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Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of Slovenia. Due its central location in the country, it has always been the focal point for transport, industry and culture.
From 2000 BC people lived in the Ljubljana marshes, in what were known as pile-dwellings, giving them height out of the muddy earth. One of the most notable archeological finds there was the oldest wooden wheel in the world.
The city is built over a Roman city, that was called Emona, first written about in the 12th Century. After the Middle Ages, it became under the rule of the Habsburg Monarchy following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.
There has been a lot of research and argument about how the city got it name, German influences and early Slavic language being the main two factors. The overall opinion is that it is from the translation of the name of the river Lyubljanica and the name Ljubovid, which means ‘ the one of lovely appearance’.
Another matter of conjecture is why the city’s symbol is a dragon. Slavic myth states that the slaying of the dragon released the waters that make the region so fertile. Another version is that Jason, one of the Argonauts, slayed the dragon whilst returning to Greece with the Golden Fleece. The most believed, is that it was copied and then adapted from the story of Saint George. Whichever one is believed, the dragon symbol is pictured on many goods and souvenirs, plus is in statue form on the Dragon Bridge and Ljubljana Castle. It also appears on the Flag and Coat of Arms, along with the castle.
Ljubljana Castle is one of the main features of the city and sits on the hill above the it. In 1335 the Hapsburg’s demolished the original fortress at this location, but the castle was built on the site in the 15th Century to protect against Turkish invasion. Entrance to the courtyard area is free and in itself is a good place to visit, with cafe, seating areas and craft shop. Additionally, visitors can take a ‘classic’ or ‘time-machine’ tour, the latter involving costumed guides from throughout the history of the castle. The castle is also the best place to view the city, surrounding countryside and river.
The River Ljubljanica runs through the city and is one of the other main attractions, being a beautiful green colour and focal point for all the restaurants, bars and seating areas, which are located along its banks. There are also many tours on the river, they cruise up and down all day and evening.
Spanning the river are several bridges, another popular feature of the city, the most popular being;
The Triple Bridge which is formed from a stone bridge and two wooden pedestrian ones. It was originally built in 1842, but to protect it and stop it being a bottle-neck, the additional ones were added either side in 1932. It is decorated with balusters and lamps, plus has stairs cases and terraced areas.
Trnovo Bridge is directly in front of Trnovo Church and was built to be used as a public space, so is very wide and has two rows of birches. It has several sculptures and statues, one being of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of the church.
The Dragon Bridge, which is regarded by many as being the best looking, is more famous for having large copper-dragon statues on each corner, which are symbols of the city.
The Butchers Bridge connects Ljubljana Central Market and Petkovsek Embankment. It contains large sculptures by Jakov Brdar and is now were couples place padlocks to symbolise their love for each other (ironic, as the name derives from a much less romantic past).
Hradecky Bridge is one of the first hinged bridges in the world and the only preserved cast iron bridge in Slovenia. It connects the district of Trnovo and neighborhood of Prule, in the central district.
Many visitors say the main attraction of the city are the buildings and architecture, as they are of mixed styles and from different periods; the oldest being from Roman times, but the main down town region being from the Middle Ages. Due to several earth quakes, large parts of the city were rebuilt too, in 1511 in Baroque style and in 1895 in Viennese style.
Preseren Square (the main square), is where the central point of the city and most visitors find themselves at some point. All the main streets run off it, so it is an easy place to find and use as a meeting point and guide. The streets, boulevards and paths that follow the river are lined with restaurants and bars and the ones that weave through the city have a multitude of various styles of shops (plus bars and restaurants too).
In the center of the square, which is actually in the shape of a circle, is a statue of the Slovenian national poet, France Preseren (with a muse) and it has an adjoining pedestal too. The square has been closed to traffic since 2007, which has made it a far more accessible city center with a more welcoming atmosphere.
Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is located in the square and was built in 1646, with erection of the famous bell towers coming later. It is of Baroque style with the early frescos being replaced by ones crafted by the sculptor Francesco Robba. There is the Town Hall, which is another impressive looking building.
Republic Square (once named Revolution Square) is the largest square in the city. On the 26th June 1991, the independence of Slovenia was declared there and is still celebrated today. The National Assembly Building and Cankar Hall (cultural center) stand on the square too.
Congress Square is the most important political Square in the city and it has held many ceremonies, such as the Congress of Ljubljana and Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It is also home to several important buildings such as; Slovene Society Building, University of Ljubljana Palace, Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity and Philharmonic Hall.
Other interesting venues in the city are; Jakopic Pavillion Art Gallery, City Art Gallery, Slovenian Museum of Natural History, Museum of Modern Art, Metelkova Museum of Contemporary Art, plus many other smaller gallery’s, museums and libraries etc.
Slovenia is sometimes called the country of ‘love’, as it is the only one that contains the world in its name, but it is also known as the ‘green’ country, in fact green is used for most of the countries logo’s and images. It is not only due to the amount of countryside, woods and forests in the country, but the number of parks and green spaces in the towns and cities too. Ljubljana has many, but the best are Tivoli City Park and Ljubljana Botanical Gardens, in 2014 Ljubljana won the European Green Capital Award.
In total contrast to the rest of the city, but is a piece of cultural history is Metelkova or ‘Metelkova City’ as some people call it. Located just a few minutes walk from the city center, this area was the headquarters for the Yugoslavia National Army, but the buildings were later taken over by squatters in 1993. It is located on Metelkova Street, which is named after the 19th century Slovenian Roman Catholic priest and philologist. It is now a unique gathering of old and modern buildings several decorated in forms of art, sculptures and statues. They are used for a variety of reasons; hostel, cultural center, galleries, theatre and many clubs and bars. The music played there is definitely not classical, it is Rock, Jazz, Punk, Metal, Thrash, Dub and Techno. It is worth a visit, especially during the evening, as when all the bars are open and the lights, music and atmosphere is in full swing, it is a spectacular and unique looking place.
A great way to enjoy and experience the heart and soul of the city is to take part in a Traditional Slovenian Evening, with food, drink, dance and entertainment. ‘Slovenian Evenings – Zidana Marela’ is a local company that puts on fantastic such events and is sometimes the one outstanding memory that people leave Ljubljana with, so try one and ‘enjoy’.
The city also has many sporting and adventure related things to do, even if the main feeling or atmosphere is of calm and relaxation. Many trips, tours and activities can be arranged, such as; mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, rafting, SUP, hunting, fishing, motor biking, skiing etc.
To get the best out of the attractions, it is best to do this with a local travel company such as INVIA DMC Slovenia, who will not only ensure that the experience is more enjoyable, but will ensure the trip goes smoothly and safely.
The capital has many types of accommodation from hostels to high class hotel’s, Union Hotels is a company that has several establishments in the city, all having high class accommodation, restaurants, bars, services and a typical Slovenian friendly welcome.
The Ljubljana Tourist Board are very proactive and helpful, so if there is any information that individuals, organisations or companies require, do not hesitate to get in touch with them.
This city is always trying to grow in popularity in all aspects and its connections with Great Britain has always been a strong relationship. Therefore, Ljubljana Tourism, Slovenian Tourist Board for UK and Ireland, plus British Slovenian Chamber of Commerce are always keen to hear from any individual or organisation that wants to know more about this great country.
Ljubljana is a city of culture, tranquility and peace, with surroundings of greenery, water and architecture. It is not Prague or Amsterdam and never will be or should be. It is a city to take a long walk, drink coffee, chat for hours, drink beer and wine all afternoon, take the whole evening enjoying a meal or spend the whole day site-seeing. Nothing in Ljubljana should be done at speed, why spoil a good thing by rushing it.
Whilst in Slovenia there are many other destinations worth visiting, such as the fairytale town of Bled and uniquely interesting region and town of Kocevje.