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Lovely Ljubljana: Top things to do in Slovenia’s capital

… This is a Guest Post by Anna Kay from Med Cruise Guide …

Imagine living three hours from Venice, one hour from the Adriatic Sea, one hour from spectacular skiing in Austrian Alps and half an hour from one of the most beautiful lakes in the Slovenian Alps. Well, Ljubljana, the tiny capital of Slovenia fits the bill perfectly, and it’s no wonder it has become a magnet for travelers from around the world.

Founded by the Romans in 50 B.C., this city boasts a colourful history, easy-going lifestyle and is a great hub for exploring the surrounding mountains, coast and some of the most famous destinations in the world. Leafy greenery, incredible architecture and the emerald waters of the Ljubljanica river define what is one of eastern Europe’s most picturesque cityscapes.

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your visit to this charming hotspot between the Alps and the sea:

Travel Back in Time at the Ljubljana Castle

The Ljubljana Castle is hard to miss – it is located on a hill towering above the Old Town centre, and it offers sprawling views of the city.

Thousands of years ago the hill was a vantage point to spot approaching enemies and take quick action to stave off incursions. Today, it is a popular viewpoint and the castle itself is replete with history and enough charm to spend a leisurely hour or two.

Ljubljana Castle, Slovenia

The outlook tower, which was raised by 1.2 metres (4 ft) by the government over two decades ago, is located in the heart of the castle’s yard. The top of the tower is often the default first stop that offers fantastic city views from a small platform – if you’re afraid of heights, make sure you steady yourself!

The castle has an interesting exhibition on Slovene history, guided views of the interiors and a Museum of Puppetry. Guided tours are the most popular way of exploring the castle, which includes a Baroque style chapel and an art gallery showcasing temporary exhibitions.

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Events and workshops for kids and adults are quite common, but expect over a hundred participants. Outside the castle is a dark, humid dungeon that eerily enough contains ancient human skeletal remains.

The restaurant on top is one of Slovenia’s best, serving a good choice of contemporary dishes and popular recipes from the medieval era. It’s worth a visit after climbing up to the Castle and taking in the views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

Take a Romantic Boat Ride on the Ljubljanica River

The river Ljubljanica adds old-world charm to the cityscape. On the water, you’re away from the urban buzz and in a quiet zone.

Ljubljanica river boat tours are a popular thing to do in Slovenia's capital

In the early 19th century, it was a popular channel of transport and today, a boat ride on Ljubljanica is a part of most city tours. You can enjoy waterline views of the city in a sturdy pontoon, gazing at the lovely architecture and natural beauty around you.

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You can go as part of a large group or book a private tour for two. Ljubljanica river boat tours are often combined with walking tours; some boat tours include a restaurant visit while others may serve you drinks and snacks on-board. As they say, whatever floats your boat!

Eat at the Laid Back Riverside Restaurants and Cafes

Ljubljana’s reputation as a restaurant city has only grown in recent years. Not surprisingly, visitors have taken a shine to the cafes and eat outs lining the Ljubljanica river. Even if you get here late in the evening, you’ll have many fellow diners for company.

Mediterranean cuisine is well represented on all menus, with the classic goulash and polenta, pork stuffed with spinach and cheese, and a full seafood menu, particularly seabass, calamari and octopus.

Ljubljana’s Riverside Restaurants and Cafes attract diners well into the evening

If you can, reserve a table at Manna, one of the seven Slovene restaurants featured on the Gault-Millau guide. The restaurant’s organic, healthy choices apart, the extensive wine list – with up to 300 names – and over 20 brands of top-branded cigars keep the meal interesting.

For more exotic cuisine, head to Špajza, located in an old house with a number of small dining rooms that serve delicious duck breasts with cognac and figs and seabass fillet with fennel and saffron sauce.

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For light snacks and a selection of more than 100 different teas, stop by Čajna Hiša in the old town. The cafe serves cakes, cocktails, sweets, sandwiches, seeded rolls, ice-cream and natural juices.

Beside the tasty meals and great wine, the riverside restaurants offer fine views of the city and provide a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Order a glass of wine and immerse yourself in the everyday life of Ljubljana’s lucky inhabitants.

Get Lost in the Old Town Streets

The old town is the area below the castle hill on the right bank of the Ljubljanica river. It comprises the town square, old square and upper square that join each other seamlessly at the foot of the hill.

The old town centre is home to Ljubljana Cathedral, Prešernov Trg square, Town Hall, Triple Bridge, buildings with Baroque facades, and a variety of shops, restaurants and bars.

Ljubljana’s Old Town Centre features Baroque buildings, markets, shops and restaurants

Though you can shop for honey, sea salt and jams in the large market or pick up souvenirs at boutiques, a lot of people are just content strolling the cobblestone streets or basking in the relaxing, romantic feel of the town centre.

Ljubljana feels quite different to other cities in this part of Europe, and its distinct charm leaves an indelible impression on you. If you can, plan a visit to the capital during the festive season when the old town looks especially beautiful with Christmas lights and decorations.

Anna Kay is an avid traveler and photographer, editor and social media manager at MedCruiseGuide.com. She loves exploring and island-hopping across the Mediterranean, and can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

View of the Ljubljana's Centre from the Bank of Ljubljanica River

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