Ljubljana is one of those European destinations where the city doesn’t have a major ‘world famous’ attraction, but it is the little things that makes Ljubljana a special place to visit. And in one day in Ljubljana itinerary you can cover a lot, and on foot!
Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia in the Balkans. The city is known as the ‘green city’ (2016) and has one of the largest car-free zones in the European Union.
One Day in Ljubljana Itinerary: Things to do in Ljubljana in a day
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Ljubljana is not only environmentally friendly, but it offers delightful things that will make any traveler fall in love with the medieval town vibes. Ljubljana is a compact walking city, full of historic nuances, and presents a unique mix of Central European and the Mediterranean charm.
The quality of life in Slovenia is very good (I mean green city, pretty parks and walking areas – ahh, slow living bliss). Ljubljana in particular encourages the use of locally produced food in hotels and restaurants, and they are DELICIOUS!
Preparing for your visit to Ljubljana
Before we share our jam packed Ljubljana in a day itinerary, here are some quick tips.
Ljubljana/Slovenia belongs to the European Union, and they follow the Schengen Agreement (for those requiring a visa to Europe). The currency of Slovenia is euros.
Ljubljana is served by Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport (Brnik Airport), which is an international airport serving the capital city and it is the largest airport in Slovenia. We flew to Zagreb in Croatia and reached Ljubljana by road.
Zagreb to Ljubljana: 1.45 hours (by car), and 2.50 hours (by train)
Where to stay in Ljubljana: We stayed at the Grand Hotel Union during our trip
Start your morning with traditional Slovenian Food
Hey, welcome to Ljubljana!
Wake up to the smell of delicious coffee, warm Eggs Lorraine, and toast in the heart of Ljubljana. The city centre has a ton of restaurants, and cafes to serve you breakfast and brunch in the morning.
Our favorite for breakfast is Le Petit Cafe. You can try homemade granola with dried fruits and it is served with yogurt or soy milk. Don’t forget to try Slovenian Cream Cake with coffee – the cake is the perfect level of sweetness (like not super sweet, which I like).
I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I love their cream cakes, and I had a lot (like shamelessly a lot!). You can find these delicious Slovenian cream cakes at local bakeries and McDonald’s too (located at the centre).
Walk around Ljubljana old town for the first half of the day
After breakfast, strap on your comfortable walking shoes and get marching. Ljubljana is best explored wandering through the old town centre, admiring the bridges over the Ljubljanica River, checking out the Central Market and the various art nouveau buildings along.
The old town of Ljubljana will bring in memories of pretty medieval cities like those of Vienna and Prague. Although Slovenia was part of erstwhile Yugoslavia and is a part of the Balkans region, the capital city of Ljubljana looks and feels very different from Belgrade or Sarajevo.
Our local tour/friend said, ‘the closer you get to Zagreb, the Austro-Hungarian and Italian influence is more evident, and Slovenia is definitely special in the realm of Balkans history.’
Slovenia was the first country to break away from Yugoslavia, along with Croatia. They declared formal independence on June 25, 1991.
Yugoslavia came into existence after World War I in 1918 with the merger of the provisional State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs with the Kingdom of Serbia (with Belgrade as the capital city). Yugoslavia became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 3 October 1929, and before its dissolution, it comprised 6 states.
Soak in the vibes of the Prešernov trg Square
As you walk through the cobblestoned lanes, you will arrive at this beautiful square. Prešernov trg Square is the heart of the historic Ljubljana city. When you stand at the square’s centre, you will be surrounded by many of the recognizable and iconic landmarks of Ljubljana.
At the central square, you will find the statue of Slovene national poet France Prešeren; and the square is named after him. The statue uniquely faces the window where Prešeren’s “muse” once lived.
On the north side of the square is the grand Baroque-style Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. And then there is the Hauptmann’s House which represents an architectural masterpiece considered to be one of the few buildings in Prešeren Square to have survived the earthquake of 1895.
The Prešeren Monument is the centerpiece of Square and it is one of the most notable monuments in Ljubljana. And don’t worry you won’t miss this!
To the south of the Square is the River Ljubljanica, and the famous Triple Bridge (Tromostovje). In the eastern part of Prešeren stands the Central Pharmacy building; to the west, the square is lined by Wolf Street (Wolfova Ulica) bound for Congress Square (Kongresni Trg).
Admire the pinkish-red facade of the Franciscan Church
The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is a Franciscan church located on the Prešeren Square in Ljubljana. It is hard to miss the church from the square or from across the River.
The Franciscan Monastery along with the Church of the Annunciation is the two buildings that provide a charming character to the Prešernov trg square. The church was built in the 17th century, and the façade was completed around 1700. The church has undergone numerous renovations, especially in the 19th century. And in 1993, the church was adorned with a copper statue of St. Mary, which is Ljubljana’s largest Madonna statue.
It is important to note that until the end of the 18th century, the monastery was the home of Augustine monks. And the pinkish-red color of the facade is symbolic of the Franciscan monastic order.
Cross the Triple Bridge
The Triple Bridge is a group of three bridges built across the Ljubljanica River. The bridge was built in 1929 by Joze Plecnik. It connects the historical and the medieval town of Ljubljana, on one bank, and the modern city, on the other.
The origins of the bridge date back to a wooden bridge in this location from the 13th century. It was called the Old Bridge (Stari Most) and later renamed the Lower Bridge (Spodnji most).
The Lower Bridge was replaced by a new bridge designed and named Franz’s Bridge, (Frančev most) in honor of Archduke Franz Karl of Austria in the mid 19th century. The essentials of the bridge have been preserved until today, and there is an inscription which reads “To Archduke Franz Karl in 1842 by the Town”.
Stop here for a photograph, and admire the Franciscan Church and the square.
Shop/try out local products at the Central Market
When you cross the Triple Bridge, you are at the Central Market, which was also built by Jože Plečnik. Ljubljana’s Central Market is not only a place to shop local produce but historically it served as a meeting place for the community.
The Market is an open-air shopping market, and there are a series of small food shops along the river Ljubljanica, which are pretty colorful, as you walk through. These are called ‘Plečnik’s Covered Market’.
You must not miss the Open Kitchen (Odprta kuhna) here. Every Friday from mid-March until the end of October, Pogačarjev trg square hosts this unique food market/event where chefs of Slovenian restaurants prepare various dishes from all over the world (sort of like our food festivals in North America).
The outdoor markets surrounding the area is also a good place to buy fresh Slovenian fruits and vegetables. They are all locally grown.
Butcher’s Bridge and the sculptures
One of the newer bridges in Ljubljana is the Butchers’ Bridge. This footbridge connects the Ljubljana Central Market and the Petkovšek Embankment (Petkovškovo nabrežje).
This bridge is very unique with sculptures and figures from Ancient Greek and Christian/Jewish mythology, and all of it depicts a story
- There is a sculpture of Adam and Eve, who after being shamed and banned from the Paradise, are seen walking towards Ljubljana Cathedral
- Then there is the Satyr, startled by the Serpent
- Prometheus, shown disemboweled, in punishment
As you walk across the Butcher’s Bridge, you will notice the stunning glass floor, and the padlocks on the bridge rails. The entire bridge looks beautiful, and the view of the old town and the river Ljubljanica is super pretty from here.
Pose in front of the Dragon Bridge – Zmajski Most
Another bridge which is located not far from the Central Market is the famous Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most). The statues of the green dragons on the bridge are iconic to the city of Ljubljana, and you must take a photo with the dragon here to remember your trip! It is without a doubt, one of the fairytale bridges in Slovenia.
The bridge is located between Kopitar Street and Ressel Street, which can be found to the north of the Ljubljana Central Market. The bridge was built in the early 20th century, and the dragon symbolizes the city and provides protection to Ljubljana.
It is believed that the monster – dragon, was gradually transformed into a symbolic protector of the city – of power, courage, and wisdom.
Explore the buildings around Mestni trg square
Mestni trg square is the major (and old) town square of Ljugbliana. The buildings and structures in and around the Mestni trg square dates back to the 12th century.
It was the centre of the medieval city and was surrounded by important administrative offices and palaces. Take a wander here, and you will find Baroque palaces, Town Hall, and the popular Fountain of the Three Carniolan Rivers (designed by Venetian born sculptor Francesco Robba).
Baroque architecture gives Ljubljana its unique charm. Many of the city’s churches and buildings were built in the aftermath of the earthquake of 1511, in Baroque style.
Ljubljana’s Town Hall (also known as Mestna hiša, Magistrat, or Rotovž), is the seat of the Municipality of Ljubljana. The town hall building was influenced by Venetian architecture and was built in the late 15th century. The Town Hall features four exhibition spaces: the Glass Atrium, the Historical Atrium, the Central and Right Atriums. Here you can learn about the various projects undertaken by the Municipality.
The Robba Fountain, also located at the square, is modelled on the famous Roman fountains and is considered to be one of Ljubljana’s best known Baroque monuments. It was created in the mid 18th century.
The sculptures of the Fountains reflect the three Carniolan river gods: the Sava, the Ljubljanica, and the Krka. The Fountain’s ground plan is shaped in the form of Ljubljana’s ancient three-leaf town seal.
Visit Ljubljana Cathedral aka St. Nicholas’s Church
The gorgeous Ljubljana Cathedral was built on the site of a Romanic church, which dates back to 1262. When the Ljubljana Diocese was established in 1461, the church underwent various renovations and additions, it also suffered destruction under the Turks.
From the exterior, the Cathedral looks like any other in Central Europe, but the interiors are very pretty and deserve a visit. There are stunning detailed frescoes, and cream and gold decorations, together with the compact/coziness of the cathedral bring in a calming effect to the visitor. There are ornate choir stalls and angels set up at the altar.
The late Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral to celebrate 1250 years of Slovenian Christianity in 1996.
Break for lunch at Stari Trg Square
From St Nicholas’s Church head towards Stari Trg Square (5-minute walk); this square was the seat of the former medieval part of the city. Here you will find tons of cafes and restaurants to break for lunch and rest your legs.
- Cafe Romeo ($$) – This cafe is lovely if you are craving pancakes or crepes for brunch. They have outdoor seating areas which are great for summers
- Landerik ($$) – Stop here for a hearty bowl of salad in the afternoon or any European and Slovenian cuisine. The restaurant interiors are very classy and stunning. (Vegan option available)
Both the restaurants are located just minutes away from the Ljubljana Castle, and the Tourist Information Centre.
Pose in front of ‘LJUBLJANA’ (afternoon one day in Ljubljana itinerary)
From the Stari trg square, head to the Gornji trg square, which will bring you to the foot of the Castle Hill, where the Ljubljana Castle is located. But before climbing or taking the funicular ride to the castle, we recommend stopping at the Tourist Office and snapping a photo of the Ljubljana City Signage.
The ambience in and around the signage is worth stopping for an Instagrammable shot.
Climb or take the funicular to the Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle is a MUST visit for your Ljubljana one day itinerary. This attraction has an entry fee and is completely worth it. The views from Castle Hill over the city centre of Ljubljana is super stunning.
The castle stands on a hill, and it was originally a medieval fortress from the 11th and 12th centuries. The way you see the Castle today was formed in the 15th century.
Being a fortress in the early years means that it was used as a defense structure, especially as it occupied a strategic position in the city – for protection and for keeping an eye on the enemies. This castle is depicted on the city’s coat of arms, along with a dragon on top.
We spent about 1-1.50 hours at the Castle complex, and it was not crowded during our visit. You can climb the hill to reach the top, but we took a funicular ride, and explored the towers, took pictures, and then visited various exhibition halls. During our visit, an exhibition on the Yugoslavian history and Slovenia’s origins were on display.
The puppet museum (permanent exhibition) is a must stop by, along with the interactive centre to learn about the castle’s history and its role in shaping Slovenian history.
Entrance Ticket information for Ljubljana Castle – One day in Ljubljana Itinerary
Castle ticket is 10 EUR ($13 USD) and it includes entry to the Viewing Tower, Virtual Castle (a short movie about Castle’s history), Slovenian History exhibition, Museum of Puppetry, and Once Upon a Time exhibition.
We bought a combined Castle Ticket with return ride with funicular railway (up & down) + access to exhibitions, museums. Here is a combined ticket with sightseeing in Ljubljana.
National Gallery of Slovenia
The National Gallery of Slovenia is the prime museum of historical art in the country. It holds the largest collection of fine art (from the High Middle Ages to the 20th century), including a permanent exhibition of works by Zoran Mušič, who was one of Europe’s leading modernist painters.
The permanent collection at the gallery consists of various historical periods with over 600 displays of Slovenian and European art. There is an entry fee for the gallery, which is 10 euros ($12 USD).
Check out the art nouveau buildings
If you don’t wish to spend time and money at an art museum, keep your eyes peeled for various art nouveau buildings and landmarks in the city of Ljubljana. This style of architecture came into existence at the turn of the 20th century, and the influence of the Viennese Secession is clearly visible.
- The Dragon Bridge is one of the earliest examples of an art nouveau structure in the city. It is important to note that the rise of art nouveau buildings was encouraged and mostly designed by local artists.
- Vurnik House or the Cooperative Business Bank building is one of the unique art nouveau buildings. This house was located near our hotel – Grand Hotel Union, in the Miklošičeva Ulica street.
- Right next to it, the People’s Loan Bank (the one with Zadružna Zveza sign on it) in a white façade with blue metal details. You can start at the Miklošičeva Ulica street, which is also the Art Nouveau Quarter, and then make your way to the Prešeren Square.
- Prešeren Square is home to the Hauptmann House, which is another art nouveau building, and it will remind you of the Flatiron in NYC.
Late afternoon stop by the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church
Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church also known as the Orthodox Church is an Eastern Orthodox church building located in Trubar Park. You can find it between Bleiweis Street and Prešeren Street, north of the Museum of Modern Art and west of the National Gallery of Slovenia.
Make a quick stop here, as you make your way to the Tivoli City Park from the National Gallery of Slovenia.
The church was built in Serbo-Byzantine Revival style, and amidst the greenery, it looks beautiful with its five domes on top. It was built in the early 20th century by Ivan Bricelj, and the interior frescoes were painted by various Serbian painters.
Tivoli City Park (Mestni park Tivoli) or Tivoli Park (Park Tivoli)
We enjoyed a nice stroll at the Tivoli City Park in the evening.
Tivoli Park is Ljubljana’s largest park. It is located on the western outskirts of the Center District. It was designed in 1813 by the French engineer Jean Blanchard and was created by joining together the parks which had surrounded Podturn and Cekin Mansions.
This beautiful park covers an area of approximately five square kilometres, with manicured ornamental flower beds, unique trees, and numerous statues and fountains.
Tivoli Park’s scenic Jakopič Promenade (Jakopičevo sprehajališče) is home to art/photo exhibitions. It was designed by the architect Jože Plečnik and is open throughout the year.
The park area blends beautifully into the slopes of the Rožnik hill, and you can take a stroll by embarking on various walking paths.
End the sightseeing with drinks at The Nebotičnik Cafe
Finish your one day in Ljubljana itinerary with drinks at The Nebotičnik Cafe. This cafe is located on the top of the Nebotičnik (Skyscraper) building.
All day long we explored medieval and art nouveau landmarks of the city of Ljubljana, the Skyscraper brings in the architecture created between the two World Wars and one with beautiful city views from all directions.
The Skyscraper was built in 1933 and was the tallest building in the Balkans at the time of its construction. The sky rise building still serves its original purpose and houses shops, restaurants, offices, and residential flats.
Next to the Skyscraper, you will find Ljubljana’s first modern shopping arcade – project, which was later abandoned and never materialized.
Dinner at the Petkovšek Embankment
For dinner, head back to the Prešernov trg Square. In the late evening, the square, and the banks along the Ljubljanica River are stunning, and it comes alive with lights, and music.
We decided to relax at a cafe bar in the lively Petkovšek Embankment area (by the river). With a meat and cheese platter, and sprinkling wine we called it a day, in the stunning city of Ljubljana.
Sightseeing Map: Ljubljana in a day
You can use this map for a self guided walking tour of Ljubljana. It starts at the Grand Union Hotel, where we stayed at.
Is one day in Ljubljana enough?
We stayed in Ljubljana for 3 days, but definitely covered all of the old town highlights in one day. The rest of the time we embarked on day trips from the capital city. Being a compact city, you can definitely cover the major attractions in one day.
Also, note that many of these attractions do not have any entrance fee and can be visited for free, like the bridges, Tivoli Park, cathedrals, etc.
If you are staying in Ljublaja more than a day, we recommend adding these destinations to your Slovenia itinerary
- Lake bled – Take a day trip to Lake Bled from Ljubljana. There are many tour operators offering this trip. You can also use public transportation to reach there. In a day, you can explore the Bled Castle and the stunning lake. You can book your tour here
- Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle – Another option is to visit the largest caves in Europe from Ljubljana – Postojna Caves & Predjama Castle. This tour is only for 5 hours and it takes on a unique historical and geographical tour.
Travel Tips for Ljubljana Slovenia
Here are some quick tips to prepare for your trip to Ljubljana Slovenia.
It is part of the European Union, and follows the Schengen Agreement. So if you require a visa to travel to Europe in the Schengen zone, then you will need a visa for visiting Slovenia as well. The same applies for its neighboring countries.
As always don’t forget travel insurance to Europe.
Budgeting for one day in Ljubljana itinerary
Although not a budget destination like many of the Balkans destinations, you can save a ton in Ljubljana by eating local, booking your accommodation, transportation and flights in advance.
Sightseeing costs can be zero if you don’t visit museums or the castle interiors. There is also a free walking tour that covers the city center highlights in a few hours.
Other than that budget for the following,
- Hotel/Airbnb: $80 USD (twin occupancy, mid range near the city center)
- Food: As low as $25 USD (3 meals at fast food chains, local bakeries. If you eat at a nice cafe, or restaurant the prices are higher – like the ones mentioned in this post)
Best time to visit Ljubljana
We prefer visiting Europe in the shoulder months, and Ljubljana is also best explored during this time. The best time to visit Ljubljana is from April to May or from September to October. These spring and fall months are great as the compact city is not super crowded, and accommodation prices are decent too.
Packing for Ljubljana Slovenia
Ljublaja experiences 4 seasons. It’s coldest month is January (like in many other European cities). Here average high-temperature is 3.4°C (38.1°F) and an average low-temperature of -2.5°C (27.5°F) in the winters.
- Winters: Take woolen clothing, like parka, warm boots, scarf, gloves, cardigans
July is the hottest month in Ljubljana with an average temperature of 19.5°C (67°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 10 in July. The wettest month is October.
- Summer: Ljubljana has warm weather in the months from June to August, and during this time you can wear cotton clothing – linen pants, cotton tops, flowy dresses.
- Fall/Spring: In the fall and early spring months, expect temperatures to drop in the evenings, so do pack a warm cardigan and an insulated waterproof jacket. Rain and/or overcast days are common during the fall months.
Because there is a ton of walking in the city, do remember to wear comfortable walking shoes. Here is what I wore in Ljubljana.
Must eat/drink/buy from Ljubljana Slovenia
Here are some of the must eats in the capital city of Ljubljana
- Slovenian Cream Cake/Kremsnita: Sweet cake, puff pastry made of eggs, cream and milk
- Štruklji: Slovene dish, made of dough and filling of choice
- Also try their wines, meat and cheese platters
You can try Slovene culinary delights by taking a walking food tour. If you are in town, during the Open Market season (culinary event at the Central Market), do try out various dishes prepared by some of the finest chefs in the country.
You will surely find a ton of local produce, dishes to taste in these traditional markets – Ljubljana lives by the principle ‘from local field, to local table, to the guest’, in the best way possible.
A green city, and a destination that is open and friendly towards visitors, from its architectural heritage to culinary delights, Ljubljana will not disappoint you!
We hope you found our one day in Ljubljana itinerary useful in planning your trip!
Other Slovenia, Balkans and Europe travel resources
- Balkans Itinerary: Plan a 2 week Balkans Itinerary with Slovenia
- Balkan Tours: Best Balkan Tour Packages Review
- Sarajevo: Visit Sarajevo in one day