Must-See Attractions in Ljubljana

Ljubljanica River│© Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr
Ljubljanica River│© Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr
Photo of Mark Nayler
2 August 2021

Ljubljana’s status as one of Europe’s smallest capitals in no way holds it back. As well as hosting over 10,000 cultural events every year – including international music and arts festivals – it offers plenty to engage the curious traveller, including a medieval hilltop fortress. The city is centred around the winding Ljubljanica River, dotted with cafes, townhouses and the enormous Tivoli Park. Explore the best of Slovenia’s capital with our guide to the unmissable sights in town.

Walk across the Dragon Bridge

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Dragon bridge, Ljubljana, Slovenia, Europe.
© Matej Kastelic / Alamy Stock Photo
There are two legends associated with the Dragon Bridge, built in 1901. The first states that Jason, the ancient Greek mythological hero, founded the city of Ljubljana by killing a dragon – that same notorious dragon is now portrayed in one of the four sheet-copper statues that decorate the bridge. The second legend claims that the four dragons the bridge is named after, wag their tails every time a virgin passes by. The beautiful structure of the bridge and the legends associated with it have made it one of the city’s key attractions.

Discover Ljubljana Castle

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View of Congress Square, the  Slovenian Philharmonic Hall and the castle, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Image shot 09/2016. Exact date unknown.
© Marco Secchi / Alamy Stock Photo
Ljubljana Castle is located on Castle Hill and has overlooked Ljubljana for centuries. Head inside for a tour, which takes you through the five most important historical periods in Ljubljana’s history. More courageous visitors can descend into the dungeon, and explore the darker side of the castle’s history. Afterwards, ascend the viewing tower for top views across the city. It’s easily reached by a short hike or by a more leisurely tram ride.

Catch a show at Križanke

Monastery, Theater, Theatre
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In the mid-1950s, during the last few years of his life, Joze Plecnik converted this 13th-century Teutonic monastery into one of Ljubljana’s major cultural venues. Within the complex, you’ll find an open-air theatre with capacity for 1,400 spectators – a key setting for the city’s summer festival of music and dance. You’ll also find an early 18th-century church designed by Domenico Rossi, a leading Venetian architect of his day. Grab interval refreshments at a bar in the central cloister.

Take a look inside the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas

Cathedral, Church, Ruins
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Cathedral of Saint Nicholas Ljubljana Slovenia Europe
© John Keates / Alamy Stock Photo
There’s been a church of some kind on this site since the Roman era, but the present structure was constructed between 1701 and 1706 by architect Andrea Pozza. Today, it’s a beautiful baroque building with an elaborate painted ceiling that’s certainly worth a peek. If you can, stop by during the evening – the candlelit interior is highly atmospheric.

Grab a beer and enjoy live DJ sets at Metelkova Mesto

Art Gallery
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In 1993, this late 19th-century army barracks was on the verge of being demolished. The building was saved by a group of around 200 squatters, who have since turned it into the focal point of Ljubljana’s alternative scene. Working with visiting international artists, they’ve covered the facades in bold spray-paint murals and host weekly concerts, cultural events and DJ nights. Stop by for a beer at the bar, or stay the night at Hostel Celica, housed in the former military prison opposite.

Explore the Central Market

Market, Food Stall, Food Stand, European, Slovenian
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Ljubljana, Slovenia - September 2, 2016 People walking and eating at an Open kitchen, Ljubljana, Slovenia
© Uros Poteko / Alamy Stock Photo
Ljubljana’s premier food market occupies an elongated, Joze Plecnik-designed building stretching between Butcher’s Bridge and Dragon Bridge. Built in the early 1940s, it houses a fish market on its ground floor, plus meat and cheese stalls, bakeries, delicatessens and take-out joints on both the ground and first floors. The building looks out onto Vodnik Square, the setting for a permanent open-air market and Open Kitchen, a show cooking event that runs from March to October (weather permitting).

Tour Plečnik House

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House of the slovenian architect Jo?e Plecnik (1872-1957), Ljubljana, Slovenia
© Mauro Toccaceli / Alamy Stock Photo
Plecnik House offers an in-depth insight into the life and work of Slovenia’s most celebrated architect. Plecnik settled here upon his return to Ljubljana in 1922, after successful stints in Venice and Prague, and used it as his personal residence and studio until his death in 1957. Interiors are arranged exactly as they were when Plecnik was in residence. On top of this, the permanent collection contains models and plans for his best-known structures, as well as for some that never materialised.

Spot wildlife in Ljubljana Zoo

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Ljubljana Zoo is home to over 500 animals – not counting insects – of more than 119 species. The zoo’s location in the forest and meadows of Ljubljana’s outskirts makes it a popular attraction all year round. Kids will love taking part in special activities like feeding time, meeting their favourite animal, or becoming a zookeeper for the day. You can even camp overnight at the zoo with children aged eight to 12, and see the animals wake up in the morning.

Taste Slovenian wine

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52 varieties of wine grow in Slovenia’s three wine-producing regions, many of which have received the highest accolades at international shows. This two-hour experience with Wine Tasting Ljubljana is held in a 300 year-old cellar and led by English-speaking sommeliers. You’ll sample several varieties from all three regions, accompanied by snacks and expert commentary on the country’s wine-growing history and culture. You’ll also receive a take-home souvenir and a certificate awarding you the title of “Ambassador of Slovenian Wine”.

Drink in the view at top of Neboticnik

Bar, European, Beer, $$$
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Neboticnik skyscraper rooftop cafe terrace, Ljubljana, Slovenia
© Serge Mouraret / Alamy Stock Photo
This skyscraper bar and restaurant occupies the 12th floor of a 1930s building that was the tallest in the Balkans until World War II. Its terrace looks over the city’s castle and surrounding landscapes, providing a top spot for sunset cocktails. Grab something to eat, too – the internationally-orientated menu features dishes such as rib-eye steak and Wagyu burgers, as well as several Slovenian wines. Given the location and view, prices are not as high – pun intended – as you’d expect.

Andreja Posedel contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on August 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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