Slovenia – Ljubljana
Slovenia is approximately half the size of Switzerland. It’s pristine, is dotted with charming villages, the locals are warm and welcoming, and the country is bestowed with extraordinary natural beauty: from lakes and waterfalls to gorges, endless hiking trails, soaring mountain peaks, and spectacular caves.
Ljubljana – Slovenia’s capital city – surrounds an enchanting Old Town that transports one to a romantic bygone era.
A grand 17th century rose-colored Franciscan Church dominates bustling Prešeren Square, named after the great Slovenian poet France Prešeren. Beyond the square, Triple Bridge, a cluster of three bridges that straddle the Ljubljanica River, connects the modern city and the ancient medieval city.
To the left of the bridges, a covered walkway- Plecnik Arcade- leads to the vibrant Central Market, Butcher’s Bridge, and Dragon’s Bridge.
Tip: On Krekov trg (street) just steps from the market, there’s an excellent tourist information office where the staff is most helpful. The tourist office just beyond Triple Bridge is crowded, and the staff tends to be brusque and offhanded.
Stroll the meandering cobblestone streets, admire the architecture, the stores, the restaurants, the riverside outdoor cafés, and the boats going back and forth on the Ljubljanica River. Tired of walking? Take a scenic river cruise.
Gornji trg (street) is a cobbled street in a quiet area that winds uphill. One passes cozy cafés and tiny shops, and on the left, a path that leads uphill to the castle.
It’s a beautiful walk along a wooded lane lined by ancient stone walls covered in moss and lichen, and weathered red-tile roofed houses, which cascade down the hillside. The landscape of modern and historic Ljubljana gradually unfolds like a fan the higher one climbs.
The medieval castle – originally a fort – sits atop a hill with a three-hundred and sixty-degree view of its surroundings. Over the past nine hundred years, it has served as a prison, army barracks, and regional governor’s office. Today it functions as a jazz club, houses three restaurants, a puppet museum, a wine store, and hosts cultural events.
Back in Old Town, visit Cobblers’ Bridge. Originally a wooden bridge, it was lined with cobblers’ workshops. Cross the bridge to Zidovska Ulica (Jewish Street) and Zidovska steza (Jewish Lane), which were once home to Ljubljana’s Jewish community. Evidence of a Jewish presence in Slovenia goes back to the 5th century. Jews and Christians coexisted harmoniously in Slovenia until the mid-15th century when antisemitism of the Catholic Church forced their expulsion. Today a tiny museum on picturesque Krizevniska Ulica, a five-minute walk from Cobblers’ Bridge, is the only remaining trace of Jewish life in Slovenia. Call ahead of time if you’re interested in visiting this little gem of a museum and cultural center.
On Sundays, from around 1.30 pm, locals descend on the restaurants to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch with family and friends. It’s impossible to get a table without prior reservations, especially in those restaurants that serve traditional Slovenian food. Slovenia House, located on a main street outside Old Town, has a menu that offers old family favorites among them: stewed veal with vegetables, cabbage in cracked pork fat, and onions fried in cracked pork fat. Gujzina, at 19 Mestni trg (street) in Old Town, also serves traditional Slovenian favorites, including several vegan dishes. Every visitor to Ljubljana should try the struklji (dumplings) at Moji, located in Plecnik’s arcade, adjacent to the market. They offer a mouthwatering array of savory and sweet dumplings.