We arrived in Ljubljana just as we both started new work projects. For the first couple of weeks it seemed like we wouldn't end up seeing much of it at all.
Then, at the beginning of October, Colin's parents came to visit. We took some time off and spent a lovely week walking around, having long lunches and exploring the city properly.
If you haven't heard of it, Ljubljana (pronounced loo-byah-nah) is the tiny capital of Slovenia. With fewer than 300,000 residents, it's the smallest capital city we've been to and you can walk everywhere. It's not somewhere with hundreds of tourist attractions, but the city centre is very pretty – it's sometimes called mini-Prague – and it feels relaxed and friendly.
The main tourist attraction is the castle. We got the little funicular up to the top of the hill and then walked back down through the park. From the top there are views of the whole city and the mountains in the distance.
The Ljubljanica River flows through the city and is lined with busy restaurants and cafes. It's a nice place for a stroll or you can take a boat trip. Look out for the Jakov Brdar sculptures as you're walking around. Even in mid-October, when it was pretty cold, people were sitting outside drinking coffee (sometimes wrapped in blankets).
Tivoli Park is a huge green space in the northwest of the city. It's a great place to go running, and it also has an outdoor gallery, a cafe and quite a tricky mini golf course. The large wooded area is good for hiking, and if you climb to the top you can get a nice view of the city.
Every Friday from mid-March to the end of October, you'll find the busy street food market Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen) in Pogačarjev trg square. With stalls selling food and drinks from all over Slovenia, as well as dishes like Argentinian steak, curries and burritos, it's a lovely place to spend a sunny evening.
We loved going to the Central Market to buy our food each week. It's on every day apart from Sundays in Vodnikov trg square. We visited in September and it was full of different varieties of apples and brightly coloured squash. The covered market next to the square is where you'll find the cheese, meat and bakery stalls, and there's even a fresh milk vending machine outside.
Metelkova is a large squat in the city centre on the site of an old army barracks. There are murals everywhere, huge sculptures and it's home to music venues and artist studios. There's also a contemporary art gallery next door – MSUM.
Where to eat
- Pritličje: The interior in this coffee shop is just lovely. It would be a good place to work too – fast wifi, lots of seating and nice coffee.
- Cajna hisa: We loved coming to this cafe for breakfast or lunch. It has a big choice of sandwiches, a nice atmosphere and friendly staff.
- Daktari: A cosy basement cafe that used to be a socialist hangout, there are books everywhere and lots of little nooks and crannies.
- Cafe Čokl: Another nice coffee shop – they don't do food but you can bring in pastries from the bakery around the corner.
- Špajza: This was my favourite restaurant in Ljubljana. The menu can be a little pricey, but the set lunch is great value (€11 on weekdays and €15 on the weekends for 4 courses). Dishes included lamb shank and confit potatoes, beef medallions with cheese and tarragon dumplings and a spinach soup that I can't wait to try and recreate myself.
- Julija: This restaurant has all the Slovenian classics and everything we tried was delicious (get the strudl for dessert if you have room).
- Dvorni Bar: A friendly Slovenian wine and tapas bar with lots of local dishes to try.
- Vodnikov Hram: The portions in this place are insane (don't order starters unless you have a huge appetite). My gnocchi with chanterelle mushrooms and prawns was delicious, and the dumplings with rabbit ragu was a hit with everyone else.
- Pops Place: Yep, the chicken in my burger really was three times the size of the bun – it was delicious (and very messy).
- On Thai: We got a takeaway from here a couple of times but they also have a few seats to sit in. The pad Thai was spot on.
- Falafal: A popular falafel sandwich shop with huge portions.
- Sarajevo '84: A cosy basement restaurant with the best bread and a tasty selection of Bosnian dishes.
More on Slovenia soon!