Slovenia in central and southeast Europe touches the Alps, borders the Mediterranean Sea, and is abundant in open spaces and authentic gastronomy.
Its leafy capital of Ljubljana won the European Commission’s Green Capital of Europe in 2016, and cars are restricted in its centre, leaving the city and its emerald green river for cyclists and tourists to enjoy on foot. Hopping over in a two-hour flight from London seems like a no-brainer for a cheeky weekend away.
Arrive in the city centre, Ljubljana
Easy to navigate, walking is the best way to get around the capital city. The Ljubljanica river runs around the old castle, with local bars and restaurants winding through the endless historic architecture.
Must-visit activities include Tivoli Park, Opera House, open-air theatre and the botanical gardens, not to mention the delicious Slovenian delicacies in the old town.
Chill out at Lake Bled
Just over an hour’s bus journey from the city, breath-taking Lake Bled is a glacier-formed, crystal blue lake which is famed for its castle and panoramic views. Travellers can choose to kayak on the serene waters or experience solitude with a swim in the balmy 22 degrees water. Earlier this year, Lake Bled was named one of the most welcoming destinations in the world by Booking.com.
Take a tour
Full Day Lake Bled & Ljubljana. Feel the vibe of modern and historic Ljubljana with guide.Find out why Ljubljana is called dragon city. Walk around the lake and enjoy the scenery. Hike to a Bled viewing point. See city and nature of Slovenia in the same day. Cost: from £127.24.
Where to stay
Zlata Ladjica – Rooms start from £184 per night.
Located in one of the oldest hotels in Ljubljana, Zlata Ladjica is a boutique hotel with luxurious amenities. Each of the 15 rooms have been designed to maximise space and light whilst the hotel’s gastropub offers a fine dining menu with Slovenian dishes made using locally sourced ingredients. There’s also a spa with a sauna and zero gravity flotation bed for guests to truly unwind and relax.
Sunrose 7 –Rooms start from £169.
An iconic heritage hotel and digital detox hideaway, a stone’s throw away from Triglav National Park, Sunrose 7 has been welcoming guests since 1890. With 18 stylish rooms and suites, the hotel is equipped with traditional Slovenian architecture met with contemporary, minimalist alpine design. Sunrose 7’s wellness spa, Zlata Vila (or ‘Golden Fairy’), focuses on ‘seven elements’ of relaxation and offers treatments such as Bohinj rain with hot-cold therapy and relaxing sound therapy with the sounds of Bohinj forests.
Where to Eat: Odprta Kuhna & Michelin-Starred Atelje
Make the most of the sunshine and eat at the city’s famed open kitchen, which runs only in the summer. The Pogacar Square at Ljubljana’s central market turns into Odprta Kuhna, an open kitchen filled with food stalls from Slovenia and surrounding countries.
Fine dine at Michelin-Starred Atelje
One of the city’s most famous restaurants.Atelje is easy to find in the centre of the city. Head chef, Jorg Zupan, prides himself on cooking that uses local ingredients, keeping up with the season and creating 90% of products in-house.
Only serving a tasting menu Atelje sometimes takes inspiration from old traditional Slovenian recipes, whilst other times they take a different approach.
Discover Jože Plečnik
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jože Plečnik, one of Slovenia’s most important architects.
He was responsible for transforming Ljubljana. His work is peppered throughout the city with beautiful bridges and designer city decor such as pillars, pyramids and even lampposts whose purpose is to be eye-candy. Look for his notable designs such as the Triple Bridge, Central Market, and even the Plecnik Zale cemetery.
Take a boat ride across the turquoise waters of the river to see the Cobblers Bridge, another one of his famed works. Explore the cultural ins and outs of the city with the ‘Moustache Tour,’ travellers can learn about the moustached giants of Slovenian culture, including Jože Plečnik, Ivan Cankar, and Rihard Jakopič – all great artists.
Head to the Museum of Illusions
In a townhouse on Congress Square, Museum of Illusions offers a new way of seeing the world. Drawing guests into a world of illusions, no two rooms are the same. With 40 exhibits, highlights are the Anti-Gravity Room and the Vortex Tunnel, which spins visitors around, making keeping your balance challenging.
Visit Ljubljana Castle
First built 900 years ago, Ljubljana Castle sits atop a hill 375 metres high, donning a mish-mash of archtecture.
The castle may seem daringly high; however, the views that overlook the beautiful city are worth it. It’s a great place to watch the sunset over the iconic Baroque architecture. The central courtyard is free to enter and is home to a cafe, nightclub, galleries, and a restaurant. The 19th-century watchtower is relatively new and worth climbing to get to the top. There are 95 steps, then a walk along the ramparts
Get there via the 70m-long funicular from the Old Town. There’s also a tourist train that departs every hour from south of the Ljubljana TLC.
Or go on foot. There are three main walking routes: Študentovska ulica, which runs south from Ciril Metodov trg; steep Reber ulica from Stari trg; and Ulica na Grad from Gornji trg.
Head to Triglav National Park
Nearby, Triglav National Park is widely regarded as one of the oldest and most beautiful parks in Europe. Offering picturesque views and outdoor activity year-round, Triglav stretches across the northeastern part of Slovenia and encompasses the majority of the Eastern Julian Alps. Whether on foot or on two wheels, you can explore Mount Triglav, unspoiled beaches, and the serene valley of Triglav Lakes.
Participate in watersports on Lake Bohinj
For those into watersports or wanting a new experience, the blue lakes of Bohinj, in Triglav National Park, are the perfect outdoor playground. From white water rafting and kayaking to canyoning and hiking, there’s something for everyone. Swimming in the clear crystal mountain lakes is an option for those looking for something a little more relaxing.
Get there: Direct flights from London with British Airways, easyjet and Wizz Air in just over 2 hours
More info: Visit www.slovenia.info