a joke about burning bridge to be made here.
Legend has it that if a virgin walks across the bridge, then the dragons’ tails waggle. After spending quite some time at the bridge, all I can say is that the locals must have pretty active sex lives…
When I visited, Slovenia had just won the EuroBasket 2017 tournament, defeating Serbia in the final. Apparently, basketball is very big in Eastern Europe. The night after they won, a huge rally was held in the Congress Square, which unfortunately closed the intriguingly named Museum of Illusions early before I could visit. But, it also showed Ljublana at its eclectic, fun-loving best with an indescribable palpable vibe and it was also great to be involved in something so unique and feel such a warm energy.
If I’ve not convinced you to visit yet, then don’t forget that Ljubljana is just an hour away from Lake Bled (Google it, trust me). Get that flight booked ASAP or you’re really missing out!