Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of Slovenia. It is situated at the heart of the country, between the Alps and the Mediterranean. The city lies in a basin at the confluence of the Ljubljanica and Sava Rivers. The River Ljubljanica flows through the city center. Ljubljana is the political, economic, cultural, scientific, and administrative center of the country.
The city’s architecture is a mix of old and new. Baroque, Art Nouveau, Neo-Classicism, and Renaissance coexist with modern structures and socialist housing projects. The old Baroque part of the city lies at the foot of the hill atop which rests the Ljubljana castle. The old part is connected with the rest of the city via a series of bridges, the best known are the Triple Bridge and the Dragon Bridge, the latter featuring the city symbol, dragon. The new part of the city and the modern commercial part lie to the west of the river. The cultural scene is in full swing during the summer when a number of city festivals bring numerous international and local names to the stages throughout the city.
The country itself promises pristine nature, numerous outdoor activities, from skiing, in the mountains in the winter, to swimming in the summer, biking and hiking, as well as climbing and rafting.
Slovenia is still a gem largely undiscovered by tourists. It harbors many interesting places, beautiful nature, and old cities, everything pretty much uncrowded by tourists.
Climate in Slovenia varies according to location, from Alpine in the north, to Mediterranean in the coastal area, to continental in the northeast. Ljubljana has basically a continental climate. Summers are influenced by warm Mediterranean streams, causing relatively hot weather, July temperatures frequently reach 30 °C. Winter weather is characterized by the temperature inversion causing cool and moist air lingering over the city. The winters are snowy and cold. January average temperature is 0 and July is 20°C. The warmest month is July, the coldest is January. Most rain falls in June.
January average temperature 0 deg Celsius, 81.3 mm rainfall February average temperature 0 deg Celsius, 81.3 mm rainfall March average temperature 5.5 deg Celsius, 99.1 mm rainfall April average temperature 9 deg Celsius, 109.2 mm rainfall May average temperature 14 deg Celsius, 121.9 mm rainfall June average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 144.8 mm rainfall July average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 121.9 mm rainfall August average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 144.8 mm rainfall September average temperature 15.5 deg Celsius, 129.5 mm rainfall October average temperature 10 deg Celsius, 114.3 mm rainfall November average temperature 4 deg Celsius, 134.5 mm rainfall December average temperature 0 deg Celsius, 101.6 mm rainfall
Brnik Airport, located 27 km northwest of Ljubljana, is the country’s main international gateway.
Public buses leave regularly for Ljubljana’s main bus station. Departures are every hour on weekdays and every two hours during the weekends. A ride takes 50 minutes and costs around 3 EUR. Private airport van is also available, connecting the airport with a station near Ljubljana’s main bus station. Taxis are available at the airport. A ride takes 30 minutes and costs around 30 EUR.
Bicycle is by far the best way of getting around the city center. The city has an extensive network of bike lanes. Biking is pretty easy; the streets are not too steep. Bike rentals are widely available at stands in the city center as well as in various hotels. Free bikes are also available by the city municipality. Their stands are located at the main train station, on Miklošičeva Street, and on Trg Republike.
The network of buses, operated by LPP, covers the city and is quite extensive and frequent during weekdays. Saturday, Sunday, holidays and nights have fewer services. A ride costs 1 EUR, but recently 'Urbana'public transportation card has been introduced and will become the only means of paying for the transportation from the beginning of 2010.The card is available at LPP ticket offices, tourist information centers, newspaper kiosks, news stands and post offices.
Taxis operate 24 hours a day. They can be hailed on the street, ordered by the telephone or hired from the ranks in the city center. All taxis are metered but fares differ from one company to the other.
Driving and parking in central Ljubljana is a nightmare. The narrow streets are always filled with traffic and parking places are notoriously scarce. Parking has to be paid for. The penalty is either a ticket or your car is towed away.
Ljubljana city center is small and can be easily explored on foot.
You can take a romantic trip on the river and do some sightseeing from the comfortable boat seat. The trips start at Ribji Trg – at the riverbank. You will be able to see several of Ljubljana’s beautiful bridges, including the Čevljarski most (Shoemakers’ Bridge), the Triple Bridge and the Dragon Bridge; in addition to the beautiful palaces and buildings lining the riverbanks. The trip can be turned into a romantic date: the boat rides are available at night as well.
Ljubljana is brimming with pleasant little street side cafés. Several popular bars are located along the riverbanks. Sitting in the sun, or under the moon for that matter, and watching people go by is a favorite activity among young Ljubljana residents.
EXCURSIONS TO THE COUNTRYSIDE
Ljubljana ’s position in the center of the country enables you to take daily trips virtually anywhere in the country. Slovenia is small but offers a wide variety of completely different natural environments.
The Adriatic Sea is only a good hour away with the car. At the seaside numerous beautiful sea resorts are located. Do not miss the enchanting Piran, with its maze of narrow streets and amazing Venetian gothic architecture, or the more modern and touristy Portorož.
Another option is the Alps. These too can be reached in around an hour. They offer superb skiing opportunities in the winter or hiking and biking in the summer.
The Postojna Caves are located near the town of Postojna, and are a world-renowned natural phenomenon- the second largest cave system in the world, and is definitely worth a visit.
There is a multitude of choices for those who are looking for an active vacation. River rafting is available on the Sava River, which is in close proximity to Ljubljana. There are loads of other activities available: paragliding, kayaking, canoeing, canyoning, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, ballooning, horse riding and much more. Ljubljana’s position enables you to reach almost any corner of the country within an hour or two.
Address: Grajska Planota 1 Web: www.festival-lj.si Open: daily: May – September: 9:00 am – 10:00 pm; October – April: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
The landmark castle, towering over the old city center, dominates the city’s skyline. The medieval castle is situated atop a wooded hill and can be reached on foot ascending the narrow cobbled streets, via the funicular, or by car. The castle dates roughly from the 16 th century although fortifications have been set up on the hill even earlier. The castle’s most notable feature is the tower which features a viewing platform. The panorama is beautiful. You can see the entire city and the surrounding countryside. The castle complex also features a virtual museum which takes you a 3D tour through the city’s history.
The cathedral, also known as Stolnica, is a fine example of the Baroque architecture. Dating from the early 18 th century, the interior is richly decorated and the cupola roof is magnificent. The frescoes adorning the walls are by Giulio Quaglio. The exterior is marked by carved bronze door added in 1996 in honor of the Pope’s visit.
Tivoli Park is Ljubljana’s biggest and most beautiful park. Designed in 1813 by French engineer J. Blanchard, the park was redesigned in the years 1921-1939 by the foremost Slovene architect Jože Plečnik, adding the Jakopič walkway. The park, measuring 5 square km, is divided by three tree-lined walkways. There are numerous exotic trees planted in the park. Throughout the area numerous statues, fountains and flowerbeds are found. There is also a pond, a small botanical garden, a greenhouse and a children playground. The park is a popular recreational area where people go jogging or strolling on sunny days.
Križanke was originally a monastery and a church dating from the 13 th century, but vastly redesigned by the Slovene foremost architect Jože Plečnink in the years 1952 to 1956. He modeled it on the principles of Renaissance architecture. The inner yard, called the Infernal Yard – Peklensko dvorišče, is very interesting. It features a series of wall lamps and was originally intended for chamber music concerts.
The summer theatre, which was designed by Plečnik’s disciples, is today a popular outdoor concert venue. The complex also features the School of design and Photography, and a restaurant.
THE PREŠERN SQUARE AND THE TRIPLE BRIDGE
The elegant and architecturally diverse Prešeren Square links the City Center with the Old Town. It is dominated by the statue of the Slovene national poet France Prešeren. The statue was designed by architect Maks Fabiani and was unveiled in 1905. The buildings surrounding the square represent various architectural styles: from fine examples of Art Nouveau (Centromerkur), to Franciscan church dating from the 17 th century, and several bourgeoisie palaces.
To the south of the square lies Plečnik’s Triple Bridge. The bridge had only one lane in 1842, but was remodeled by Plečnik between 1929 and 1932. Two additional bridges were added for the pedestrians, and all three bridges were upgraded with stone balustrades and lamps.
THE OLD TOWN QUARTER / STARA LJUBLJANA
The old part of the city, Stara Ljubljana, is a lovely quarter full of narrow streets, historic buildings, churches and monuments. The quarter is situated on the east side of the river, sprawling below the castle. There are numerous designer shops, lovely cafés and boutiques all around the area. You can spend a lovely day wandering around the picturesque streets.
The international summer festival TRNFEST has become one of the most popular events in Ljubljana. Started in 1992, the festival has been steadily gaining a devoted crowd. The festival offers quality, diverse, and a little off-beat program, featuring international and local music, theatre, dance performances, literature, film, art and photo exhibitions, as well as various workshops. Trnfest is the most popular and best visited festival in summer Ljubljana; all events are held outdoors and are free of charge.
LIFFE/ Ljubljana International Film Festival
Date: mid November Location: Cankarjev Dom Web: http://wwww.liffe.si
The festival brings a large portion of first rate international films which received important awards at major European festivals, and offers a good overview of contemporary film production.
The program is accompanied by film workshops, multi-media interactive projects, exhibitions and debates.
The Ljubljana Festival is the city’s oldest festival, featuring classical international and local music concerts and other performances. The events are held at various venues throughout the city. Check the website for the program of events and details.
Date: end May- beginning June Location: Križanke summer theatre Web: www.drugagodba.si
This festival is eagerly awaited by Ljubljana’s world music fans. The colorful program always features new names from around the world. The festivals is the first in a row of summer festivals, and opens the season every year with hot rhythms and exotic music played in the beautiful setting of Plečnik’s summer theatre, Križanke. Check the web for program and details.
Ljubljana is a town rich in history but has a lively young character. The average age of its inhabitants is 30 and, being a university city with over 50,000 students, the scene is always vibrant.
The city center abounds in bars and pubs, which are always full of people.
The nightclub scene is scarce. There are few clubs open well into the night, though. The Global Club atop Nama department store (Tomsiceva Street 1) has a good view of the city and offers dancing music. Check also the K4 club (Kersnikova Street 4) where every night in the week a different music is played and occasionally concerts are held. Orto Bar (Grablovičeva 1) is also open until early morning hours, plays metal music and has occasional concerts.
If you prefer relaxed urban and alternative scene then Metelkova city (www.metelkova.org) is the place to be. There are several clubs at Metelkova, each with a distinctive flavor, music and clientele. You will find anything from Gay, metal, techno, ethno, reggae and other places. There are occasional international and local music concerts and performances. DJs play often and every now and then art and music festivals are held. Check the web for details and program.
During the summer Ljubljana has several art festivals, featuring music, dance and performances. There are the Ljubljana Festival, the Jazz Festival, Druga Godba Festival, to name just a few.
Trnfest, a month-long free festival is held every August in KUD France Prešeren (www.kud-fp.si) with performances and concerts every night.
The main cultural establishment in Ljubljana and Slovenia is Cankarjev Dom (www.cd-cc.si) where all kinds of events take place, from classical to jazz to popular and rock concerts, art cinema, exhibitions, dance performances, and much more. Check their website for current events.
The earliest known settlements in the area, dating from the Bronze Age, were wooden houses set upon pillars in the marshy land south of the present day city. These early settlers were succeeded by Illyrians and later Celts, who found new home in the area along Ljubljanica River. In the second half of the century B.C. the Romans came to the area and established the first important settlement called Emona. The settlement was situated at an important crossroads, connecting the Upper Pannonia and the Roman colonies in Aquileia and Noricum. Even today, the Roman presence can be traced by the remnants of the Roman Wall, several houses, and other ruins, found throughout the city. In the mid-5 th century Emona was destroyed by the invading Huns, Ostrogoths and Langobards. The Slavic tribes settled in the area at the end of the 6 th century.
Ljubljana was first mentioned in the written sources in 1144 under the name Laibach. The town grew in importance in the 13 th century when it became the capital of the Carniola Region. In 1335 the city came under the Habsburg rule and remained so until WW I. From the end of the Middle Ages onwards the town started to assume the role of the cultural capital of Slovenia. The Habsburgs turned Ljubljana into a thriving trade center. In 1461 the town repelled a Turkish attack, but the earthquake of 1511 reduced the medieval town to rubble. The 17 th and 18 th centuries saw vast redevelopment, many of the baroque mansions and palaces date from this period. The walls encircling the town were demolished, giving the town more space to expand. People started to drain the marshy area to the south of the town – in order to gain more space. During the Napoleonic times Ljubljana held a major role; for a short period between 1809 – 1813 it was the capital of the Illyrian province.
A great engineering achievement rid Ljubljana of flooding when, at the end of the 18 th century the Gruber Canal was built, regulating the flow of the river. Further development of the town was enhanced with the building of the Vienna -Trieste railway, thus connecting Ljubljana with the rest of the world. Ljubljana experienced another devastating earthquake in 1895, when almost entire town was demolished. The city had to be rebuilt once more. During that period Ljubljana gained several beautiful Art Nouveau buildings, as this was the fashion at the time.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
With the onset of WW I came also a break with the Habsburg dynasty. The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed and Slovenia joined the newly formed Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians. During the WW II Ljubljana was occupied by Italians and Germans. The whole town was encircled with barbed wire. After the war, Ljubljana became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, joined with six other countries in the Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Slovenia gained independence in 1991.
Today Ljubljana is the capital of the independent Slovenia, its political, economic and cultural hub. In recent years the city saw much reconstruction and modernization so today, Ljubljana is comfortable with its new cosmopolitan status.
Ljubljana is at its liveliest in the early summer, when numerous cultural events take place. But the city is lovely throughout the year. Summers in Ljubljana are quite hot and sunny, with temperatures from 25 – 30°C. Winters see some snow.
Springs are rainy but beautiful as the whole city is in blossoms, while autumns offer nice sunny weather and warm temperatures.
If you plan to visit the seaside, note that during the summers the seaside towns are most lively but also most crowded; there are people and parties everywhere. Early summer and early autumn at the seaside guarantee still warm enough weather but not so many people.
The mountains are also a huge draw. These can be visited throughout the year; wintertime offers good skiing opportunities while early summer and early autumn are great for hiking and biking.