By Angela Karl
If you want to travel with a clear conscience that you’re harming the environment as little as possible, then head to the “European Green Capital” of 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. This hidden gem in central Europe is Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Though small in relation to other capitals, Ljubljana's changes have been massive to make it the greenest city in Europe. According to the city's website promoting its green efforts, people now forget “how the city centre was choked with traffic, how hard it was to get from one side of the river to the other... and when the riverbanks were a car park rather than a place of pleasant cafes.” Today, instead of honking cars and exhaust fumes, it’s dedicated almost exclusively to pedestrians and cyclists. Get ready for a green weekend filled quaint cafes and charming shops.
First things first. When you arrive, head to Best Western Premier Hotel Slon. This top-rated four star hotel has a great location inside the city’s Old Town. It's also part of the Travelife green tourism certificate scheme, which means it has taken efforts to make its practices more sustainable just like Ljubljana.
After you’ve checked in, rent a bike at one of the 36 bike-sharing stations in and around the city center. The city is so dedicated to its bike-share, the BicikeLJ, that the first hour of your rental is free. With this initiative, BicikeLJ riders have circled the equator 57 times and reduced CO2 emissions by 500 tons in one year. These bikes are available 365 days of the year, so you’ll certainly be able to pick one up during your weekend.
The closest bike rental station to your hotel is station number 4 (address: Cankarjeva cesta 1). Simply create an account online before you go to easily pick up the bike when you arrive.
Because Ljubljana is such a small city, it’s a great idea to use your free hour to ride around and get a real feel for the area, possibly scoping out your favorite streets to check out later in the day.
After a nice cruise around the city, your stomach is growling and it’s time for some food. Head to Manna, which offers a taste of what they call “Slovenian-Mediterranean” cuisine that is homemade or locally sourced from surrounding farms.
Start your Saturday by taking in some artwork and graffiti at Metelkova, an abandoned army base that has become the city's alternative social center. Walk through here to explore the area and, if you’d like, return at night to experience the culture (or counterculture) with music, art, theater, and more. It’s said to be one of the easiest ways to meet new people and experience the true nightlife of Ljubljana.
After this, you’re going to need a big cup of coffee or tea to re-energize you so visit Cajna hisa. This quaint cafe/lunch spot has a wide varieties of teas with many organic options, delicious baked goods, tasty soups and sandwiches.
Next, it’s time for some sightseeing in Ljubljana. Stroll over to The Cathedral of St. Nicholas to be amazed at this baroque church full of wonders as soon as you walk up to its doors. Each door has intricate carvings and opens to a church full of gold and still-saturated frescos. The cathedral is splendid and cannot be missed.
Then, check out the farmer’s market in Vodnik Square. It’s full of the freshest fruits, vegetables, flowers, and handmade clothes and items. The square itself is a beautiful place, and this market gives you an excuse to get to know the friendly Slovenian vendors.
After looking at all the food around, you'll be thinking about dinner. For the best reviews in the city, go to Luda. This restaurant offers authentic Slovenian food using organic, locally sourced food as often as possible. No matter what you order, you can’t go wrong here.
Wake up, smell the roses, then go get your organic, fair-trade coffee fix at Tozd, probably the hippest bar in town, which also offers pastries for a sweet breakfast. After waking up, you finally get to visit the Ljubljana castle. You can arrive either by walking or taking the funicular railway. Both offer beautiful views and allow you to explore the gardens surrounding the castle.
While the castle itself isn’t the most ornate, it often has exhibitions that are worth checking out. Also, the view of Ljubljana is the best you can get, so it certainly deserves a visit. While you’re up there, head to a delicious lunch spot at Restavracija Strelec where you can fill your stomach while overlooking the city.
Now, depending on how you feel, it’s time to grab another bike or walk about 30 minutes to spend the rest of the day exploring the large Tivoli Park. There are a number of trails to hike to see Slovenia's beautiful nature, as well as exhibitions taking place in the center often.
Finally, after you’ve hiked and rejuvenated yourself, wine and dine at Hisa Pod Gradom for a final night of delicious food. Make sure you save room for dessert as they offer a different special each day based on the season.
With a full belly, you can reflect and look through the pictures of your wayward weekend in Ljubljana.
Getting ThereArriving from the train brings you straight to the city center near your hotel. If, instead, you arrive by air, there is an airport bus, number 28, which runs directly to the center about once every hour from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Angela Karl is a professional freelance writer currently living in Florence, Italy, with over six years of experience in the editorial world. When she's not writing articles, she can be found perfecting her programming language skills and seeing as much of the world as possible. For more information, check out her website, Instagram, and Twitter.