The city of dragons: Things to do in Slovenia’s Ljubljana

Posted on 28 July 2023 By David Henning

Ljubljana may be one of Europe’s smallest capital cities, but this little city punches above its weight – you could even say that it has the spirit of a dragon.

Wherever you go through this city, you’ll catch glimpses of these mythical creatures. But this city, in a rather obscure country, has most of its sites within walking distance.

Things to do in Ljubljana

From a Kanye West-inspired tour, incredible street food to an anarchist nightclub and a hipster haven. No matter who you are, there are plenty of things to do in Ljubljana.

Things to do in Ljubljana


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1. Take a pub crawl on Trubarjeva Street

The old town and the promenade alongside the canal might seem like the place to be in Ljubljana with its endless cafes, bars and hum buzz of people, and you wouldn’t be wrong.

But taking a turn down an alley, you’ll stumble upon an avenue with fewer crowds but busy bars spilling out onto the cobblestone street.

It’s a very nostalgic street, where shops have remained the same for over half a century. There’s even a family-run store called Dežnik (umbrella) at number 13, where umbrellas have been made and prepared since 1967. Not to mention the bars and restaurants which have also stood the test of time.

2. Visit the market

Things to do in Ljubljana

From Monday to Saturday, from 6 am, the  Vodnikov trg and Pogačarnev trg squares in the centre of town are a buzz of activity. Over here you can get locally grown fresh produce from heirloom tomatoes, aubergines and beans, to tropical fruit as well as a traditional Slovenian hand-woven basket.

It’s refreshing to find a farm market where locals also do their regular shopping, unlike how so many other farm markets which are latent with commodification. Over here, expect to find the freshest produce at a reasonable price, with the same old charm of merchants shouting prices and the soundtrack of street musicians basking nearby.

3. Metelkova

Things to do in Ljubljana

A graffiti-laden district with public art was once a military barracks complex for the former Yugoslavian army. Today it is a social and cultural centre for clubbing or just a place to relax and have a drink – they don’t mind if you bring your own six-pack. When we were there, we stumbled into a DJ marathon that started at 4pm.

It is home to bars, nightclubs, a former prison turned hostel and inviting tree houses.

This eclectic and enchanting space started as a squatter’s settlement in 1993 and became a national cultural heritage in 2005, even though it remained on the edge of the law.

Go there if you want to see an underground DJ, meet interesting people, see art exhibitions and shows or just rave from dusk to dawn.

Things to do in Ljubljana

4. Eat Slovenian food

Things to do in Ljubljana

Štruklji  or cheese dumplings. Picture: Unsplash

Slovenia has a fine culinary tradition, from a long tradition of beekeeping, where it is seen as a way of life, to seemingly every resteraunt having a dish which incorporates porcini mushrooms.

Cheese dumplings, or Štruklji as it is locally called, evolved from a 16th-century monastic recipe to a classic Slovenian dish. It is often served as a stand-alone dish with meat and gravy or sweet breadcrumbs and butter as a dessert. Julija Restaurant in the old town serves traditional Slovenian dishes as well as fine food, from Štruklji to octopus.

Ljubljana is listed as one of the top street food destinations in the world and every Friday from Spring until October, the city has an open kitchen food festival.

Visitors to Pogačarjev trg square can enjoy scrumptious local treats until 10pm, with occasional visits by top chefs. Be sure to try Carniolian sausage, a protected local pork sausage served with mustard.

5. Take the Kanye West Tour

In 2018, Kanye West tweeted about a rather obscure Slovenian architect by the name of Jože Plečnik, who left his greatest mark on Ljubjana.

Kanye agreed with other historians on Plečnik’s brilliance and contribution to modernist architecture. After an earthquake devasted much of Ljubljana in 1995, he was commissioned to transform the little town into the capital of Slovenia. He took on architectural and urban planning projects and turned the town into a comprehensive piece of art that stayed true to the local spirit and the city of dragons. You can take a tour on Plečnik’s works here.

Pictures: David Henning

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