Things to Do In and Around Ljubljana
Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital with a population of 270,000, seems smaller than its actual size. Its central walking zone is compact and nearby the Ljubljanica River that bisects the city. Many bridges cross the river while cafes line its banks.
We were only in Ljubljana for a half-day, and it definitely deserves a whole one or more. But we were able to see several of the sights on our short walking tour before we relaxed at a riverside café.
Sights of Ljubljana
Statue of France Prešeren
The Statue of France Prešeren is the meeting point for locals. It is located in the now traffic-free Prešeren Square across from the Triple Bridge. The statue looks toward a rose-colored woman, Julija, in a picture frame on yellow house who was Prešeren’s unrequited love. The statue was controversial a century ago when erected by the church as it includes a naked woman.
France Prešeren is Slovenia’s greatest poet whose works include the lyrics to Slovenia’s National Anthem.
The Triple Bridge is one of Ljubljana’s top landmarks. The middle part of the bridge which is the widest already existed before the famous architect Jože Plečnik added two side spans to more effectively funnel six lanes of traffic into one. Now of course, this area is all pedestrian which makes the city so much nicer. I can’t imagine having to dodge cars and buses in the lovely area.
Cobblers’ Bridge is named for the shoemakers who used to set up shop along river. The bridge is one of the best examples of Plečnik’s style…simple with classical columns. Jože Plečnik is a homegrown architect who has made his mark on Ljubljana as Gaudí did to Barcelona.
The dragon has been Ljubljana’s symbol ever since Jason and his Argonauts slayed a dragon here centuries ago. Though, the bridge was dedicated to the Emperor Franz Josef in 1888, the name never took as the dragon’s are too memorable. Franz Josef was instrumental in rebuilding the city after the 1895 earthquake which damaged much of it.
There may be more famous bridges in Ljubljana, but this one was my most favorite. The bridge is a mixture of glass and steel with cables for railings that make a perfect spot for lovers’ padlocks.
Unfortunately we arrived late in the day to Ljubljana, so the market was already closed, but I can only imagine the bustling atmosphere it must have every morning as locals and tourists shop for everything from fish to souvenirs.
Fountain of Three Carniolian Rivers
This fountain is the work of an Italian Francesco Robba and was inspired by Rome’s many fountains. The figures with the vases represent this region’s three main rivers: Ljubljanica, Sava and Krka.
Ljubljana’s cathedral is dedicated to St. Nicholas, protector against floods and patron saint of fishermen. Its decorative doors were added in 1996 for Pope John Paul’s II visit to the city.
We didn’t make time to go to the castle as we were limited in time thought we had to climb the steep hill and were unaware of the funicular ride. No matter what the castle is like, I suspect the views of the city below are spectacular.
Inside City Hall are paintings, artifacts and a map of Ljubljana from the 17th-century. Outside, the European Union’s, Slovenia’s and Ljubljana’s flags hang over its entrance.
Places Nearby Ljubljana
Any visitor to Slovenia and in particular those staying in Ljubljana would be remiss if either a half or full day trips were not taken to see the Skocjan Caves or Lake Bled, respectively. Both natural sights are spectacular.
The Škocjan Caves
The Škocjan Caves are located about 47 kilometers (less than an hour drive) southwest of Ljubljana. The caves are located in the extreme northeast part of the classical Karst area. The caves were named a UNSECO Natural and Cultural World Heritage Site in 1986.
While the initial entrance to the cave is large, I didn’t find it terribly exciting as many of the cave formations are damaged. Everything about the cave, however, changed as I followed along in the two-hour tour. The pathway led us past giant stalagmites and stalactites formed by mineral deposits dripping from the ceiling until finally we reached an enormous cavern.
I was dumbfounded when I found myself standing in an underground gorge. The walls of the canyon plummeted straight down to the blue Reka River. It was truly spectacular, especially to know the whole entire canyon flooded years ago. All I could think of were those boys that were recently trapped in a cave in Thailand and how in the world could this whole cavern have filled with water.
After admiring the canyon and its river below, before our tour exited the cave we saw some rimstone pools which is a formation I have seen only one other time and to me is really cool. It is unfortunate that photographs are not allowed with or without a flash. As such, photos of postcards will have to do the trick though the they don’t show the canyon.
Upon exiting the cave, our ticket gave us the option to walk back up to the visitor center or to take the elevator, a 15-minute difference. I chose the walk with a few others from our group and it was worth it. We got to see a waterfall, and the hike up wasn’t as hard as I expected.
I suggest purchasing tickets in advance to secure a tour time. Only about a hundred people split into four groups are let into the cave at a time. The tours are run in multiple languages.
Lake Bled is spectacular and having seen a picture of Lake Bled a few years ago is one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Slovenia. While we only got to spend a half day in Ljubljana, I feel lucky that we got to stay two nights in Lake Bled, Slovenia’s leading mountain resort.
From Ljubljana, Lake Bled is less than an hour drive away, and I highly recommend making at least a day trip here though it really deserves at least two days. For a day trip to Lake Bled from Ljubljana be sure to take the four-mile walk around the lake and take a pletna boat ride to its island.
More details on Lake Bled may be found here.
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