Ljubljana - Dragon Bridge
Ljubljana – one of Europe’s coolest cities. They’ve even got dragons! DRAGONS!

Ljubljana for Hipsters: The Coolest Things To DoWhen I told a few of my Berliner friends that I was visiting Ljubljana, I got a mixed response. Some thought it interesting; others were curious how or why I would’ve decided to travel there. But those friends who had visited Ljubljana before — they knew what was up. And they had nothing but excitement for my trip.

You see, it seems Ljubljana is one of those hidden secrets of Europe. It’s one of those cities most people probably miss out on during a Eurotrip and, in fact, it’s one of those cities where you often here, “What country is that in, again?” Well, Ljubljana is in Slovenia and after spending four nights there, I’ve got nothing but praise for this little capital.

Slovenia is one of the world’s newest countries, only gaining independence in 1991. But Ljubljana’s history goes much further. With its location on the edge of Italy, and nestled between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps – the city has long been conveniently placed for many of Europe’s most notorious conquerers. Napoleon’s armies marched through here and the Romans used Ljubljana’s strategic location as a stronghold, calling the city Emona (this year marked with a 2000 year anniversary)! Ljubljana has history.

But Ljbuljana is so much more than its history. As a relatively new nation, and a new capital, the city (much like Berlin) has had to reinvent itself. Thanks to a development scheme which saw the city’s river, Ljubljanica, come to life with new restaurants, bars and markets — Ljubljana’s downtown has come to life with an atmosphere full of languorous (but not lazy) life. Ljubljana has energy.

Why do I compare Ljubljana to Berlin? Most cities are hard to compare to one another, but we all know Berlin has its own special sense of style and atmosphere — one very unique to Europe (and maybe the world). But my extended weekend in Ljubljana only taught me that there’s quite a bit of cool in other cities as well. And in Ljubljana, there’s a whole lot of it.

The Coolest Things To Do in Ljubljana

Visit Metelkova – Former squat, now nightlife haven

Metelkova
Once a military barracks, now an art squat

Undoubtedly the coolest part of Ljubljana is the area referred to as Metelkova City. A former military barracks, it is now an autonomous region of Ljubljana. The Yugoslavia army once had its base there, along with a prison, but soon after Slovenia gained its independence, the area was squatted by artists. The area is now home to the city’s best boutique hostel and countless bars & clubs. It’s also where you’ll find some really unique public art and graffiti.

Visit Metelkova by day to check out the street art, or on Friday nights for the best nightlife in town.

  • Hostel Celica: One of the most unique “prison” hostels I’ve ever seen. Besides each room having been designed by local and international artists, there are several restaurants and cafes on the ground floor and a museum in the basement. Stop by each afternoon at 3pm for a free tour and history lesson about the hostel and the Metelkova district. Rates and more information on their website.
  • Tiffany Club: It’s Ljubljana’s most popular gay club but on Fridays it’s also just one of Ljubljana’s most popular clubs – gay or straight. More information and opening hours on the club’s Facebook page and website.

Drink craft beer on the coolest tour in town

Craft Beer Tour
The Ljubljanjam craft beer tour included 4 local brew tastings and 4 different food tastings. The Pelicon summer ale here was one of my favorite beers on the tour!

I’d never taken a beer tour before being on Iva’s “Craft Beer Tour” through Ljubljana so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve taken brewery tours, but a tour just about beer? Never before. It was a casual walking tour and we visited four different bars to sample beer and some tapas in each. We learned a tiny bit about each of the breweries but what I enjoyed most was the company. This didn’t feel like a tour but more like an afternoon of hanging around with friends. Plus besides discovering at least two beers that I really fell for, three of the four bars were places I definitely was eager to return to–whether for their food, beer or atmosphere! It was the perfect introduction to the city and that special “Ljubljana atmosphere.”

  • Ljubljananjam: This small, local tour operator is your go-to resource for any food & drink tours through Ljubljana. Besides the craft beer walk (where you sample local Slovenian beers), there are also specific walks just for desserts and other local Ljubljana foods! More information on the Ljubljananjam website (bonus points if you can figure out how to pronounce that!).

Best way to get around? On a bike!

Biking in Ljubljana
Bikes in Ljubljana seem to be a way of life

Ljubljana isn’t a big city and in fact I spent most of my weekend there walking between places. But next time (and there *will* be a next time!) I’ll definitely rent a bike. The city has plenty of bike lanes and the roads seemed relatively safe. Plus like many other cities around the world, Ljubljana has its own official bike share program. The first hour of the bike rental is free and you can register for a week to be able to use the bikes at your leisure for just 1€/week! More information at bicikelj.si.

Eat. Every. Local. Food. You. Find.

Beef Tongue - Taste Ljubljana
Trying some beef tongue at the #TasteLjubljana launch event – not my favorite food (give me fried chicken any day!) but still tasty!

As I mentioned earlier, I’d heard good things about Ljubljana before visiting, but something that everyone somehow missed out on telling me was how good the food was. My visit to Ljubljana was timed with the launch of Taste Ljubljana—an initiative by the official tourism organization to promote local culinary food and recipes. So during my long weekend in Ljubljana I had the chance to sample some of the best local cuisine – from cottage cheese pancakes (yumm!) to fried chicken and beef tongue… just about everything I put in my mouth while in Ljubljana left me hungry for more!

There are also countless quality restaurants in Ljubljana. It seems the locals know how to live the good life and are after fresh ingredients and quality food in their meals. My top three meals were at the JB Restaurant, Restaurant As and Gostlina Na Gradu. Look out for more about them later on in this blog.

  • Open Kitchen: This weekly food market is the place to be every Friday. Over 50 different chefs participate on a weekly basis and you’ll find both local and international cuisine at the market. I was told to look out for the fried chicken (a Ljubljana food speciality) and it was delicious! The Open Kitchen (Odprta Kuhna) market is in its second year and doesn’t seem like it’ll stop anytime soon. Make sure you visit! More information on their website odprtakuhna.si.
  • Culinary Slovenia cooking class: If one of the city’s many food tour options aren’t your thing, try a cooking class instead. While I didn’t take a cooking class myself, you can see more about it on the Savoir There blog. Check times and information about cooking classes on the Culinary Slovenia website.

Taste Ljubljana Guide Taste Ljubljana Travel Guide

TRAVEL TIP: Check out the Taste Ljubljana travel guide for free on the VisitLjubljana.com website. The free book and pamphlet includes recipes as well as restaurant recommendations on where to find local Ljubljana food dishes. More information on the official tourism website.

Spend your time hanging out by the river

Ljubljana Boat Tour
On an evening boat ride down the Ljubljanica River

Most cities with rivers running through them tend to focus a lot on the riverside. And Ljubljana is no different. Thanks to some political foresight, the area around the Ljubljanica River has been developed over the past decade to become the “it” place to be in Ljubljana. From markets to some of the city’s best bars and restaurants, everyone seems to spend their time along the river.

  • Sunday Market: Every Sunday open from 8:00am to 14:00, there’s a flea market where you’ll find random knickknacks, vintage postcards and other quirky memorabilia. In the city center along the river.
  • Boat rides: There are more than a few companies offer boat tours down the Ljubljanica river, but you’ll want to go with the prettiest. The Laker Craft wooden boat is the most picturesque boat and costs the same as the other tours. More information and photos on their website.

Visit Ljubljana’s art galleries

Artish Art Market
The monthly Artish art market takes place in central Ljubljana on the last Saturday of every month.

I love visiting art galleries in unexpected places. And I’m not sure why, but Ljubljana has more than its fair share of art galleries, photo exhibitions and museums for a city of its size. With a Ljubljana tourist card, some of the museums and galleries offer free admission, but some are free of their own right regardless. Here are my picks for the best museums/galleries:

  • Jakopič Gallery: I saw an incredible photo exhibition from Josef Koudelka at this small gallery. Located on an ancient Roman site, the small gallery was impressive with its collection and its space. Find current information about their exhibitions online at mgml.si.
  • City Museum (Mestna Galerija): Located in the city center, this small museum & gallery regularly shows contemporary art exhibitions. During my visit, they had an exhibition about Internet art. More at mgml.si.
  • Modern Galerija: Part of the Museum of Modern Art, the Modern Gallery has a permanent collection of Slovenian and international contemporary art, with regular exhibitions of the same. More online at mg-lj.si (and note that the museum is free the first Sunday of every month!).
  • Artish Market: This monthly art market in the city center features local traders and artisans selling everything from jewelry to custom art. It takes place the last Saturday of every month. Check their website & blog for more information.

___

Getting There

Ljubljana is serviced by an international airport with flights to other European cities. However, it’s sometimes more convenient and cheaper to fly into one of the neighboring countries’ airports and take an airport transfer to Ljubljana. From Berlin, I was able to get a cheap enough flight on EasyJet direct to Venice, and then it was just a 2.5-3 hour transfer via GoOpti. GoOpti offer airport transfer routes between destinations in Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia.

* * *

I visited Ljubljana with the travel blog group The Travel Mob and with the support of Visit Ljubljana. More information about the #TasteLjubljana blog trip can be found here. Special thanks also to the guys from Luxury Slovenia for many of the recommendations here.

Please note some posts do make me some money but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

54 comments

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  1. Pingback: 8 Reasons To Take A Ljubljana City Break | Urban Travel Blog

  2. I have heard nothing but good things about Ljubljana, so I’m really interested in going there one of these days. Andy and I keep talking about traveling a little more in that part of Europe, so maybe we’ll get to it next year.

  3. tch

    would not recommend goopti. their employees work too much and are often tired.

    and how come you didnt mention bikofe? its practically the only hipster place in ljubljana. same goes for tovarna rog

    • Hey – thanks for the feedback about GoOpti – I liked it because it was convenient and it worked, but I could imagine there are other similarly good (and perhaps better) services.

      And you’re right – I mistakenly left BiKoFe off this guide but included it in my other post about how cool Ljubljana is. Read that one here. Rog gets a mention in there too ;-)

  4. Hi Adam!
    GREAT blog and wonderful information ( as usual)
    I was wondering, did you get any fun LGBT/ gay vibes? Did you get any anti gay vibes there?
    Is Slovenija expensive for budget hipsters?

    Keep on the good work!
    JIM

    • Hey Jim – Thanks and all great questions.

      Definitely a strong LGBT vibe in Ljubljana. Look out for a story about that later this week :)

      I’d say that Ljubljana is affordable. Food and drinks vary from the super cheap to affordable luxury (ie, high end meals at a value you’d never get in other European cities). There are a lot of hostels throughout the city, too, so I think finding budget accommodation shouldn’t be impossible – wish I could add more on that subject but I stayed in a rented apartment while I was there…

  5. Pingback: Exploring Ljubljana on a Rog Bike | Urban Travel Blog

  6. Bren

    Hi,

    I am from Ljubljana and… GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE all of you badly behaved ignorant ENGLISH drunk “tourists”. GO TO CROATIA AND EAT DRUGS!

    Same goes for local Metelkova squatters. Get a job or at least decent toilets ao mate a bunch of them AND START PAYING TAXES!!

    Thanks, thats it.

    Bren

    • Tina

      Bren :)

      Firstly – Metelkova does pay taxes. Secondly – drunken people are everywhere, in fact abuse of alcohol is major problem in Slovenia for last 50 years. I doubt it is the problem that some drunken Brits can make worse.
      And last but not least – if you can not handle a healthy dose of night life maybe you shouldn’t live in a capital. There are plenty of trully quiet and dead places in Slovenia, pick one.

      Thanks, thats it.

      Tina

    • Every city’s got it’s share of badly behaved, ignorant idiots. Unfortunately Ljubljana is no exception, as we have just observed here.

  7. Maja

    Hey, great blog post. Just one slip (well, two): “But Ljbuljana is so much more than its history. As a relatively new nation, ” – you might want to correct that typo in the second word (Ljbuljana – Ljubljana) and reconsider the new-nation thingie, since Slovenia might be a relatively new country, but we certainly are not a new nation (does that even happen nowadays?). Tnx ;)

    • Thank you Maja for the corrections. You’re totally right about the slip-up about the word “nation.” I was using it as if it was a synonym for “country” which I realize isn’t entirely accurate.

  8. Wow, Adam! Thank you for this! Ljubljana certainly looks like a hidden gem. Based on this post alone, it’s definitely been put on my list of places to go to. It looks equal parts charming, adventurous, and exciting. I’ll have to try and get there when I’ll be living in Spain during this next year. I move in September! Ahhhhh! So exciting!

  9. Prhlec

    Not just Ljubljana – a whole Slovenia is wonderfull. Plan three days in this small country, as you can see seasides, mountains, Ljubljana, Soča… This country is really nice and for sure you will not regret your visit.

  10. Tamara

    Živjo, Adam!
    Your blog made it to the website of our national TV&radio program (http://www.rtvslo.si/tureavanture/novice/ljubljana-raj-za-hipsterje-in-eno-najvecjih-popotniskih-presenecenj-v-evropi/342060).
    I’m glad you enjoyed our capital and as Vesna said be sure to extend your next visit to other regions as well.. a mind blowing experience indeed.. food- and adrenalin-wise.
    But what I really wanted to say was that you misprinted “(Mesna Galerija)”.. it should be Mestna Galerija.. with the missing “T” it means the Meat Gallery and not the Town Gallery :D

    All the best!

    • Thank you Tamara – it was very cool to make the press because of this article. Not really my intention but I’m glad people seem genuinely thrilled by my love and appreciation for Ljubljana. I had such a memorable trip – it will be a tough holiday to eat!

  11. Thanks Adam for adding us to your list! And mostly welcome again ;) Next ARTish event will be held next Saturday (26th July). Hugs from Ljubljana!

  12. Zab and I visited Ljubljana in 2009 and we liked it well enough. We had a bad experience with our hostel and didn’t get much sleep so we probably weren’t in the best frame of mind to enjoy it properly! The food scene does sound pretty great (and vegetarian friendly) and you can’t really beat €1 for renting a bike for a whole week!

  13. If you to decide to visit Metelkova…

  14. If I may add: Hot Horse. That place was pretty good. =)

    • Is that the horse burger place?? I was really tempted to check it out but ran out of time. Was it really that good?

      • It was REALLY good. The burgers were huge. I kind of liked that it was in a park. The park was so pretty.

  15. Nika

    Well, thank you Adam, my friends just realized I am one of the reasons, why Ljubljana could be next Berlin (maybe it’s cause of the picture ;) ) :)

    It was great to get to know you, hope you had some good time in our little city :)

    See you!

    • Haha yes Nika – you definitely add the right amount of cool to Ljubljana :)

      Hope to see you again soon – in Ljub or Berlin!

  16. Ljubljana is one of those cities high on my lists to visit, your post convinced me to do so soon! Against the time I’m heading there, I will certainly read this post again for the great tips. Thanks, Adam!

  17. I need to be inducted into hipsterdom and hit this place up! It looks like a killer time.

  18. MojoJojo

    Its actually a pretty dull city.

    Offer of entertainment on Metelkova is pretty meagre and non-diverse. (gay club being the exception). Otherwise, clubs close early, there is really no profiled places (Rock, Goth, Electro …) (Orto bar being the only Rock bar in a city of 250.000)

    It is great if you are retired and you want a Prague, but completely safe at night or a young couple that wants to enjoy European East, just not as rugged as, say, Romania. Interesting food and drinks can be found anywhere in any part of the world.

    But all in all Ljubljana is a pretty face with little to offer.

    • wewewe

      Summer is the worst to visit Ljubljana – everyone is at the seaside and most clubs are closed because people who organize events are around on festivals and only tourists roam the city. If you want life come in spring or autumn when there are no holidays and students get back (mind a lot of fog in autumn).

    • tch

      maybe because rock sucks, lol

  19. I love, love, love Ljubljana! I visited just before you in May this year and was completely blown away by how ‘cool’ it is. I just wasn’t expecting it! As someone has said already, it has the perfect mix of things to do.

  20. Vesna

    Congratulation Adam. Great article about Ljubljana and things to do there. Hope to see you again in Slovenia so you can experience car sharing and get in touch with local gourmet experiences (frika, frtalja, Kobarid dumplings, Soca trout and much more) on a day tour from Ljubljana to the western Slovenia through Slocally. Pa dober tek/Have a good appetite.

  21. Wow… Sounds like my type of city! Thinking I’ll have to schedule a visit…

  22. Pingback: 10 reasons to love Ljubljana | The Travel Hack

  23. Welcome to Ljubljana everybody anytime! And all the good food we have on offer :) Cheers! Na zdravje! (PS: learning Slovenian is also very sexy and hipster :D )

  24. Ljubljana is definitely one of my favourite cities. Who could not fall in love with it?

  25. I am always delighted to hear outsider’s view on my hometown. Welcome back anyone anytime to experience Ljubljana cuisine in a different season (yes we go seasonal here :))

    • Hey Iva – so nice to see your comment. Definitely need to try some more of Ljubljana’s seasonal cuisine! I’m certain I’ll be back :-)

      • Or meet you in Berlin! Such an AWESOME city to live in too. Prost! :)

  26. Ljubljana looks like an amazing city! And cottage cheese pancakes sound delicious!

    • They were surprisingly yummy… Everything about Ljubljana was surprising, actually.

  27. We loved Ljubljana too and we thought it was a very cool city too. I wouldn’t mind going back there again if only to experience the Metelkova at night, we only walked in and saw it during the daytime.

    • Ah Franca – you have to see Metelkova at night… it’s such a crazy experience!

  28. Christian

    Totally agree, another great place to hangout is etno-muzej.si with bar, cafe

    • Good addition, Christian! I went to the Ethnographic Museum (etno-muzej.si) and saw a pretty bizarre but strangely interesting exhibition about doors there, so it’s definitely worth checking out! I still can’t get over how many different museums there are in Ljubljana – so much art & culture for such a small city!

  29. Ask Bob

    If I may hijack this article – a totally new ‘strictly personal’ advice about Ljubljana and alternative, non touristic spots in Slovenia. Ask Bob (TW: @AskBob_lj)

    • Cool – thanks for the tip Bob

  30. Ljubljana sounds like a lovely city – a good blend of art, culture, food and beautiful sights. I especially liked the local food part that one can dig in to any of it.

    • You’re right Renuka- Ljubljana is a perfect mix of all the fixin’s to make the best “hipster” city :)

  31. We just spent three nights in Ljubljana, and our hostel was in Metelkov. Overall, we had an amazing time! Knowing nothing about the city (or the country) going in, every twist and turn presented something fascinating, delicious and beautiful. I can’t wait to go back!

    • Jessi – you’re spot on! Ljubljana is probably the most surprising city I’ve visited in Europe in a looooong time. I fell in love with every little thing about the city.

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