Ever visit somewhere you just don’t want to leave, to the extent that you look for excuses to stay? That’s what happened to me on my trip to Slovenia. My visit came about rather oddly in that I was never planning to visit Slovenia. I had a trip planned to Italy, a country I’d been to before. Then it occurred to me: since I was going back to Italy, maybe I should take the opportunity to visit a country I hadn’t been to before. That’s when the planning wheels started turning when I booked my award ticket. I looked at the map and noticed that Slovenia shared a border with Italy. Wow, so much in Ljubljana to eat, see, and do!
When you read about Slovenia it always says its capital, Ljubljana, is a city “made to the measure of man”. It’s fascinating how places describe themselves. Not only is this way of describing Ljubljana totally true, it gives you a window from which to view and then experience the energy and feeling of this city and its people. They are warm, friendly, full of life, and certainly living in a beautiful mid-sized city. Ljubljana lies between Venice and Vienna, which makes for an interesting mix of cultures and cuisines, though I found Slovenia to be uniquely its own place.
Without gushing too much about how wonderful this country is, I want to give you five ideas for what to do and see that — with the exception of one — won’t likely end up on any “must see” lists you’ll find online.
First let’s talk about the site you will see on every list, which I feel is an absolute must: Postojna Cave. Simply spectacular! I suggest renting a car and driving there from Ljubljana. Slovenia’s nature is beautiful. It is one of the seven countries that border the Alps (can you name the other six?), and driving on the back roads to the cave gave us time to appreciate the scenery and not rush through our day.
I had to think back because it’s possible I’ve never been to a cave before, and certainly nothing like Postojna Cave. Postojna Cave set a super high bar for my cave experiences, and now I’m more curious to visit other caves as well. The tour of the cave took about 90 minutes and there were other exhibits to see. We enjoyed an amazing butterfly exhibit. After the tour, the park that houses the cave makes for a relaxing place to enjoy before heading out. We spent about three hours total out by the caves.
The first thing I do when I get to a new city is find a park and walk in it. It’s my way of putting myself in the local scene and getting a sense of the people. So right after I checked into my hotel and took a look at the city map, I walked in the opposite direction of all the touristy areas to Tivoli Park.
Tivoli is my kind of park! Beautiful walking paths that, should you want to go up into the hills and deeper into nature, allow for that. The walking paths through the flatter wooded areas are fun too, with lots of walkers, runners, families with children, and people and their dogs. The museums and architecture are worth a visit, especially the history museums.
Walk all the way through the park and you’ll come to the sports complex area of the park. Wow! As a health and fitness professional, I’m not easily impressed. But Tivoli’s sports complex did, indeed, impress me. The indoor aquatic area was huge, there are lots of tennis courts, buildings ice hockey, basketball, and martial arts. I even saw a miniature golf course for kids.
In general, Tivoli is very family-oriented with quite a few playgrounds for kids. Do take time and stroll through Tivoli. It’s only a 15-minute walk from the historic city center area where you’ll likely be staying.
I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I didn’t expect there to be so much amazing fish to eat in Slovenia. I know, strange, huh, because Slovenia is on the sea 🙂 My palate for fish is broad and I love fish, so I was ecstatic.
How much fish did I eat? I ate so much fish I may have grown gills! And I found a gem of a fish place called Valentin. As you walk in, you’ll see a fish market to your left, and then a counter with eight seats to your right. Whatever kind of fish you like, they have it and will cook it up any way you like it. There’s a more formal dining room in the back, but I sat at the counter and enjoyed not only the food, but watching it all being cooked to order. I ate there three times! Each time I left the chef would say, “See you tomorrow!”
Notice the prices in the photos: amazing deal. Even with wine or beer, you’ll be hard pressed to spend more than 6 or 7 Euro.
Drink milk the way it used to taste
Got milk? Got raw milk? If you live in the U.S., I doubt it. Raw milk is still illegal in many states, and even in the ones that allow it, it’s still hard to find. I won’t get into the politics of milk, but I will say that I don’t drink homogenized or pasteurized milk, and so much to my delight, I found a milk machine in Ljubljana!
It’s hard to describe so take a look at the photos. The milk gets delivered fresh every day. You choose either a glass or plastic jug, put it under the dispenser, and for €2, you get a large bottle of milk.
It’s delicious! When I came back to the hotel carrying my jug of milk, the staff looked rather strangely at me. I knew they were curious. I explained that back home, we didn’t have milk machines and that we get homogenized and pasteurized milk, so this was a real treat for me.
And speaking of dairy products, I’ll save you a bunch of time and money and recommend the best gelato in Ljubljana! The Slovenes, like the Argentinians, are crazy for ice cream and gelato. At all times of the day, every day, they eat it. Cones, cups, on waffles…… there are many, many places to buy it. Go straight away to Romantica. The woman who owns it is passionate about the quality of the gelato and it’s all made on the premises. She rotates her flavors and usually has at least a dozen flavors in the rotation. And she’s very generous about giving you a taste of any flavor that catches your eye. She even insisted that I try a few flavors I wouldn’t have thought I’d like. I won’t tell you my favorites because she might not have them when you’re there, so sample some and see what you think.
I know what you’re thinking……..lots of suggestions about food! For me, one of the most important ways to get to know a country and its people is to walk in parks and eat the local offerings. And then I share what I’ve learned with others. Slovenia was a beautiful place to explore with so much in Ljubljana to eat, see, and do!
Shelli Stein is a health and fitness entrepreneur who travels the world in search of culture, food, and fun! Besides contributing to PointMeToThePlane, you can find her at Joy in Movement.
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Vigo has the best Gelato in Ljubiana
Also, Hot Horse has Horse Meat burgers, they were okay but wouldn’t order again
I can see I’ll have to try both your recommendations next time, though I’m stuck on Romantika and fish. Thanks for reading, John.
Nice. Do Americans need a visa?
The airfare is usually bad. $1500 return from US. where did you fly to?
No Visa needed. I used United miles and flew over the pond on Air Canada. I had Juicy Miles book my award. I flew back to the states from Rome. If you get a chance to visit Slovenia, do. It’s really a wonderful beautiful place. Thanks for reading!
I *highly* recommend the Skocjan caves over the Postojna caves. Much less touristy, much less crowded, much more impressive inside.
Also, I second the comment re: Vigo. Best gelato in the city.
Hi Matt, Must have been the time of year I was there but the caves didn’t feel too busy at all. More impressive inside would be amazing, so thanks for the recommendation of yet another reason to get back to Slovenia! Two votes for Vigo, eh? I’m wondering if you two Vigo guys tried Romantika.
What time of the year did you visit?
During springtime, though I can’t imagine a season when Ljubljana wouldn’t be lovely.
We flew into Venice and took a go opti bus. Go Opti is a great transit service to use around central europe
I took Go Opti from Ljubljana to Venice! Would totally recommend it. Train is way too slow.
Did u see Lake Bled?
Yes. Really fun day out by the lake. We even caught a wedding at the church on the island and watched a groom carry his bride all the way up the steps!
I was there earlier in the summer and couldn’t agree more. Ljubljana was such a pleasant surprise! the coastal town of Piran was amazing though. Miniature Venice with none of the crowds.
+1 for Vigo.
I didn’t have a chance to get to Piran, but will next time. Okay, with all the Vigo votes today not only am I craving gelato, but now I’m thinking I need to change my fall travel plans and head back to Ljubljana!! Hvala, Varun.
Was just there last month, had the gelato at Romantika and it was wonderful. Didn’t try Vigo though.
Will also recommend Piran, although in hindsight would have done an overnight stay there instead of a day trip on the bus. The caves were on our list but didn’t get to them. Need more vacation time!
Yeah, one other vote for Romantika besides mine. You and I will have to meet the Vigo guys in Ljubljana for a gelato-off. Thanks, Spencer!
I made friends from Slovenia while in Austria (Vienna also has out of this world gelato). Slovenia and also Croatia are so often overlooked as travel destinations. Thanks for giving me a little taste of ljubljana. I’d love to visit one day.
Hi Kelcy, Wien has good gelato…..wow, how did I miss that? Glad the Ljubljana taste may inspire a visit for you one day. It’s a special place! Thanks for reading.
Maybe by Americans by not other Europeans.