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A city of culture, cuisine, boutiques, bars, and hidden treasures, the capital of Slovenia exudes old world charm. Ljubljana is a fusion of tradition and modernity: the magnificent Baroque, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau architecture of the old town centre speaks to Ljubljana's 5,000 years of fascinating history.
Alternatively, its lively cultural, scientific, educational, and commercial scenes leave no doubt that this is a sophisticated city in tune with the times. It is also one of Europe's most environmentally friendly capital cities and was awarded the coveted Green Capital of Europe title in 2016.
Ljubljana is a devoted centre of culture, with thousands of art and music events gracing its calendar each year, including the Summer Festival, Jazz Festival, and the Druga Godba Festival, a celebration of world music. Indeed, music is the lifeblood of the city which boasts one of the oldest established philharmonic orchestras in the world, not to mention some very accomplished street musicians.
Classical culture is not all that's on offer, however. With its large student population, Ljubljana knows how to party and after nightfall, you are just as likely to hear the throbbing beat of club music or rock and roll as you are the strains of violins.
Ljubljana is also home to an expanding culinary scene, where all the best of Eastern European cuisine seems to have merged into a of delights, from delicate Viennese-style pastries to hearty Hungarian goulash.
The impressive National Museum of Slovenia is housed in a lovely neo-Renaissance style palace, the most interesting and popular of Ljubljana's many museums. Alongside fascinating temporary exhibits, the permanent exhibition consists of various artworks, alongside archaeological artefacts and displays, such as a 60,000-year-old "Neanderthal flute", ancient Palaeolithic artefacts discovered in karst cave sites, and the only Egyptian mummy in Slovenia.
The National Museum is made up of three museums: the historic Presernova, the newer Metelkova, and the Natural History Museum. Visitors can explore just one or all three depending on their schedule, and combination tickets are available.
Architect Joze Plecnik is largely responsible for the city of Ljubljana being as neat and well planned as it is, with his insistence on classical lines and uniform dimensions. The renowned architect's home and studio is open to the public a few days a week, furnished and equipped as he left it. However, his influence is everywhere in the city and can be admired at sites like the wide Shoemaker's Bridge and the colonnaded market beside the river.
The imposing Ljubljana Castle towers over the city, offering spectacular views of the Ljubljanica River and old town skyline with the distant Alps providing a stunning backdrop. A steep cobbled street winds its way from the old town to the medieval fortress, which originally dates back to the 11th century.
The castle complex includes a museum, restaurant, and chapel, and access to the castle is provided by a scenic funicular ride. Visitors can admire the view from the castle's impressive tower, stroll through the tranquil grounds, learn about Slovenian history at one of the museum exhibitions, or attend one of the many cultural events hosted at the fortress.
The magnificent Cathedral of St Nicholas, dedicated to the patron saint of sailors and built in the Baroque style, dates from the early 18th century but was renovated and had beautiful carved bronze doors added for the Pope's visit in 1996. The doors depict the development of Christianity in Slovenia and give way to a richly ornate interior below the impressive cupola and stunning Giulio Quaglio frescoes.
The quaint Ljubljana Zoo is situated in a forested area a short walk from the city centre. The small size of the zoo gives visitors a more intimate experience, with opportunities to handle some of the animals, particularly the scary ones such as snakes and scorpions. Other animals at the zoo include wild cats, lions, sea lions, giraffes, elephants, and over 100 other species.
Feeding times and training exhibitions are staged throughout the day, a schedule for which is available on the website. The zoo offers a welcome break from all the cultural and historical attractions of Ljubljana, providing family vacationers with a wonderful way to entertain the children.
Tivoli Park is a massive wooded area in Ljubljana and covers an impressive five square kilometres. The park is the perfect place for a picnic or evening stroll, boasting a number of ponds, playgrounds, sporting facilities, flowerbeds, grassy patches, and fountains.
Tivoli Park is a popular spot in Ljubljana, allowing visitors to relax and really take in the beauty of this wonderful Slovenian city. Tivoli Park is also a wonderful place to take the kids, allowing them to run around and let off some steam.
Ljubljana has a humid subtropical climate influenced by its location in a large basin, surrounded by sub-Alpine and karst mountain regions. Balmy breezes blow in from the Mediterranean, adding extra warmth in the summer (June to August) when average high temperatures peak at about 81°F (27°C). During winter (December to February), temperature inversions cause the foggy air to hang heavy over the city, bringing cold, moist conditions. Winter temperatures average between 27°F (-3°C) and 39°F (4°C).
Every summer, Slovenia's capital plays host to the Ljubljana Summer Festival. The festival includes a selection of ballet, opera, theatre, rock and jazz performances across the city, and is fast becoming one of the top cultural festivals in eastern Europe. Visitors to Slovenia are encouraged to plan their trip to coincide with the Ljubljana Summer Festival, as this is when the city is at its most lively and enchanting.
The Ljubljana International Film Festival (Liffe) is a key event in Slovenia. Running since 1990, it focuses on promoting non-Hollywood and non-commercial films. This festival in Ljubljana draws some 50,000 film buffs, moviemakers, and spectators from around the world, usually featuring in excess of 100 films.
Slovenia's Lent Festival celebrates all things creative. Visitors to the country will be treated to 26 days of cultural performances and workshops. Lent Festival is one of the country's top summer festivals as Slovenia's second largest city, Maribor, comes alive with all manner of artists, from musicians, actors, and dancers to magicians, acrobats, puppeteers, and comedians, as well as more than 50,000 excited spectators.
Ljubljana is a small, compact city that is easy to explore on foot, especially for those intent on appreciating the architecture. The next best option is the inexpensive and efficient bus service. To ride the bus, passengers first need to purchase an Urbana card from self-service stations near the larger bus stops and load it with credit.
Cars are a liability in the city, which is largely pedestrianised, and parking is at a premium. Bicycles provide a fun and convenient way of getting around, available to rent for a nominal fee and small deposit. Taxis are available and a good option after dark, when the bus service is radically reduced.
Whether you're after relaxation or adventure, Slovenia's charming capital is the perfect destination. Enjoy a leisurely holiday in Ljubljana, soaking up the country's history and culture, sampling the unique cuisine, or relaxing at an open-air café on a balmy summer evening.
Visitors can take a stroll through the historical centre, admiring the Renaissance and Art Nouveau facades, while enjoying the Baroque architecture of the Cathedral of St Nicholas or the medieval Ljubljana Castle which watches over the city. The National Museum is home to Slovenia's only Egyptian mummy, while PleÄnik House shares information on the renowned architect who helped shape the identity of Ljubljana.
Visitors can make the most of the outdoors in 2016's Green Capital of Europe by cycling alongside the Ljubljanica River or strolling through one of the city's many peaceful parks or forests. Kids will love interacting with the animals at the Ljubljana Zoo and running around as you picnic in the beautiful Tivoli Park.
Get active and enjoy the natural beauty of Ljubljana's surrounding areas with a trip to Lake Bled, just 45 minutes away, where visitors can go fishing and horse riding, or explore the Triglav National Park's fantastic walking and hiking trails.
Slovenia's most popular destination, the charming town of Bled is located just 45 minutes' drive from the capital Ljubljana and is the base for many tourists holidaying in Slovenia. A town with gorgeous surrounds and an ancient history, Bled's foremost attraction is the glacial Lake Bled: a cobalt-blue expanse of water with a forested island in the middle, it's accessible by traditional rowboats known as pletnas.
Overlooking the lake is the photogenic Bled Castle while the island itself is home to the spired Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, one of Slovenia's most impressive sights. Bled offers tourists a range of great outdoor sporting activities, such as golfing, fishing, and horse riding, while the nearby Triglav National Park has fantastic walking and hiking trails. Those looking for a cost-effective and richly rewarding European vacation should check out Bled, Slovenia's undisputed tourist jewel.
Slovenia's Postojna Cave is the most-visited cave complex in Europe and has welcomed nearly 200 million visitors to gape at its incredible karst formations, cavernous chambers, and interesting collection of cave animals.
Stretching for 13 miles (20km), one of the best things about visiting the astounding Postojna Cave Complex is its top-class infrastructure: the cave is well-lit and visitors access the underground walkway by train.
Guided tours of the cave last about 90 minutes, during which time visitors are treated to a wealth of glittering calcite formations, stalactites, and stalagmites, as well as an underground aquarium where an array of troglodyte creatures are displayed.
The Postpojna Cave is also home to a subterranean concert hall with celebrated acoustics and classical music performances are common (especially in the summer). One of the very best things to see in Slovenia and in the whole of central Europe, a trip to the Postojna Cave Complex is highly recommended.
The only national park in Slovenia, Triglav National Park is named after the highest peak in the country and the Julian Alps: Mount Triglav. Appearing on the Slovenian flag, the mountain is a symbol of national identity.
Its craggy, snow-covered summit provides a wonderful backdrop to a holiday spent exploring quiet forests and hiking out to pristine waterfalls. The trail that leads out to the 240-foot (78m) Slap Savica Waterfall is particularly popular, attracting outdoor enthusiasts from all over the continent each year.
Triglav National Park is also perfectly set up for mountain bikers and keen mountaineers who wish to get to grips with the rocky slopes. The park offers affordable camping, and its close proximity to Italy and Austria, makes it an attractive option for budget-conscious travellers wishing to experience the Alps without having to shell out more than they can afford.
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