I will admit that I’m one of those people who sometimes fulfills those stereotypes of Americans that we all try to avoid. You know, the ones that travel to foreign places, get a little boisterous (thanks, alcohol), and then manage to show their complete ignorance of contemporary foreign issues and culture (#Murica). This is how I introduced myself to Ljubljana (pron. Loob-lee-ya-na) not only could I not even pronounce where I was going while nervously asking questions about the former Yugoslavia, but I also did minimal research on the city itself, so I could get an idea from locals. Thankfully, the people are extremely hospitable and willing to tell you all about their city and country.
The city is small, for a capital, but still got a lot of diverse movements within. From the hipster artists to the upscale bankers. There’s a little bit of everything, no matter your preference in characteristics of a city, unless you like constant crowds. For me, and most other travelers, there’s really two neighborhoods to focus on: Metelkova and Old Town.
Like most European cities there’s a large, old part of the city near downtown where a castle sits on top of a hill and gothic style statues adorn bridges, crossing peaceful rivers.
This river’s also lined with bars and restaurants (like most of the other European old cities). The central market also has an array of events from your traditional farmers markets to the arts market that happens every Friday. There’s Austro-Hungarian architecture lining the cobblestone streets. What really makes the place more unique is its proximity to everything not only within the city but also the rest of the country. Also the fact that cars are banned from the city center make it a relaxing place to saunter around.
In the day, the best thing to do is take the trolley up to Ljubljana Castle and check out some of their museum exhibits (Torture, clock tower, and history of the castle’s usage).
Grab a few beers and view the whole city in the park surrounding the castle confines.
At night, you have two options depending on your preferences for a drinking scene. There’s hitting up the bars that line the Ljubljanica River. They’re probably the trendiest places in town and range from your pubs with large terraces like Cutty Sark to dance clubs like the famous Klub Cirkus. There’s really a full range to choose from and you can go all night if you want.
The other option is the more rough around the edges Metelkova. The former military prison lives up to its original image; if you replaced guns with graffiti and soldiers with punks and metal heads. When you enter this part of this city it’s like moving from this tiny Central European utopia to a scene from a Philip K. Dick and Hunter S. Thompson lovechild novel.
Metelkova has got a lot more metal, piercings, and tattoos; but the locale has still got a beguiling atmosphere to people from all walks of life. The bars and clubs therein mainly consist of sticky plywood bars with tallboy cans stacked in mini fridges below. The people are friendly and it was never packed to the brim.
Outside is the middle school playground for adults you dream of in your cubicle.
There’s large freestanding metal structures that you can climb and relax with a view over the old barracks. There’s a three story shell of a house held together by plywood, metal rods, and seemingly spray paint. Not to mention a see saw and other random equipment. It’s a great place to hang out for a night in a less judgmental environment. Not to mention the art on the outside of these bars and music venues vary from psychedelic, to surreal, to the absurd.
The music on the inside can include jazz duos all the way to noise rock with some EDM/trance/trip hop in between.
During the day in Metelkova there are art galleries, studios with lessons on things like dance, painting or video editing, and even some non profit organizations. After one of these classes (most are for children but there are some drop-in ones for adults) you can go to one of the many cafes and sit around drinking coffee until the night comes and you do it all over again. Also, you can just use Ljubljana as your home base to visit the other wonders of Slovenia. Like its alpine lakes, views and hikes in the Julian Alps, or massive caves. Don’t just limit yourself to the city, but if you’re forced to then you still have at least a few days you can keep packed.