1. The Ljubljana Free Tour
How can we not mention the best Ljubljana tour around :) The pride and joy of Ljubljana's free offers menu. An entertaining, yet extensive, tour of the city. Rated by far as Ljubljana's no. tour (and closing in on the castle as the city's no. 1 overall attraction), attracting thousand of visitors every year, Ljubljana's Free Tour promises to continue delivering the very best tour in town. Check our homepage for latest schedules or TripAdvisor for reviews.
Ljubljana's no. 1 picnic spot and one of the grandest urban parks to be found. Originally designed in 1813 after two separate smaller parks were linked, the park saw much development during the 19th century, with a later renovation of Jože Plečnik, Ljubljana's famous city architect, who created the Jakopič Promenade which runs through the park with its ever-changing outdoor photo exhibitions, creating a linear visual axis going from Tivoli Castle through Cankar Street and Čop Street to Prešeren Square, over the Triple Bridge, and ending at Ljubljana Castle. It is a huge park which offers endless green lawns, a sporting/concert hall, a large children's playground, the National Museum of Contemporary History, two castles, an artificial pond from the late 19th century and much more. A definite must for any summer visitor in Ljubljana, no more than 10 minutes walk away from the main square where our tours begin. In summer, you will find many Ljubljanitzers soaking up the sun, playing Frisbee, crossing tight ropes slung between trees, jogging, walking, engaging in just about any outdoor activity that comes to mind. In winter the park is painted white as snow covers its expansive lawns. The pond becomes an ice skating ring (although there is an "official" ring at the far side of the park) while the rest of the park becomes an excellent outdoor walking venue with Rožnik hill to the West and the city center to the East.
3. Rožnik Hill
Situated directly behind Park Tivoli, together making up the "Tivoli–Rožnik Hill–Šiška Hill Landscape Park", this is as close as a true forest can come into town. With many nature trails springing up from Tivoli Park below, this little forest is definitely Ljubljana's favorite nature-walking venue. With easy access from the park, nearby parking on several sides, 3 ski-jumps, a hill-top church, a first-of-May hilltop rock party, a zoo and endless slopes of chestnuts and season mushrooms, it is easy to see why this hill is the most popular getaway in town. Its a big place and one can spend many days walking around. Be sure to take a city map with you or take a photo of one of the large wooden maps scattered throughout the park, for you may otherwise get lost or at the very least find yourself exiting the park at a different side of it, far from the city center, hoping to catch one of the rare buses passing through or hitch a ride. On its Southwestern slope, the hill hosts the Ljubljana Zoo, a fun, not-so-free venue that is popular with families. However, for you more adventurous types, there is an unofficial path that circles the zoo fence, providing nature walkers with a glimpse of several animals such as deers, the lynx, birds, and if you scoot your head over the 2 meter wooden fence, you will also get great close-up views of the brown bears and Bengali Tiger ... always a fun thing to see in the woods. One time while walking the trail, a huge deer/antelope came running right next to me. I assume it somehow made it out of the zoo, or it may have simply entered the forest from the rural forests beyond the Ljubljana Ring Road, as did the brown bear that was haunting the hill just a few years ago until it was safely taken back to the larger woods.
A short 15 minutes walk south-east of the city center, the Ljubljana Botanical Garden is a sweet little place to pass some free time. Established in 1810, they are Slovenia's oldest cultural, scientific and educational institution operating uninterruptedly since its foundation. Although the gardens cannot compare with Kamnik's famous 'Volčji Potok Arboretum' gardens (30 minutes drive away and not-so-free), these gardens are completely free and with over 4,500 different species and subspecies, one third of which are endemic to Slovenia, they are sure to provide amateur botanists with many hours of joy. The place plays an important role in the growing and protection of Slovenia's endemic, endangered, vulnerable and rare species. The garden consists of many trees, a section in which plants are arranged in the form of the tree of life according to their evolutionary relationships, an area of marsh and water species, a section of mountain and karst species, all sorted on the basis of their geographical origin, and a glasshouse including numerous tropical species which require high air moisture levels and even temperatures throughout the year. The gardens are open every day all year round, from 7 Am until 19:00 PM (1 APR - 31 OCT) and until 17:00 (1 NOV - 31 MAR).
Standing on a hill some 60 meters above the old town below, the Ljubljana castle is by far the most prominent structure in town. With bird-eye views of the old town below and a majestic vista towards the Alpine mountains 22 km to the north, a visit to the castle is a definite must. As expected, with the earliest records dating back to the early 12th century, the castle is by far the oldest structure in town (well, at least the original structure which was reconstructed, renovated, expanded and changed countless times over the years). Entrance is free, however, if you want to climb up to the tower with its amazing town and alpine views, you'll have to part with 5 Euros (3 for students) which also entitle you to watch a sweet 3-D movie of the development of the old Roman town of Emona, the first city erected on the present-day location of Ljubljana. There is also St. George's chapel below the tower, with its presentation of the coats of arms of the numerous ruler families who resided in the castle over the years (also free entrance). If you prefer to save those 5 euro's, there is a free poor-man's viewpoint option. Take the spiral steps located outside the castle's small tourist office to climb up to the NE castle wall, also offering impressive views of the city and surrounding area. If you leave the path to left end of the wall and stick your head over the ledge you will see a bit of the old-town bird-eye view for otherwise, all vistas are inclined towards the city's NE suburbs and mountains, rather than the old town the the 5 euro tower mentioned above. Still, its a great place to spend some time. The castle also offers changing exhibitions in several halls (free) and
in summer hosts an outdoor movie festival where choice movies are screened on the castle walls (see previous blog entry)
6. Smarna Gora
For the best city and Alpine views, even better than those of the Ljubljana castle, take a 10-20 minute ride on city bus no.8 to Smarna Gora hill in Ljubljana's northernmost corner. It's an odd shaped butte of two hills resembling the humps of a camel or as locals prefer - "female breasts". There are several paths to reach the top, some of which are quicker and steep (30 min) or more gentle paths (45 min) which are usually full of climbers, especially on Sundays.
As said, Smarna Gora has two peaks - Smarna Gora and Grmada. The first is super popular and offers a sweet restaurant on top with local food and drink. It has a large outdoor terrace with easy chairs and meditation platforms - all facing the majestic views of the entire city below. SA superb vista indeed. Walk around the church to get a full 360 view of the area and the alpine mountains. The second peak, Grmada, is a bit higher, with its summit marked by a lonely bench. A great place to get away from the pack, relax and read a book. Needless to say, climbing is free.
A sweet offering! Most of Ljubljana museums and galleries offer free entrance on the first Sunday of every month. (Note: the Etnographic Museum near Metelkove is free on LAST Sunday of every month) Yuppie! With a host of museums covering numerous topics (art, history, nature, military, science, architecture), you are sure to find at least one museum that suits your palette. It's a full-on museum hopping day for anyone. Take advantage of it, save some money, and inject yourself for a bit of culture - especially if its raining or freezing outside. Go see Slovenia's unique cave salamander at the Natural History Museum or the world's oldest musical instrument – an ancient flute made of cave bear bone.
In addition to crazy Sundays, all city museums are also free on February 8 - on what is called "Prešeren Day" (the Slovene Cultural Holiday marking the anniversary of the death of the Slovene national poet France Prešeren). Most Ljubljana museums also offer free entrance on the 3rd of December, Prešeren's birthday and on 18th of May – International Museum Day (on this day museums usually stay open until Midnight).
We've listed the details for Ljubljana's summer festival in our "Entertainment" blog entry above, but to sum it up, summertime in Ljubljana is one endless cocktail of outdoor festivals including shows ranging from rock music, classical music, ballet, pop, street artist shows and more. Simply walk the center pedestrian zone and you are sure to stumble upon
several stages featuring both local and foreign acts.
9. St. Martin's Day (Wine and Cheese Day)
A delightful event held every year in early November, typically on the last Saturday before 11 NOV - Saint Martins Day. Get an official wine glass from any one of the stalls scattered throughout the center for 5 Euro (refundable when you bring your glass back - if you are able to hold on to it throughout the day), and start having fun by filling it again and again (and again) with different wine types, offered by numerous vineyards from across the country, for the entire day !!! To ease the palette, many stalls offer cheese tasting too (unofficially) so be sure to get in line to sample Slovenia's proud dairy produce. With free wine (and cheese if you're smart) all day long, you can imagine how fun it gets by the later hours of the afternoon. In addition, as part of its aspiration to market itself as a wine loving city, Ljubljana also hosts a similar wine tasting day sometime around May or June of each year. No long tradition behind this though its still just as fun.
We've mentioned Metelkova before but we gladly do it again. One of the quirkiest alternative culture centers in Europe. A former Yugoslavian army base turned into an autonomous La La Land of color, art, music, alcohol, “other things” and a host of interesting characters. With top-notch artistic graffiti on every second wall, entire building facades of montage porcelain and quirky statues all around, night bars, clubs and concerts … Metelkova is sure to capture the interest of both daytime (photos galore) and night-time visitors (party-time) alike. Entrance into the compound is free however clubs cost a bit .. especially if there is a live show on. The Beers are as close as it gets to free in Ljubljana. Check the previous post for Metelkova photos.
So, as you can see, if you're into nature, Lubljana has much to offer. The city is surrounded by green hills, forests an lakes. Check your map closely, get on a bus and get off next to the first patch of forest you see. There is sure to be a trail taking you towards a new adventure.