“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”
Have you ever had the feeling that a city was tired of you? That it was weary, bored, and not so willing to tell you about itself… Now, imagine you arrive and you feel a city is already living its own life; an undisturbed, confident, gracious city, with a pinch of innocence. You arrive and want to see more straight away.
You see things you haven’t seen for a long time and you don’t see things that might be expected in a capital city. Welcome to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia; She welcomes you, but doesn’t push you too much to like her.
We arrived in Slovenia in early September last year. Streets, roads, benches and bridges were all wet after the unceasing rain, and we checked the weather through a steamy window every ten minutes. Unfortunately, the raindrops were still knocking on the windows day after day after day. What are we doing here? We asked ourselves hopelessly. Having in mind that we were going to stay in the city for only a few days, we decided to just jump out into the rain with our hoodies and layers on.
In this post, we are going to remind you (and ourselves) of an old scout saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. Considering how little we travel with, we didn’t have many choices, so we just dropped all usual weather excuses and off we went.
What to do in Ljubljana in the rain?
Short answer: Apparently anything. (I.e. the same you would do if it wasn’t raining. )
Long answer: Here are some suggestions from two soaked vagabonds who braced themselves and successfully coped with rain on their faces, in their shoes, and dripping down their necks.
Bike tour in Ljubljana
Alright, it wasn’t as colourful as it would have been on a clear day, but the route we did in Ljubljana introduced us to both the central and suburb parts of the city. We took a two-hour tour with Watermelon bike tours and our guide Tevz literally made our day.
With his informative and funny stories we passed important sites in the city, ventured out of the centre, explored the quiet parts of town, saw abandoned buildings, works of influential architect Jože Plečnik, and took enough breaks to listen to the sounds of the places and the stories that Ljubljana hides in her walls and monuments.
The city is pretty flat and most of it is super bike friendly. You can choose a long trip that lasts about four hours and costs $29 or a short one that takes half of the time and costs $23. Bikes, helmets and rain jackets are provided. This is one of our most recommended activities in Ljubljana.
Visit Metelkova city
This autonomous alternative culture zone is a place that lives vibrantly after the sunset, but you might be impressed (as we were) when you visit during the daylight, and watch rain pouring from painted roofs. Seven buildings that used to be barracks and a prison (now it’s a famous Celica hostel) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are a great place where artists and art lovers come to socialize.
Concerts and events happen regularly here, and sexual and ethnic minorities can meet openly. Quirky, vibrant and hued; a must visit when in Ljubljana. Watch this video to learn more about the story of Metelkova.
You’re sitting on a beautiful handmade wooden boat, with a roof above your head, blanket on your knees, and a cup of hot tea warming your shaking wet palms. The boat takes you to some of the bridges in Ljubljana (Cobblers’ Bridge, Triple Bridge, Butchers’ Bridge, Grain Bridge & Dragon Bridge) and you pass the Ljubljana Castle and some baroque houses along the way. You pay $9 for 45 minutes ride. For booking and more details about the boat trip, please head over to the official website of Barka Ljubljanica: www.barka-ljubljanica.si
Ruins of Roman Emona in Ljubljana
Going back about 50 BC, the territory of Ljubljana used to be a Roman settlement called Iulia Aemona, or Emona and was fortified with strong walls. These ruins you now can see are not far from the city centre. The ruins are now surrounded by more modern architecture, and a nearby university, which in a way might take away their charm and historical significance.
A former sugar factory that you can see from Fabiani Bridge is indeed one of the most spectacular industrial building in Europe. Lots of stories lay behind the building and currently there are some attempts to create an art factory there.
Špica means “spike” in Slovenian. This green spot near the Ljubljanica river is best to visit on a sunny day, and it’s interesting to see how the river splits in two via an artificial channel built to avoid floods in the city. From above, the point where the river divides looks like a spike, a piece of land pointing into the river, which is where the name of the place comes from.
Here you can just chill out on wooden platforms and grab a drink from a bar on the boat nearby. You’ll get there in about 15 minutes walking from the centre, just head south.
Central market in Ljubljana
This public market designed by Jože Plečnik stretches from the Dragon Bridge to Triple Bridge, between Vodnikov trg and Pogačarnev trg squares. It’s open daily till 6 pm (till 4 pm in winter time) and you can find there plenty of fresh organic veggies, fruits, mushrooms, herbs, spices and scrumptious local dishes.
Now that you know what to do in Ljubljana, we’d like to suggest a few lovely places to stay and where to grab some food & delicacies. While escaping the rain for two days, we found some pretty good spots to dry our jumpers and take a breath before we got wet again.
Accommodation in Ljubljana
Address: Čopova 38, 1000 Ljubljana
This former bank transformed into an original money-themed hostel is centrally located, and within walking distance from the bus & train stations. You can stay either in a cool “bank dormitory” or in a double room with a view of the castle and the street. The rooms are decorated with money related quotes, and are quite spacious, clean, and come with a simple breakfast and a shared bathroom. Free wifi.
A single bed in 10-bed dormitory room: $10.
A twin room with shared bathroom: $52
Address: Metelkova 8, 1000 Ljubljana
As mentioned above, this hostel is a part of alternative Metelkova City. The rooms are designed with a prison theme, with iron and wooden furniture and bars on the windows. Walking distance to the centre and main bus & train stations. Wifi available.
A bed in 12-bed dormitory room: $16
A double or twin room with shared bathroom: $38
Bed & Breakfast Atticus
Address: Poljanska cesta 6, 1000 Ljubljana
Centrally located, this new cozy hotel has a/c, free wifi, and private bathrooms in some rooms. Simple and modernly furnished.
Twin room: from $38
Double room: from $49
Where to eat in Ljubljana
Druga Violina restaurant
Address: Stari Trg 21
Homemade traditional dishes, nice atmosphere and at a very reasonable price. We got a typical Slovenian “strukli” made of cooked dough with different fillings. Some of the staff in the restaurant have mental disabilities, so by dining there you’ll also support a good cause and help to establish an equal employment policy.
Cha Tea House
Address: Stari Trg 3
After two hours in the rain, we couldn’t be happier ending up in this cozy & warm place where they serve a good cup of rooibos and pu-erh tea!
Address: Petkovškovo nabrežje 3
If you are an ice-cream lover (as we are!), then head straight to Cacao. We were told to taste this delicacy by our dear Couchsurfing host Lena. And… man, she was so right! Heavenly good taste and we got a beautiful sunny day so we could enjoy it on the river bank in the centre.
Scrumptious burek at Ajda
This traditional leafy dough pie is filled with minced meat, cheese or spinach and is really addictive. We had a few of them while waiting for a bus at the main bus station. A bistro is located just across the road from the station. Look for a green sign “Ajda”. Recommended: cheese version.
These are the places that we would like you to experience. Whether in the rain, mist, snow or heat, Ljubljana will show you how independent and less explored in terms of tourism she is. This makes her even more attractive. Her cobblestone streets, terracotta roofs and cozy feelings amidst varied architectural styles will put you at ease.
Maybe it’s not a city for those who look for a typical western metropolitan experience but we hope she will continue to keep her wild innocence and tranquil homey feeling.
I admit, there are a lot of familiarities in Ljubljana for me: the way people travel in public transport, the way how the blocks of flats are scattered behind the centre, the way how they serve you in a shop and the way how people gather on the squares and go for a Sunday stroll near the river.
Slovenia reminded me of my homeland Slovakia a lot, and I’d love to go back to Ljubljana again and stay there for a while. Whether I’d remember where the best view on the river was and where could I get the best & cheap burek in town. Whether I would find my favourite bakery and start recognising a baker on the street. To see how innocent Ljubljana is when you get to know her better. And whether I wouldn’t mind the rain once again.
Have you ever been to Ljubljana? If not, which of the mentioned places would you like to see? Please, leave a comment below.
Note: A big thanks goes to Tevz Cernigoj from Watermelone bike tours. The boat trip and our stay in Tresor hostel was provided by Visit Ljubljana. All opinions, suggestions, wet clothing and cravings for ice-cream in Cacao are our own.