All about my hometown from a lifetime local.
With less than 300.000 people, Ljubljana is the smallest capital city in the European union. It is also the city where I’ve lived my entire life, before studying abroad. Ljubljana is known as the city of dragons, as even our coat of arms features a dragon (why? here), which is right up my alley as I love dragons. 🙂 The city is located at the heart of the Slovenian chicken, which makes it a good starting point for exploring the rest of Slovenia. Since there are way too many interesting things to do in Ljubljana and you can read about it on the tourist pages, I’ll try to condense it down to my absolute favourites, but this post will still be incredibly lengthy.
First of all, Ljubljana is walkable and quite nice in any weather. Most of what visitors are interested in is located in the city centre, so there is little need to venture outside of it. The main Prešeren’s square is the heart of the city, named after France Prešeren, who is considered our most important poet. As he was madly in love with Julija Primic, who was his muse and did not return his love at all, his statue at the main square gazes towards a small sculpture of Julija on Wolf street, where she had lived until marrying someone else.
The most obvious other sights include the Ljubljana castle, the Old town and the (too) many churches, as well as the numerous museums, which are sometimes free. My personal favourites are the recently renovated City museum, where you can see one of the world’s oldest wheels, the National gallery as we Slovenians have some very nice impressionist painters, and the fun Museum of Illusions. The National museum of Slovenia is also great for history enthusiasts – it houses a 46.000 years old neanderthal flute, the swords found in the river crossing Ljubljana and a dugout canoe from the Ljubljana marshes (the entire Ljubljana region is built upon marshlands). In terms of alternative culture, there is also Metelkova city, a squat turned arts and culture social centre where I spent most of my teenage years.
A couple of years ago the central part of Ljubljana was declared traffic free, which had been a great decision as far as I am concerned, despite the hassle it has caused the residents of the Old town, and the city centre has been extensively renovated. Everytime I visited home while studying abroad, the city looked a bit nicer. I know part of it is my missing home, but they’ve really done a good job. Another thing I love about my hometown are all the charming Ljubljana cafes, as we quite like our social coffee times and I had to make a special post for all my recommendations in terms of treating yourself. There are also plenty of beautiful fountains: my favourite is the Robba fountain, and shops, both retail and second hand, as well as the Sunday antique flea market near the Cobbler’s bridge.
Like everywhere, the city centre has many interesting architectural creations, with the most famous being the works of Jožef Plečnik, who also worked extensively in Prague. Among other things he designed Križanke, the outdoor theatre and the Triple bridge, which would be my favourite bridge, if it wasn’t for the Dragon bridge. The Dragon bridge was initially built as an experiment: a newly discovered way to reinforce concrete was tested out in Ljubljana, rather than in Vienna, as the consequences of a bridge failing in Ljubljana were deemed less severe. It features bronze statues of dragons, which had turned green due to the exposure to the elements and these dragons have been my absolute favourite for as long as I can remember. One of my favourite childhood memories is sitting on one of the dragon statues, while my mother screamed at my father that I will fall into the river, which is conveniently called Ljubljanica. Another Plečnik favourite of mine is the National university library, NUK, which is a magnificent must-see inside and out and their cafe is quite cosy, as well as the Central market arcades. The entire Central market area is quite nice and walking down to the fish market in the lower levels provides some spectacular views of the river.
Impressions of Ljubljana
Ljubljana also has a large number of parks and little nature retreats within the city, as well as a zoo. The closest to the city centre is also the largest, the Tivoli park, which features a promenade with a photography exhibition, a small hill named Rožnik with frequent seasonal events and where you can feed some squirrels if you are lucky. A bit outside the city centre is park Špica (the Pointy tip), a recently renovated river bank area with nice terraces, where you can find many coypus, giant beaver-like rodents, which have decided to make the centre of Ljubljana their home. Most of us think they are cute, as long as they stay on the river banks and out of the streets. Even further out of the centre is the pond of Koseze, a lovely piece of actual nature.
The details of Ljubljana
I believe I’ve managed to cover all the basics, but I might do a more detailed post in the future, as there is still so much more to Ljubljana.
Of course there are also many seasonal events, such as Christmas and Pust. In the summer, the main square becomes a zone with separate weather, which is a fun recurring art installation. Oh, and we also have a square named after the French revolution, which is apparently a big hit with the French, and an annual chocolate festival.