Where The Locals Go In Ljubljana
Just 2:15 hours from Zagreb, 2:40 hours from Trieste, 4 hours from Venice and 6:15 hours from Vienna by train, Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia (note: not Slovakia, that’s Bratislava!) is one of the smallest in Europe — and densest with wonders. Its breath-taking nature and a culture that draws aspects from both formerly Austria-dominated central Europe to the north and the Balkans to the south make it a worthwhile stop and very compact stopover. Here are some tips by Ljubljana locals to help you find out for yourself why it’s often called “the city of love”! Take advantage of the Global Pass and the Interrail Slovenia Pass to explore the region further.
33 kilometers of history and open spaces
This 33-km long path that surrounds the city of Ljubljana used to be barbwired during WWII. Now it crosses many of the city’s neighborhoods, surrounding them with a Green Ring; what once used to block the city from the outside world is now connecting it. The POT (path) or Path of Remembrance and Comradeship, as it’s officially known, is mostly used as a recreational area for jogging, biking etc, but once a year, on the Sunday closest to May 9th (Victory Day), huge crowds march on the path to commemorate its symbolism and many of them do the whole circle. It’s the biggest annual event in Ljubljana.
A center for urban culture
Despite the name, Kino Šiška isn’t just a cinema anymore — it’s a multipurpose cultural hall that’s given a new breath to its neighborhood of the same name. Nowadays it mostly hosts Slovenian and international bands — Isis, Florence and the Machine, New Young Pony Club and Juno Reactor are only some of the well-known acts that have played in this urban center. They have made an art of even standing in queue for the restroom, as you can see in this piece of graffiti by ZEK & Multipraktik Crews.
The city’s best bakery in the Old Town
Pekarna Osem, literally ‘Bakery Eight’, probably inspired by the time it opens at every day, is a small pastry heaven in the Old Town. Run by Andrej Gerželj, a bread and dough aficionado who has studied French, American and Dutch recipes and created his own, always has a big smile on his face and tries to make some time to chat with his (very loyal) customers. Some of his specialties include the coffee and walnut bread and the crunchy cheese bread. Just make sure to be there early — he runs out of goodies way before closing time usually!
A meal from the Global South
You wouldn’t exactly call Ljubljana a multicultural city, but with the immigration and appearance of people (and restaurants!) from all over the world, this has started to change. Skuhna is a social enterprising project that helps migrants from the Global South integrate into the local community by giving them the opportunity to cook for it. Enjoy a tasty, international, heartfelt meal at this restaurant, broaden you culinary horizons and do your part to strengthen these social bonds.
Come with food, leave with clothes
Since we’re on the topic of social initiatives, Izmenjevalnica (or ‘swap shop’) is a happening that takes place every third Friday of each month at Ljubljana’s Red Cross. The idea is that you bring non-perishable food items (even bought from the supermarket) and hygiene products which you can trade in for coupons that will buy you second-hand clothes or even things like vintage suitcases (for a larger number of coupons). Who knows — you could find your new favorite scarf or shirt there!
Α local favorite bar/club in the center
You can’t really miss Club Galerija Trenutek. Recently renovated but still vibrant local ‘Club Gallery Bar Minute’ has a cult following of colorful clientele. From its gallery guarded by the portraits of former Yugoslavian dictator J.B. Tito to the curious ‘exhibition’ of cigarettes where smokers can get their supplies any time of day, this bar is very characteristic of the scene in the center and has retained its character. Check out the concerts on Mondays.
Slovenian sausages at their best
There are few things more Slovenian than Carniolan sausage (kranjska klobasa). Klobasarna, in the center of Ljubljana, serves this traditional fast food as it is meant to be served: with a fresh bread roll, mustard and horseradish. It’s the shop with the giant sausage outside. Get a place by the window and enjoy you ‘halfie’ or ‘wholie’ together with a fresh juice.
Caffeinated bliss by the river
How about drinking fresh Cuban coffee roasted on the spot and enjoying it in your cup made from recycled coffee grounds right by the Ljubljanica river? Mala Pražarna goes by the motto ‘less is more’ and you can really tell just by the calm, wise, authentic presence of owner Sabin. A pack of fresh roast could also make for a cool souvenir!
For more local favorites across Europe, check out Spotted by Locals.
Header image by Jorge Franganillo