Ljubljana. The quaint and charming, yet definitively unpronounceable capital of Slovenia. It’s pronounced Lu-bli-ana, for those actually wondering how your lips can carve around that many consonants.
It is a place I never intended to visit, for as much reason as any I simply didn’t know it existed. Nestled somewhere between Italy and Croatia, this small Balkan capital is home to only around 300,000 and undeniably underrated.
I arrived in Ljubljana, after a highly praised overview of the city from all those I met in Bled. It seemed that the half-way city between neither here nor there was that unexploited, vibrant and unique place that all us over-privileged, free-spirited and unplanned European backpackers dream of. It’s a place with hardly a dent on the tourist trail- at least for now.
Backdropped by snow capped mountain ranges and dissected by a winding, alfresco fringed river the city is unbeatable in beauty. I arrived here via a highly under estimated bus ride of 5 hours: 2 more than the timetable stated. Time was a slipping commodity, as I counted the days till I was apprehensively jolted back to the lower hemisphere, hence why hours were a precious resource that I had none of to waste and it was luck that Ljubljana made the itinerary cut.
What I love about Ljubljana is that it’s perfect all the time. My first day held moisture heavy in the air, making atmospheric the misty walk through the forest littered in autumn colours to the city’s hilltop castle; an enchanting mix or medieval structure and modern era budget renovations. The days ensuing hosting blissful sunshine as I wandered the trails of the sprawling Tivoli Park leading endlessly from manicured gardens to forest and felt at complete bliss after far to long in far too large cities.
The city itself is compact. It revolves around the river, every bend picturesque with the willows draped over the sandstone walls, and the backdrop of coloured houses and terracotta pots. Ljubljana is known as the city of bridges due to the bloody tonne of them all with their own detail and charm. The winding streets flit between traditional European to contemporary subcultures.
Ljubljana is ‘cool’, for want of a better word. It takes everything good about the cities we love; Paris, Berlin, London, Budapest and condenses them. It the great bits of everywhere, and from what I found it lacks all the bad.
You wouldn’t expect a small Balkan city to be home to amazing galleries and museums, one of the most beautiful opera houses around, a never-ending throng of on-point vegan restaurants, Bazilika Bistro being a highlight with also a perfectly curated selection of magazines to whittle away the afternoon with.
Slovenia is also home to wonderfully hospitable and engaging citizens, case in point here being the Kavaleirs; small shuttles designed for the tourists that will drive you from anywhere to anywhere in they city free of charge. Amazing.
Make sure to check out the old Križanke theatre courtyard only used in summer for outdoor performances and the art/drug district Metelkova City, which is both intimidating and fascinating.
From the city are the easy day trips to the world heritage listed Škocjan Caves, Lake Bled and the stunning alpine environments.
I was only able to spend two nights here, and at first glance I though that would be plenty. It’s not. This treat of a place easily captures your heart and that combined with the endless list of to-do’s makes for a place where time should be infinite.