When planning my trip earlier this year, I aimed to go from Vienna (Austria) down to Venice (Italy) by bus or train. Staring at the map and trying to figure out the most effective travel route, I realized many of the routes crossed through Slovenia and its capital Ljubljana (pronounced Loo-blee-ah-nahh). With some extra time to spare in my itinerary and recommendations from friends, I decided to visit the country! I think the Balkan region, especially recent history, is fascinating so it’s an added bonus to my trip.
Some people confuse Slovenia with other places, namely Slovakia, so let’s do a quick background. Slovenia is located in Central Europe, with 2 million people. It is part of the EU and on the Euro. Slovenia is part of the former Yugoslavia until it split and became an independent country in 1991. I think the recent tumultuous history of the Balkans makes some American tourists wary of the destination, which should not be the case! From my experience, and two day visit, Slovenia is a beautiful country with lots to offer.
I took a train from Vienna to Ljubljana, which took about 6-7 hours without any delays. The train had power outlets, a dining car, and the ride itself from Austria to Slovenia was very beautiful with lots of nature to see. It is funny though, many of the capital cities I visited had large grand train stations but this one was so low-key I wasn’t sure if I made it to Ljubljana or not!
I stayed in the Grand Union Hotel, only about .3 miles (about 500 meters) from the station. The hotel was an incredible place to stay so I definitely recommend it and was reasonably priced for all it offered. Slovenia isn’t the cheapest European city to visit, but definitely less inflated than London or Venice etc.
The city center of Ljubljana is closed off to cars, only allowing people and bikes through. Here’s some pictures from the city center!
The Ljublijanica River runs through part of the city center, lined by restaurants, cafes, and charming colored houses. Yes, if I had to describe Slovenia’s capital city in one word it would be charming.
Slovenian food is a mix of Central European + Balkan food + influences from Italy, its Western neighbor. The city center is not incredibly large and easily walkable. My mom and I walked around one evening and found a restaurant serving a variety of seafood pasta dishes. Afterwards I got gelato. I ate at least one scoop of gelato for about 2 weeks straight in Europe. Whoops. (And of course extra when I visited Italy).
Lake Bled Slovenia
The following day we visited Bled, Slovenia, home of the stunning Lake Bled. We purchased tickets (12 euros round-trip per person) and took a 2 hour bus ride up to the lake. Conveniently, the bus drops you about 50 meters from the actual lake, which is around 6km in circumference if I remember correctly. The lake is beautiful! It is filled with pure blue-green water, resembling a lagoon almost. One small portion is built up, with hotels and businesses, but most of is pure nature.
There’s a path around the lake, swimming areas, and food stands. I walked around the lake a bit with my mom, then took off running around the rest because I love to run. I swear the fresh mountain air made running so much easier than back home in the city. There’s also a castle you can climb up, however I didn’t opt to do that. In the middle of the lake is a small island to visit and explore. For 14 euros per person, you can get on a small boat and go across the lake to visit it. (I suppose you could swim there but would not really recommend unless you are among Michael Phelps level swimmer).
The water itself is quite warm. Thermal springs naturally heat the lake from underneath, making is a pleasurable swim for a hot day. After swimming, we dried off and went for lunch at a local food stand for a burger which was delicious. Slovenia holds a strong agricultural economy, hence farm fresh food. We made it back pretty quickly to the Ljubljana, granted I slept the whole way. Am I the only person instantly falls asleep on these kind of trips? Doesn’t matter if it’s a train, bus, plane, car etc….any length of time I just fall asleep.
Last Dinner in Slovenia
After returning to Ljubljana we found an international food festival in the city center! Slovenian restaurants making all different kinds of cuisine from Thai, to Indian to West African had stands serving up food made right in front of you. One thing I missed from back home is the access to such international cuisine beyond the native food. Personally, I love trying different dishes from around the world, so a great way to end the trip.
To conclude, I immensely enjoyed visiting Slovenia this July! Overall, it is a wonderful spot to enjoy some European charm, good food, and relaxation.