Slovenia is one of those countries that is often overlooked and underestimated. Sandwiched between the larger countries of Italy, Austria and Croatia who attract visitors by the millions, the Republic of Slovenia offers every bit as much culture, adventure and fun as their neighbors, but without the crowds!
Begin a sightseeing journey in the capital city of Ljubljana, which happens to be one of the greenest cities in the world! Halfway between Vienna and Venice is this cozy city of less than ¼ million residents and lots to see and do. Make sure to visit Ljubljana Castle, pictured below, which can be reached by funicular or on foot. This 900-year old attraction offers commanding views of the city, as well as a museum, restaurants, and a nightclub. To get around, take a ride on Urban, the cute, environmentally-friendly train connecting Ljubljana’s tourist sites.
Stroll over the famous bridges: “Triple Bridge”, pictured below, was designed by world-renowned architect Jože Plečnik. “Dragon Bridge” was built in 1901 and is home to some creepy statues of ferocious-looking dragons.
Shop with the locals at Central Market, also designed by Plečnik. This impressive market offers both inside and outside shopping opportunities. Have a look at Prešernovtrg Square, the center, and heart, of lovely historic Ljubljana. Check out the varied architecture, from the pink Franciscan church to the Baroque buildings and works of Jože Plečnik thrown in.
Along with many other interesting displays, see the world’s oldest wooden wheel, pictured below, in the City Museum of Ljubljana. Speaking of old, visit the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, built in 1701, which sits on the site of a 13th century Romanesque basilica and is the home of the Ljubljana Diocese.
During warmer months, the city’s central park, known as Tivoli Park, is a beautiful place for exercise or simply meandering the many paths and trails. The best time to visit town hall is on Saturday, when it is open for guided tours of the premises. It is located in a stunning Baroque palace, and the municipal government has been operating here for 500 years.
There is so much more waiting to be discovered outside of Ljubljana. At any time of year, make sure to explore the glacial lake of Lake Bled, which is located in the alpine resort town of Bled. The postcard-worthy beauty of this deep blue lake is enough reason to visit, but the warm thermal springs pouring into this stunning lake beg people to dive in for a swim. There are a multitude of outdoor recreation options to choose from. Take a short boat ride to Church Island in the middle of the lake for something a little different.
Spend some time underground in one or more of Slovenia’s caves. Two excellent choices are Postojna Cave, which is the country’s most visited attraction, and Škocjan Caves, which is one of the country’s four World Heritage Sites. Between the two, the formations of stalagmites and stalactites are unparalleled elsewhere in the world. There are over four miles of underground passages and numerous waterfalls waiting to be admired.
Spend a day or longer exploring the medieval town of Piran, located to the west of Ljubljana along the Adriatic Sea. This charming coastal city is home to only about 3,700 people, yet remains in the heart of all who visit. Easily toured by foot, take a walk around the 7th-century town wall fortification and get a sense of its resolute presence. Make sure to admire the statues and eclectic architecture in Tartini Central Square, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many cafes. Take some great photographs while visiting St. George’s Parish Church. You’ll find this Roman Catholic church, built in the Venetian Renaissance architectural style, on the hill above Piran and the views from here cannot be beat.
Wine enthusiasts have many options to choose from when looking to sample local products. As small as the country is, Slovenia is home to many fine vineyards, most of which are very highly rated. Current estimates are that there is a vineyard for every 70 people! One in particular definitely worth a visit is Lepa Vida winery, located under an hour west of Ljubljana. The lovely ambiance, historical significance of the area, expert instruction, tasty snacks and delicious wines make this truly one of the best wineries to visit in Europe. Ask for Irina and she will make sure your time is well-spent.
Looking for some outdoor adventure? In warmer weather, enjoy kayaking, whitewater rafting, caving, paragliding, hiking and birding. As wonderful as it is to visit during the months of spring, summer and fall, snow skiers hit the winning jackpot in winter. A recent study performed by The Post Office found that when factoring in all local expenses of a ski vacation, Kranjska Gora in Slovenia is the cheapest ski resort in all of Europe!
By Lisa Osborne Blalock
Footloose Travel & Tours