Situated right in the centre of Slovenia lies
its capital, Ljubljana. Almost an equal distance from Italy, Austria,
Hungary and Croatia, this small but innovative city has a car-free heart, a hip attitude and a mythical history. Wherever you go in Ljubljana, youll see
images of dragons. Legend has it that, many centuries ago, a dragon lived in the Ljubljana river preying
on locals, until a Greek hero discovered a way to defeat it.
Its a perfect symbol for this charismatic
university town that is fiercely protective of its environment,
its history and its people. Step into the narrow streets of the town centre,
and instead of traffic, youll hear bicycle bells, and instead of gridlock, youll find riverbanks lined with cafes,
pubs and historic architecture. In 2007, the council banned cars here and the city has been rolling out sustainable
programs ever since. Ride the funicular or take the gentle stroll
to the mighty Ljubljana Castle.
This beloved landmark has been standing above
the city for more than 900 years. Far from being just a window into history, this castle is part of daily life and is often
used for weddings, concerts and art shows. Discover the rich tradition of puppeteering
at the Museum of Puppetry here, or just enjoy the views out over the city. The town centre straddles the banks of the
The cobbled Old Town lies on the east bank, while on the west bank are the more recently
built buildings, parks and galleries. The two are linked by the Triple Bridge, one of a dozen iconic masterpieces designed
by the citys favourite son, architect Joze Plecnick. This group of three bridges was built in 1842
and its focus on pedestrian access, shows just how far ahead of his time were
Plecnicks designs. Head to the oval shaped Preseren Square where
in ancient times, several roads met in front of the old city gates.
Today it is a popular meeting point and the
citys heart. The square was named after France Preseren, whose poem A Toast became the countrys
national anthem. Enjoy a coffee and a pastry on the steps of
Preserens statue, meet the locals and watch the city go about
its day. In this university town, there is always someone
to chat with.
Take the time to explore the Franciscan Church, with its dramatic staircase that faces the
square. Originally painted red to represent the Franciscan
monastic order, it has faded over time to salmon pink. There are plenty more magnificent buildings
at nearby Congress Square which was built on the site of a ruined
medieval monastery and is also home to Park Zvezda. From here, you can see the main building for
the University of Ljubljana, one of the largest places of learning in Europe.
The balcony of this building has been used
by political hard hitters such as Tito to address crowds throughout
Slovenias history. Stroll past the Slovene Philharmonic Orchestra building, one of the worlds oldest musical institutions
with famous connections to composers such as Beethoven and Brahms. It still delights music lovers today. Keep an eye out as you cross the Dragon Bridge
famous for its fearsome statues.
They are said to twitch their tails when a
pure and untouched maiden is nearby. Ljubljana Central Market is another good place
to catch up with the locals and in Town Square, youll find the Town
Hall and St Nicholass Church. Another of the citys innovative schemes
is free bicycle rentals, so pick up a bike and head to Tivoli Park
which stretches from the western outskirts right into the city centre. Follow the Jokopic Promenade to the Tivoli Castle and visit the collection of prints by modern
artists at the International Centre of Graphic Arts Immerse yourself in art of a different kind
in the Metelkova Mesto, a funky cultural zone which is just a few
hundred metres away from Ljubljanas main train station.
This abandoned army barracks hosts more than
1500 events each year and has become one of the best-known underground
social experiments in Europe. As your day ends, stroll back over Cobblers Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in the city. Ljubljana may have taken a dragon as its symbol
but unlike its mythical beast, this city is welcoming, warm and delighted
to share its treasures with visitors..