Just 24 Hours in Ljubljana, one whole day in the Slovenian capital. What to do?
Hot on the heels of spending 4 days snowboarding in the Julian Alps nearby to Lake Bled, we arrived in Ljubljana via bus. We’d actually passed the airport in order to reach Ljubljana from Bled so I was under pressure from my friends to make our detour of sorts worth it.
These 24 hours in Ljubljana has better be good!
Five, count them … 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 bridges. No this isn’t sesame street, but five is the magic number for significant bridges in Ljubljana, and they’re all located nice and close together, so seeing them all in 24 hours is an easy task. In fact 24 minutes might be enough depending on how fast you walk.
#1, 2 and 3 – The Triple bridge
OK so I cheated a bit. The first 3 bridges are actually 1 bridge, or maybe the first bridge is actually 3 bridges!? Either way, it’s a 3 for 1 special.
The central bridge was the first to be built (1842), with the two foot bridges either side being added at a later date (1929), so to prevent the initial bridge becoming a bottle neck for those trying to cross the river. All 3 bridges were later reonvated in 1992, and have formed part of the cities pedestrianised zones since 2007.
The central bridge, designed by Italian Giovanni Picco, is known as the Franciscan Bridge, and is named after Archduke Franz Karl of Austria. A inscription dedication to the Archduke can still be found on the bridge and reads “ARCHIDVCI. FRANCISCO. CAROLO. MDCCCXLII. CIVITAS”. In English (as opposed to Latin) that means To “Archduke Franz Karl in 1842 by the Town”. Follow the Franciscan Bridge to the brightly coloured Franciscan church (aka the pink church) which towers over a normally always busy central square.
This is where I should say sorry for my rubbish photo above, which as you can see only covers 2 or the 3 bridges, but honestly, there are 3, just check the Google Satellite image below.
#4 – The Dragon Bridge
Probably the most iconic of the bridges in Ljubljana, and looking like a scene from Game of Thrones with Ljubljana’s castle as a back drop. The Dragon Bridge is located at the very end of the pedestrianised zone and market area, and can be used by traffic to cross the river. Opened in 1901, and completed in 1907, the Dragon Bridge replaced the old Jubliee bridge which was made of wood and damaged by an earthquake of all things, in 1895.
So why Dragons? Well, have you ever seen the film Jason and the Argonauts? It’s an, erm, interesting film with a cool skeleton fight scene, but anyway, the story of the Ljubljana Dragon goes that Jason and the Argonauts, having stole the golden fleece from the King of Colchis on the Black Sea, passed through Ljubljanica (what we now know as Ljubljana) on their way back to their homeland. Whilst in Ljubljana, they were set upon by a fierce dragon who Jason killed after an all mighty battle. The Ljubljana dragon now forms part of the City’s coat of arms. It symbolises strength, courage and might.
#5 – The Butchers (Love Lock) Bridge
I did really like this bridge, but also found it rather funny too. Located between the Triple and Dragon bridges, the Butchers Bridge is decorated with a huge great number of love locks, some of which are rather entertaining … or at least I found them quite funny. Now I’m all for love locks, I’ve never placed one on a bridge personally, but I get it. However I do question if bike locks and/or combination locks are suitable gestures of ones love.
Built in 2010, the site where the bridge now site lay empty for nearly 50 years. An original Butchers Bridge was supposed to be built to link the market and Petkovšek Embankment in the late 1930’s. But then WWII broke out, and understandably no bridge was constructed. It wasn’t until 2009 that planning for the bridge finally got under way, and the Butcher’s bridge was finally unveiled on 10 July 2010.
It’s design is quite impressive to be fair. The walkway is clear so that underfoot you can see the river waters, and there’s all manner of interesting sculptures located on or around the bridge, however I wouldn’t say that the sculptures depict love in my eyes. Adam and Eve shamed and banished from Paradise and a disembowelled figure of Prometheus who was being punished for giving knowledge of fire to man, seem odds symbols of love. However, the bridge is still extremely interesting a well worth a few minutes of your time in Ljubljana.
The Street Art
Ljubljana has a healthy outdoor gallery scene … I was just too stupid to realise, or to take my proper camera on this trip (only took my iphone and GoPro). It’s cool though, whilst I only got one snap of the art work on show around the streets of Ljubljana, it was nice to be able to take a city in for once, and not worry about having to line up the next shot or wait for the right light etc. Street art hunting is a fantastic way to spend 24 hours in Ljubljana though, with or without camera in hand.
If you are interested in seeing more though, check out Travels of Adam’s blog post on Ljubljana street art, and Visit Ljubljana’s own street art Pinterest board.
Get those legs pumping … or buy a ticket a ride the funicular. Either way, get yourself up to Ljubljana’s medieval castle, for a history lesson and fantastic views over the city and a particuarly nice way of spending 24 hours in Ljubljana.
We chose leg power to reach the castle … but only because we took a wrong turning. Lucky for us that it was a pretty easy climb, our limbs were more than weary after 3 days on the slopes.
The funicular dates back to 1996, but obviously the castle itself is just a little bit older than that, try 15th century. Since it’s build it has endured invasions, wars, acted as an arsenal, hospital and a prison. In fact the prison cells are open to visitors, as is beautiful cathedral and the impressive viewing tower (at extra cost) which dates back to 1848 and gives incredible views over the city. If you don’t fancy paying the extra or are a bit strapped for cash, fear not as good views can also be had from the castle walls, and even the pathways leading around the castle.
An interesting fact about the castle is that it is owned by the city. In 1905, under the explicit wish of the mayor Ivan Hribar, who planned to establish a city museum in it, the castle was purchased state authorities. The museum ideal of the mayor wouldn’t happen till much later though, as upon purchase, the city used the castle to house poorer families living within Ljubljana.
All in all we probably spent a good hour exploring the castle before heading back down for a beer. Put this one in the ‘not to be missed’ column.
Hungry? Thirsty? Good, me too. Let’s go grab a bite to eat and a drink along the riverside and take in some of Ljubljana’s vibrant outside dining culture.
To be fair, you can’t really miss the outdoor dining scene, as it exists along the same stretch of river that the dragon, butchers and triple bridge all stretch across. The castle funicular is only a 5 minute walk too. A bit of food and a beer is a great way to finish off a days sight seeing in Ljubljana, having only arrived from Bled that morning.
The food itself ranges from simple (but tasty) burgers and pizzas, to more exotic and fine dining experiences – Boiled beef tongue anyone? Obviously by eating outdoors along the river you’ll be paying a bit more of a premium, but that said we still found our evening meal in Slovenia’s capital more than affordable, around €10-12 per person for a main meal and a drink.
Photo: Nicolas Vollmer
24 hours in Ljubljana, worth it?
So was 24 hours in Ljubljana, worth it? Yeah I’d say so, but any more than 48 hours and I might be getting itchy feet. Don’t get me wrong, Ljubljana is beautiful and has plenty to do, and a lot of which is budget friendly, but as most things are in very close proximity to one another, it’s quite easy to experience a number of those things in just a short space of time. Assuming that is that I didn’t miss something incredible on the outskirts of town … pretty likely I did. Feel free to let me know in the comments below if I’ve been stupid and overlooked a very obvious attraction.
After a week based in the beautiful lake town of Bled and snowboarding on the Julian Alps, Ljubljana was a more than welcome stopover on the way home.