Travel tips

The Ultimate Guide to Slovenia

By Tasha Kleeman |

The low-down

Geography

Slovenia is situated in central Europe, bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and the Adriatic Sea. It has a population of 2.07 million, and its capital and largest city, Ljubljana, is inhabited by only 278,853 (which, for context, is less people than live in Coventry in the UK).

Language

The official language of Slovenia is Slovene. However, Hungarian and Italian are also widely spoken, followed by Serbo-Croatian, German and Romani. English is also spoken by many Slovenians, being the first foreign language taught in schools.

Currency

Euro

Best times to go

May and September: beautiful weather, without the crowds that flock to Lake Bled in the peak summer months.

Getting there

The main airport to fly to from Slovenia is Jože Pučnik Airport (LJU), which is just 27km north of Ljubljana.

From here, 45-minute buses to Ljubljana run hourly, and cost €4.10. You can also pick up a taxi from the airport, which should take 30 minutes and cost you €30.

Considering its close proximity to destinations like Croatia and Italy, many travellers choose to visit one of these countries first. From here, Slovenia is easily accessible by car or train.

Getting around

Renting a car is a great way to explore Slovenia. Europcar, Avis and Sixt all operate in Slovenia, with rentals coming to around €40 a day or €210 a week.

Slovenia also has an extensive bus and rail service. Within Ljubljana, you can purchase an Urbana card at newsstands and tourist offices, which will let you ride on the buses that run through the city every 5-15 minutes for €1.20 per journey. Outside the capital, buses will cost you around €3.10/25km of travel.

Top tip: if travelling by train, make sure to buy your ticket at the station. Buying it from the conductor on the train will be more expensive. 

Highlights

Ljubljana

With its cobbled streets and 16th century castle, Ljubljana feels like something out of a fairy tale. Its colourful blend of Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture gives the city a unique charm, set against the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and the River Ljublanica that runs through it.

Things to do see and do:

Ljubljana Castle

A picturesque 16th century castle that sits on a 375m hill in the city’s Old Town. Free to enter but admission to the Watchtower and the Chapel of St. George is ticketed.

The National Gallery

An impressive gallery, holding Slovenia’s largest collection of fine art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Entry is €10.00.

The Museum of Modern Art

Holds an extensive permanent collection of 20th century Slovenian art, as well as several temporary exhibitions celebrating new artists. Entry is €5.00.

The Opera House

If you can, catch a performance by the ensemble of the Slovenian National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ljubljana, who perform modern and classical operas as well as ballets and concert works here. Otherwise, come for the ornate 19th century architecture.

Tivoli Park

Five square-km of green space featuring an open-air gallery.

Central Market

This open-air market sells everything from foraged wild mushrooms to homemade cheeses. Open Monday-Saturday.

Prešeren Monument

Situated in the central Prešeren Square, the famous monument depicts Slovene poet Dr. France Prešeren.

Triple Bridge and Dragon Bridge

Take a walk along the Ljubljanica River, and you’ll come across several picturesque bridges. The most famous of these is Triple Bridge, designed by architect Jože Plečnik in 1842. Also worth a visit is Dragon Bridge, built in 1901.

 

 

Lake Bled

Lake Bled’s beauty is drawing in more and more travellers each year. Its scenic landscapes and opportunities for hiking, biking and water-sports make it a great option for an exhilarating adventure holiday or a relaxing lakeside break.

Things to see and do:

Visit Bled Island

Situated in the middle of the Lake, Bled Island is easily accessible by boat or pletna (gondola), which can be hired cheaply around the lake. Once you get to the island, you can visit the Church of the Assumption (which charges a small entry fee) and the Provost’s House – but the boat ride there will probably be the highlight.

Go on a hike

Lake Bled is home to 15 signposted hike trails, leading to stunning viewpoints over the lake and the surrounding landscapes. It’s worth buying a map to help you find your way (you can buy these in town for around €6).

Hire a rowboat

Boats costs around €20-25 an hour, and can be hired from one of the many rental agencies scattered around the lake (for example, at the waterfront just below the Vila Blake hotel and the Castle Lido).

Go for a cycle ride

The lake is surrounded by a flat, 6km-long path which is ideal for cycling. The ride should take around 45 minutes, and you can find bikes for hire quite cheaply at one of the many rental places on the main road. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, there are also mountain-bike trails in the surrounding hills. The 13km Radovka cycle path is particularly beautiful, taking you through Triglav National Park.

Swim in the lake

The lake has a designated swimming area, with refreshing, crystal-clear waters, and sun loungers for rent if you fancy a break from all the adventuring.

Go rafting

Raise your heartbeat with a white water rafting tour down the Sava Dolinka River. Tickets cost £32 per person and include a pick-up service.  

Visit Vintgar Gorge

4km north of Bled village is Vintgar Gorge, a narrow and beautiful gorge which you can walk over by way of a 1600m wooden walkway originally built in 1893. The path will take you over Radovna River, featuring rapids, pools and beautiful waterfalls.

If you’re feeling particularly energetic, you can get there by foot, by way of a three-hour hike from the Lake. Alternatively, hop on one of the buses that leave from Bled bus station at 8.30, 9.30 and 10.30am each morning.

Other Slovenian destinations to explore:

Lake Bohinj

Lake Bled’s less touristy but equally beautiful neighbour is also a hub of outdoor activity. Situated in Triglav National Park, it’s a great spot for cycling, hiking, swimming, kayaking and horse riding.

Vipava Valley

A 50 minute drive away from the capital, the rural landscapes and warm climate of Vipava Valley offers a peaceful respite from the city. If you’re up for something a bit different, the valley hosts its own alternative ‘triathlon’, involving wine tasting, hiking and paragliding.

Mt. Triglav

Mt. Triglav is the highest peak in the Slovenian Alps, and makes for a difficult but very worthwhile climb. Adventurous climbers can make it up and down in a day, but you may want to stay overnight in one of the mountain huts situated half-way up the mountain.

Piran

You’ll find sea, sand and excellent seafood on this Adriatic coastal town, which boasts colourful squares, Venetian Gothic architecture and a bustling harbour.  

Postojna

This town is famous for its enormous caves, where you can explore a whole world underground. Sites include a 16-metre stalagmite known as the Skyscraper, and a railway ride within a cave, built over 140 years ago.

Money & Costs

Average costs

Pint of beer: €3

Bottle of water: €1.60

Coffee: €1.50 for an espresso, €2.50 for a latte

Three-course meal for 2 in a mid-range restaurant: €35

Glass of wine in a restaurant: €3

Bottle of wine in a supermarket: €5

Standard room in a mid-range hotel: €40-60/night

Bike rental: €12/day

Car rental: €40/day

Bus from Ljubljana to Bled: €7.80

Bus from Ljubljana to Piran: €13.10

Slovenia Eurail train pass: €53

Cash or card?

Cards are widely accepted in Slovenia. However, it’s a good idea to bring some cash with you as well for tipping and market purchases.

ATMs are readily available throughout the cities, but may be harder to find when you venture into more rural areas.

Tipping

Restaurants: 10%

Taxis: round up to the nearest Euro

Getting your Euros

Whether you'd like your cash home-delivered or loaded onto a prepaid card, ICE's online rates for Euros are some of the best you can get.

Check out our latest Euro rate here

Food

Nestled between Italy, Austria and Hungary, Slovenian cuisine is a melting pot of culinary influences, served in its own distinct style. Delicacies to try include:

Bled cream cake

Potica (rolled pastry) 

Struklji (a type of strudel) 

Prekmurska Gibanica (a layered cake filled with poppy seeds, apple and walnut)

Krankska Klobasa (smoked carniolan sausage)

Jota (traditional Slovenian soup)

Žlikrofi: Slovenian ravioli

 

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