10 things to do in Ljubljana

The Slovenian capital may be compact, but that doesn’t stop leafy, pretty Ljubljana from packing a punch when it comes to things to see and do. Here are 10 experiences not to miss out on during a trip.

King of the castle

Ljubljana Castle towers above the city on its own hilltop – presumably the very thing that made it an attractive place for a fortress in the first place. Although there’s a funicular to take visitors there and back, if you’ve got a spring in your step, hike up the well-signed path through the woods instead. You’ll find phenomenal 360-degree views atop the viewing tower, a “virtual castle” film showing the building’s history, a chapel and penitentiary exhibit, plus two onsite museums and a restaurant overlooking the city. Open June to September 9am-9pm; shorter opening hours the remainder of the year. Entry €13 (£12) (includes return funicular journey) or free with a Ljubljana card (as are most other activities included in this piece).

Ljubljana Castle is a distinctive landmark above the city (Getty/iStock)
Ljubljana Castle is a distinctive landmark above the city (Getty/iStock)

Stand up and paddle

See the city from the Ljubljanica river’s blue-green waters on a stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) excursion with Bananaway. Participants can choose from an “urban” SUP tour, which takes them through the heart of the city, or an “into the wild” SUP tour, which heads away from town, winding up in the countryside within a five-minute paddle. All equipment, guides and introduction to SUP included. (Just be warned – if it’s raining tours may be called off.) Two-hour tour: €39pp.

Stand-up paddle boarding is a great way to explore (Getty)
Stand-up paddle boarding is a great way to explore (Getty)

Follow the moustaches

Launched a year ago, the quirky Moustache Tour takes visitors on a journey all around the city, framed through the lives of Ljubljana’s three most prominent men with facial hair: Joze Plecnik (architect), Ivan Cankar (writer) and Rihard Jakopic (artist). In this whirlwind bike tour, you get to see some of the city’s best attractions, drink a hot tea with rum and even get a free, snazzy moustache T-shirt. The price of €45 includes bike rental, tour guide, a drink and cake and brief entry into six attractions. Runs every Friday at 3pm, lasting three to four hours.

Snap a weird selfie

Looking for an hour of the bizarre? The Museum of Illusions is as fun as it is ridiculous, offering a host of interactive exhibitions over three floors, many of which are set up to be captured on your smartphone. It finishes up with a mind-bending vortex tunnel and a range of brain-busting puzzles to remind you why Mensa never pursued you for membership. Open Monday to Friday, 8am-4pm; entry €9.50.

We heart art

Hit up the Museum of Modern Art, a genuinely lovely space to do some chin stroking and art appreciation. It’s dedicated to Slovenian contemporary art from the 20th century and features a natty cafe in the basement. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-6pm; entry €5.

Visit the Museum of Modern Art (Getty)
Visit the Museum of Modern Art (Getty)

Elsewhere, the International Centre of Graphic Arts sits in a gorgeous location in Tivoli Park, displaying the largest Slovenian collection of modern fine-art prints and original publications – it houses more than 10,000 pieces. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-6pm; entry €5.

Eat a gut-busting delicacy

Struklji – hefty baked rolls of filo pastry – are a true Slovenian favourite. They come in sweet or savoury varieties, packed with different flavours between the layers of dough and topped with breadcrumbs. Tarragon is typical, but make sure you follow it up with a dessert struklji such as raspberry or blueberry.

Struklji are hefty baked rolls of filo pastry (Getty/iStock)
Struklji are hefty baked rolls of filo pastry (Getty/iStock)

Down the hatch

For a home-grown beer, swing by Union next to Tivoli park. It’s on the site of the 155-year-old Union brewery and some of the libations they serve can’t be found anywhere else in the city. Don’t miss out on the brewery tour – the 90-minute experience is brilliant, taking you through the entire beer-making process with generous servings of Union lager and amber beer along the way; €14.

Walk in the park

Tivoli Park is Ljubljana’s biggest, spanning a whopping 5sq km. Designed in 1813 by French engineer Jean Blanchard, it was created by joining together the parks surrounding Podturn and Cekin Mansions.

Tivoli is the biggest park in Ljublana (iStock/Getty)
Tivoli is the biggest park in Ljublana (iStock/Getty)

These days, it draws locals and visitors alike with horse chestnut tree-lined walks, landscaped ornamental flower beds, outdoor galleries and numerous statues and fountains. There are several trails for hiking and the park also encompasses Roznik hill, atop of which stands the jaunty pink 18th-century Church of the Visitation and a shrine to famous Slovenian writer Ivan Canker.

Grab some street food

Open Kitchen – a collection of stalls showcasing cuisine from some of the city’s best restaurants – happens every Friday in Pogacar Square. Buy street food from top Slovenian chefs to a soundtrack of live music. Open from mid-March to October, weather permitting.

Become a spy

Just a 40-minute drive from the city are two hard-hitting attractions in one place: the famed Postojna Cave and the neighbouring The Secret Rooms of Hotel Jama, a new experience for this year. The latter is a fun interactive tour of a hidden communication centre dating back to when the country was part of the former Yugoslavia, uncovered while the hotel was being renovated in 2016. Led by a guide who hams up the secret service element, the experience is high-tech and truly immersive. Be warned: the walls have ears. Tours last 90 minutes and cost €25.