What Slovenia lacks in size, it makes up for with an abundance of amazing places to visit within the Central European country’s tiny confines.
From the whimsical fairytale capital of Ljubljana to medieval towns to Alpine beauty to climbing into earth’s belly and the sparkling waters of the Adriatic, Slovenia offers a potpourri of places and things to do, appealing to a broad spectrum of travelers.
Forget about going to an opera – although Ljubljana has plethora of performing arts options to take up more than one evening in the gorgeous city – and instead head to the former-military-barracks-turned-squatter-and-artistic-enclave, Metelkova.
This small neighborhood located about a 5-minute walk from the train and bus station in Ljubljana packs quite the cultural punch. The barracks have transformed into artist studios, homes for NGOs, residences, bars and more. By day, explore the art that takes up nearly every single space of the area (including the playground), and by night hit up one of the bars for some beer and live music.
Metelkova boasts the largest underground scene on the continent and, while it is small like the country where it resides, it is a haven for art and the creative folk to come together.
[Side note: be sure to check out Hostel Celica, which is a part of the area. The hostel doubles as an art gallery and performing arts venue and is housed in an old military prison. You can even sleep in the old cells.]
If there is one universal truth about Slovenia it is this: the country sure is not ugly. A favorite among both locals and visitors to the area is Lake Bled. This massive lake with gorgeous aquamarine water is home to plenty of activities for the outdoors-minded, as well as those who prefer to just soak up the sheer beauty it offers.
Located about 35 km from Ljubljana in the Julian Alps, the lake offers boating, hikes (including a trek up to Bled Castle with sensational views of the water below) and other activities.
Perhaps the most recognized image of Lake Bled is of the little Bled Island it envelops. The small mass is home to a church dating from to the 17th century and a popular spot where couples tie the knot which begins with a trek up 98 stone steps. Rumor has it that if the groom can haul the bride up said steps, it means good luck for their marriage.
Enjoy Bled for a day, or spend a night at one of the popular resorts. Don’t forget to visit nearby Lake Bohinj, a more local experience than Bled, but equally as beautiful.
For the sea
The coastline of Slovenia is small, measuring in at about 42 km. To the north is Italy (and the popular Trieste) and to the south is Croatia. But, packed into the small area are some magnificent Italian-style seaside towns: the popular Porotrož and Piran.
Piran is the gem of the two main attractions on the sea, a small village with plenty of options for al fresco dining, Slovenian wine, dips into the refreshing water and some history, including the old walls, parts of which date back to the Ottoman Empire.
Sip a coffee or indulge in an ice cream in the sprawling main square, Tartini, or head up the hill above town to explore the Church of Saint George and the expansive views.
The Karst region, located in between the Adriatic and Ljubljana, is home to numerous caves formed with the carbonate bedrock dissolved. The two most well-known are Postojna and Škocjan, a UNESCO site.
Škocjan is the less populated of the two (Postojna has received more than 28 million visitors), and is magnificent. The cave, which features 3km worth of paths inside, takes visitors through a world of darkness and offers amazing stalagmites, along with a massive bridge crossing the rapids of the Reka River rushing below.
There are plenty of places throughout the country where visitors can get a taste of the old world. Castles dot mountaintops in many towns, but one of the most fascinating for history is the medieval town of Škofja Loka. The town dates back to 973 and, like many European cities, includes a castle perched above the town.
The town, which is home to around 12,000 people has a main square with a shade-providing linden tree (as many towns have to make them legit), and is closed to auto traffic in the main center.