Slovenia Travel Guide
Slovenia Travel Guide
Have you ever thought about visiting Slovenia, a country located at the heart of Europe bordering the Alps and touching the Mediterranean Sea? I spent a few days there for New Years and I’m happy to share my Slovenia Travel Guide, with many tips and recommendations so you can have a great getaway in this beautiful country.
In the middle of Europe bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and the Mediterranean Sea, Slovenia might be small in size but it has many diverse places to offer to visitors. It is undoubtedly a hidden gem that you should add to your European bucket list.
When visiting Slovenia, most people choose to stay a few days in the capital Ljubljana and combine it with a day trip to Lake Bled, probably the most famous highlight of the country. But there is much more to see in Slovenia, from mountains, forests and caves to fairytale villages and castles. So I recommend you to spend some extra days if possible, exploring other equally interesting areas of the country.
It’s quite easy to get to Slovenia. There are many flights and trains from several European cities to Ljubljana. In Slovenia you can travel by bus or train, I’ve read it is affordable and efficient. But I would recommend to rent a car, which will give you the flexibility to go around at your own pace. In fact, Slovenia is a perfect destination for a roadtrip.
I stayed two days in Ljubljana when I arrived to Slovenia. Ljubljana is a small city and almost everything is walking distance, so you don’t need to worry about transport. After visiting the capital, I rented a car to explore other areas of the country for three more days. As I didn’t have much time, I decided to focus on the places I wanted to visit the most – Lake Bled and the mountains. But I wish I had more time to know other regions in the country and I will also refer in my Slovenia Travel Guide to some of the places I would have liked to visit.
Ljubljana is a small but lovely and picturesque city that looks like a fairytale. You can easily see its main highlights in one day if you’re stretched on time. But I definitely recommend to stay for an extra day to enjoy at a slow pace everything that Slovenia capital has to offer. From its charming cobbled stone streets with traditional shops to the many restaurants with delicious typical food and great terraces facing Ljubljanica river, you will find plenty of things to do.
Did you know that the dragon is the official symbol of Ljubljana? According to the legend, Ljubljana was founded by the Greek hero Jason, who fought and defeated a dragon that lived in a lake near the source of Ljubljanica river. Throughout the centuries, the dragon became a symbolic protector of the city, representing power, courage and wisdom. This is why you will see dragons everywhere, including in the Dragon Bridge next to the city centre, with four dragon statues.
During Christmas time, you will find Preseren Square beautifully ornamented with decorations and Christmas markets. Unfortunately when I visited Ljubljana some of the Christmas markets were closed due to covid restrictions, but still the decorations were lovely and it highly ranked in my European favourite Christmas destinations.
Ljubljanica river crosses the capital, so there are several bridges connecting the two sides of the city. Besides Dragon Bridge that I mentioned before, the Triple Bridge is one of the iconic landmarks of the city, connecting Preseren Square with Ljublana Old Town. Between Triple Bridge and Dragon bridge, you will find another interesting one, Butcher’s Bridge which is full of love chains.
At the other side of the river, walk by the Old Town and get lost in the cobbled stone streets full of typical shops and charming restaurants and coffee houses. In that area of the city don’t miss the Town Hall and its art exhibitions, the Robba fountain with an obelisk, and Ljubljana Cathedral with impressive frescoes. Try some local food or buy handcrafted souvenirs at the Central Market.
From the Old Town you can get to Ljubljana Castle walking up the hill just in the middle of the city. It’s an easy walk that will take you less than 15 minutes, but you can also take a funicular to get there. It’s really worth to visit this castle that has dominated the landscape of the city for more than 900 years. There are different attractions in the castle, from the Outlook Tower with great views to Ljubljana, to an exhibition of Slovenian History, a chapel, a puppet museum and an Escape Castle experience.
If you are looking for some green areas in Ljubljana, you will find plenty of options. In fact it is considered one of the greenest cities in Europe. My favourite green area in the city is Tivoli Park with 5 square kilometres comprising Tivoli Castle housing the International Centre of Graphic Arts, many statues, fountains and walking paths. If you are lucky, you will meet one of the friendly squirrels of Tivoli Park which seem to be quite used to visitors.
Last but not least, for the most amazing views to the centre of Ljubljana and its castle, go to the Skyscraper in Neboticnik building. At the top of this building there is a rooftop terrace with the best Ljubljana views. The entrance is free, but there is a nice bar and restaurant so you can seat grabbing some food and drinks and enjoying the views.
Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves
Less than 1hour driving from Ljubljana you will find Predjama Castle, one of the most unique castles in the world and the largest built in a cave. With more than 800 years, it was rebuilt in a Renaissance style in 1570. Due to its strategic position perched in the rocks, it was a perfect place for hideaway in ancient times. Behind the castle there is a network of secret tunnels.
You can combine the visit to Predjama Castle with Postojna Caves, a wonder world below surface with a more than 24 kilometres long cave system accessible to visitors. It offers vast halls, subterranean rivers and the famous cave formation called Brilliant, a magnificent five metre-tall bright-white stalagmite.
If you decide to go to Slovenia, I’m pretty sure you have Lake Bled in your bucket list. Even if it’s one of the most visited locations in the country, it’s definitely a mandatory place to explore and I guarantee you that it is totally worth it.
It is quite easy to get there driving by car (less than 1h from Ljubljana) or taking a bus. You can either stay around for a few days to have enough time to explore it at a your own pace or to go for a day trip. That’s what I did and I wish I had some extra time in the area.
So what to do in Lake Bled? It is a world known destination for its beautiful landscapes to the surrounding mountains and Castle Bled, but most of all it is famous by the picturesque small island at the middle of the lake with a beautiful church.
First of all, I highly recommend to spend some time walking around the lake and admiring the beautiful views. To circle the lake it will take you around one hour and a half and it is a lovely stroll.
If you love hiking, it’s worth to spend some time going to Mala Osojnica viewpoint, from where you will have some of the best views to the lake and Bled Island. It takes approximately 45m to get there through a steep forest path, but according to some pictures I saw online, the views are really beautiful. Actually many of the photos you will see from Lake Bled are taken from there.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the fairytale Bled Island. From the lake shores, you can take a pletna ride (a typical boat gondola-like holding up to 20 people) or rent a small boat and paddle to the island.
When you arrive to the island, visit the Church of the Mother of God. It was was built in 745 and renovated in 1465, and before there was in the same place a temple dedicated to the pagan goddess of fertility and life. You have to pay a small fee to enter but you can access the cock tower. Ring the wishing bell, it is kind of a tradition among the visitors. It is said if you ring the bell, your wishes might come true.
After visiting the lake area, head to the castle uphill. It is worth a visit for the castle itself that you can visit paying an entrance fee, and also for some more amazing views to the lake. I went there at the sunset and it was gorgeous.
Last but no least, don’t leave the area without tasting the famous (and delicious) Bled cake.
Located only a few kilometres from the centre of Bled, Vintgar Gorge on the eastern part of Triglav National Park has 1600m long and 250m deep.
When I went to Slovenia it was closed because it was off season, but I would love to go back and explore the trails across the gorge and wooden bridges with views to Radovna river and its waterfalls and rapids. I saw many pictures and it looks amazing.
Two must see highlights in the gorge are the Sum Waterfalls visible from panoramic platforms and the stone bridge of the Bohinj Railway.
If you have enough time in Slovenia, don’t miss the opportunity to go to Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park, located in the Julian Alps in a glacier valley.
It is the largest natural lake in Slovenia offering beautiful landscapes and many options of outdoor activities like hiking, waterfall trekking, paragliding or biking.
The highlights in this area include Savica Waterfall, Mostnica Gorge, Voje Valley and the beautiful Church of St. John the Baptist with more than 700 years old at the shores of the lake. It is also possible to take a panoramic cable car to Vogel at more than 1500m with spectacular views to the mountains.
Considered the capital of the Slovenian Alps and the cultural heart of the country (the famous poet France Prešeren lived there), you should add Kranj to your Slovenia Travel Guide.
With breathtaking views to the surrounding mountains, Kranj is a lively city with a charming Old Town standing on a 30m high rock between Sava and Kokra rivers and protected as a cultural monument.
It has three churches, being the largest one the Gothic church of St. Cantianus, and some remarkable townhouses like the Toll House, the Pavšlar House, or the Old Post Office.
One of my favourite areas in Slovenia was Zgorne Jezersko, a pristine mountain valley surrounded by the Slovenian Alps. It is located less than one hour driving from Ljubljana and it is a great location in Winter if you love snowy landscapes, outdoor activities and Winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing or iceskating.
If you are in this area don’t miss Planšarsko jezero, also known as Lake Planšar. It is worth to spend a few hours enjoying the lake views or exploring the nearby nature. For the best mountain views and hiking, I will share a great tip given by a local. If you take the road at the right side circling the lake, in less than 30m walking you will be in a beautiful valley with stunning views to the surrounding Alps.
For more travel inspiration about Winter destinations in Europe, don’t miss my blog posts Ultimate Vienna Travel Guide and Travel Guide to Bavaria in Germany.