48 Hours In: Ljubljana - Europe - Travel - The Independent

48 Hours In: Ljubljana

It's got parks, woodland, castles and art, and as Europe's smallest capital, is best explored on foot, says Anthony Lambert


WHY GO NOW?

The deciduous woods covering the hills around the Slovenian capital will be wearing the colours of autumn. The 11th Ljubljana Marathon takes place on 29 October, and the traditional St Nicholas Fair with its many stalls is held in the first week of December, when the city centre is specially illuminated. Cleaning and restoration of the murals on the cathedral ceiling have just been completed after six years' work. Avoid the midweek public holidays on 31 October and 1 November as nearly everything will be closed.

TOUCH DOWN

Adria Airways (020-7734 4630; www.adria-airways.com) flies to Ljubljana from Gatwick from £133 return and easyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyjet.com) flies once daily from Stansted from £41 return. Buses from Ljubljana airport run every hour to the railway station (1), cost 1,200 Slovenian tolars (expressed as "sit") (£3.50) and take about 40 minutes.

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Ljubljana is one of Europe's smallest capitals, with a population of 280,000. So the centre is easily explored on foot. The city is bisected by the Ljubljanica River, with the Old Town clustered around Castle Hill on the right bank. The heart of the city is Presernov trg (2), overlooked by the classical façade of the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and leading on to the landmark Triple Bridge (3). At its south end is the tourist information centre (4) (00 386 1 306 12 15; www.ljubljana-tourism.si) which has a large selection of printed information in English and sells the three-day Ljubljana Card for 3,000sit (£8.50). This gives free bus transport and free or discounted admission to museums. The largely pedestrian city centre really hums at night, with cafés and bars along the river packed with locals, students and visitors.

CHECK IN

Grand Hotel Union Executive (5) at Miklosiceva 1 (00 386 1 308 12 70; www.gh-union.si) occupies an eye-catching 1905 art nouveau building. Generous use of wood is made in the well-equipped and updated bedrooms. For a lovely view over the castle and the old city, ask for an even-numbered room on the 7th, 8th or 9th floor, which start at €142 (£101), including breakfast. Don't be deterred by the unprepossessing exterior of Hotel Emonec (6) at Wolfova 12 (00 386 1 200 15 20; www.hotel-emonec.com); its rooms have been stylishly modernised and it is in a quiet location despite being close to Presernov trg. Doubles start at 17,000sit (£50), including breakfast. The former jail (7) at Metelkova 8 has been magnificently converted to the Celica Youth Hostel (00 386 1 230 9700; www.souhostel.com). "Hostel" is a misnomer, since it is the closest Ljubljana has to a boutique hotel, and also doubles as an art gallery. You can stay in a dorm for 3,500sit (£10), while a former cell converted to an exquisite split-level double room is €24 (£17), including breakfast. Lower prices are available for under-35s.

TAKE A VIEW

A shaded footpath begins off Studentovska Ulica opposite the market (8) and leads to the castle (9), which dates from the 15th century and opens 10am-9pm daily from October-April and until 10pm during summer; admission 1,100sit (£3.10). From the viewing tower, you can see that the city is built around a series of low hills with mountains in the distance. Don't miss the curious serpentine pews in the chapel, its walls covered in coats of arms.

TAKE A HIKE

Starting at the tourist information centre (4), turn right along the classical arcade that stands on the site of the city walls towards the market (8). Before entering the square, look out for the spiral staircase that leads down to a fine fish market. Walk through it to reach the market square, full of impressive local produce and stalls of wooden rakes, scythe handles, superbly woven baskets and candles for religious use.

Cross the Dragon Bridge (10), decorated with copper dragons and stonework in Secessionist style, and turn left along the river to appreciate the market colonnade and Triple Bridge (3). Both were designed by Joze Plecnik who studied under Otto Wagner and had a major impact on the city's appearance. In Presernov trg (2) is a statue to France Preseren, the Slovenian poet who wrote the national anthem and duly had the main square named after him.

Also overlooking the square is the outstanding art nouveau Centromerkur, the city's first department store which retains its period interior and extraordinary staircase, like a triumphal arch. On the other side is the only building on the square to survive the 1895 earthquake unscathed, the Hauptmann House of 1873, clad in bright ceramic tiles.

Continue along the river past the Cobblers' Bridge (11) and cross over at the next bridge. Take the second left along Levstikov trg to enter the old town's most historic street, lined with baroque houses and the Town Hall (12), parts of which date from the late 15th century. Free tours of the hall are given at noon on Saturdays. In front of its classical facade is the city's most beautiful fountain, the Three Rivers, completed in 1751 by the Venetian sculptor Francesco Robba.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

Cajna Hisa (13) at Stari trg 3 (00 386 1 421 24 44) specialises in dozens of different teas, Illy coffee and cakes, but also serves delicious salads and sandwiches. Try a rocket and prosciutto salad for 1,400sit (£4), and pumpernickel with rocket, capers, tomatoes, egg and parmesan cheese for 550sit (£1.50). It has a cosy vaulted mezzanine level.

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

Vigée le Brun is probably the best-known painter represented in the National Gallery of Slovenia (14) (00 386 1 241 5418; www.ng-slo.si), which opens 10am-6pm daily except Monday, admission 1,000sit (£3), but its landscapes and bourgeois portraits offer a good insight into the country's past. A painting by Frans Schams (1824-83) entitled A Curious Watchman shows two men with an early plate camera and wooden box of plates - one of the earliest depictions in art of a camera.

WINDOW SHOPPING

The contiguous streets of Mestni and Stari trg are lined with elegantly windowed shops. The jewellery shop of Frey Wille (15) at Mestni trg 8 (00 386 1 421 03 15) sells jewellery inspired by Gustav Klimt. A few doors along at number 17 Mestni trg is the Idrian Lace Sales Gallery (00 386 1 425 00 51) which sells lace tablecloths, napkins and panels from the Idrian Lace School.

AN APERITIF

Enoteca (16) at Nazopjeva 12 (00 386 1 423 71 06) has a brick-vaulted ceiling and stone walls and a large selection of wines. Union is the local beer, Tivoli being the pale lager style and Crni Baron the darker ale.

DINNER WITH THE LOCALS

Ljubljana's market (8) tells you a lot about the city's restaurants, which serve food made with excellent ingredients. One of the best is Gostilna As (17) at Copova 5a (00 386 1 425 88 22; www.gostilnaas.si) where a series of small rooms gives the restaurant an intimate feel, and in clement weather tables are laid on a terrace under an immense 120-year-old acacia tree. There is no menu, the dishes of the day being determined by whatever ingredients meet the exacting standards of the chef. Fish is to the fore, and a five-course dinner with wine will set you back 15,500sit (£45).

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

Work on the current Cathedral (18) began in 1701 but was not finished until the mid-19th century. Pause before entering to admire the new bronze main door, created in 1996 in honour of the Pope's visit, which is an allegory of Christianity in Slovenia, reading from the ancient past at the bottom to the present at the top.

OUT TO BRUNCH

Brunch is uncommon in Ljubljana, but the Abecedarium Café (19) at Ribji trg 2, with tables in a cobbled courtyard close to the river, offers breakfast with muesli at 650sit (£2) and eggs florentine at 1,100sit (£3). You can check your e-mails over coffee.

TAKE A RIDE

The journey to one of Slovenia's scenic highlights, Lake Bled and its crag-top castle, takes a little over an hour from the bus station outside the railway station (1) for 1,400sit (£4) one way. The castle museum is open from 8am-8pm until the end of October, then until 5pm. Alternatively, bikes can be hired from the tourist information office at Krekov trg 10 (20) between April and October, from 200sit (60p) per hour to 1,000sit (£3) for a day. Ljubljana Card-holders are entitled to four free hours. An English-language leaflet describes six routes that take you out of the city.

A WALK IN THE PARK

Rising up the flank of a hill, the well-wooded Krajinski Park Tivoli provides the lungs of the city. The park has a swimming pool, tennis courts, playground, and the baroque Tivoli Manor (21), once owned by Field Marshall Radetsky to whom Strauss dedicated the eponymous march. It now houses the International Centre of Graphic Arts (daily except Monday, 10am-6pm; admission 800sit/£2.50). The mid 18th-century Cekin Manor (22) with T72 tank outside now houses the National Museum of Contemporary History (daily 10am-6pm; admission 800sit/£2.50).

WRITE A POSTCARD

Café Antico at Stari trg 27 (23) serves excellent coffee in a warm atmosphere with staff in long aprons.

ICING ON THE CAKE

Pick up a bargain at the Sunday flea market between the Triple Bridge (3) and the Cobblers' Bridge (11); it operates 7am-2pm and offers an astonishing variety of bygones, from busts of Tito to old postcards.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week