TOP
City Break Europe Solo Travel

How to Spend One Day in Ljubljana

Last updated on June 15th, 2024 at 04:41 pm

One day in Ljubljana?? Yes, it’s entirely possible and definitely worth it!

Slovenia’s capital city oozes charm and history and even if you are pushed for time, you can still see a great deal in just 1 day in Ljubljana.

At just under 164 square kilometres (63 square miles) in area, Ljubljana is not a very big city with most of its main attractions located within the historic centre and accessible on foot. A long, rich history combined with strong green credentials make it a popular place with tourists, particularly in summer.

In this post I’ll share what to see in Ljubljana in one day, give you some further options to add to your Ljubljana itinerary and offer up a general travel guide so you too can have the best day in Ljubljana!

Getting to Ljubljana

Direct flights to Ljubljana’s Jože Pučnik Airport are available from many European cities and from London. Flight times will vary depending on where you are flying from, but from the UK you’re looking at around 2 hours.

You can research flight options and book here:

Ljubljana’s position in Central Europe means it’s also accessible by train or road. If you are planning a rail journey through Central Europe you can research train options and book here:

EN - 728x90

For those interested in bus travel to Ljubljana, you can review available options and book here:

Travel everywhere for less

Getting To/From the Airport

To get from Ljubljana’s airport to the city centre there are several options:

1. Shuttle

There are 4 shuttle providers operating from the airport. You can book in advance or purchase a ticket from the sales desk in Terminal B – check the Airport website for up to date information and to make a booking. I used the services of GoOpti and am happy to recommend them – you can read more about them below.

2. Taxi

A taxi station is located in front of Terminal B. Check the Airport website for up to date information and advice concerning identification of taxis and pricing.

3. Bus

The bus station is located close to Terminal A and buses will run directly into Ljubljana. Check the Airport website for up to date information and note that timetables are changing from 1 July 2024.  

4. The airport also has a parking area for those using car sharing rides and there are various car rental providers operating on site – check the Airport website for further details.

Currency

Slovenia is a member of the European Union and has adopted and uses the Euro (€).

Where to Stay in Ljubljana

As you would expect, Ljubljana has a variety of accommodation options available to suit any budget.

I had a very enjoyable stay at the B&B Hotel Ljubljana Park which is a short walk from Ljubljana’s famous Dragon Bridge.

You can research available accommodation options and book here:

Ljubljana Card

Once you have settled on your Ljubljana itinerary, you may want to consider purchasing a Ljubljana Card. This card will give you free or discounted access to many sites and activities.

Ljubljana Christmas Market

One of the things I love about living in the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing a winter Christmas. I grew up in New Zealand so my Christmas memories are of sun and summer school holidays!

European Christmas markets are one of my favourite parts of the Northern Hemisphere festive season. My visit to Ljubljana however took place in May and not December but I still think the city would be a great destination for those wanting a Christmas market city break. I can just imagine a festive, fairy tale like atmosphere in the Old Town!

As with Christmas markets elsewhere in Europe, I would expect the Ljubljana Christmas market to be open from late November/early December in each year perhaps until Christmas or early January. 2024 dates remain to be confirmed.

In addition to the traditional Christmas market stalls in Prešeren Square, I understand that there are also markets along the Ljubljanica River embankment and in Congress Square. There has, in the past, been ice skating and free concerts on offer so I’m sure these and plenty more events will be happening in different places around the city in 2024.

The wooden market stalls sell the usual decorations, gloves, scarves, hats, jewellery, wooden products, soaps etc. You can also buy traditional Slovenian food and, of course, mulled wine!

If, like me, you love Christmas markets then give Ljubljana’s a try…I’m definitely tempted! Check the tourism site for up to date visitor information.

If you’re interested in Christmas market city breaks elsewhere in Europe, do read my posts about Krakow Christmas MarketPrague and Vilnius in December.

How to Spend One Day in Ljubljana

Although Ljubljana is a small city, there’s still much to see and do so make sure you pack comfortable shoes! Here are my suggestions of what to see in Ljubljana in one day:

1. Join a Walking Tour

I’m a huge fan of walking tours – they are usually the first thing on my ‘to do’ list when arriving in a new city. They are great for helping you get your bearings not to mention the history lessons and free advice the guides provide.

I joined the classic tour operated by Ljubljana Free Tour and can highly recommend it as a perfect introduction for first time visitors. This tour, like other ‘free’ tours, is tips based, meaning you pay the guide what you think the tour was worth.

Image shows Ljubljana Castle and various architecturally beautiful buildings seen during a day in Ljubljana
Congress Square

This tour took about 2 – 2.5 hours, covered the main sites within the city and finished in Congress Square. During the tour we learnt about Ljubljana’s history, first as a place settled by people living in pile dwellings around 2000 BC, then its long history under the control of others through to Slovenia’s eventual independence in 1991 and the city’s role today as a modern European capital.

This particular tour didn’t venture up to Ljubljana castle, although other tours from this company do.

Do check tour schedules as these change with the seasons.

2. Visit Ljubljana Castle

Looming over Ljubljana is its famous castle. The first castle is believed to have been built from wood in the 11th century. In the 12th century the castle was the seat of power for the feudal nobility and in the 15th century it was almost completely demolished and then rebuilt.

The castle has also been used as a barracks, military hospital and as a prison.

In 1905 the castle was purchased by the Municipality of Ljubljana and in the 1960s renovation works began. A funicular now links Ljubljana city with the castle. The funicular tracks follow the wall that once connected the castle with the medieval town below.

In addition to offering stunning views from the Viewing Tower out over the surrounding landscape and to the city below, the castle is also home to an exhibition of Slovenian history, a puppet museum and an adventure activity known as the Escape Castle. Be sure to visit St Georges Chapel, the Prison and the nobility prison cell.

The castle is open from 9am and closes at 10pm (May to September) and 7pm at other times during the year.

There are various price options (concessions for children, students and seniors) available depending on whether you want to use the funicular and an audio guide. I bought the €20 ticket which included a return funicular ticket and audio guide. This is a good option if you are short on time. Speaking of which, I would allow 1-2 hours for your visit. Check the official castle site for up to date pricing and visitor information.

You can spend time on Castle Hill without going into the castle itself if you prefer.

Photo taken looking down on Ljubljana from the castle view tower.
View over Ljubljana

3. Admire the Architecture

Ljubljana’s history is evident in its architecture. Buildings from different times and in different styles are around every corner. As such, there is always something interesting and colourful to see!

Slovenia was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and as a result, many of its buildings would not look out of place in Vienna.

In addition, the creations of Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik are visible throughout, for example Triple Bridge, Cobblers Bridge and the National University library, whose windows are reminiscent of an open book.

Image shows Ljubljana's National University library building, something visitors will see during one day in Ljubljana
National University library

The Art Nouveau or secession movement is also evident in Ljubljana – do look out for Vurnik House (the Cooperative Bank Building dating from 1921) a short walk from Prešeren Square or the Galerija Emporium (1902) and Hauptmann House (1873), located across from one another in the Square and Dragon Bridge (1901).

Don’t miss the ornate Robba Fountain in front of the Town Hall. The water pool is shell shaped and in the middle stands a 10 metre high obelisk. The fountain is a copy however – the original is in the National Gallery.

4. Criss-Cross the Bridges

Ljubljana has a number of well known bridges which span the Ljubljanica River. As you wander through the city you will likely be criss-crossing over:

  • Triple Bridge – connecting the medieval part of the city with the modern part. The bridge was enlarged to add 2 pedestrian bridges to the original vehicular bridge. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Dragon Bridge – built at the beginning of the 20th century when Ljubljana was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A vehicular bridge constructed using reinforced concrete, it has a dragon positioned at each corner. The dragon is the city’s symbol, with legend linking it either to Jason and the Argonauts or, most likely, St George. Either way, dragons abound in Ljubljana!
  • Butchers Bridge – a pedestrian bridge connecting the covered market on one side with restaurants along the opposite embankment. Known for its somewhat strange sculptures and love padlocks.
  • Cobblers Bridge – a pedestrian bridge decorated with 2 different kinds of pillars.

5. Enjoy Slovenian Food!

There is a wide array of food to enjoy in Ljubljana, however my suggestion would be to try some of the traditional Slovenian cuisine on offer….fuel for all that sightseeing!

Struklji

Struklji are traditional dough dumplings and come in a wide range of fillings, both savoury and sweet. They are very tasty and super filling!

Jota

A sauerkraut stew with beans and spices, Jota is another very tasty, filling traditional meal.

Image shows Traditional Jota stew, a must eat in Ljubljana

Kranjska Sausage

This sausage is protected by the European Union. Yes, you read that correctly! Made from 75-80% pork and 20-25% bacon, it’s a very tasty dish often served with mustard and bread.

Image shows traditional, protected sausage you can eat during a day in Ljubljana. Pictured with cottage cheese dumpling.

A great place to try all of these traditional Slovenian dishes is Moji Štruklji located beneath Plečnik’s arcade near the Central Market. I ate all of these there….although not in one sitting!

Coffee and Cake

There are many gorgeous cafes to try in Ljubljana. Coffee drinkers should check out Cafe Čokl at the foot of the funicular up to the castle, Kavarna Mačkon on the street art decorated Trubarjeva Cesta and Stow-2-Go in Prešeren Square. Cake lovers should make a beeline for Cacao.

6. Admire the Churches

There are many churches in Ljubljana but there are two you will definitely want to visit.

First, Ljubljana Cathedral (its official name is Saint Nicholas’s Church). The cathedral is a large baroque building with a green dome and two towers. It’s an imposing presence in the historic centre of this small city so you won’t miss it!

Although a church has been on the site since the mid-1200s, the current church was completed in 1706. The front door (called the Slovene Door) is a bronzed sculptured door created in 1996 to commemorate the 1250th anniversary of Christianity in Slovenia and the visit of Pope John Paul II. It is super impressive! The side door, itself a work of art, depicts 20th century Bishops of Ljubljana.

Second, Church of the Annunciation. This pink coloured Franciscan Church has pride of place in Prešeren Square just off the Triple Bridge. It was built between 1646 and 1660, although the baroque facade was built in the early 1700s and redesigned in the 19th century. The church was originally red, the colour of the Franciscan monastic order, but faded into the salmon pink seen today.

Image shows the Franciscan Church in Ljubljana, a definite must see during 1 day in Ljubljana

7. Use Ljubljana’s Green Transportation

I mentioned earlier that Ljubljana has strong green credentials. The city received the European Green Capital of the Year Award in 2016 and around the city you will see evidence of its environmentally friendly transportation efforts in the form of:

  • the Urban Electric Train which takes a circular route around many of Ljubljana’s main sites. Check the official site for up to date pricing and information
  • the Ljubljana Bike tourism project which allows you to hire bikes for 2 or more hours from the Slovenian Tourist Information Centre. Check the tourism site for more details
  • the Bicikelj bike sharing scheme which allows you to hire bikes from self-service terminals. Check the tourism site for more details
  • the Kavalir, a small electric car transporting people with mobility issues through the pedestrian only areas of the city. Check the official site for more information.

You may also want to consider using a shared airport transfer offered by GoOpti. Their website claims 27,000t fewer CO2 emissions and 600,000 less cars on the road. I used them for transfers both from and to the airport and am happy to recommend them.

More Time in Ljubljana?

If you have more than 1 day in Ljubljana or you’re looking for other ways to spend your time, then you may want to consider:

  • Visiting Tivoli Park (and the nearby Museum of Contemporary History)
  • Joining something like this wine tasting tour
  • Visiting the zoo
  • Experiencing something like this food tour
  • Taking a river cruise
  • Visiting some of Ljubljana’s museums such as the National Gallery, National Museum of Slovenia and City Museum
  • Shopping for food at the Central Market – there is both an indoor and an outdoor food market and those visiting on a Friday between March and November can also experience the Open Kitchen market – check the tourism site for more information
  • Finally, if you have more than a day in Ljubljana then you should definitely visit Lake Bled. Read my post How to Spend a Day at Lake Bled for details on getting there and a suggested itinerary. Alternatively, you may want to consider joining this organized day trip.

You can review more options from individual activities to day trips and book here:

Final Thoughts

Ljubljana is a beautiful little city with its main attractions conveniently located around the historic centre making them easily accessible. From bridges to the castle, food to architecture, there are plenty of things to do in Ljubljana in one day….although you may end up with tired feet!

Is Ljubljana on your bucket list?

If you need further assistance in planning your visit to Ljubljana, then do check my Resources page.

Image shows one of the Dragons on the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana

Disclaimer – Information correct at the time of writing but do check before visiting

Disclosure – This post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you book something using them, I will earn a small commission but you will not pay anything extra. Thank you for supporting my blog.

«

»

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.