Ljubljana – the beloved boy next door?

If Ljubljana – meaning “the Beloved” in Slovene – were a man, he’d be the boy next door. 

He’ll treat you like a Princess: buy your favourite wine, bake your guilty-pleasure cake for you; he’ll even take out the rubbish. You’ll rave to your friends about his overall wonderfulness and clean, kindly and thoughtful ways. Then you’ll dump him three months in, because you’re craving a diverse “edge” to his flawlessness.

All of which makes Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, a perfect spot for a few fairytale days. Just don’t overstay it, or the magic spell will be broken.

Every Princess should have a castle

In this case, Ljubljana Castle (€6-€10 Euro, depending on ticket type).

Climb the stairs to the top of the tower and imagine your prince rescuing you.

Or in my case, have a chat to the guy writing calligraphy in the Castle chapel – he may write you something cool like this …

Ljubljana castle calligraphy

“Julie. Sweet and useful. Seize the night” (exciting!)

Austrian influence is apparent in the chapel from the German inscriptions on the pastel-bright frescoed ceiling.

The chapel ceiling at Ljubljana castle

Pastels adorn the chapel ceiling at Ljubljana castle

Another castle option is Bled (€9). Lake Bled is a gorgeous Alpine fairytale in itself.

The bus to Bled costs €6.30 each way, and takes around 1hr 15 minutes from the main bus station. Timetables can be found here. It’s a doddle of a journey and makes a good day trip combined when with a 6km walk round the lake and / or gondola trip / rowing boat rental.

If you’re not the kind of Princess who needs two castles, then pick Ljubljana’s over Bled for its exhibits and medieval factor.

Eat like a Princess

You could probably lick your dinner off the streets of Ljubljana – they’re that clean.

Breakfast is a yummy sit-down affair – usually involving eggs – that sets you up for the day. Think cheese, spinach and meat options; served with fresh bread. All for around €6-8 including coffee.

If Slovenia were a cake filling – sandwiched as it is between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia – then cream would be it.

Bled cake, Slovenia

Bled cake. Cream central.

Bled cake is the cream-centric equivalent of the UK’s vanilla slice.

If you need a further cream overdose, you can also get it freshly whipped on top of your coffee. Café culture is alive here. A cup costs around €1.40-1.90, depending on the location’s tourist factor. You may need to go for a walk afterwards.

Slightly less Princess-like is archetypical street food burek. Burek is a slightly flaky savoury pastry served as a square-shaped slice, filled with either meat or cheese. Prices run around a couple of Euro.

Wine for a Princess
Slovenia produces some rather fine wines but most of them never make it beyond the border. A good excuse if ever I heard one to try a glass or two.

What’s everyone else’s loss is Slovenia’s gain, and there are bars galore where you can savour the flavours of the local reds and whites. The €4 merlot from Dvorni bar was my fave. Prices start around £2.50 / €3 / $4 a glass.

No costly Princess-like transport required

Ljubljana is a very walkable city with free two-hour walking tours hosted twice a day. The train and bus stations are a mere 15-minute walk from the Prešeren monument in the main square, and pavements are good for luggage-wheeling.

Costs

Here’s an overview of what I spent in Ljubljana on my 4 night-3 day stay, and how I spent it.

Accommodation – 4 nights for a room in a city-centre AirBnB apartment – same cost for 1 or 2 people: £115 / €147 / $184
Food and drink (50% was street food) p/p: £53 / €68 / $85
Entertainment (castles, art gallery, tip for walking tour guide) p/p: £21 / €27 / $34
Local transport to Lake Bled return p/p: £10 / €12.60 / $16

Total cost for 4 nights for one person: £199 / €254 / $318

Total cost for 4 nights for two people sharing a room: £279 / €357 / $447

Getting there

Ljubljana has a small international airport. Alternatively, the train from Zagreb takes just over two hours and costs €16.50. The bus to/from Trieste (infrequent) is €12 and takes around 1.5 hours.

The verdict

The biggest danger you’re likely to encounter in Ljubljana is a hangover from too much fine Slovenian wine.

The city’s cleanliness and environmental consciousness is apparent in everything from the ready recycling facilities to the plethora of cyclists.

Pastel-coloured houses reflect in the glistening river. Museums. Galleries. Castles. Views.

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Savour it all. It’s a city to be tasted and experienced.

But don’t let Ljubljana’s allure keep you under the watchful eye of its castle tower for too long – or you’ll be running away from “the Beloved” fairytale ending.

Have you been to a “boy (or girl) next door” destination? Did you want to stay there, or escape?

Go on, check these out too ...

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