From picture-perfect snow scenes, beautiful architecture and delicious treats, here’s a few reasons why you should visit Slovenia’s capital this winter.
This year Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital was chosen by Lonely Planet as the second of 10 top European destinations travellers should visit ASAP. In case you were wondering, the first one was Greece – but while everyone has heard of Greece and most have probably been there already, Slovenia and its capital remain relatively unknown to the majority. I have even met some people from the countries bordering Slovenia that weren’t entirely sure about its location on the map.
Even though just trying to pronounce “Ljubljana” may discourage you from ever setting foot in the country, I can assure you it will be worth your while. Ljubljana is a beautiful city with fairy tale-like qualities, which become most apparent at Christmas time.
Not to sound cheesy, but there are plenty of reasons why you should visit the city this December (or the next):
- Christmas lights are everywhere – but in Ljubljana, they somehow look more charming than tacky. They cover the city centre also known as the ‘old town’, due to the baroque, medieval and classical architecture. When you take a walk along the river Ljubljanica, surrounded by pastel-coloured old buildings and trees covered in fairy lights, it seems magical – especially after having had a nice hot cup (or two) of mulled wine.
- Cute wooden stalls are scattered across the city during the holiday time, where you can buy a variety of little gifts, toys and some vaguely useful things such as handmade scarves and home-made jams, chocolates, candied almonds and corny Christmas movies. And, of course, plenty of mulled wine.
- The city of Ljubljana lies on flat ground between mountains – that means that from any point of the capital you can see snow covered mountain tops. On a small hill covered with forest in the middle of the city, lies a mighty medieval castle where extravagant parties are held and which forms the backdrop for the annual New Years fireworks display.
- Ljubljana’s river runs through the city centre and around the castle hill. It reflects the colourful lights in the evenings, and you can take a peaceful boat ride along it if you want to see the city from a different perspective. Alternatively you could just sit in one of the many little vintage coffee shops or bars at the riverside and enjoy a traditional Slovenian walnut roll.
- The old town is also famous for its bridges, built through the various eras of history. The most famous one is the Triple Bridge, which is actually three bridges with old-style lamps at the sides, connecting the main city square and the high street to the other side of the town. Recently another new bridge has been built nearby; it has become heavy with love padlocks – but even if you are single, do not worry – just put the name of your crush on that lock, I have been told it works like voodoo.
- Ljubljana resembles a Christmas card – every December, there is a giant Christmas tree set up in the Prešeren square, in the town centre. And every now and then we get a white Christmas – complete with a snowman on every corner, happy children running around, falling over sledges and angry couples taking it out on each other via snowball fights.
- In Slovenia, you don’t just get Santa, but also Saint Nicholas, who brings chocolates and dried fruit to good kids in the early December. However, it’s important to be careful, as he has an entourage of demons that deal with the bad kids – so if you’ve been naughty you better watch out!
- Travelling to Slovenia from the UK doesn’t take long and is really inexpensive, especially since tickets can be bought through low-cost airlines such as Easyjet and Wizzair. With a bit of advance holiday planning, you could well get a return flight ticket for under £50. Slovenians are very friendly and Ljubljana (and Slovenia generally) is very small, so you won’t get lost. There are also very nice hostels all around the place (one of them having been selected as the ‘No. 1 Hippest Hostel’ by Lonely Planet).
So, all in all, what is there not to like? I have listed some reasons why you should visit, and now it’s your turn to Google the exact location of Slovenia (not to be confused with Slovakia!) and organise a trip. I can promise you would not regret it!