Slovenia wasn’t even on the itinerary for our Europe backpacking trip.
But then we had not one, but two completely different people recommend it. The strange thing was, neither of them could tell us exactly why Ljubljana was worth visiting, just that we should go there. So we took a chance, and we’re glad we did!
It took two trains, a bus, and 13 hours for us to get from Vienna to Ljubljana, Slovenia. We could have done it faster, but our backpacker’s budget hadn’t afforded us the luxury of booking the direct train. The bed of our downtown hostel looked mighty tempting after the long journey, and we promptly collapsed onto it.
The next day, we eagerly explored Ljubljana and quickly came to the realisation that those people had been right in recommending it. Slovenia – the relatively quiet country that we’d known almost nothing about became one of our most memorable stops in Europe.
Here are my 5 weird and wonderful reasons to visit Ljubljana!
1. They serve giant pizzas (for cheap)
Ok, so we found an Italian restaurant on the riverfront in old town. The photos portray a ‘large’ size pizza which we ordered to share between the two of us. We admit, we failed the challenge.
Food and drinks in Slovenia are very reasonably priced. The Eurozone crisis hit Slovenia hard in the late 2000s, which has resulted in fairly low prices compared to its neighbouring countries.
For my fellow backpackers who are always on the lookout for cheap destinations, Slovenia is a top choice! A casual meal will be around 7 Euro, a beer will only set you back about 2.50 Euro, and you can grab a great coffee for only 1.30 Euro
2. They use umbrellas for street lamps
Forget regular old street lamps! Ljubljana has utilised colourful umbrellas instead, which in my opinion, are so much prettier.
On top of the brightly patterned umbrellas, you’ll see thousands of pairs of shoes draped over the powerlines, and can sit yourself on a neon pink park bench. These quirky objects are sure to make your day a little bit brighter
I’m a sucker for any city filled with street art, but Ljubljana stands out to me as one of my favourites. The best place to get your street art fix is the Metelkova district, a former army barracks that was taken over by artists in the early 1990s and has now been transformed into a creative and lively area with colourful walls and some great nightlife.
3. You can sample unpasteurised milk
Have you ever wondered what milk tastes like before it’s processed through machines? It seems like a crazy idea and is actually illegal in some countries (including my home country of Australia!, but not in Slovenia!
The locals like their food and drink to be high quality and as fresh as possible. There are vending machines in the markets of Ljubljana where you can pop in a few dollars and get a stream of unpasteurised milk poured into a glass bottle for your drinking pleasure.
The guide on our free walking tour mentioned the unpasteurised milk and Robert was very keen to give it a try. The verdict? “It tasted fresh and creamy and delicious.”
You might be asking whether you’re likely to get some sort of food poisoning from this. It’s possible, but not common.
4. It’s a perfect combination of eastern Europe and the Mediterranean
If you want a taste of Eastern Europe without being too far from other popular European destinations, Slovenia is the perfect choice. A bus or train from Venice or Zagreb will get you to Ljubljana in only a few hours.
This former Yugoslavian state gained independence in 1991, and became the first former communist country to join the Eurozone in 2007. This, plus it’s location, gives it a unique combination of Eastern European and Mediterranean vibes.
#funfact: Ljubljana has been awarded the European Green Capital of 2016, which is a huge deal for eco-conscious travellers like myself. The city’s environmental efforts have included transforming the entire downtown area into a pedestrian only zone, initiatives for cyclists (there’s a bike-sharing program if you want to join in), and methane-fuelled public buses.
5. It’s stuck in the 80’s
If you’ve ever questioned what it would be like to live in (or relive) the 80s, you might find some of it left here in Ljubljana.
Not only will you see men sporting some dashing chevron moustaches, you’ll also spot some disco dancing posters and neon colours splashed about the city. The locals celebrate the remnants of this bright and fun decade in what I can only assume is a touch of nostalgia.