After a lackluster four days in Vienna, I decided to steer away from the standard Western European tourist trail. I wasn’t sure where to go next and spent way too long mulling over my options.
Revisiting Prague or Budapest came to mind. Ultimately though, I decided I wanted to venture into unchartered territory. Both Slovakia and Slovenia seemed like viable options thanks to their proximity to Austria. After some research, I decided to skip Bratislava and head to Slovenia.
When I embarked on my seven-hour rail journey to Lake Bled, I had no idea what to expect. However, this tiny chicken-shaped country has slowly stolen my heart and has been the highlight of my Europe trip thus far.
Originally, I planned to spend four days in Slovenia. Four days slowly turned into nine days, and I probably would have stayed longer if I hadn’t had plans to meet a friend in Croatia.
To quote the country’s official tourism slogan and social media hashtag, I’m really feeling Slovenia or #IfeelsLOVEnia.
Beautiful and Diverse Scenery
The small alpine town possesses a fairytale-like charm. The lush greenery, beautiful lake, and mountain backdrop make it easy to understand why it is such a beloved destination. Many people do Lake Bled as a day trip from the capital Ljubljana, but I spent four days there and could have easily stayed longer.
Within the Julian Alps, and close to Bled, is Triglav National Park. The park boasts impressive landscapes and endless hiking opportunities. If you don’t have enough time to properly explore the massive park, Vintgar Gorge is only 5km from the center of Bled and takes about an hour to conquer on foot.
The emerald water, mossy limestone walls, and mountain backdrop are surreally beautiful. The walk or ride through the Slovenian countryside to Vintgar Gorge is breathtaking as well.
The country has a small coastline overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It may be only 46km long, but it should not be missed!
Upon arriving in Lake Bled, I was touched by the generosity and openness of the Slovenes. Even in an area like Bled that caters mostly to tour busses, I was treated with a sense of genuine hospitality and kindness that I had yet to experience in such a touristy setting.
This sentiment proved to be true throughout my entire stay in Slovenia. Whenever I was lost or had a question, there was always a local happy to help me out.
Strangers in cafes were pleasant to chat with and always friendly. The Slovenes I encountered wanted to ensure I enjoyed their country. If I had no plans or wasn’t sure what to do, the locals were always quick to offer a suggestion or invitation.
Nearly everyone spoke excellent English, with the exception of the older population. German is also widely spoken in Slovenia, so I never had any issues communicating.
As a woman traveling alone, it is easily one of the countries where I felt the most at ease.
Amazing Food and Cafes
While I enjoyed the traditional Slovenian cuisine, it may not be for everyone! If you aren’t a fan of Carniolian Sausage, or Slovenian Dumplings, you can’t find fault with their vast selection of desserts and wines.
In Ljubljana and even in Lake Bled, it’s easy to find international fare. When walking through Ljubljana, you see restaurants offering food from every corner of the world.
Ljubljana may be small, but it is overflowing with quaint cafes and restaurants. Ljubljana’s cafe culture is incredible on its own, but it’s even more impressive when you consider the city only has ~270,000 residents.
The city is lined with cafes overlooking the river, and others that are hidden among long cobblestone alleyways. Most have their own unique theme or flare, and free WiFi.
Even if you just order a coffee, nobody will mind if you sit there for hours with your laptop or just reading a book. This is exactly what I ended up doing on several occasions, as it rained heavily for several days when I first arrived in Ljubljana.
Ljubljana is a Hidden Gem
Ljubljana is beautiful and deserves its increasing recognition. The city is picturesque, laid-back and easy to enjoy. Best of all, it’s packed with lots of culture and not too many tourists.
From boutiques to alternative lifestyle stores, Ljubljana has everything. Since it’s a university town, it’s a great place for young people and an open-minded city.
What I loved about Ljubljana was that it allows you to have a traditional “European Experience” – if that’s what you’re looking for. There’s a castle, lots of bridges, cobblestone streets, and museums. However, if you’re looking for something more off-beat, Ljubljana doesn’t disappoint.
Despite Ljubljana’s small size, it is easy to discover interesting finds on your own. Ljubljana has a vibrant art and literary scene, which can be seen throughout the city. This can also be attributed to the fact that Ljubljana’s university has always attracted creatives and intellectuals.
Away from the pristine churches and cobblestone streets, a visit to Metelkova will portray a much different side of the city. Metelkova is an alternative community of sorts, known for its colorful murals, various art installations, and other cultural offerings. The area is pretty empty during the day but becomes a lively place at night with several clubs and bars.
Architecture fans will also enjoy Ljubljana, as it was mostly designed by the famous Slovene architect Jože Plečnik. His influence can be seen throughout the city, but his most notable contribution is the iconic triple bridge in front of the pink Franciscan church.
If Ljubljana looks familiar upon your first visit, it may be because Plečnik’s works can also be found in Prague, Vienna and Belgrade.
There are so many more reasons to visit Slovenia, but these four were among my favorite. I only made it to Lake Bled and Ljubljana, but you can check out the best of what Slovenia has to offer here! If you’ve been to Slovenia, what are your thoughts?