Ljubljana, Slovenia: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary

3 Days in Ljubljana: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary

Mighty dragons guard historic bridges, a medieval castle towers above red-roofed townhouses, and old Roman ruins lie underfoot. Welcome to Ljubljana, one of Europe’s most fascinating capital cities.

Located along the unusually green waters of the Ljubljanica River, Slovenia’s capital and largest city is always surprising. Founded by Roman soldiers over 2,000 years ago, Ljubljana has always been on the frontier of great empires, and the beautiful Old Town is a patchwork of Austro-Hungarian and Italian influences, framed by the brutalist buildings of the later Yugoslavian communist era. 

The capital of an independent Slovenian nation since 1990, you’ll love the newfound confidence that sweeps along the banks of the Ljubljanica River. Abandoned army barracks in Metelkova have been transformed into art galleries and nightclubs, while new Michelin-starred chefs craft Slovene-inspired tasting menus in Ljubljana’s feisty restaurants. 

In summer, the city hosts a month-long summer music and cultural festival, and in winter, the rooftops are covered in a light layer of snow as the smell of baked potica drifts through festive markets. Whatever time of year you choose to visit Ljubljana, you’re sure to have an unforgettable time. 

And while a weekend in Ljubljana is enough time to fall in love with the city’s quirky architecture and lively cultural scene, you’ll find there’s so much more you’ll want to see. Slovenia is a small country, and with Ljubljana as your base, you can hike to nearby mountains, explore the Julian Alps, and, of course, day trip to glorious Lake Bled. Keep reading to discover our perfect 3-day Ljubljana itinerary!

If you’re still deciding where to stay then make sure to check out our article on the best boutique hotels in Ljubljana!

How to Spend a Weekend in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Getting Around Ljubljana

Getting Around Ljubljana, Slovenia: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary

As your 3 days in Ljubljana begin, you’ll soon realize that the Slovenian capital is a compact city that’s a real pleasure to walk around. The city spirals outwards from its Old Town, which is itself set around a prominent hilltop on which Ljubljana Castle was built many centuries ago. Use the castle’s towers as your guiding reference points, and you’ll never lose sight of the Old Town, even if you do get lost among its cobbled medieval streets!

The Old Town sits on the eastern side of a bend in the Ljubljanica River, and you’ll find that the best sights and attractions are all just a short walk away from the river banks. You can even take a boat cruise along the river to see more. 

Further out, suburbs like Metelkova or places like Tivoli Park are only a 30-minute walk from the Old Town. The city also has an excellent and inexpensive bus service, and you can rent bicycles and easily get around town on two wheels. You may wish to purchase the Ljubljana Card, which gives you unlimited use of public transport, a walking tour, and entrance to most major attractions in the capital. 

As Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana is a transport hub for the rest of the country and neighboring European cities. You can take trains to many destinations, including Lake Bled, Zagreb, Rijeka, Pula, and even Munich and Zurich. The bus connections are even better, with domestic and international connections to anywhere in Slovenia and Europe. 

Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is the city’s (and country’s) primary international airport, with flights to many major European cities, including London, Paris, and Budapest. The airport is a 45-minute bus ride from the city center, or you can jump in a taxi.

Explore the City of Ljubljana


Ljubljana Weekend Itinerary – Day 1

You’ve got a lot to pack into your 3-day trip to Ljubljana, and we recommend starting your visit with a walking tour of the main sights in the capital. As we already mentioned, Ljubljana is an excellent place to explore on foot, and you can either join a dedicated walking tour led by a local guide or put your own itinerary together using the major sights we’ll list below.

The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation

There are “free” city tours throughout the year, departing from the famously pink church (the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation) in Prešeren Square. There’s a departure at 11 am daily, with additional departures at 3 pm and 6 pm during the summer season. You only pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end, although you can also book private walking tours or specialist walking tours (including “communist tours,” for example). 

Prešeren Square & Triple Bridge

Weekend in Ljubljana 3 Days Itinerary: Preseren Square and Triple Bridge

Your tour of Ljubljana starts with an introduction to Prešeren Square, the city’s pedestrianized central square. You’ll see the Prešeren Monument, which is dedicated to the country’s national poet, Frances Prešeren, who wrote epic stories of Slovenian nationhood when the country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the first half of the 19th century. 

Prešeren Square is where the Old Town really begins, and from here, you’ll see where the old city gates stood before crossing over the Triple Bridge, which connects the two halves of Ljubljana. The Triple Bridge is your first introduction to the work of famous Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik, who designed much of early 20th-century Ljubljana and gave the city the contemporary character it still has today. 

3 Days in Ljubljana Weekend Itinerary: Preseren Square and Triple Bridge

On the opposite side of the river, you’re now in the medieval part of the city. The castle will be above you as you stroll along to Ljubljana Cathedral, a beautiful baroque masterpiece that was built in the 1700s on the site of an even earlier cathedral that was thought to have been built in the 13th century. Walk past the Central Market and keep to the riverbank, and you’ll now see two more of Ljubljana’s most famous bridges.

Butcher’s Bridge & Dragon Bridge

First is Butcher’s Bridge. It sounds ominous, but actually, Butcher’s Bridge is covered in padlocks left behind by couples looking to eternalize their love for one another. The bridge was built in 2010 but was based on an original plan envisioned many decades earlier by Jože Plečnik. 

You can purchase a padlock nearby and lock it to the railings, or you can just take in the view of the Ljubljanica River as you walk on over. The second bridge, which you can see from Butcher’s Bridge, is the iconic Dragon Bridge. The green dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana, and wonderful dragon sculptures guard the entrance to this elegant river crossing, which was first opened in 1901. 

Stay on the “modern” side of the river, then follow the path back toward Prešeren Square and keep going until you reach the beautiful buildings of the University of Ljubljana. You’ll have an excellent view looking up from Congress Square, before you cross over yet another bridge (the equally famous Cobbler’s Bridge, which is lined with Greco-Roman plinths and pillars) before ending up at Ljubljana’s historic Town Hall and Town Square.

Old Town

Weekend in Ljubljana 3 Days Itinerary: Lunch in Old Town

You’re back in the Old Town now, after a busy walk weaving backward and forwards over the new and old parts of Ljubljana. It’s time for lunch, and you can choose between a riverside setting at Slovenska Hisa, where you can try Slovenian charcuterie and sharing boards made with local produce, or Capriccio in the square, where you can enjoy the Italian influence found in Slovenian cuisine. 

Ljubljana Food & Wine Tour

Castle Hill (Ljubljana Castle)

Weekend in Ljubljana: Ljubljana Castle

After lunch, jump on the funicular and take in the sights as you rise to the top of Castle Hill. The rest of the afternoon is yours to spend exploring the castle as you walk along parapets and enjoy magnificent vistas across the red-roofed skyline of the Old Town below. The castle dates back to at least the 12th century AD, although much of the architecture you see today was added in the Baroque style by the Habsburgs in later centuries.

3 Days in Ljubljana Itinerary: Ljubljana Castle

Learn more about Slovenian history (dating back to Neolithic times) in the castle’s museum, then pop into the lighthearted Puppet Museum to learn about the surprising history of Slovenian puppetry. There’s a lot to do in Ljubljana Castle, including live roleplaying and escape games, temporary art galleries, and even a nightclub. 

We recommend hanging around until the sun sets. You can even stay for dinner and drinks. The castle is home to several cafes and restaurants, including the excellent Gostilna na Gradu, where you can order traditional Slovenian fare with a view of the city. After dinner, take the funicular back down to the Old Town, where you can enjoy a few aperitifs in the bars around Town Square. 

Visit the Ljubljana Castle


Ljubljana Weekend Itinerary – Day 2

Your Ljubljana itinerary continues on Day 2 with another action-packed day of sightseeing in the Slovenian capital. You’ve already explored the traditional sights of the Old Town in addition to the nearby sights on the modern side of the river. Today, you’re going to be having a more in-depth look at local culture and history, so we hope the overview yesterday has prepared you well!

Food Tour

3 Days in Ljubljana Weekend Itinerary: Central Market

Start with a light breakfast because we recommend joining a foodie tour on your second day in Ljubljana. Slovenian cuisine has influenced and been influenced by the cuisines of its neighbors, and local food is a unique blend of Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, and Balkan culinary traditions. Slovenia is fast becoming a foodie destination, and the country has 58 restaurants in the Michelin Guide and 10 Michelin-starred restaurants (most of them in Ljubljana).

It’s an exciting time to be eating your way around Ljubljana, as chefs prepare local delicacies using fresh ingredients brought in from the nearby countryside. There are several different tours available, many of which cater to vegetarian and vegan travelers too. 

You’ll typically get the chance to try Slovenian favorites, including the famous Kranjska Klobasa (a type of local sausage), local cold cuts of ham and delightful cheeses, and specialties like Idrijski žlikrofi, a delectable dumpling dish. 

Your food tour will take you around Ljubljana’s Central Market (you walked past it yesterday), where you’ll learn more about the stallholders, the produce, and the culinary traditions making a comeback in Slovenia today. If you decide not to join a food tour, then we recommend visiting the Central Market for lunch on Day 2 anyway, so you can try local cheese, wine, and meats in a lively local setting. 

If a food tour isn’t your thing, then we suggest spending the morning on either a communist walking tour, a street art tour, or perhaps an architectural tour (exploring the legacy of Jože Plečnik) instead, so you can delve a little deeper into a topic you enjoy while you’re in Ljubljana. 

Get a Taste of Slovenian Cuisine

Museum Hopping around Tivoli Park

Weekend in Ljubljana 3 Days Itinerary: Tivoli Park

Your afternoon is now dedicated to museums, of which there are many to choose from. We suggest strolling over to Tivoli Park, where you’ll find a beautiful green space that’s also home to some excellent cultural and historic institutions. If you’re traveling with kids (or if you’re just a big kid at heart!), then on the way, you can stop off at the House of Illusions for a little optical trickery before heading into the Slovenian School Museum.

House of Illusions Entrance Ticket

Next up is the nearby National Museum of Slovenia, which is one of the best places to visit in the city if you’re a big history fan. This excellent museum is the oldest museum in Slovenia, and it contains artifacts and archaeology that present you with a detailed overview of the nation’s development from prehistory to the present. The same grand public building by Tivoli Park also hosts the Slovenian Museum of Natural History, where you can see the reconstructed skeletons of mammoths and dinosaurs.  

Right on the edge of Tivoli Park, you’ll find the National Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art. The National Gallery is home to an extensive collection of artwork, the oldest of which date back to the 12th century. 

The Museum of Modern Art focuses on contemporary artists, with a collection that mostly spans the 20th century. Take a walk through Tivoli Park next, and if you have time, visit the National Museum of Contemporary History (exploring modern Slovenian history and culture), which is also nearby. 

Ljubljana 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art

Head back to your hotel to freshen up, then prepare yourself for an evening of eating and drinking in Slovenia’s best restaurants. If you enjoy your food with a side of history, then we recommend booking a table at Gostilna Sokol in the Old Town. 

This excellent restaurant dates back to 1870, and few other eateries serve such traditional dishes as this. For fine dining, Strelec Restaurant offers 9-course tasting menus in a romantic setting, while TaBar serves Slovenian-inspired tapas dishes from Michelin-quality chefs. 


Ljubljana Weekend Itinerary – Day 3

Your 3-day Ljubljana itinerary continues with a relaxed morning in the city. Take a walk around Tivoli Park, enjoy a short boat ride along the Ljubljanica River (if you purchased a Ljubljana City Card, a boat ride is included!), or visit one of the museums you didn’t have time to fit in on Day 2. 

Ljubljana Skyscraper

3 Days in Ljubljana Itinerary: Ljubljana Skyscraper

In the late morning, make your way to the Ljubljana Skyscraper, where you’ll have superb views over the city. The Ljubljana Skyscraper is one of the city’s most unusual buildings. Way ahead of its time, the skyscraper was built in 1933 and opened to great fanfare, being the tallest building in the Balkans at the time. 

It’s some 70 meters tall, and although it’s no longer the tallest building in the capital, it still holds a curious place in the hearts of locals (there’s even a famous pop song about the skyscraper!) and on the city’s skyline. 

Nebotičnik Cafe

Ljubljana 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: Neboticnik Cafe

Take in the views from the top deck, and hang around for lunch at the Nebotičnik Café, where you’ll enjoy supreme panoramas while you eat. As with everywhere in Ljubljana, there’s also a nightclub in the Ljubljana Skyscraper, although you’ve got much more to pack in on Day 3 before that opens much later. 

Metelkova District

3 Days in Ljubljana Weekend Itinerary: Metelkova District

Your final afternoon takes you to one of Ljubljana’s most interesting districts. Your next stop is the rather unusual Metelkova District, which you’ll find a half-hour walk north of the Old Town. Metelkova is now known as Ljubljana’s quirky artistic district, but until the fall of communism in 1993, it was infamously better known for its army barracks and political prisons.

Metelkova Art Center 

Weekend in Ljubljana 3 Days Itinerary: Metelkova Art Center

The area was abandoned following the withdrawal of the Yugoslav Army, and it was taken over by squatters in the 1990s. They eventually turned it into an “autonomous” social and cultural center, and today, the once derelict buildings are now an artistic hub focused around the Metelkova Art Center. There’s graffiti, street art, and unusual art installations all around the center, while you can also visit the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova for a more official look at the modern art scene in Ljubljana. 

Hostel Celica 

3 Days in Ljubljana Itinerary: Hostel Celica

You’ll also want to visit Hostel Celica. Located in Metelkova, Hostel Celica was the site of Ljubljana’s former political prison. The old prison cells have been transformed into artistic spaces by former prisoners, where you can even spend the night if there’s availability. You can take a guided tour of the hostel to see how it once functioned as a prison and to hear the stories of the prisoners that were kept behind bars here. 

Weekend in Ljubljana: Hostel Celica

That should bring you into the late afternoon, but don’t leave Metelkova just yet because the district is also Ljubljana’s alternative nightlife center. There’s a packed events schedule throughout the year, and early evening sees the old barracks turned over to live music and creative arts events. By late evening, the live music is replaced by DJs, and the district hosts underground raves and late-night parties.

Spend the Night at Hostel Celica

If that’s not your scene, then we recommend popping into the bar at Hostel Celica for a craft beer, enjoying a bit of live music, then heading back to the city for dinner. You’ve got a few options for your last dinner in Ljubljana. 

Sushimama serves up Asian-fusion food made with local Slovenian ingredients, B-Restaurant offers affordable fine dining, and Gostlina AS prepares delicious local food in a traditional setting (all are recommended by the Michelin guide). 

If you’ve still got the energy, then you can close your weekend trip to Ljubljana with a last aperitif in the Old Town bars. If you’re still going strong, then maybe you’ll even be tempted by a late night back in Metelkova or a session at the castle or skyscraper nightclubs!


What to do if you have more than 3 days in Ljubljana

If you’re lucky enough to have more than 3 days in Ljubljana, then you’re in for a treat. Not only are there lots more things to do in the city, but the capital is well connected to many more nearby destinations, including the world-famous Lake Bled.

Lake Bled

3 Days in Ljubljana Itinerary: Lake Bled

Located less than a one-hour drive away from Ljubljana, Lake Bled is one of the most beautiful places in Europe. This alpine lake is startlingly colorful, with glacial waters surrounded by the tall peaks of the Julian Alps. You can spend the day hiking around the lakeside (it’s around six kilometers in circumference), delving into history at Bled Castle, or rowing across to the distinctive church on the island. End the day trip with a slice of creamy Bled Cake!

Take a Trip to Lake Bled

Šmarna Gora

Ljubljana 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: Smarna Gora

Just outside the city, you’ll find Šmarna Gora, a 664-meter-high hilltop that towers over the countryside. At the summit, you’ll find a dramatic church and a lovely cafe where you can refuel after your walk. A network of hiking trails leads from Ljubljana through the hills to the top of Šmarna Gora and other adjacent peaks, making for an active outing from the city. 

Go Hiking in Šmarna Gora

Maribor

3 Days in Ljubljana Weekend Itinerary: Maribor

The city of Maribor is an hour and a half from Ljubljana by car. Located on the Drava River in the northeast, this is Slovenia’s second-largest city. Maribor is beautiful, and you can spend the day strolling through old streets and enjoying the local wines (this is a famous wine-growing region). Visit the local museum and castle to learn more about the history before heading back to Ljubljana.

Discover the Inviting City of Maribor

Lake Bohinj

Weekend in Ljubljana 3 Days Itinerary: Lake Bohinj

It’s not nearly as famous as Lake Bled, but make an effort to visit Lake Bohinj (it’s a one hour and 20-minute drive from Ljubljana), and you’ll be awed by alpine scenery. There’s just a fraction of the crowds here, and you’ll quickly fall in love with its beautiful scenery and epic hiking trails. 

See Lake Bohinj

Postojna Cave

Weekend in Ljubljana: Postojna Cave

A 50-minute drive into the countryside brings you to Postojna Cave Park, one of Slovenia’s greatest natural attractions. Reaching a length of 24 kilometers, Slovenia’s second-longest cave system is the perfect place for a subterranean day trip. Learn about the natural karst caves common here, then visit Predjama Castle to see the world’s largest “cave castle.” 

Secure a Postojna Cave Ticket

We hope you enjoy your weekend trip to Ljubljana! Should we add something else to our 3-day Ljubljana itinerary? Let us know in the comments.


Planning a trip to Slovenia? Check out our favorite travel guides and resources!


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Author

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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1 thought on “3 Days in Ljubljana: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary”

  1. My sister and I also had an exciting trip to Ljubljana. However, we rented a car because it was very hot. It is one of the best countries in Europe for driving including; a place where you can freely drive and explore all the mountain roads and amazing architectural styles.

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