MummyTravels guide to Ljubljana
Ljubljana is one of Europe’s most underrated cities for a weekend break. Despite being the capital of Slovenia, its Art Nouveau architecture, compact pedestrian centre, riverside cafes, history and culture tend to get overlooked – check out my 13 reasons to visit if you need tempting.
And it’s even further under the radar if you’re travelling with kids. I visited with a friend, on one of my rare child-free weekends, but it’s hugely family-friendly and I wouldn’t hesitate to head back with my daughter.
So here is my guide to Ljubljana (with or without kids) – as ever, do add your own tips and suggestions in the comments.
Both easyJet and WizzAir fly direct to Ljubljana – the former from Stansted, the latter from Luton, which means plenty of bargain fares (although some early starts to go with them). During the summer Adria Airways also flies direct to London and Manchester.
If you’ve got a bit more time to kill, it’s worth remembering that Ljubljana is only around one hour from Trieste or 90 minutes from Zagreb, and less than three hours from Venice.
The airport is 27km outside the city, around a 30 minute drive. You can get a taxi, but much cheaper are transfers like Go Opti and Get Your Guide – shared ones are less, but might involve some hanging around, while private ones cost me around £17.50 for two people. Still a lot less than a cab. There’s also a bus which runs every one to two hours.
Once you get into Ljubljana, it’s easiest to walk – the centre is pedestrianised and if you do need a lift, small electric buggies pick people up for free. Chances are, you won’t. There’s a bike hire scheme similar to London and Paris too.
Where to stay
I stayed at the Vander Urbani Hotel right in the centre of the city, walking distance from the river and most of the main sites. It also has one of Ljubljana’s best restaurants so make sure you book it.
If you’re travelling solo, Hostel Celicaa converted prison is also an incredibly quirky place to stay. Otherwise, the city is generally family-friendly and several major hotel chains have properties in Ljubljana, while there are plenty of AirBNB* options too.
What to see
A lot of Ljubljana’s charm is wandering around, stopping at cafes and enjoying the scenery. But there’s plenty to do, from museums to the castle and more.
One of the best ways to get your bearings and find out more about the city is on one of the many tours – there’s a popular free walking tour which takes place every day.
Or you can also find a great bike tour, a foodie tour of the city and another specialising in the capital’s Communist history – my top three tours of Ljubljana.
If you’re visiting as a family, there’s something for all age groups as well. From zoos to plenty of open green space, dragons to spot, museums and more, here are my top 15 things to do with kids.
What to eat
Traditional Slovenian dishes might not be too well-known outside the country but there’s plenty you’ll enjoy including fresh fish from the coast, hearty dumplings with meat, apple strudel and local wine, as well as a lot of organic and sustainable ingredients. I found the restaurants and cafes were particularly good at highlighting allergens, so if you’re allergic to lactose or gluten, you’ll still have a lot of choice.
Head to the banks of the Ljubljanica river, where cafe after bar after restaurant line the waterside. Unless you’re there in the depths of midwinter, it’s a great place to sit with a drink or a meal, with blankets and heaters taking the edge off the chill – along with the ‘kuhano vino’ or mulled wine, which helps too.
Between Spring and the end of October, Open Kitchen runs by the central market on Fridays which stalls serving food cooked by different city restaurants. One not to miss. Keep an eye out for food festivals taking place in the square at weekends as well.
As well as the restaurant at Vander Urbani, we also stopped at Druga Violina for a traditional Slovene menu. The restaurant employs some staff with Downs Syndrome to help give them experience and start a career.
Plan your visit
Check out my tips for planning your visit to Ljubljana including when to go and getting the most from your time there, including more details on the Ljublajana card and whether it’s worth picking one up.
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