Ljubljana: a guide to Slovenia's splendid capital

CultureSlovenia

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Voted the European Green Capital of 2016, Ljubljana is green, quirky and cool. Here's our guide to the Slovenian capital.

Blessed with a bounty of plazas, baroque churches and craggy castles, Slovenia's metropolis is a feast for the eyes. The city was voted the European Green Capital in 2016, and its clean streets, abundance of green open spaces and traffic restrictions bear testament to this accolade.

Its picturesque buildings are nothing short of the 'jewel boxes' the city's main architect Jo?e Plecnik intended them to be; their sherbet hues reflecting in the emerald waters of the River Ljubljanica. Some 280,000 people live in Ljubljana; its lively student population and buzzing nightlife going hand in hand.

Slovenia shares its borders with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. While it is often overlooked it is a mecca for foodies, drawing culinary influence from its neighbors to offer an eclectic gastronomic scene. Its penchant for art is evident in its numerous galleries and museums, along with the quirky Metelkova City, a pocket of counterculture within the city itself. Here's our guide to the lovely Ljubljana.

Main sights

Main sights
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Although Ljubljana is peppered with an intriguing mix of Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, most people tend to kick off exploring by heading up Castle Hill. You can choose between walking and taking the funicular; with the latter boasting glass walls for optimum views the whole way up. The dramatic Ljubljana Castle lies at the top; its watchtower offering unrivalled panoramic views of the cityscape.

Between Castle Hill and the beating heart of the city, Ljubljanica River, you find the Old Town. It is defined by three squares - Mestri trg, Stari trg and Goni trg. Its inviting cobblestone streets make the perfect spot for people-watching and admiring street performers.

A short walk from the Old Town, across the Triple Bridge, lies the main square, Presernov trg. It is pillared by the striking salmon-pink Franciscan Church of Annunciation. However, the most coveted of Ljubljana's sights is undoubtedly the much-loved Dragon Bridge, dating back to the turn of the 20th Century.

Outdoor Areas

Outdoor Areas
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Although you're unlikely to ever feel hemmed in in such a tranquil, pedestrian-friendly city, there are plenty of open air spaces for you to truly soak up the laid-back ambiance which Ljubljana emanates. Tivoli Park, Ljubljana's green lung, is home to a beautiful rose garden and is full of centuries-old mansions that double up as cultural institutions, such as the Natural Museum of Contemporary History of Slovenia.

From the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the Slovenian fight for independence (won in 1991), there's a plethora of things to be learnt. The Volcji Potok Arboretum is dotted with activities like ping pong tables and a golf course, whilst the Ljubljana Botanical Gardens house some 4,5000 different species.

Culinary scene

Culinary scene
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Although Slovenian food has the reputation of revolving around the legacy of Austro-Hungarian stodge (goulash, buckwheat, hefty portions of meat), it is the Italian influences which prevail today. From craft beer galore, to off the wall tapas spots like TaBar, Ljubljana definitely deserves its reputation as a culinary capital.

Take your pick from Friday market Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen) to permanent feature Central Market to gorge on artisanal chocolates and cured meats and cheeses. The local take on fish and chips is a must, too.

Music, Art and Culture

Music, Art and Culture
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The Slovenian National Theatre, Opera and Ballet offers 150 fabulous shows per season. For bookworms, the Library under the Treetops is a beanbag-carpeted open-air hotspot where you can read, browse and enjoy the stunning surroundings for free. There offer capitvating book readings and talks, too.

Within Ljubljana itself, Metelkova City is both an autonomous city-state and a pocket of counterculture. Characterised by graffiti-adorned walls, the abandoned army barracks now host art and music events, moonlighting as a hub for the city's most die-hard partygoers.

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