We spent a day in Ljubljana as a side trip during our week in Bled. Ljubljana was a charming, lively city that felt slightly too small to contain all its visitors. The city center was smaller than I anticipated, which was nice because it made it manageable to navigate. That also made me happy because at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like we were leaving too soon or missed too much. I left with the impression that Ljubljana is probably a fun city to live in, and is perfect for a short, one, two, or three day visit for travelers.
What We Did
We drove to Ljubljana from Bled. The first thing we did was walk around the city center to see the old town, architecture, river, and many bridges of the city.
I read that the city has many dragons in its ornamentation and architecture. I challenged my son to be on the lookout for them so that we could count how many dragons we saw that day. That was fun for him and kept him interested in our surroundings for longer than usual. I lost track of our count once he included the dragon design in every step of the caste’s tower!
I wanted to get lunch from the daily market in the city, but as luck (and my ignorance) would have it, we were in Ljubljana on a religious holiday, one of the few times in the year that the market is closed. In the afternoon, a few stalls opened selling crafts and souvenirs, but we didn’t get any market food on this day.
We crossed Dragon Bridge, Triple Bridge (yes, I made us crisscross all three), Cobblers’ Bridge, and St James Bridge.
We enjoyed the interior and exterior views of the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation.
“Trgs” are market squares or streets in Slovenia. We walked by Presernov Trg, Kongresni Trg, Zvezda Park, Dvorni Trg, Novi Trg, Gornji Trg, and along the shopping streets next to the Ljubljana River.
We spent most of the afternoon touring the Ljubljana Castle. We bought the ticket that included the funicular ride to the castle and entrance to all the exhibits, but not the extra guided tours.
Once in the castle, we enjoyed the viewing tower, the penitentiary, a dragon exhibit, exhibits on local and Slovenian history, and much to my surprise, my son’s favorite, the museum of puppetry. This exhibit was hands-on, and visitors can play with a variety of puppets. He had so much fun!
What We Ate
Since we couldn’t eat lunch from the market, we found a place to sit down for lunch, Sarajevo ’84. I was excited about this place at first, and unfortunately our opinion of it declined as the meal went on. This was our first time eating Bosnian food and it was good, but unfortunately the service was lacking and got worse as the meal progressed, which left us with a bad feeling about the experience in general.
My son had the pljeskavica (meat patty), my husband got sausages, and I got the tasting menu to try a variety of specialties. They tell you that you can’t share the tasting menu, it is per person, but it is an insane amount of food that could absolutely be shared between two people. I shared everything with my husband, but his full meal was big, too. We could have gotten away with ordering one tasting menu and one small extra dish.
Anyway, that doesn’t bother me too much. I don’t mind paying for food if it is good, but I do hate wasting food if I can’t eat it all, especially in a situation like this where taking it in to-go bags isn’t practical (also, this concept is not nearly as common or accepted in Europe as in the U.S., so I often don’t even consider asking anymore, even if I am near home).
What bothered us more is that service got increasingly inattentive and slow. We waited almost 30 minutes for my last “course” of coffee and dessert to arrive before finally giving up on it. We paid and left without getting it because we just wanted to get on with our day. Basically, after the main course was served, we didn’t see our server again and had to go to the bar to get the check.
We have gotten used to slower, less attentive service in Europe. The dining culture is such that servers are not working as hard for tips here, and often there aren’t as many staff working in a restaurant as you would see in the U.S. Culture also dictates and accepts a more leisurely approach to mealtimes. We are on board with all of that, but here, what we experienced was even slower and less attentive than the norm. If you’ve read many of my blogs, I think you’d agree that I rarely complain, so this bummed me out, especially since we really enjoyed the food.
Later in the afternoon we treated ourselves to some ice cream near the mostly-empty market stalls. I like to think we earned it with all our walking.
What We Missed
There is certainly more to do in Ljubljana than we accomplished, but I don’t have many regrets. I am most disappointed that we didn’t get to see the daily market. I am also disappointed we didn’t walk far enough to see the National & University Library or Park Tivoli. My husband probably would’ve enjoyed the Union Experience at the Union brewery, and there are plenty of museums in the city to enjoy, but we wanted to spend our time outside seeing the city. A boat tour might have been a nice way to see the city from a different perspective.
Still, I left Ljubljana feeling like we got a good sense of the city and its personality. We enjoyed our day there and can add Ljubljana to the list of charming, unique European cities we recommend to others!