To be completely honest with you, our trip to Ljubljana (yes, I’ll tell you how to pronounce that in a sec) was mostly out of convenience rather than desire. Jase (my husband) had a business trip planned in the city. So we decided to turn it into a long weekend and see somewhere new and different. However, I couldn’t be more thankful that we ended up visiting this beautiful little place. We loved it so much that we hope to go back to see some more of Slovenia one day. Ok now all together – “loob-lee-ah-nuh”. Yes… it takes a few goes!
In preparation for our trip Jase had been chatting with a colleague who happened to live in Ljubljana. This is when we learned that local Slovenians call Ljubljana their ‘little Paris’. That’s when I started getting pretty excited! Ljubljana was already a mystery to me and with this new gem of information I really had no idea what to expect. But I was sure it was going to be good.
So here it is, my thoughts on why I think locals call Ljubljana their ‘little Paris’:
1. It’s a flower lovers wonderland
Something I noticed right away was people everywhere with big bunches of beautiful flowers. They are walking the streets with flowers, sitting at cafes with flowers, taking their flowers for rides in bicycle baskets. So naturally I had to find out immediately where they were all getting these flowers from. Then I had to get myself a bunch – regardless of the fact that we were only in Ljubljana for two nights. That was an irrelevant detail (Jase didn’t think it was so irrelevant, but anyway). After a quick google I discovered that the flowers were coming from the Central Market. So that is where we headed. And I was not disappointed, it was flower heaven. Stalls and stalls of fresh blooms in every colour imaginable. With a selection of roses that would make any girl swoon – a little slice of Paris!
2. The riverside strolls
The gemstone green river Ljubljanica flows through the city and is the heart of Ljubljana’s social life. It is scattered with vibrant cafes, famous bridges, charming wooden cruise boats, picturesque buildings and beautiful embankments. And as you walk through the weeping willow-lined terrace you can’t help but feel a little Parisian déjà-vu. This feeling all made a lot of sense once I learnt that architect Jože Plečnik, who designed the city centre’s river embankments, tree-lined riverside walks and some of the river’s bridges, had a style that was very much influenced by his trips to Paris. If you visit in summer you can even hire a canoe and paddle through the heart of the city – a bonus little bit of Venice too!
3. There’s that little taste of art nouveau
While Paris isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think Art Nouveau, it is dotted with a few little gems. And yes you guessed it, Ljubljana also has some Art Nouveau treasures to discover. The earliest and most significant Art Nouveau creation was the Dragon Bridge, which was built in 1901. Most of the city’s Art Nouveau buildings run along the Miklošičeva ulica street but some can also be found in the surrounding areas. One that stood out most to me was The Cooperative Business Bank building with a colourful mosaic of tiles covering its façade. It has even been referred to as “the most beautiful building” in Ljubljana.
4. It’s a city of love
Apart from the fact that the city is full of couples holding hands, big bunches of flowers, charming boats and weeping willow lined walkways – the name ‘Ljubljana’ is also a little loved up. ‘Ljubljana’ is almost the same as the Slovenian word ‘ljubljena’, which means ‘beloved’. It’s just too good isn’t it? Watch out Paris.
5. It’s a foodies paradise
As we all know Paris is home to a multitude of culinary delights but perhaps this is something you may not have expected from Ljubljana? With a Germanic, Mediterranean and Yugoslavian influence, Slovenian meals are laden with cured meats, delicious cheeses, pickled vegetables, artisan bread, local wine and craft beer. Try Julia for a traditional Slovenian meal! Speaking of ice-cream the main kind here is gelato, and most are made in-house. We tested out Vigo Ice Cream and it was delicious. But I’ve also heard great things about Cacao which has stunning riverside seating.
If you are around in June the Flow Festival celebrates Ljubljana’s gourmet scene. There is also the Open Kitchen Foodie Festival which opens over several weekends in summer. Ljubljana holds an International Wine Festival in October and Wine Route Festival in November. Or you can join a food walk any time of the year and hop from one culinary heaven to another.
Some of the must have Slovenian foodie souvenirs include:
- Piran Salt: Produced using a traditional 700-year-old technique, this salt is rich in minerals from the sea and has a unique taste. Taken very seriously the salt has a protected designation or origin (also known as a PDO). Which means it is on par with other world-renowned products including champagne, parma ham and parmesan cheese!
- Homemade schnapps: As the national drink of choice, schnapps is homemade in many small rural communities and comes in an array of flavours. However blueberry, honey and pear are the most traditional.
- Pumpkin seed oil: Said to be packed full of health benefits pumpkin seed oil dates to at least the 17th century. It is produced from a small pumpkin which is specifically grown for this purpose. With a deliciously nutty flavour the oil can be used in everything from salads to sauces to ice-cream. It’s characteristically deep green colour comes from the rich source chlorophyll in the seeds. So don’t get spooked when you go to put some olive oil on your bread and it is a little too green… most restaurants have pumpkin seed oil at their tables. Oh and a little tip we got from a waiter, try it on ice-cream. It’s unexpectedly scrumptious.
6. The laid back coffee culture
They do their coffee very well in Ljubljana and the Old Town is the perfect place to sip your way through one… or two. Pick a café that looks over the river, or a find a hidden gem in among the cobbled stone streets. Soak up some sunshine and listen to the street musicians and bustle of the town at an outdoor table or cosy up with a book inside. No matter your choice of scenery you are guaranteed to find a good coffee in Ljubljana. Cafetino was our favourite find. They have a wide variety of fair trade coffee blends, and as a bonus they also sell the beans so you can take your favourite home with you.
7. Those city views
Unfortunately there isn’t an Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe to gaze over the city from. However, there is a pretty gorgeous castle instead! Built in the middle of the 15th century, Ljubljana Castle offers a spectacular view over the city. Perched on a hill with pathways leading up from several different points around the city, you can easily walk up and down. Or there is a funicular (sounds fun right?) you can hop on to get up and/or down. It’s completely free if you choose to walk and wander around the castle courtyard, where you can grab a cup of coffee and slice of cake and enjoy the views.
8. Their green city efforts
The Paris Agreement will start in 2020 and have a focus on reducing greenhouse gases. However, Ljubljana is already a step ahead and setting a fantastic example for green city efforts. In the past 10-15 years Ljubljana has been making a huge effort to become a more sustainable city. And as a result was awarded European Green Capital 2016. The city is one of a handful of European capitals which can boast natural drinking water without prior treatment. Once a hub for cars and buses, the city centre is now a mostly a traffic free zone dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists. Ljubljana also has the highest share of separated waste collected and is the first capital in the EU to take part in the Zerowaste program. All of this together with the 80 hectares of newly maintained green spaces make Ljubljana a dreamy little haven to explore.
9. It’s fun to say
Yeah I know, this shouldn’t really count as a point. But you can’t deny it… So where to next? Will it be pah-rhee or perhaps you’ll try somewhere different and discover the delights of loob-lee-ah-nuh?
If you’ve been to Ljubljana is there anything you’d add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
Want to see a little more of Ljubljana? Take a peek at my highlights video below and subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be the first to see the newest Jayde Archives videos!