Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, provides one of the best winter city breaks in Europe. It’s been the cultural and economic center of the country since it became independent in 1991. Even on the coldest days, one of the city’s main attractions is the Ljubljanica River which winds its way through the city, lined with quaint cafes, dividing the commercial area and the city’s old town.
During your time here, there are several historical sights and attractions that you absolutely need to visit. The city also has some of the most beautiful places to see. Ljubljana in winter is particularly beautiful as a fresh coat of snow settles over the city. It creates picture-perfect scenes which are great for anyone with an interest in photography.
If you’re spending two days in Ljubljana, here’s the itinerary we created for our own trip. We hope it helps you make the most of your winter weekend getaway.
Day 1: Arrive in Ljubljana
Ljubljana winter city breaks are the perfect way to refresh your mind and body. With just two nights in the city, this plan is an easy weekend getaway.
Getting to Ljubljana
The best way to get to the city is by bus, and you can hop on from almost any main city in Europe. There are also trains that run between Trieste and Ljubljana twice a day if you’d prefer high-speed travel. Find all transportation options here.
If you’re traveling from Hallstatt the way we did, the train journey usually takes about 7 hours. You’ll need to make 2 connections, but there are plenty of beautiful views along the way so it’s no big deal.
We recommend starting your journey in the early morning. That way, you’ll arrive with enough time to explore Ljubljana in daylight. The sun sets early this far north (as early as 4:16 pm).
Dinner at the Christmas Market in Preseren Square
In Slovenia, Christmas markets run between late November through early January every year (find the dates here).
If you want to get into the festive spirit during this time, the Christmas Market in Preseren Square is sure to get you in the mood. Imagine all the Christmastime festivities in Prague and Vienna, minus the hordes of tourists. This is sure to get you singing carols and dancing through the streets.
ⓘ TIP: The Preseren Square Christmas market holds free concerts regularly in during this period, so be sure to check the lineup while you’re there.
Expect twinkling lights and festive decorations everywhere, as well as cute little stalls selling gingerbread cookies and other tasty Christmas treats. During your Ljubljana winter city break, this market is sure to get you in the mood for celebration.
After exploring the many beautiful stalls, let your nose guide you to a scrumptious dinner. We recommend you try some of the delicious meals from the food trucks and food stalls scattered throughout the market.
Dessert or a night out on the town
If it’s not Christmas season or you’re in the mood to go out on the town, why not try Gig? A popular bar among the locals, it always has a fun vibe and a solid selection of craft brews. They also serve small-portioned meals and snacks that are just the right size for grazing.
Afterward, head to Kavarna Cacao for a little dessert. Just a short walk from Preseren Square, this ice cream shop has a terrace that overlooks the Ljubljanica River, making it the perfect spot for evening views. They serve some of the best ice-cream in town so don’t miss out on this treat.
Day 2: Tour Old Town Ljubljana
On your second day in Ljubljana, try to hit as many of the main attractions as possible. This is best done with a walking tour through the city. Ljubljana is an easily walkable city, and we think you’d see so much more while you’re walking than you would if you drove. There are plenty of hidden nooks that to discover along the way, and finding your way around is simple.
Since we’ve already tried and tested the route, here’s our suggested plan to see it all.
Ljubljana Old Town is one of the top tourist destinations in Slovenia, and it’s easy to see why. With its charming atmosphere and picturesque buildings, you’ll want to photograph everything.
ⓘ TIP: If you want to tour any buildings, the Ljubljana Card will let you visit the main sights at the most affordable price.
Explore Preseren Square
Many Ljubljana landmarks are centered around Preseren Square, so our Ljubljana walking tour starts here. If there’s an event going on in Ljubljana there’s a good chance it will happen in this space.
Even during Christmas market season, there is often live music playing in the square to keep locals and tourists entertained. Your first few activities for the day are located in Preseren Square and don’t require much walking.
Many of Ljubljana’s buildings in the area were built during the 12th century, so you’ll be looking back on hundreds of years worth of architectural history. Sadly, many had to be rebuilt after an earthquake decimated the city in 1895.
Main sights around Prešeren Square include:
- the red, Baroque-style Franciscan Church of the Annunciation.
- Hauptmann’s House, one of the few buildings in Prešeren Square to have survived the earthquake of 1895.
- Ljubljana’s unique and iconic Triple Bridge,
- the Italianate Central Pharmacy, a cafe frequented by intellectuals in the 19th century.
- Palača Urbanc building (1903), now a fancy department store.
- The Prešeren Monument, a statue of Slovene national poet France Prešeren, who wrote the lyrics for the national anthem. (If you look carefully at the building the statue is facing, you’ll see a terracotta figure peeking out from a window. She represents Preseren’s love interest, who once lived there.)
Spend some time in Congress Square
A 3-minute walk from Preseren Square is the impressive Congress Square. In warmer weather, this quiet green space in the middle of the Old Town is the perfect place for a picnic. Locals and tourists alike come here to sit and relax before heading on their way.
There’s plenty more to see in the square. Take in the beautiful sounds from the music pavilion while admiring the gilded bronze statue of a Roman patrician. If that’s not enough, be sure to explore the church in one corner of the square.
The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation boasts of beautiful architecture and even better, is free to explore. The exterior of the church is red in color, making it stand out against the buildings that surround it. The interior is ornately decorated with statues and ceiling murals.
The University of Ljubljana is on the other side of the square and hosts a variety of free student-led tours. This university ranks impressively amongst the top 3 universities in the world by the Times rankings, making it well worth the visit.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat, there is a wonderful variety of cafes in the area. Presnica Take-Away is one of these cafes. It serves a delightful assortment of snacks, smoothies, and beverages that are sure to satisfy the palate.
Explore the National and University Library
From the Square, make your way to the National University Library. It’s most famous for containing a variety of medieval manuscripts and Renaissance prints. The architecture of the building has strong Italian influences and is absolutely stunning.
Although the building was built between 1936 and 1941, it looks a lot older due to its architectural style. The building is fun to explore and makes for a great stop along your journey. It’s only USD $6 to enter, and you’ll have access until you decide to leave.
Admiring the architecture of the building is the main attraction, but you can also browse their collection of famous books. Many of the books are written in Slovenian, Hungarian, and Italian, but there is a large portion of English books too.
Cross Cobblers Bridge
From the National University Library, your next stop should definitely be Cobblers Bridge. This bridge was built between 1931 and 1932. It connects two of the major parts of medieval Ljubljana – Mestni Trg and Novi Trg squares.
The bridge is lined with different sized pillars, topped with a stone ball. The pillars toward the center of the bridge are slightly shorter and hold lamps. This gives the bridge an incredibly unique look. Stop here to enjoy the views, snap a selfie, and then cross over to the other side of the river.
Visit Ljubljana Cathedral
After crossing the bridge, walk up to Mestni Trg, turn left and head to Ljubljana Cathedral. The current cathedral was built between 1701 and 1706, and while it’s not much to look at from the outside, the inside is absolutely stunning.
Murals cover the ceiling and there are many ornate gold ornaments that decorate the ceiling and walls. It contains frescoes by the well-renowned artist of the 18th century, Giulio Quaglio. The cathedral is better known as the church of St. Nicholas and is an absolute must-visit during your Ljubljana winter short break.
There is no entrance fee for accessing the cathedral, but do note that it’s closed between 12:00 and 15:00, so plan your visit accordingly.
Take the funicular
Once you’ve marveled at the cathedral’s beauty, follow the road to the funicular station. The funicular is almost entirely made from glass, providing spectacular views of the city below while on the funicular.
Be sure to take your camera along for the ride, as you’ll be able to get a few epic shots along the way. At the top of the funicular, you’ll come to a castle. This is the perfect place to do a little more Ljubljana sightseeing.
Explore Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle has been standing on the hill above the city for about 900 years and is one of the city’s main attractions. The castle has an Outlook Tower that offers spectacular views over the city, while the inside serves as a museum of Slovenian history, as well as a puppet museum.
There are plenty of historical rooms such as the Chapel of St George and the prison. As well as a room, called the Virtual Castle, dedicated to showing video presentations about the castle and its history.
The castle grounds also host art exhibitions and contain cafes, nightclubs, and restaurants. So there’s plenty more to do at the castle than just learn about its history. A variety of cultural events take place on the grounds every year, so be sure to check their website schedule as you may be in time for something special.
Cross The River’s Stunning Bridges
The river is dotted with beautiful bridges that you’ll be crossing throughout the day. They provide great photo opportunities and connect the area so effectively.
Dragon Bridge is adorned with famous dragon statues which make it a must-see during your short winter break in Ljubljana. Be sure to take a picture of these incredible dragons. This is something of a right of passage for many tourists visiting the city.
The bridge is a prime example of Art Nouveau architecture, which was so popular at the turn of the 20th century.
If you turn left after crossing Dragon Bridge and continue along the river, you’ll come to Butchers Bridge (Slovene: Mesarski most). The bridge is also commonly referred to as Lovers’ Bridge. This is because couples often come to the bridge to attach a padlock to either of its sides. They then throw the key into the water below as a symbol of eternal love.
Butcher’s Bridge was built in 2010, and it connects Central Market to the Petkovškovo nabrežje embankment on the other side of the river. The bridge is adorned with statues and sculptures from the famed Slovenian artist Jakov Brdar. These sculptures depict characters from Christian, Jewish and ancient Greek mythology. This is a great place to take a few more memorable photos.
After crossing Butchers Bridge back to the other side of the river, turn right. A short 3-minute walk along the river will find you at Triple Bridge. This bridge, as the name suggests, is actually three different bridges, and the central one has been there since 1842.
The two on either side were added in the 20th century and were intended for pedestrian use, to stop a bottleneck occurring on the main bridge. If you’re interested in learning a little more about the are, meet up with the free walking tours. The guides depart from Triple Bridge at regular intervals throughout the day.
Very often you’ll find the bridge packed with tourists as it’s a central location that seems to attract crowds. Vendors sell grilled corn on either side of the bridge and you’ll notice musicians playing their instruments for the enjoyment of the crowds.
This famous Ljubljana attraction is the perfect way to end off your second day in the city whilst mingling with the tourists and locals that frequent the area.
Cross Triple Bridge back to Preseren Square where you’ll end your walking tour for the day.
If you’re looking for a cafe to go for a drink after your day of touring Ljubljana, be sure to check out Kavarna Tromostovje. It’s conveniently situated in view of Triple Bridge and serves a wonderful variety of cocktails. The perfect place to relax after all that walking.
What to pack for Ljubljana in winter
If you’re visiting Ljubljana during the winter months, we have an entire article about packing for winter in Europe. It includes links to travel clothing for both men and women.
Here are the things that you’ll find absolutely essential.
- Rain jacket – Ljubljana is one of the wettest cities in Europe, so preparing for wet conditions is essential. Layering is often easier under a rain jacket than it is under a winter coat.
- Walking shoes – You’ll likely spend most of your time walking around the city, or taking walking tours. So be sure to take walking shoes that you know will keep your feet comfortable.
- Fleece-lined leggings – Ljubljana gets extremely cold in winter, for this reason, it’s important to pack clothing that will keep you warm and is comfortable to walk in.
- Waterproof snow boots – If you plan on venturing into the snow during your trip to Ljubljana, take waterproof snow boots. It’s no fun having wet feet when you’re trekking through thick snow.
- Wool socks – Keep your feet warm and you’ll increase your overall body temperature. Wool socks are a great way to ensure your feet stay warm.
- Beanie – Your head and ears should be kept warm at all times in the cold weather. Having a high-quality beanie on hand should do the trick.
Wrapping up our guide to Ljubljana in winter
After reading this two-day guide to winter in Ljubljana, we hope you have a better understanding of what you should be getting up to on your trip, and the essentials you need to take with you.
If reading this has given you the Ljubljana travel bug, be sure to add some of our great activities to your travel itinerary.