As Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana should be high on your list of places to visit in this wonderful country!
However, Ljubljana is not what you normally would expect from a country’s capital. Ljubljana used to be a small provincial city within the Austrian empire, previous to the world wars. This means that the city has only recently been bombarded to the capital of Slovenia and therefore, it’s smaller and cosier than you would normally expect.
This has numerous advantages! The biggest advantage is without a doubt that you can do everything on foot here! That’s right, no need to use taxis or metros (there is no metro btw).
This was one of the things I loved most about Ljubljana, together with the baroque and art deco architecture you can find all over the city. In short, it’s a true gem you should definitely visit and even a place I see myself living for a while!
So, now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to visit, you might ask yourself, what is there to do in Ljubljana?
Below, I’ll give you an overview of all the highlights you should definitely see and all the things to do in Ljubljana you can’t miss if you spend one day in Ljubljana.
One day in Ljubljana: what to do
Before you do anything in Ljubljana, it’s important to walk to the tourist office and get some information there. You can get a map of the most important tourist sights for free! Then proceed to the following highlights:
Free Guided Tour
The best way to start your one day in Ljubljana is by taking a free guided tour. Yes, you’ve read that right. It is completely free! Except if you want to tip the guide of course, because that’s how they keep the organization running.
There are 3 types of tours that they offer. The first one is a general tour of the main highlights of Ljubljana’s old town. Another tour will also pass by the castle so you can enjoy the view. They also offer a special communist tour, as the city has a rich history from when it used to be under a communist regime. This last one, unfortunately, is not free.
Such a free tour is, by far, the best way to get to know a lot about Ljubljana and Slovenia as a country in a short amount of time. The tour only takes 2 hours, and by the end, you’ll feel like you know everything about the city! (At least I did!)
The Dragon’s Bridge is one of the many bridges that cross the river which runs all the way through the city of Ljubljana. The bridge is called this way because of the four dragons (two on each side) that are portrayed on it.
The dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana that appears both in the Ljubljana flag and the legend about the foundation of the city. According to this legend, the city would have been founded by Jason (a Greek hero) who ended up here with the Argonauts on their way back to Greece after stealing the Golden Fleece. In Ljubljana, he had to fight the dragon protecting the region before he could move on.
Butchers’ or Love Bridge
This more modern glass bridge will definitely attract your attention because of all the locks hanging on each side. Many couples come to immortalize their love for one another by hanging a lock here.
This is also the place where people will try to sell you a boat tour on the Ljubljana River. I haven’t personally tried it, because it seems like a very touristy thing to do (and the weather was too bad for it).
This bridge is special because it is essentially three bridges forming one, designed by one of Slovenia’s most famous architects, Plečnik.
It’s quite a special sight and it connects the heart of the old part of the city with the ‘newer’ part.
Cathedral St. Nicholas
The Cathedral is definitely a highlight you should see if you have only one day in Ljubljana. You’ll pay a small entrance fee (€2 I believe) to enter, or you can sneak in during one of the masses.
Definitely take your time to admire not only the inside but also the doors on the outside of the Cathedral, as they tell you more about the history of Slovenia.
If you want to see something besides historical buildings, then you should visit Metelkova Mesto, an alternative art centre. The only way to convey how special this place is, is by showing you pictures because it’s hard to describe the vibe in words!
Locals will meet here to make some music and have some fun, buildings are creatively decorated and the graffiti on the walls is pretty impressive.
Although it’s located a bit outside the heart of the centre, you should definitely take the time to walk up here. This will only take you 15 minutes.
Even though I haven’t visited the city hall on the inside myself, it’s definitely a building to put on your list when visiting Ljubljana. If you take the free guided tour, the guide will stop here and give you some explanation about it!
If you want to have the perfect view of Ljubljana, this is one of the 2 spots in the city you should visit! The castle of Ljubljana already exists for 900 years and has had several functions over these years.
Right now, it’s one of the main tourist attractions. Use an audio guide to get to know more about the castle’s history, or take an interactive wine tour to explore the castle in a totally different way. Do you want more adventure? Then the escape room will be probably be something for you!
There are two ways to get to the castle. Either you take a steep hike up the hill or you ride the funicular which involves no sweat but a small fee.
One of my favourite places to visit in Ljubljana was its food market! This covered market is a few hundred meters long and contains several food shops and bars. This is definitely the place to stop if you want to try some local Slovenian delicacies!
During my visit, I stopped for a snack at Moji Struklji where I tried one of their delicious dumplings. I must say I can highly recommend this! Further down the market, you’ll also notice places to buy some pastries etc. Something you can’t miss!
Next to the covered market, there’s also an open-air market where you’ll find the freshest fruit and vegetables all week every morning.
Preseren square & the pink church
In the heart of Ljubljana, you’ll find Preseren Square, named after the most famous poet of Slovenia who wrote the national anthem and whose statue can be admired on the square. Only spending one day in Ljubljana, you can’t miss this place!
Two other things will definitely attract your attention here. The first is a pink church, also called the Franziskaner Church. This 17-century old church can be visited for free, so definitely take a look inside!
The second is Ljubljana’s own weather, a circle in the middle of the square where it always rains. Don’t worry, you can just walk around it, but it got me puzzled for a long time when I first saw it!
If you don’t believe in eternal rain, you might want to check out how it works yourself ;).
Congress Square is where all the big events in Ljubljana happen. During summer you’ll be able to enjoy Ljubljana’s Summer Festival here.
If you fancy more classical music, this is definitely an event you don’t want to miss. Find more info about the Festival here.
Once the tallest building in the Balkans, the ‘Skyscraper’, as it is named, gives you the most complete view over the entire city of Ljubljana. On top of this large building, you’ll find a lovely cafe where you can enjoy a drink and a view at the same time!
Unfortunately, at the time of my visit, it was closed because of pandemic restrictions but I hope it will reopen soon!
This large park, apparently larger than Central Park in New York, is located a ten-minute walk away from the old town and perfect if you want to cool down, read a book or have some relaxation time in nature.
The large promenade leading into the park is also often used by photographers to exhibit their work. At the time of my visit, there was an exhibition about choir photography.
In Tivoli Park, you’ll also find the International Centre of Graphic Arts and Svicarija Creative Centre.
Museum of Illusions
If you’re tired of all the historical and educational sights in Ljubljana, then you might enjoy the Museum of Illusions!
This is a place to not be too serious and get puzzled by the numerous illusions you’ll see. If you’ve taken the free walking tour, ask your guide for a discount code to this museum!
Where to eat
Although Ljubljana is quite small for a capital city, there are a lot of choices when it comes to food! You’ll find many restaurants and bars at the waterside and if you take the guided tour, the guide will happily recommend some places for you. However, I found 2 places, in particular, to be quite charming.
Also, don’t immediately go to the place that makes the most advertisement, take your time to check the reviews beforehand!
As I mentioned before, you can find lots of food at the Central Market. Whether you just want a quick snack or you’re looking for a place to have lunch, this is where you should be! Taste local dumplings at Moji Struklji and lovely Slovenian pastry at other shops.
If you don’t feel like tasting Slovenian cuisine, then you might find something you like in the street called ‘Trubarjeva cesta’ where they have everything from Korean street food to Italian pizza and pasta.
How to get to Ljubljana
When going to Slovenia, most people fly into Ljubljana and take the city as their base camp to explore the rest of the country. Ljubljana has the largest airport in Slovenia so this is a perfect option for you if you’re coming from afar! However, this might not be the perfect option for you if you’re only spending one day in Ljubljana.
Otherwise, the city is also very accessible by car since the few highways that the country counts all pass around it. Parking in the city centre is perfectly possible in underground parking, but this will likely cost you more than €20 a day!
Of course, you can also arrive by train in Ljubljana. The train station is located close to Metelkova Mesto and thus a 15-minute walk from the old town.
The old town itself is free of cars and pretty small, so it’s absolutely no problem to see everything on foot.
Have a great time!
So, right now I gave you all the information and tips I have about visiting Ljubljana in one day. I really hope these are useful to you and that you’ll have a great time exploring this wonderful city!
If you’re also looking for other day trips in Slovenia, then you might want to take a look at my guide to Vintgar Gorge!