(Guest post from Lidiya Petkova)
The Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, is a hidden gem well worth visiting, that will charm you immediately. Along with its famous castle, city museums, cozy little restaurants and riverside cafes, here are some local recommendations that are well worth exploring.
If you want to enjoy a more active experience, there is something for you only 20 minutes from the centre, by bus or car; the 669 meters high Shmarna Gora hill. This is a good way to recharge and see Ljubljana and its surroundings from different perspective.
It is fascinating how many people are up for running or hiking the hill early in the morning, just when dawn is beginning to break, before the busy day starts. It is no surprise Ljubljanians look so fit.
On a clear day, from Shmarna Gora, you can even spot Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia. The hike up the hill takes only 30-40 minutes and is with average difficulty. There are about 15 trails you can follow to reach the hill.
Near the top is the St. Antony’s bell. If you ring it once it can fulfill your wish. That is a pretty good motivation to reach the top, isn’t it? On Shmarna Gora hill stands an interesting gothic church. Just beside it, you can recharge in the Ledenik restaurant with delicious Slovenian soup and apple strudel. Also, there has been a longstanding tradition (since 1979) to organise an international run every year.
In case it is rainy, it might be quite muddy, so make sure you bring old shoes with you. Bus number 8 from Monday to Saturday and 1b goes to Shmarna Gora every 20 minutes from the city center.
Metelkova street, the alternative and creative heart of Ljubljana, often compared to Copenhagen’s Christiania, is a must see spot. View the creative sculptures and graffiti by day and enjoy the diverse social scene at night. It is well hidden but easy to reach, only 10 minutes walking distance from the train station and main city square.
The area is comprised of seven clubs, live music spaces, art galleries, art studios, and a former prison, functioning as a hostel nowadays. A lot of cultural and social activities are going on and for those looking to experience something completely unique Metelkova is the place to be. It is a creative paradise, you can lose yourself in. At night it offers a wide range of music from hardcore and jazz to dub and techno.
Don’t miss it, and importantly, don’t fail to support this communal, creative space.
Hire a city bike
A good way to explore Ljubljana is to grab a city bike. There are about 31 stations in a close proximity from one another.
Here is the website where you can subscribe directly online using a credit card to be able to use the city bikes: http://en.bicikelj.si/. The annual price is 3 euros once you acquire the Urbana bus card. It costs €2 and can be purchased at any bike station. It allows you to use both, buses and city bikes.
Tivoli park and hill is another beautiful place to walk or run in the middle of the city.
If you feel like immersing deeper in Slovenian culture and learning the basics of the language, I recommend the course Learn Slovenian Online.