JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH MARUSA MALIGOJ FROM LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA !
Maruša, a Slovene, has been living in Ljubljana for last eight years. A linguist by profession and an artist by heart, Maruša spends Monday to Friday working as a marketer/copywriter, whereas weekends and days off are reserved for trips, photography, sports, her boyfriend and friends. Her biggest wish is to visit all 195 countries of the world and to make as many of them as possible her home.
Slovenia is a small country in Europe which lies in the eastern Alps at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea. It is landlocked by countries like Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Italy leaving only a small coastline of only 46 km at the Adriatic Sea between Italy and Croatia.
Like being cutely nestled between few of the most beautiful countries was not enough, Slovenia is also famed for its dragons, vineyards, longest ski-jump, biggest cave and tallest chimney in all of Europe, steepest 400 m race, blind salamanders, Lipazzaner horses and so on.
Ljubljana is the capital and a very compact city yet the largest in Slovenia. Following which is Maribor in the east and Koper at the coast near Italian border. The Ljubljanica River flows gently through the centre of town, also making it ideal for learning Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) which is claimed as an easy sport even if you are no Michael Phelps. SUP on Ljubljanica river, Lake Bled or Soca Valley with Bananaway, a stand-up paddling school that designs adventure
Ljubljana is packed with many bridges which connects parts of the inner city. The most famous of them are – the Triple Bridge, the Butchers Bridge and the Dragon Bridge. In the Old Town you will find the beautiful pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation which also forms the backdrop of many photos in Ljubljana.
When is the best time to visit Ljubljana?
I think Ljubljana is a great city to visit year-round, except for maybe in January and February when the weather is terribly gloomy and cold to bother with.
Personally, I’d say the best time to visit Ljubljana is late spring/early autumn when the weather is still nice and warm, but the crowds are a bit thinner than during peak season, which runs from June till the end of September.
However, if you don’t mind the people, summer is a wonderful time to come to Slovenia – there’s always a ton of stuff going on literally everywhere around the country, not only Ljubljana.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Ljubljana?
Even though public transport is fairly good in Ljubljana – especially compared to other parts of the country, the best and cheapest way to get around the city is definitely by bike. We have an excellent bicycle-sharing system called BicikeLJ, which costs a mere €1 per week with every ride up to an hour being free of charge.
In case you’re not the biggest fan of cycling, you can always take a bus or hail a taxi (there is no Uber in Ljubljana yet), although the latter is a more expensive option. For getting on a LPP (Ljubljanski potniški promet ) bus you would need an Urbana public transport card which can be purchased at kiosks called Urbanomats or at petrol stations, news-stands, tourist offices etc. The Urbanomat accepts both cash and card, and is generally placed near bus stops.
Ljubljana is quite small for trams or subway, so don’t look for them. For day trips to tourist destinations you can use trains. Buy tickets at the train station because it is usually more expensive if you buy it inside the train.
Ljubljana has only one airport that is located roughly 25 km outside the city. There are regular buses connecting the airport and the city running every hour, but if you don’t like the wait, you can always get a taxi (roughly €25-30) or a shuttle bus.
What are the top three must visit places in Ljubljana?
Metelkova : The absolute number one is without a doubt Metelkova, a former-squat-turned-alternative-culture center that is not only an art gallery in itself, but also the home to some dozen clubs hosting a regular programme of concerts, performances, club-nights and various other events. It consists of seven buildings spread over a area of 12,500 square meters. In addition to having the best and most versatile nightlife in Ljubljana, it’s also a great place to meet locals and other travellers. Also if you would like to spend a night behind the bars, then check into Hostel Celica in Metelkova. Rated as the hippest hotel of Ljubljana, this hotel was actually a prison artistically converted into a hostel.
Old Town : The picturesque image of Ljubljana that adorns almost every postcard has been shaped by different historic periods and, most notably, Slovenia’s most celebrated urban planner Jože Plečnik. With so many landmarks, charming buildings and enchanting streets, the best way to experience the Old Town is simply by taking a long, languid stroll and stopping for a drink at one of the many quaint bars and cafes sprinkled along the riverbank.
Ljubljana Castle : Built sometime in the 11th century, Ljubljana Castle is one of the city’s main attractions. Perched atop a hill above the Old Town, it offers one of the most spectacular views of Ljubljana and, if the skies are clear, also the Karavanke-Savinja Alps. The castle, which houses a museum exhibition on Slovenian history, a puppet museum, and a number of historical rooms, can be reached by funicular railway or on foot (note: if you opt for the latter, prepare to break a sweat).
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Ljubljana?
Lake Bled, a cobalt-blue lake fed by thermal springs is a must see site if you ever visit Slovenia because of its landscape, beauty and the famous Bled cream cake, Kremsnita. It is believed that the Church of the Assumption there which is adorned with 14th-century fresco fragments and a gold baroque altar was initially the temple of a goddess before it got destroyed. The little island can be reached by boats. To reach Lake Bled from Ljubljana take a bus which also happens to be the easiest option. Check bus and train schedules to know what suits you. Lake Bled is twenty kms away from Lake Bohinj, the largest permanent lake in Slovenia.
Postojna cave is one of the world’s largest underground cave where the visitors enter the cave through a double-track cave train. It is renowned for its formations of stalagmites and stalactites. It is also home to the endangered blind salamanders known as “the human fish” because of its pinkish skin colour. A few kilometres away from this cave lies a medieval marvel, the Predjama cave castle. Behind the castle lies a series of tunnels which can be visited as adventure tours. This magical corner in Slovenia with two of world famous attractions is known as Postojna Cave Park.
Ljubljana is surrounded by smaller cities and lush nature. Which ones according to you must be visited?
Since Slovenia is so small, literally anything can be done in a day. There are so many beautiful sights to see that it’s impossible to pick just a few … However, if I had to choose my top three, it’d be:
Piran (1,30 h by car) : First established as a settlement sometime in the 7th century, Piran boasts an impressive number of historic sights and remnants scattered throughout town. A real gem of Venetian gothic architecture, this picturesque, medieval coastal town will instantly charm you with its cobblestone streets, colourful houses and romantic atmosphere.
The Soča Valley (2h by car) : Home to one of Europe’s most beautiful rivers, the Soča Valley is a real paradise for nature lovers as well as sports enthusiasts. Mount Triglav is the country’s highest peak at 2,864m. Stretching from Triglav National Park to Nova Gorica, this region is mostly popular for rafting, hiking and skiing, but it also offers plenty of historic as well as natural sights. Kayaking and canyoeing are also some activities you can do here.
Some of the main attractions in this part of the country include: Napoleon Bridge, Tolmin Gorge and Kozjak waterfall. The Tolmin gorges are the lowest and southernmost entry point into the Triglav National Park and Tolmin’s most important sight of nature. The distance from Tolmin is 2 km and there is a shuttle bus which goes from Tolmin to Tolmin Gorge in summers. If walking to the gorge, its a circular trail which should take you an hour and a half.
Above the emerald green Soča River, there is a gorge of the Kozjak stream, where the 15-metre-high Kozjak Waterfall is present. Its a magical site seeing the white beam of water fall into the green pool through the dark walls covered in limestone sediments. To reach there follow the turning for Napoleon’s bridge over the Soča River.
Kranjska gora (1h by car) : Most famous for being one of the largest and best-equipped ski resorts, Kranjska gora is located near the tri-point where Slovenia meets Italy and Austria. A great destination for ski enthusiasts, it also hides some magnificent natural attractions:
Lake Jasna is an artificial lake filled with crystal clear water reflecting the magnificent view of the Julian Alps in the background. In winter, the lake often freezes over and if the ice is thick enough, you can also go ice-skating.
Peričnik Waterfall is undoubtedly one of the most photographed waterfalls in Slovenia. Although popular year-round, this waterfall mainly rose to prominence due to the fact that it freezes over and forms magnificent curtains of icicles when the temperatures are well below zero.
Zelenci, a nature reserve located near Kranjska Gora. The centerpiece of the marsh is a beautiful, crystal clear emerald-green lake called Zelenci, which got its name from the Slovenian word for green – “zelen”. The lake is also the source of the Sava, Slovenia’s longest river, and if you look close enough, you can see tiny springs of water bubbling up from the bottom of the lake like miniature volcanoes.
Some other places worth visiting are (in no particular order): Goriška brda, Velika planina, Logar Valley, Otočec Castle, Ptuj, Celje, Goričko.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Ljubljana?
I think Slovenians will take any reason to celebrate, which is why there’s something going on every month! Having said that, I think Ljubljana is most lively around Christmas holidays when the city sparkles with Christmas lights and smells of spicy mulled wine. The festive season that stretches out throughout the month is marked by Christmas markets, outdoor concerts and various other events.
What is the most loved local food of Ljubljana?
That’s a tough one. Slovenian cuisine has been heavily influenced by our neighboring countries, and being the capital, Ljubljana is a melting pot of all these different influences. In recent years, Ljubljana has really turned into a real mecca for foodies, so I’m certain everyone can find something according to their liking.
Most of Slovenia’s oldest traditional dishes are made using flour, buckwheat, or barley. As far as savoury food is concerned, I’d say stews are very popular (goulash, pasulj, ričet, jota) as well as grilled meat, whereas for desserts, potica and kremšnita would definitely be at the top of the list.
Where to head for shopping in Ljubljana?
As with every city, Ljubljana has its fair share of shopping malls and stores, the most famous of which being BTC city and Nama. However, for a more authentic and intimate experience I’d definitely recommend shopping in the Old Town, which boasts numerous cute little shops and boutiques offering mainstream as well as handmade products.
The most popular market in Ljubljana is definitely Open Kitchen (Odprta kuhna), a food market taking place at Pogačar square every sunny Friday from early March till late October. Featuring more than 30 different food and drink vendors from across the country, Open Kitchen is a manifestation of every foodie’s fantasy, offering the chance to indulge in colorful flavors of the world.
If you like handmade products, you must definitely visit one of the two arts & crafts markets that take place every weekend during the summer – ARTish and Artmarket. Peruse handcrafted goods and support local artists by buying a souvenir handmade with love.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Ljubljana?
Anything with a dragon on it, seeing that the dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana and you can’t walk in the capital without spotting dragon bridges, statues, graffiti, railings etc. You might also like bobbin laces made in Idrija, which is also a UNESCO Intangible Heritage, painted Beehive Panels, high-quality honey, Slovenian wine and sea salt.
Which are the best streets of Ljubljana worthy of taking a stroll on?
It’s not really a street per se, but my favourite place for a walk is along the river all the way from Kavarna Rog to Špica. This route will take you past the main sights all the way to Trnovo beach (Trnovska plaža), where you can take a moment to sit down by the river and enjoy some peace and quiet.
In addition, I’d also recommend a stroll from Gornji trg past Mestni and Stari trg to Central market, where you can take in Ljubljana’s gorgeous architecture and also stop at one of the many boutiques lining the streets.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Ljubljana?
The best panoramic view of Ljubljana is undoubtedly from the Ljubljana castle, although the view from The Nebotičnik Cafe located on the top of the skyscraper isn’t bad either. The thirteen storey Nebotičnik is also city’s one of the most recognisable landmarks.
Would you suggest any shows in Ljubljana to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in your city?
Ljubljana has many galleries and museums, so there’s plenty to choose from.
There are many cultural events that take place every year in Ljubljana. Every September on Medieval Day in Ljubljana, there are performances of groups in medieval costumes, chivalry tournaments and camps. Learn about Slovenia’s Medieval Day festival here.
As far as street art is concerned, you can find it almost anywhere, but the majority of it is concentrated at Trubarjeva ulica (street) and Metelkova. Trubarjeva ulica is considered as one of the most picturesque and favorite streets in Ljubljana.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Ljubljana?
Whenever I want to explore what’s going on in Ljubljana or find a new place to eat, I usually just use Facebook or Instagram, but there are a few other apps that might prove to be helpful :
Bicikel – if you want to explore Ljubljana by bike (BicikeLJ), this app will show you the nearest docking station and tell you how many bikes are currently available.
Cammeo – cheaper than other taxi companies, it works similar to Uber. Rides can be requested and monitored through the app and paid for by credit card.
Mynight.si – a website where you can find all the information about events happening in Slovenia (music, theatre, art)
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Ljubljana?
Do not spend all of your time in Ljubljana!
Slovenia has much more to offer and since everything is so close, it’d be a shame to confine your explorations to a single city. Take a day or two to explore the capital, and then venture out to other parts of the city! You might feel a bit discouraged by relatively poor public transport, but you can easily get around by car. If you don’t feel like renting your own, you can easily carpool with someone else. Carpooling is extremely popular in Slovenia – we have our own “blabla car” – prevoz.org, where you can find rides to and from anywhere. It’s the best and cheapest way to get around the country.
Things to know :
Visa : A Schengen Visa is valid for entering Slovenia. General required documents for Slovenia Visa application can be found here.
UNESCO Listed Sites : There are four UNESCO heritage sites in Slovenia. Škocjan Caves (1 h from Ljubljana), Idrija (1 h from Ljubljana), Beech Forests of Snežnik (2 h from Ljubljana) and Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps.
Rental Cars : Slovenia is a European country that does not rely on toll roads but vignettes. While hiring a car in Slovenia, remember you need a vignette sticker or a highway toll sticker placed on the car’s windscreen (almost always provided by the rental car companies). Vignette stickers can be for different length of time depending on how long you need it for. In Slovenia you will need to pay 15 Euros for seven days of use. In some countries it is only needed for national motorways, while in others it is required for the use of all roads.
Note that in absence of the sticker or if it’s not properly displayed you might get heavily fined. For more vehicle rental rules in Slovenia, click here.
Tap water : Ljubljana has high quality drinking water which is natural and not processed. There is no need to buy bottled water when in Ljubljana.
Electric Socket : In Slovenia the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz.
Drones : Flying drones is legal in Slovenia. Here are the requirements you need to fulfill.
IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO LJUBLJANA OR WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT MARUSA’S TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THEN BE SURE TO FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM
To know more about Slovenia, check our interview with locals of Koper and Idrija.