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There are a few cities that have sat on my “must visit” list so long that they have changed and in some ways they are no longer the place I thought they were.

At the risk of offending my editor and many of you lovely readers, Berlin was one of those cities for me. By the time I visited it was no longer “up and coming”; it had come up as high as it possibly could get. I still loved my time there, but it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be seven or eight years ago when I wanted to visit originally.

I feared that Ljubljana would be the same as it has been on my radar for almost as long, certainly since before Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, and it felt like the world and his wife had been in the interim.

Thankfully, Ljubljana didn’t leave me feeling full of regret that I hadn’t visited sooner, instead I left the city eagerly planning my next visit. Here are eleven reasons why you should plan your first visit there.

1. It’s beautiful.
I’m a sucker for a European city with more charm than a jewellery shop and Ljubljana is easily in my top five prettiest cities. Painted houses, a fairytale mix of Baroque architecture and an old castle looking down over it all, it felt like every street in Ljubljana’s old town was winding its way to a more beautiful one.
You should also cross the city and go to the top of a building fondly called The Skyscraper where there’s a cafe and bar and you can enjoy equally good views just with the castle in it.

2. It’s cheap

A member of the Eurozone, Ljubljana is exceptional value for money and will cater for all budgets. To give you some point of reference, you’re looking at around €2 for a glass of wine or a beer, a delicious gelato costs a little less and you can definitely eat well for less than €10, dessert included.

Accommodation is also cheap. While in Ljubljana I stayed in a private room in Hostel Tresor, which used to be a bank. I’m not really a hostel kind of girl but this place was clean and well designed, the staff were VERY friendly and helpful and there was also a decent buffet breakfast included. Also our location couldn’t have been better and I was able to walk everywhere. Private rooms start at €28 per night and a bed in a dorm costs from €18 (with prices higher in the summer season).

3. It’s less than an hour from skiing or swimming in the sea

View of Ljubljana and Mountains from top of castle

One thing I didn’t know about Ljubljana until I was standing at the top of the castle, but the city is really close to the mountains. I pointed at them going “ooh snow!” and my guide indeed confirmed that in winter months you can be on the slopes in less than an hour from the centre of Ljubljana. As for summer months, when it’s warm enough, you can be on the nearby Italian beaches in about the same time. Or if you want to stay in Slovenia, you can get to the picturesque Piran in under an hour and a half.

I’m already planning my snowboarding trip there this winter.

4. Street art

I saw some of the funniest examples of street art in Ljubljana. Again, it was completely unexpected. And I didn’t even get a chance to explore the bohemian area of Metelkova Mesto where thee streets are lined in graffiti.

Example of Ljubljana Street Art

Just cycling around the oldest corners of the city (see below) and exploring Tabor was enough. Next time I’ll be certain to spend a few hours exploring more examples.

Another example of street art in Ljubljana

5. FOOD!!

I had no idea that Slovenian salt was so sought after (it’s Jamie Oliver’s seasoning of choice), or that Slovenian bees make such sweet honey. I also didn’t realise that prosciutto from the Karst region of Slovenia was just as good (if not better!) than those I’ve eaten in Spain and Italy.

Famous Slovenian Salt Shop in Ljubljana

Restaurant at Ljubljana Castle

In short, Slovenia has a lot of regional delicacies and being the capital Ljubljana offers you a good slice of all of them. In addition to the fantastic Open Kitchen market (see below) we also tried a few of the city’s fancier restaurants like Gostilna Na Gradu (the restaurant in the castle) which was a lovely spot for lunch in the sun and Spajza, where we enjoyed al fresco dining in a courtyard out the back of an old house.

Spajza Restaurant Ljubljana Table

6. Vintage shopping

 Another unexpected surprise of my time in Ljubljana was how good the vintage shopping was. I wrote a guide to my favourite vintage shops in Ljubljana but in short, keep your eyes open and you’ll definitely find some great places to shop, including the arts market by the river on Breg every Saturday.

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7. Open Kitchen Food Market

Every Friday Ljubljana has a street food market in Pogačarjev trg (central market square) in the shadow of St Nicholas Cathedral. Locals head there for their lunch or an after work apperitif and tourists – like me – walk around the many stalls marvelling at how many different types of international cuisine are on offer. You can see more pictures of the market here.

Eating at Open Kitchen in Ljubljana Open Kitchen Food Market in Ljubljana

8. It’s a festival city

I was in Ljubljana for the Ana Desetnica International Street Theatre Festival, which was a brilliantly vibrant celebration of street performance spread over the centre of the city. Astonishingly it was free too and we enjoyed hours of entertainment for just the few Euros we tipped each performer. During the time we were in Ljubljana there were also two other big festivals happening – Ljubljana Festival and Ljubljana Jazz Festival. I even lucked out and got some tickets to see Gregory Porter as part of the jazz festival. It was held in Križanke Outdoor Theatre, an open air auditorium that was once a courtyard for a 13th century monastery.

MC Fois at Ana Desetnica

Gregory Porter, Križanke, 4.7.201455. jazz festival Ljubljana

9. It’s a cycling city

Even better than discovering that Ljubljana is a foodie city and a place to find vintage bargains, I was crazy happy to learn that Ljubljana is a cycling city. With bike lanes criss-crossing the city and a public bike scheme used by locals and tourists, I was thrilled to see a lot of people cycling. I did it myself on my one free day and loved how easy and safe it felt to cover more ground on two wheels, just be warned that the cycle paths do end suddenly and I did see a few people taking to the pavements.

Cycling in Ljubljana

10. It’s the perfect size for a weekend city break

Whoever said that good things came in small packages may have had a soft spot for Ljubljana. To put it in perspective, Stockport, Sunderland and Walsall in the UK are bigger cities and locals in Ljubljana were the first people to tell me how small their city is, as if this is a bad thing. Personally I don’t see this as a bad thing AT ALL.

Map of Ljubljana Photograph

I’ve just returned from a weekend in Hamburg and despite walking six miles in one day exploring the city, I still don’t feel like I even scratched the surface (I’ll just have to go back) but after just three short days in Ljubljana I felt like it was known to me. The city was no longer a stranger and that’s a really lovely feeling. That said, there’s still enough to make me want to go back… and not just for the prospect of snowboarding.

 11. It’s a green city

By the river

Ljubljana has recently been named European Green Capital 2016 and it wasn’t hard to see why. Ljubljana is one of the greenest cities I’ve visited, something that was clear in the way their waste is managed with recycle bins found all across the city. They also have a very innovative way of reducing waste and saving people money. In short, each resident is given a special electronic tag to open bins and they are charged dependent on the weight of rubbish they get rid of. How clever is that! I also loved that there are drinking water fountains everywhere (there’s even an app for it) and it tasted excellent. I try not to but I really do judge a city on its drinking water and Ljubljana – you taste good!!

Ljubljana House Riverfront

Have you ever been to Ljubljana? If not, have I tempted you to maybe go?

All photos by Frankie except Gregory Porter by Nada Zgank.

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This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.