There have been several turning points in Slovenian history. The capital, Ljubljana has held a position of prominence in the region since Roman times and remains a beacon for Slovenians. It is at the crossroads of trade routes, culture and language in southeastern Europe. The rich and varied heritage reflects influences from inter alia, the Carniolan era, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Socialist regime of Yugoslavia. These have been captured in several monuments and museums in the city and collectively define the Slovenian identity. The symbol of Ljubljana is the dragon which is said to have been slain by Jason and the argonauts of Greek mythology.
The Dragon bridge, across the Ljubljanica River, opened for traffic in 1901, while Ljublana was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was the first reinforced concrete structure in the city and one of the first in Europe. The road across the bridge was also the first surface to be covered with asphalt. It replaced the wooden Butchers' Bridge that was severely damaged during an earthquake in 1895. At first, it was named the Jubilee Bridge of Emperor Frans Josef but was renamed the Dragon Bridge in 1919, after Slovenia left the Empire. The Art Nouveau bridge has subsequently been declared a technical monument. The many dragons that adorn the bridge are the most photographed symbols of the city.
The landmark castle is strategically set on high ground within the city limits, in the crook of the Ljubljanica River. It is the most visited attraction in the city and one of the its symbols. A funicular transports visitors from the old town to the castle in 60 seconds. The castle started as a medieval fortress in the 11th century. Over the next 700 years the complex of buildings was rebuilt, overhauled and extended. It was once the seat of the Lords of Carniola and has also been used as a military hospital, prison, barracks and a home for the indigent. It is the venue for several festivities, including Holy Mass on Christmas Eve.
Grajska planota 1, 1000 Ljubljana, Phone: +386-13-06-42-93
3.Prešeren Monument & Square
The statue of Slovenia's greatest national poet tells the story of unrequited love. A likeness of France Prešeren stands on a pedestal in the eastern side of the square named after him. He faces the window where Julija Primic, the unattainable love of his life, once lived. Behind him and above his head is a statue of a Muse, with a laurel branch in her outstretched hand. Prešeren is holding a book symbolizing his poems. Seven sculptors competed for the commission, which was won by Ivan Zajec. The statue was cast in a foundry in Vienna and unveiled in 1905, in front of 20000 people.
The central bridge of the Triple Bridge was built in 1842. It replaced a medieval wooden bridge that linked northwestern Europe to southeastern Europe and the Balkans. By the 1920s the new bridge had become a bottleneck and itself a candidate for replacement. Instead, architect Jože Plecnik, designed additional bridges, one on either side, to carry the pedestrian load. He unified the bridges by removing the metal railings from the central bridge and adorning all three bridges with lamps and a total of 642 balustrades. All three bridges are now part of Ljubljana's pedestrian zone. A model of the Triple Bridge can be seen in Mini Europe in Brussels.
© Roman Babakin/stock.adobe.com
The Fountain of the Three Carniolan Rivers was created in the mid-18th century and was the last work of Venetian sculptor Francesco Robba before he left the city. Three male figures with jugs, representing the gods of the three rivers, surround a 10 meter obelisk. They stand in a limestone pool in the shape of the ancient 3-leafed seal of the city. Since 2001 the statue has been considered a cultural monument of national significance and is kept in the National Gallery of Slovenia A replica stands outside the Town Hall. The statue was depicted on the Slovenian 5000 tolar banknote until the currency was replaced by the Euro.
Križanke is an open-air theater and festival space, created by Jože Plecnik in the mid 1950s, in the courtyard of a former monastery. It was his last major project for the city and was created specifically as a venue for the Ljubljana Festival which is held in July and August each year. The theater has a seating capacity of 1400 and is the venue for several cultural events. A model of the Monastery, as it was before the changes, is kept in the City Museum of Ljubljana.
Trg Francoske Revolucije 1, 1000 Ljubljana
7.City Museum of Ljubljana
© City Museum of Ljubljana
This museum is housed in the Auersperg Palace, a four-story Renaissance monument. The museum chronicles the cultural, social and economic history of the city, from the first dwelling 4500 years ago to the present day. Ljubljana's strategic geographical position is highlighted by means of interactive displays, short films and guided tours. Of the 200000 objects, a wheel and a wooden spear tip are thought to be the most important. The world's oldest wheel was found in the marshes outside the city in 2002 and the spear tip was found to be 40000 years old. There is an exhibition of models of Jože Plecnik's designs that did not materialize.
Gosposka ulica 15, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
8.House of Experiments
© House of Experiments
There are more than 60 interactive exhibits at this hands on center which explores science, perception, art and medicine. There are activities for all ages and for individuals, groups and families. There is simulated training for would-be astronauts and Formula One drivers. Circular science journeys are conducted around the city on set days. Participants need to collect stamps at various venues. A Science Adventure takes place every Saturday and Sunday at 5 pm at the center. There are even e-experiments that can be done at home. The annual Elastomobile amateur engineering competition is held each spring.
Trubarjeva Cesta 39, 1000 Ljubljana, Phone: +386-0-13-00-68-88
9.Slovenian Museum of Natural History
The national natural history collection was separated from the National Museum in 1944 to form the Museum of Natural History. The two museums are housed in the same Rudolfinum building, which was completed in 1885. Founding collections include Sigmund Zois' mineral collection and Hohewart's collection of 5000 mollusc species. There are also dioramas of alpine, wetlands and forest ecosystems. The museum's largest exhibit is the skeleton of a young female fin whale that was found off the Slovenian coast in 2005. The near complete skeleton of a woolly mammoth is the museum's symbol.
Prešernova 20, Ljubljana, Slovenia, Phone: +386-12-41-09-40
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Metelkova was an army barracks that was vacated when the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was dissolved in 1991. A network of youth and alternative organizations occupied the premises and created a cultural center and creative space. There are seven buildings totaling 12500 square meters. Artists representing a number of disciplines perform and exhibit at the venue and almost half of Ljubljana's music concerts take place there. The occupants were at odds with the city authorities for decades over threats of demolition until 2005 when the center was declared a national cultural heritage site.
Metelkova ulica 10, 1000 Ljubljana
The earthquake in 1895 destroyed a monastery on the river, near the site of the Dragon Bridge. When the monastery was cleared the site became available for an outdoor market. In the early 1940s a two-story Renaissance building was designed by Jože Plecnik to hug the curve in the river. It houses a fish market and restaurant on the ground floor and specialty food shops above. In the adjacent square, there is a large covered market and an open-air market, selling a variety of fresh and dried food products, flowers, arts and crafts. On Fridays, between mid-March and October, Slovenian chefs demonstrate cooking in the Open Kitchen.
Adamic-Lundrovo Nabrežje 6, 1000 Ljubljana
12.National and University Library
The library was started by decree in 1774 by Empress Maria Theresa, with 637 books saved from a fire in a dissolved Jesuit college. After World War I, it became the State Reference Library and deposits from the former Yugoslavian nations poured in. It was named the University Library in 1938 and moved to the monumental building designed by Jože Plecnik. The large square building was modeled on the ducal court that stood on the same spot before being demolished by the earthquake of 1895. The library holds more than a million books, thousands of manuscripts, as well as text, visual and multimedia resources.
Turjaška ulica 1, 1000 Ljubljana, Phone: +386-12-00-11-88
13.Museum of Modern Art
© Moderna galerija
This museum is one half of the state-owned Moderna Galerija. It was established by decree in 1947 and opened the following year. The establishment of the museum was made possible by substantial funding from industrialist, Dragotin Hribar. It is housed in a building, designed in the 1930s by Edvard Ravnikar. Until Slovenian independence in 1991, the museum focused on Slovenian modern art. Thereafter, the brief expanded to include international artists of the era. The museum is one of the venues for the International Biennial for Graphic Arts. By 2011, the museum had run out of space so the Museum for Contemporary Art was established. The combined museums are known as MG+MSUM.
Cankarjeva ulica 151000, Ljubljana, Phone: +386-0-12-41-68-00
The original Gothic town hall was erected in the 15th century. A Baroque renovation and annexe, completed in the early 1700s, are largely responsible for its present appearance although changes continued to be made until the 1960s. The facade has Venetian influences, with a gabled front and a loggia. The vestibule contains a plaque of the coat of arms from the original building and a statue of Hercules with a lion. There are four exhibition areas which display details of municipal projects and inter-city partnerships as well as art by local artists. A replica of Robba's Fountain stands outside.
Mestni trg 11000, Ljubljana, Phone: +386-0-13-06-10-20
The National Gallery was founded in 1918, after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was originally located in the Kresija Palace but was moved to it present locale in 1925. The museum holds a collection of 600 Slovenian and European pieces of art, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, separated into eras. There are examples of work from the Baroque, neoclassic, realist and impressionist genres as well as medieval works of sacred art. Another permanent collection features Zoran Mušic, one of Europe's leading modernist painters. One of the largest exhibition pieces is Robba's original fountain. The gallery has a shop and a café.
Prešernova cesta 24, 1000 Ljubljana, Phone: +386-12-41-54-18
The multi-story National Assembly Building is situated on Republic Square in the center of Ljubljana. It was designed by Vinko Glanz and built in the late 1950s. The main feature of the modernist palace is the double-story entrance. Four large oak doors are surrounded by sculptures of workers in various occupations. There are several paintings and frescoes by Slovenian artists inside the building. The largest is a 67 m long mural done by Slavko Pengov. It wraps around the lobby and tells the history of the Slovenian people. The second Saturday of each month is an open day.
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© Jim Barber/stock.adobe.com
Jože Plecnik was a Slovene who lived from 1872 to 1957. He was a master of monumental architecture and left his mark on Lubljana, Vienna and Prague. He became professor of the Faculty of Architecture at the Ljubljana university. Plecnik gave Ljubljana its modern look through his Vienna Secession style, a type of Art Nouveau. His works include the Triple Bridge, the open market, the river embankment, the cemetery, parks and plazas. Plecnik's former home consisted of two adjacent houses and a garden. His life and works are depicted there. Besides designing monuments, he had a keen interest in creating sacred objects, 33 of which are in the Vatican Museum.
6, Karunova ulica 4, 1000 Ljubljana, Phone: +386-12-80-16-04
18.House of Illusions
© House of Illusions
There are more than 40 exhibits at the House of Illusions, all designed to trick and deceive visitors' senses. The activities defy the laws of gravity, cause vertigo and test the brain and patience. There are light, sound and color explosions in the Disco, Kaleidoscope and the color mixing station. Visitors can see themselves as they really are in the true mirror. The House welcomes group visits and school outings and is a popular venue for family occasions and birthday parties. There is a 'normal' play zone as well as the Illusional gift shop, which sells mind games and other toys.
Kongresni trg 13, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia, Phone: +386-13-20-54-66
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The zoo covers an area of 19.6 ha and there are 6.5 km of walking trails. Several categories of animals are kept in habitats as close to natural as possible, including farmyard animals, deer, zebra, antelope, big cats and monkeys. Bird sizes vary from owls to ostriches. The animals all have their own specific diets and visitors are invited to observe their feeding, according to a daily program. There is an animal shelter at the zoo to rescue and rehome domestic animals. The zoo is active in conservation, captive breeding and public education and awareness. The shop sells thematic gifts and toys.
Eternal Way 70, 1000 Ljubljana, Phone: +386-0-12-44-21-82
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The mansion that is now called Tivoli, was built in the early 1600s by Jesuits who wished to use it as a summer house. It later became the property of the Catholic church and then the Provincial States. In1852 it was purchased by Emperor Franz Joseph and leased to Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky, who added neoclassical features and developed the gardens. It now houses the International Center for Graphic Arts and a gallery of post war fine art prints. There is a library of art books and a printmaking workshop on the premises. The center offers three-week artists' residencies for silkscreening, lithography and intaglio printing.
Pod Turnom 31000,Ljubljana, Phone: +386-0-12-41-38-00
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21.The Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (MSUM)
© Moderna galerija
This museum is the other half of the Moderna Galerija and is part of the new museum quarter. It was established in 2011 in a remodeled former army barracks. MSUM houses post-independence Slovenian art, a collection of contemporary art from the former Yugoslav territories and Arteast 2000+. The latter is a collection of artworks of the 21st century, created by lesser-known Eastern European artists. Selected pieces of the Arteast collection are on display. MSUM houses the Moderna Galerija library, which comprises 66000 books, exhibition catalogs, journals and newspaper cuttings on the subject of contemporary art.
Maistrova ulica 31000, Ljubljana, Phone: +386-0-12-41-68-00
22.The Technical Museum of Slovenia
The Technical Museum is housed in Bistra Castle, a former monastery, built in 1255. It is south of the city, set in scenic gardens with a large fish pond and a forest nature trail. The castle was declared a cultural monument of national importance in 1951. The multi-faceted industrial past of Slovenia is explained in the 6000 square meter museum with several practical exhibits and hands on workshops, including baking, weaving and printing. An exhibition on the Written Word in Slovenia includes facsimiles of first edition books and the first printed Slovenian Bible. Several vehicles that were presented to the late President Tito of Yugoslavia are kept at the museum.
Bistra 61353, Bistra pri Vrhniki, Phone: +386-0-17-50-66-70
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23.The Railway Museum
This railway museum was started in the 1960s to record the history of the Slovenian railway. It is housed in an old boiler room and rotunda and features a collection of steam locomotives, light auxiliary rail vehicles, railway apparatuses, old tools and uniforms. The museum is laid out as a functioning railway station during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Guided tours are available and visitors can try their hand at using the equipment. An important component of the railway system was the communications network and accurate timing was essential. There are examples of telephones, telegraphs, radio stations and clocks exhibited.
Parmova ulica 351000, Ljubljana, Phone: +386-0-12-91-26-41
24.The Slovene Ethnographic Museum
© The Slovene Ethnographic Museum
This museum's purpose is to showcase the social, spiritual and cultural aspects of the Slovenian nationals and diaspora as well those of the Europeans and the globe. The earliest collections date back to 1821. The 3000 artifacts are used to project the human world through the lenses of family history and national identity. They depict everyday life, ceremonial practices and characteristics such as knowledge, values, skills and creativity. The museum hosts symposiums, issues publications and offers workshops in the weavers' workshop and pottery studio. The museum shop is a recreation of the Lectarija Arts and Crafts shop in Ljubljana, the interior of which was designed by Jože Plecnik.
Metelkova ulica 21000, Ljubljana, Phone: +386-0-13-00-87-00
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25.Cathedral of Saint Nicholas
The original Gothic building on this site had the status of cathedral when it burnt down in 1469. The current Baroque replacement was built in the early 1700s. The octagonal green dome is flanked by twin towers. There are six bells in the belfries which are adorned with gilded apples. The bronze sculpted doors mark the 1250th anniversary of Christendom among the Slovenian people and depicts their history. Six niches on the exterior walls hold sandstone statues of bishops and saints. On the southern facade there is a sundial and a Gothic pieta. The interior is decorated with frescoes and features altar angels by Robba. There are nine daily services.
Dolnicarjeva ulica 11000, Ljubljana, Phone: +386-0-12-34-26-90
25 Best Things to Do in Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Dragon Bridge, Photo: Magico110/stock.adobe.com
- Ljubljana Castle, Photo: gatsi/stock.adobe.com
- Prešeren Monument & Square, Photo: jobipro/stock.adobe.com
- Triple Bridge, Photo: andrii_lutsyk/stock.adobe.com
- Robba Fountain, Photo: Roman Babakin/stock.adobe.com
- Krizanke, Photo: henryart/stock.adobe.com
- City Museum of Ljubljana, Photo: City Museum of Ljubljana
- House of Experiments, Photo: House of Experiments
- Slovenian Museum of Natural History, Photo: galitskaya/stock.adobe.com
- Metelkova Mesto, Photo: PhDreams/stock.adobe.com
- Central Market, Photo: jelena990/stock.adobe.com
- National and University Library, Photo: blash/stock.adobe.com
- Museum of Modern Art, Photo: Moderna galerija
- Town Hall, Photo: malajscy/stock.adobe.com
- National Gallery, Photo: Tony/stock.adobe.com
- Parliament Building, Photo: xbrchx/stock.adobe.com
- Plecnik House, Photo: Jim Barber/stock.adobe.com
- House of Illusions, Photo: House of Illusions
- Ljubljana Zoo, Photo: Klemen/stock.adobe.com
- Tivoli Mansion, Photo: logan81/stock.adobe.com
- The Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (MSUM), Photo: Moderna galerija
- The Technical Museum of Slovenia, Photo: JackF/stock.adobe.com
- The Railway Museum, Photo: erikzunec/stock.adobe.com
- The Slovene Ethnographic Museum, Photo: The Slovene Ethnographic Museum
- Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, Photo: TTstudio/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Roman Babakin/stock.adobe.com