Welcome to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia and European Green Capital 2016. Our circular ride from the Town Hall to the Ljubljana Castle and from there along the pleasant banks of the Ljubljanica River to the Špica embankment, the Trnovski pristan embankment and through the Krakovo area back to the city centre, first through the centre of the modern and then the Art Nouveau Ljubljana and past the Prešernov trg square and over the Triple Bridge to our starting point will last one hour and 15 minutes to one hour and a half, depending on the traffic. During that time, parts of the rich history of Ljubljana will be revealed to us. Each stop offers an opportunity to get off, explore the vicinity and catch the next ride. The departures are every 90 minutes from outside the Town Hall – check the exact hours at the stops.
They say that Ljubljana is Europe in miniature as it is situated at the dynamic crossroads of the Germanic, Roman and Slavic worlds. It connects the prehistory of pile-dwellers with the 2000-year-old Roman Emona, the medieval centre below the castle hill with rich Baroque façades, the beauties of Art Nouveau with the creations of Jože Plečnik, significant architect and urbanist of Europe. The mosaic is completed by the picturesque bridges and green embankments of the Ljubljanica River. According to the legend, Ljubljana was established by the mythological hero Jason, who travelled with the stolen Golden Fleece across the Black Sea and up the rivers Danube, Sava and finally Ljubljanica, all the way to its spring. There was supposedly a large lake, where a monster lived, which Jason defeated and killed. The monster entered into national folklore as the Ljubljana dragon, which today dwells on Ljubljana's city coat-of-arms and on the Dragon Bridge. Ljubljana has 287,000 inhabitants and ranks among the smaller European capitals. They say that it is easier to walk all around it than pronounce its name. It is a city that has love in its name. If you say the word “ljubljena (the loved one)” in Slovenian, it sounds the same as Ljubljana – for those who really get to know Ljubljana, both words also have the same meaning.
Ljubljana, European Green Capital 2016
Ljubljana is a city with a green soul and the holder of the prestigious European Green Capital 2016 title. A decade ago, we started to implement the “Vision 2025” strategy in which we committed to develop the city in a sustainable manner and pay attention to the environment and the people living in it. One hundred larger infrastructural projects and in total as many as 600 green projects have been carried out in recent years. As many as four regional parks grace the Ljubljana area, while the largest city park, Tivoli, reaches into the city centre. You can explore the city’s special features on foot or by city bicycle; in the narrower streets of the city centre you can take a free ride with the Kavalir electric-powered vehicle. The Path of Remembrance and Comradeship, which encircles the entire city, is the city’s longest tree-lined lane with more than 7,000 trees. In the tourist information centres you can choose among numerous guided tours and experiences of the green Ljubljana. Ljubljana is also a city distinguished by clean drinking water. On the city streets, you can quench your thirst for free at public drinking fountains, which operate in the warmer months from April to October. Every sunny Friday from March to the end of October, the Ljubljana city centre hosts the exciting Open Kitchen event, a unique food market featuring freshly prepared delights.
The Ljubljana Castle has been a distinctive symbol of the city for as many as 900 years. At first it was a fort, then the seat of the regional governor, later on a barracks and even a prison, and today it is the main city attraction and a stunning cultural landmark with a rich content. Explore the castle! You can choose an immersive guided tour with costumed characters, entitled “Time Machine: from Emona to a City Symbol” or set out for your own exploration of the castle with the help of an audio guide. You can start at the Info Centre in Erazem’s Tower. Climb the Viewing Tower to admire a beautiful view, get to know the castle with the help of a tactile model of the castle, explore the history of the castle at the Penitentiary exhibition, take a look at the development of the castle in the Virtual Castle projection – up until its present image. Travel through the millennia of the settlement of Ljubljana with the iLjubljana exhibition and learn more about Slovenia at the Slovenian History exhibition. Indulge in a fun and educational travel through the rich treasure trove of Slovenian puppetry and visit the Museum of Puppetry. Neat pathways, intertwined all over the castle hill, invite you to enjoy relaxed walks. For a culinary stop you can choose between the castle coffee house, Na gradu restaurant and Strelec restaurant, while the castle shop offers souvenirs of your visit to take home. As a city situated at the dynamic crossroads of various cultures, regions and historical events, Ljubljana is also a real cultural capital. It is known for the architecture of Jože Plečnik, who among other projects also designed the architecture of Prague and Vienna. The imprint that Plečnik left on the city of his birth, Ljubljana, after he had returned from abroad in 1921 – 50 years old and thinking that there was no more special future ahead of him – is so distinctive and ineradicable that Plečnik’s Ljubljana as a unique urban specialty is one of the most original and significant total works of art of the 20th century to be found anywhere in the world. Ljubljana is distinguished by a harmonious coexistence of stately tradition and modern tempo – it is a lively centre of creativity where culture is practically the way of life. Every year there are more than 10,000 cultural events in the city, including leading music, theatre and art productions as well as alternative and avant-garde occasions – many being free of charge. In the summertime, when life moves to the streets, its Mediterranean character comes to the fore. They say that Ljubljana is like a lively living room, where we can easily choose our favourite event, savour the authentic Ljubljana dishes under the name Taste Ljubljana and relax and enjoy.
Slovenia is a young country but with a rich history and culture. The Slavs, who moved from the Carpathians to the area of today’s Slovenia in the 6th century, established the oldest known Slovenian state, the principality of Carantania, as early as in the 7th century. The 9th century saw the creation of the Freising manuscripts, the earliest preserved writings in the Slovenian language and the earliest texts in Latin script in any of the Slavic languages. Up until the 20th century, Slovenia was in the draught of the European monarchies, most of the time as part of the Habsburg or, later on, the Austro-Hungarian Empire; however, Slovenians formed their national and cultural identity and preserved their language during that period. After World War I, Slovenia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and after World War II, part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1991, after a thousand years, Slovenians got their own independent country, the Republic of Slovenia, which is a member of the European Union and the NATO alliance since 2004. It has 2 million inhabitants and covers 20,273 km2 – despite its smallness, Slovenia is the only European country which combines the Alps and the Mediterranean, the Karst and the Pannonian Basin. It is Ljubljana that connects these various geographical regions at the intersection itself and right in the centre of Slovenia. More than half of Slovenia's surface is covered by forests, which makes it the largest most wooded country in Europe. More than a third of Slovenia is part of the European network of special nature protection areas Natura 2000. It is considered one of the most watery and biodiverse European countries. The Slovenian coast of the Adriatic Sea is 46.6 kilometres long – and it is right here that the Mediterranean reaches most deeply into the European continent in the form of the Adriatic Sea. Karst is one of Slovenia’s special features – all such phenomena in the world are named after the Slovenian region with this name.
Špica and Botanical garden
The Špica embankment used to be a popular bathing area in Ljubljana. It still looks like a beach today due to its pleasant green and wooden surfaces, where the inhabitants and visitors of Ljubljana like to catch the sun on beautiful days. The name Špica (“pointed tip”) refers to the pointed shape of the land, which the Ljubljanica River creates here. In the vicinity you can visit the Botanical Garden, one of the oldest of its kind in Europe. It was established as early as 1810, at the time of Napoleon's Illyrian Provinces. Even Marshal Marmont himself, the first and main governor of the Illyrian Provinces, attended its opening and planted a linden tree, which nowadays still reigns in the arboretum area of the garden. More than 4,500 species, subspecies and forms of plants grow in the garden. From 140 to 180 botanical gardens order seeds of different plants from here, therefore the Ljubljana Botanical Garden dispatches more than 2,000 packages all around the world every year. In this verdant oasis, also considered the green soul of Ljubljana, you can relax in the attractive Primula tea room.
Another icon indelibly marks Ljubljana – the Ljubljanica River. As it is a sinking river and appears under different names on the surface, people started to call it the “river of seven names”. It presented the main trade and supply route from Roman times until the establishment of the railway in the mid-19th century. Due to its extraordinary archaeological, historical and cultural-historical features, it has been declared a cultural monument of national importance from its springs to the Špica area. With its green embankments, arranged promenades and diverse bridges, it winds through the old part of Ljubljana and gives it a distinctive character.
Trnovski pristan embarkment
The Trnovski Pristan embarkment, designed by the architect Jože Plečnik, is a unique architectural creation with its broad stone steps descending towards the river and one of the most beautiful promenades in Ljubljana. In recent years, it has also become a popular place for socialising. Younger generations, in particular, tend to say on nice summer days that they are going to hang out on the “Ljubljana beach”.
Jože Plečnik's house
Enter the house where Jože Plečnik lived and created from 1921 to his death in 1957. This is the place where the idea of Plečnik's Ljubljana came to life. The house displays the architect's home with all original interior and exterior equipment and a permanent museum exhibition. In the vicinity, there is the neo-Romanic Trnovo Chruch, which is worth seeing. One of Ljubljana's most famous romantic stories is also connected to the history of the church. In front of the church France Prešeren, the most important Slovenian poet, met his muse Julija Primic for the first time and fell in love with her immediately.
In Mirje, there is the southern side of the Emona walls, preserved for almost its entire length. These walls, built in 14 and 15 AD in the form of a rectangle, once surrounded Emona, a Roman settlement that stood where the centre of Ljubljana is today. They had twenty six towers and four main doors. The wall structure was so solid and strong that it endured for as many as 2,000 years at certain places. The Roman Wall, as this largest remnant of the Roman Emona is called, was renovated in the 1930s according to the plans of the architect Jože Plečnik. His works consist of the stone pyramid, additions to the walls, entrances and the arched area, which is covered with stone from the nearby antique buildings.
The area of Krakovo is bearing witness to the close intertwinement of Ljubljana and nature – in the Middle Ages, people here made a living with gardening and fishing. The inhabitants of Krakovo are even today known as the ones who supply Ljubljana and its central market with fresh vegetables.
Slovenians are one of the rare nations who celebrated Napoleon’s arrival and occupation. The Trg francoske revolucije square (French Revolution Square) features a monument to Napoleon’s Illyria. However, the square is most notable for Križanke, a former monastery complex of the Knights of the Cross and today a popular summer theatre – another work on which Plečnik left his mark during its redesign in the 1950s. It also hosts the shows of the Ljubljana Festival, which has been held since 1952. The lower end of the square is lined by the palace of the dukes Auersperg, which today houses the City Museum of Ljubljana, and nearby there is the National and University Library of Ljubljana, probably the most important of Plečnik’s oeuvre in Slovenia.
The site of the present square previously featured a small square back in the Baroque period and it was thoroughly reconstructed for the Congress of the Holy Alliance in 1821, after which it was also named. Today it is one of the most important squares of Ljubljana, lined with the Slovenian Philharmonic building, the seat of the University of Ljubljana and the architectural pearl, the Baroque Ursuline Church. In the summertime, the square hosts several events.
The National Assembly Building together with the Trg republike square (Republic Square) is the political centre of Slovenia and the centre of modern Ljubljana. The square was designed by the architect Edvard Ravnikar in 1960. The centre of the square features Cankarjev dom cultural and congress centre – the main Slovenian cultural institution, while the platform on the square is intended for events and gatherings. It is where Slovenian independence was announced on 25 June 1991. From here you can head towards the National Museum of Slovenia – in the park in front of this central Slovenian historical museum there is a monument to the renowned Slovenian polymath and scientist Janez Vajkard Valvasor.
The Ljubljana Opera House was built at the end of the 19th century in a neo-Renaissance design. The building’s distinctive appearance is decorated by two niches housing allegoric sculptures of tragedy and comedy. The building is the main Slovenian musical theatre today. A modernistic extension at the rear of the opera building was constructed in 2011 due to the lack of space. This stop is the best starting point for visiting the central Ljubljana park, Tivoli, and the International Centre of Graphic Arts at the Tivoli Mansion, the National Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art.
Ajdovščina (Slovenska cesta road)
Slovenska cesta road is Ljubljana's key avenue, which came to prominence after being transformed from a traffic road to an area intended especially for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. The Ljubljana Nebotičnik (Slovenian for “Skyscraper”) is on the left, an honourable example of architecture from the period between the world wars. At the time of its construction it was the largest building in the Balkans and the ninth highest in Europe, while today it is known that a visit to the terrace on the top of Nebotičnik offers the most beautiful views over Ljubljana.
Ljubljana is a city of diverse architectural styles. One of the strongest influences to leave a mark on Ljubljana is Art Nouveau, which was established in Ljubljana more than a decade after the devastating earthquake of 1895. The majority of the Art Nouveau buildings was constructed along the Miklošičeva ulica street, between the Ljubljana railway station and the old city centre. Especially typical are the façades of buildings, particularly their ornamentation; the most famous ones are the work of Maks Fabiani, one of the founders of modern architecture in Vienna, who also worked extensively in Ljubljana.
Prešernov trg square / Triple Bridge
The most famous square in Ljubljana is the Prešernov trg square, with the statue of the most important Slovenian poet, France Prešeren. The square is distinguished by the Franciscan Church and the connection to the Triple Bridge and Plečnik’s market halls with Saint Nicholas’ Cathedral. And that brings us to our starting point, the Town Hall, one of the city’s more distinct Baroque sights and the seat of the City Municipality of Ljubljana.